A few minutes from Santa Claus Village is the cemetery for German soldiers. At Norvajärvi there is also a monument of the 196 Norwegian volunteers who fell fighting for the Finns/Germans against the Soviets. Most died fighting to defend two hills close to the Murmansk railroad.
As part of the German fighting force, the 196 are by most Norwegians regarded as traitors. In fact, if you look at what they were fighting, they were traitors of the whole allied warfare. What if these soldiers had contributed to a total Nazi victory? If they had been able to cut off the rails and war supplies to the Red Army shipped to Murmansk? Friends or foes, the political map of the north must be seen from a broader perspective. In war, we’re all heroes and victims.
The monument has been mounted by relatives and friends of the 196 young men and soldiers. They tried to get a monument on Norwegian soil, but it was not easy. In this deathly tranquil remote forest beside a lake in Finland, it is rocked.
The monument says:
Til Minne om de 196 norske frivillige som falt I fortsettelseskrigen 1941 – 1944
Niiden 196 norjalaisen vapaaehtoisen muistoksi jotka kaatuivat jatkosodassa
(In memory of the 196 Norwegian volunteers who fell in the Continuation War 1941 – 44)
What immediately hit me were not the words, but the fonts. It is written with Norse inspired fonts, letters that the Nazis used. The feeling is one of contempt. The use of fonts is a statement on its own. It is a way of saying that these soldiers believed in the Nazi cause. After dwelling a little while, I came to peace. It is an ok way of doing it. Not to write in explicit terms, but semantically that they were Nazis.
What if these soldiers had contributed to a total Nazi victory?
The 1930s and 1940s was a different time. However, there will never be a justification for embracing Nazi-ways. We need to address these detrimental ideologies head on because it is easy. To avoid talking it down is dangerous.
The story of the 196 young soldiers is to be told. I don’t approve of Nazi volunteers, but are we sure that all were volunteers? What options did they have? We are free to make our own assessments.
The Norwegian monument lies in the entrance area for the cemetery of 3 000 German soldiers. If Norse fonts are somber, the gravesite is dark.