The Minister in Norway to the German Foreign Ministry
Tgb. No. 132
Oslo, December 15, 1939. Received December 17. Pol. VII [sic] 2838.
Subject: Norway in the Russo-Finnish War.
The ferment caused in Norway by the Russo-Finnish conflict continues and intensifies the more the belief grows that Russia will stretch out her hand toward northern Norway once her objectives in Finland are attained. It is widely believed in Norway, to be sure, that England would not stand by idly if Russia occupied ports in northern Norway, but would try to forestall the Russians by occupying, for instance, the port of Tromsø. It is being pointed out that England would then be in a position to close the North Sea completely also in the North, and that on that account, England probably would not in the least mind such a development in Scandinavia, for it would bring her nearer to the consummation of a wish expressed even a year before the war; namely, to make of Norway "one big Gibraltar" (cf. report A-IIIa of June 28, 1938).
Norwegians of all parties are convinced that Finland is fighting her defensive war against Russia not for herself alone, but for all of Scandinavia, and that Norway is therefore honor-bound to support Finland in this struggle. The Norwegian Government is surely determined to remain neutral. Although it will wish to help Finland indirectly by sending arms, etc., it will not for a moment lose sight of the fact that any direct assistance to Finland would inexorably drag Norway into that war. It was on the basis of this consideration that Norway refrained from voting at the meeting of the delegates at Geneva on Russia's expulsion from the League of Nations, an action which has the approval of the entire country. Moreover, the attitude of the Norwegian Government is in accord with the statements made to me by Foreign Minister Koht during our talk on December 12, on which I have reported by telegraph.
While the Government is in this way endeavoring to preserve neutrality, it is on the other hand compelled to a certain extent to take into account the sentiment of the people. The Commanding General of the Norwegian Army has issued, for officers only (the Norwegian Army has no noncommissioned officers), a ban against volunteering in Finland on the ground that Norway herself needs all her officers in these critical times. On the other hand, however, the Government seems disinclined to prohibit participation of Norwegian volunteers in the Russo-Finnish war by invoking a Royal Resolution on the basis of the law of March 11, 1937, as it did in the Spanish Civil War. This attitude is explained on the ground that, in contrast to the Spanish war, the conflict between Russia and Finland is not a civil war. The recruiting of soldiers being prohibited by article 133 of the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, the various agencies which have been formed to assemble volunteers will confine themselves to organizing and equipping them ; there is no recruiting in the proper meaning of the term, however, especially since enough volunteers are reporting. There are rumors of a thousand volunteers, but this figure is probably too high.
I have pointed out in previous reports that Norwegian feeling regarding Germany is deteriorating in proportion as the Russo-Finnish conflict sharpens. Recently the rumor has been assiduously spread by word of mouth, especially via Sweden, that Germany would take advantage of Norway's increased involvement in the north to invade Scandinavia from the south. This rumor has been attacked with gratifying severity in the newspaper Tidens Tegn by Benjamin Vogt, who was for many years Norwegian Minister to London, Nevertheless, as I hear from Norwegian quarters, the rumor has by no means been silenced thereby.
This alleged threat from the south is offset by the much more concrete danger in the north. I have information from a reliable source that until very recently Norwegian Army personnel with communist leanings showed a marked consistency in volunteering for service in northern Norway. In connection with the events of the last weeks this matter has acquired a decided relevancy owing to the fear that it might be part of a plan, inspired by the Comintern or some other Russian organization operating abroad, to set the stage for a possible Russian invasion of northern Norway. This collaboration is thought
to be contemplated on a political rather than military plane, and would probably work out in such a way that in the area in question a communist puppet government [Scheinregierung], patterned after Kuusinen's, would call upon Russia for revolutionary liberation. Nationally-oriented elements have already undertaken countermeasures to replace this Communist army personnel and so neutralize that potential trouble spot.
Norwegian military authorities take the view that the Norwegian Government should do nothing to prevent nationals of foreign countries from assembling on Norwegian territory to go to Finland as volunteers. This should be subject to the condition, however, that these volunteers arrive as civilians and have a regular passport with a Norwegian entrance visa. This seems to me a point to which particular attention ought to be given by Germany.
Source: Documents on German foreign policy 1918-1945. Series D. Volume VIII. No. 459. Washington, Department of State, publication 5436, 1954.