Between Two Worlds: Feminist Yiddish Poetry in America

The fascinating life and works of one of the greatest female poets of the Yiddish literary world

Malka Heifetz Tussman

Yiddish poet Malka Heifetz Tussman seemed to have known a thing or two about lust – a subject she describes in her writings as being a part of God’s very nature. Malka also seems to have known a thing or two about the lives of those who were given an extra drop of that Godly passion.

In the beginning,
there was lust.

Out of lust, God
emerged in flames.

is God’s nature.

Everything God creates
is in God’s nature.

Whoever gets more
of God’s nature –

a teardrop more –
becomes an artist, a poet.

One more drop –
a murderer.

(In the Beginning)

Malka Heifetz Tussman was born in Wolyn in Ukraine in the late 19th century, though her exact year of birth is unknown. She was the second of eight children born to a Hassidic family of landowners and she spent her childhood on the farm run by her grandfather. Malka was a lively, rebellious girl with an affinity for nature who felt foreign in the world she grew up in.

At the age of eight, on her own initiative, Malka joined the nearby general Russian school, becoming the first Jewish child to attend it. It was at that tender age that she began to write poetry in her native Russian using the familiar letters of the Hebrew language. Several years later, due to the pogroms which targeted the region’s Jews, her family decided to emigrate to the United States. Her brother was the first to make the move, and, at the age of 16, Malka followed him across the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life.

Upon reaching America, Malka settled in Chicago and like many other young Jewish immigrants, she began to work as a seamstress and laborer. Though the family had been wealthy in Ukraine, they suffered from poverty during their early years in America.

Despite the material struggle and the hard work, Malka was fascinated by the new world and tried to adapt as fast as possible. She quickly learned English – both the spoken word and the language of English poetry.

“Edgar Allan Poe. I love the rhythm of his poems,” wrote Malka. “I walk on the sidewalk to the pace of his poems. I chew my breakfast to the pace of his poems. English begins to sing in my bones.”

Malka even began to write in English, but, within a short period of time, she went back to writing in Yiddish.

Yiddish poetry at the time was alive and vibrant. The authors hovered between two worlds – their native countries in Eastern Europe, and America, their new home. They also teetered between Torah observance and secularism, and between different social values – with feminism playing a major role in their work. The female poets of that generation were the first ones with the opportunity to build their lives beyond the traditional female roles. In addition to Heifetz Tussman, this wonderful group included leading artistic figures such as Celia Dropkin, Anna Margolin, Kadia Molodowsky (who would also eventually make it to the United States) and many others.

Despite the obvious quality of their writing, the female Yiddish poets often encountered derision regarding their works. Their writing was placed in a different category that set them aside as female poets – as writers of poetry which was intrinsically restricted and even slightly inferior.

Malka Heifetz Tussman, image from the "In geveb" website
Malka Heifetz Tussman, image from the “In geveb” website

Perhaps on purpose, Heifetz Tussman chose poetry structures that were considered inherently “male” and wrote poems on the “big” topics of the day which were also considered the domain of male poets. However, she also wrote extensively about women and about her own inner femininity. Her aspiration for freedom and expansion as a woman shines through in her writing, but its practical implementation was more complex, both in her private life and in how she defined herself as an artist.

Malka was 18 when she married Shlomo Tussman. The couple had two children. Tussman’s profession – a cantor – led the couple to frequently move from one community to another. Before they married, ever the free spirit, Malka set two conditions: firstly, that she would not be required to take part in Tussman’s religious and communal activities, and secondly – that she would have her own room wherever they lived.

Malka with Shlomo Tussman, photo: Ben Tzadok. the "In geveb" website
Malka with Shlomo Tussman, photo: Ben Tzadok, the “In geveb” website

Malka never stopped writing, but many years passed before she published her first book. She objected to the definition “female poet,” and unlike others Heifetz Tussman refused to allow her poems to be included in a 1928 anthology dedicated to female poetry. She saw the distinction between female poetry and “regular” poetry as illegitimate.

Malka was very open to the different trends, ideas, and styles of her period. She constantly aspired to learn, to expand and to choose; to place herself within the boundaries – and to break them. In her writing, she moves, experientially, between poems with an inflexible structure such as the sonnet and the triolet, and free-form writing, though even poems lacking any defined structure have somewhat structured content with most of Heifetz Tussman’s poems moving in a certain direction, toward release. She herself writes: “I am confined/within the form/I am short of breath/in my poems”.

In her early days in America, Heifetz Tussman had a definitively secular outlook. Later on, following the events of the Second World War, the Jewish world made more frequent appearances in her work. The main reason for her detachment was always her aversion to the institutionalism of the traditional world she grew up in, and not to the individual religious experience. Many of her poems are addressed to God, with longing:

With one sound of your many names,

You pierced yourself in me —

 and now you feed

 on my heart’s blood.

Malka Heifetz Tussman’s inner world is expressed in her poems. No clear distinction is made between globally significant events and those of her personal life. Heifetz Tussman left nothing out– she wrote of protest, her own spiritual search, and ordinary day-to-day events.

Her poems also lack any distinction between rational thought, emotions, and ethics. Perhaps such distinctions would contradict the very nature of Heifetz Tussman’s work, the power of which stems from her complete devotion to everything she writes about.

In a poem dedicated to Marcia Falk, Malka’s student and one of the translators of her poems into English, she wrote:

“Do not shy away from writing

about the small things

Large things give themselves over

in units to the small things.

The small things

spur on large things.”

Malka lived everything with the same passion and internalized it all, expressing it through her poetry. Above all, her poetry reveals her wonder for life itself: “Oy, what you can do with life in the hand”, She wrote in one of her poems.

Malka Heifetz Tussman’s deep wonder for life itself was expressed in her many poems about nature. Nature comes alive in her poems and is depicted as a conduit to enable a person to draw close to the riches of life. However, in her poetry, closeness to nature also accentuates the gap between humanity and nature. Nature has a certain wholeness and understanding and the questions people may ask are already clear and understood by nature.

Often I stroll in a nearby park;

old trees wildly overgrown,

bushes and flowers blooming all four seasons,

a creek babbling childishly over pebbles,

a small bridge with rough-hewn railings-

this is my little park…

Leaning on the railing

looking at myself in clear water,

I ask;

Little creek, will you tumble and flow here


The stream babbles back, laughing:

Today is forever.

Forever is right now.
(Excerpts from “Today is Forever”)

Life itself, with all its wholeness and bounty, also always contains pain – pain when it ends, pain when it’s flowing bounty halts. During the Second World War, in 1944, Malka Heifetz Tussman hoped to re-awaken the wonderment of her son who returned from the war. She described a green leaf, a red flower, a toy, and the smell of a homecooked meal. Further on in the poem, she shows him the wider world – towers, trains, bridges, and also talks to him about faith.

Over the years Malka Heifetz Tussman became a respected teacher and even worked in translation. She translated Yates and Auden, Christina Rossetti and Rabindranath Tagore into Yiddish, but from her own words it is clear that her initial admiration was reserved for Walt Whitman through whom, to a certain degree, she discovered America and experienced a new horizon of poetry.

Abraham Sutzkever, the famed Yiddish poet, said that the older Malka Heifetz Tussman got, the younger her poetry became.  “Everything she touched turned into poetry” he added.

Malka kept in touch with the Yiddish poets of the younger generation, teaching and guiding them. As one of her students, Kathryn Hellerstein explained, Malka Heifetz Tussman became a bridge between the generations – between those who emigrated from Eastern Europe and the young Jewish poets who took it upon themselves to make Yiddish poetry more widespread among readers with scant knowledge of Yiddish.

Heifetz Tussman moved to Israel following her husband’s death but returned to America a year later at her children’s request. She died on March 30th, 1987 in Berkley, California after publishing six books during her lifetime (the first was published when she was already over fifty). Malka had been working on her seventh book when she passed away. It was eventually published after her death.

English translations of the poems are taken from “With Teeth in the Earth: Selected Poems by Malka Heifetz Tussman,” translated, edited, and introduced by Marcia Falk (Browser Books Publishing, 1992).

This article originally appeared in Hebrew in the “HaMusach” online literary journal hosted on the National Library website.


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All that Remains of “The Great Unknown”

When culture critic Carl Ehrenstein reviewed the 1927 film, "The Great Unknown," he could not have known the fate that would befall the actors at the hands of the Nazis.

the great unknown

Cover of the invitation to the premiere of "Der Große Unbekannte" - "The Great Unknown", 1927, the National Library of Israel collections

Beginning in the last years of the 19th century, a new medium conquered the entertainment industry: cinema. During the first three decades of the development of cinema, viewers had to tolerate watching moving pictures that played with musical accompaniment. From the end of the 1920s, the number of films featuring synchronized sound (“talkies”) began to grow steadily, and within just a few years, silent films disappeared entirely.

Disappearing with them were also many actors who did not adjust to the new demands of the medium, including the soundtrack. In effect, film was a technological upgrade of theater: on theater stages, actors would appear every evening before a new audience, as they do today, while films preserve a one-time production of the plot. The film reels could be reproduced countless times, so copies of the film could be screened in the various cinemas in many cities across the globe – and in every screening, the audience would see the same version of the work (with the exception of differences that arose from the conditions of screening or from technical defects in the particular copy of the film).

Many cinemas also sprung up in Germany. Already in the days of Imperial Germany, these institutions drew an audience that was enthusiastic for even more films to be produced. The rate of film production was greatly accelerated during the years of the Weimar Republic – despite the tremendous economic problems that hindered the growth of the branch in the early 1920s. The production companies also operated movie theater chains such as UFA and EMELKA. In 1927, there were already some 4,300 cinemas in Germany, and the largest among them could house over 1,000 viewers. Premiere screenings of the new films took place in prominent movie theaters in the large cities, in order to ensure a large audience and immediate positive public response with the film’s release. Film critics and journalists were invited to these screenings, in the hope that they would write positive reviews in the newspapers, which in turn would be likely to draw more viewers to subsequent screenings.

One of the cultural critics active in Berlin was Carl Ehrenstein (1892-1971), a Viennese Jew, and brother of the well-known expressionist writer Albert Ehrenstein.

Albert Ehrenstein, Karl's brother
Albert Ehrenstein, Carl’s brother

Carl, who also attempted to create literary works in the expressionist style (but without much success), wrote reviews of various cultural events that took place in the German capital in the mid-1920s, often for the communist newspaper, Die Welt am Abend (“The World in the Evening”). Ehrenstein saved the invitations, entrance tickets and drafts of his articles about the events, as well as the final texts that were ultimately published in the newspaper. In this manner, his personal archive presents an impressive picture of the cultural life of Berlin in the “Golden Twenties.”

Cover of the invitation to the premier of Der große Unbekannte, 1927, National Library of Israel Collections
Cover of the invitation to the premiere of “Der Große Unbekannte” – “The Great Uknown”, 1927, the National Library of Israel collections

One of the events reviewed by Carl Ehrenstein was the first screening of the silent film “The Great Unknown,” held on October 13, 1927, at the Emelka Palace Theater on Berlin’s grand entertainment boulevard Kurfürstendamm. This movie was the first rendering of one of the spy novels written by British author Edgar Wallace (1875-1932): The Sinister Man. Wallace’s spy novels were very popular in Germany and appeared on the bestseller lists even decades after their publication. However, because this particular book was translated into German only a year after the premiere screening of the film, the plot was still unknown to most of the viewing audience.

The text of Ehrenstein's review of the film
The text of Ehrenstein’s review of the film

The film was produced and directed by Manfred Noa, a German director, who apparently came from a Jewish background, and who directed approximately 30 films during the 1920s. The most outstanding of these was a cinematic version (the only to this day) of the play “Nathan the Wise” (1922) by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. “The Great Unknown”, however, whose spectators included Carl Ehrenstein, belongs to another genre and appealed to a wider audience.


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The plot tells the story of a drug dealer, the power struggles of criminal gangs, and big money. The assortment of actors appearing in the film is a good representation of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Berlin in the 1920s. It included actors from England, France, Austria, Germany, and even Asia. As occurred often, six years after the production, with the Nazi rise to power, the paths of the actors who appeared together in the film diverged. For example, Jack Trevor, the British actor who played the film’s leading role, moved to Germany and stayed there even through the Nazi period, during which he was forced to broadcast news on the radio throughout World War II. His Jewish colleague, Kurt Gerron, who was a very well-known actor in Germany, attempted to flee the Nazis but was apprehended and became an inmate at Terezín (Theresienstadt) where the Nazis forced the actor, who was also a director, to direct a propaganda film on the Theresienstadt Ghetto, the “City of Jews.” Ultimately, Kurt Gerron was murdered in Auschwitz a few months after the film was produced.

The invitation to the premiere, including the names of the actors and their parts
The invitation to the premiere, including the names of the actors and their respective roles

It is clear that when Carl Ehrenstein wrote his review of “The Great Unknown,” all that was yet to happen to those involved in it, and to the film itself, was unknown to him. In Ehrenstein’s opinion, the plot of the film was boring and represented bourgeois values (it should be remembered that he was writing for a communist newspaper). In contrast, he did not conceal his opinion that the directing and acting were good. As far as we know, every existing copy of the film disappeared. All that remains from “The Great Unknown” is the announcements advertising it, as well as the rare invitation to the opening screening presented here, which Carl Ehrenstein preserved among his documents.


The Beautiful Postcards Theodor Herzl Sent to His Daughter

Tracing Herzl’s journey to the Land of Israel through the touching postcards he sent to his young daughter along the way


Herzl and his children

On October 12th, 1898, the visionary of the State, Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, embarked on a journey to the Land of Israel in order to advance his great dream- a Jewish state for the Jewish People.

Throughout his journey, Herzl sent regular postcards and letters to his family. The one-of-a-kind collection of correspondence is housed at the National Library of Israel. The collection features brief greetings, written on postcards, sent to his eight-year-old daughter Paulina, from various stops along the journey.

The inscriptions on each of the postcards are brief, containing one or two sentences in Herzl’s handwriting. But the poignant words shed light on Herzl’s great love for his daughter and his desire to update her on the progress of his trip and reassure her that everything was fine.

The first postcard in the series was sent from Constantinople, soon to become Istanbul. The postcard is dated October 15th, 1898:

“Tender kisses to my delicate daughter Paulina from her faithful Papa”הרצל

Herzl had timed his journey to the Holy Land to coincide with a visit by the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Zionist visionary hoped to discuss the particulars of a future Jewish homeland with the Kaiser. On the same day on which he sent the above postcard, Herzl wrote the following in his personal journal:

I have discussed the conditions we should put forth with Bodenheimer [a member of the delegation which accompanied Herzl]. The border of the region: from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. To stipulate a transitional period with independent institutions. A Jewish governor for the transitional period. When the (Jewish) population in a certain area reaches two-thirds of the total population, the administration, from a political standpoint, will become a Jewish administration.”

Five days later, on October 20th, Herzl wrote to his daughter from Smyrna, the Turkish port city of Izmir:

“Many tender kisses from Asia Minor to my good daughter Paulina, from her faithful Papa”



Herzl, already in Athens the very next day, wrote:

“Tender kisses from Greece to my delicate daughter Paulina from her faithful Papa”



The journey stretched on, and on October 29th, reached its climax – the meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II at Mikveh Yisrael in Jerusalem. Herzl hoped that, with his help, he might receive a special charter for the establishment of a Jewish state from the Turkish Sultan. A cameraman from Herzl’s delegation was supposed to capture the historic moment, but the amateur photographer missed the photo-op to Herzl’s great disappointment…

The next day Herzl wrote again to Paulina, this time in a postcard celebrating his meeting with the Kaiser:

“To my good Paulina, tender kisses are sent to you from your faithful Papa in Jerusalem”



The next day, Herzl sent yet another postcard, this time with a picture of Hebron, on which he wrote:

“Kisses from your faithful Papa



If I remember you in the future, Jerusalem, not with pleasure will I remember you,” Herzl wrote in his journal on October 31st, “The moldy residues of two thousand years of cruelty, intolerance, and filth lie in the stinking streets. If we ever get Jerusalem, and if it is within my ability, I will clean it first. I shall remove everything that is not sacred, I shall set up housing for laborers outside of the city, I shalI empty out the nests of filth, destroy them, burn those ruins which are not  sacred, and the bazaars I shall move to another place. Preserving the old building style as much as possible, I will erect a modern, convenient, clean and functioning city around the holy sites.


Thanks to Dr. Gil Weissblei of the Archives Department for his assistance in the research and preparation of this article.


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The Secret Nazi Documents Captured in a British Commando Raid

Confidential papers seized during a British special-forces raid in Norway in 1941 offer a glimpse into the inner workings of Nazi military occupation. They were originally published that same year by the British Government.

British officers with a captured Nazi flag after the raid on the Lofoten Islands, photo by Capt. Tennyson d'Eyncourt, British War Office official photographer

British officers with a captured Nazi flag after the raid on the Lofoten Islands, photo by Capt. Tennyson d'Eyncourt, British War Office official photographer.

Leafing through the frayed pages of the old, brown booklet, one large German word, its letters appearing in dark, bold print, jumps out at the reader : GEHEIM!…Secret!

These papers were not meant to be seen by unauthorized personnel. They relay instructions from high ranking German officers in the Wehrmacht to rank and file soldiers engaged in the occupation of Norway. The language is laconic and to-the-point, as befits military documents, but there can be no mistake: The instructions were written in the spirit of National Socialism.

The orders appearing in the booklet essentially form a brief, practical manual on how to take over a democratic country and suppress its population.

The story of this stash of confidential German military documents takes us back to the early stages of World War II.  The Miracle at Dunkirk, where over 300,000 soldiers were barely evacuated to safety, was still fresh in the memory of the British population. France, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Denmark and Norway were all already under the Nazi boot. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was preparing his country for the long and difficult fight ahead. The situation was dire and the national mood was grim.

This was the setting for Operation Claymore: a large-scale raid by British special-forces on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands in 1941.

In the early morning hours of March 4th, hundreds of British commandos quietly entered the Vestfjorden. They immediately set about destroying German-controlled ships, some of them laden with thousands of tons of cargo. The main objective of this mission, however, was something else: fish oil. This substance was being shipped at a rapid pace from Norway to Germany, where glycerin would be extracted from the oil to be used in the production of powerful explosives. Around 800,000 imperial gallons of fish oil were set alight during Operation Claymore as the commandos descended upon factory after factory.

Burning oil tanks as seen from the destroyer HMS Legion, photo by Lt. R.G.G. Coote, Royal Navy official photographer
Burning oil tanks as seen from the British destroyer HMS Legion, photo by Lt. R.G.G. Coote, Royal Navy official photographer.

The Germans were caught by surprise – 228 prisoners of war were captured in the operation. In addition, the ranks of the free Norwegian forces were strengthened by 300 volunteers who jumped at the chance to join the war against fascism, boarding the British ships as they began their return voyage. Perhaps most importantly – the commandos managed to seize the rotor wheels of an Enigma cypher machine and several code books, which would help Allied ships to avoid German U-boats for some time.

“My congratulations on the very satisfactory operation” wrote Churchill in a memo addressed to all those involved after their safe return. The large British force had suffered only one injury. The operation provided a badly needed boost for Allied morale and the Norwegian volunteers proved “that the people of the Occupied Territories were still spiritually with us in the fight.”

Fires burning in Stamsund, Lofoten, Norway as British commandos leave. Photo by Capt. Tennyson d'Eyncourt, British War Office official photographer
Fires burning in Stamsund, Lofoten, Norway as British commandos leave. Photo by Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, British War Office official photographer.

There was another interesting find among the items seized in the raid: German documents captured at the military Harbor Control Post at Svolvaer.  These secret papers addressed to German soldiers stationed in Norway provided a glimpse into the nature of Nazi military occupation and what life was like under it. The documents were quickly translated and published in the form of a small booklet by the British government that same year. A rare copy of the booklet, complete with facsimiles of the original documents in German, has recently been found in the archives of the National Library of Israel.

The papers show that the Norwegian people did not make things easy for their German occupiers: “Appearances would indicate that the temper and attitude of the Norwegian population have recently stiffened against our endeavors” wrote General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, the commander of German forces in Norway in one of the documents.

A facsimile of the first page of General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst's letter to his troops, as it appears in the booklet published by the British Government, from the National Library collections.
A facsimile of the first page of General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst’s letter to his troops, as it appears in the booklet published by the British Government, from the National Library collections.
A facsimile of the second page of General von Falkenhorst's letter, as it appears in the booklet, from the National Library collections.
A facsimile of the second page of General von Falkenhorst’s letter, as it appears in the booklet, from the National Library collections.

When Hitler notified von Falkenhorst that he was to be in charge of the invasion of the Scandinavian country, the Nazi leader ordered the general to have a basic plan ready by 5 pm that same day. On the way back to his hotel, with no time to consult military charts, von Falkenhorst stopped by a local shop and purchased a Baedeker tourist guidebook of Norway. He planned the invasion in his room that afternoon using the maps in the tourist book. Hitler promptly approved the plan.

Svolvaer, Lofoten, Norway, 2010, photo by Vincent van Zeijst
Svolvaer, Lofoten, Norway, 2010, photo by Vincent van Zeijst.

In his written address to his troops, the general surprisingly called for calm in the face of Norwegian stubbornness: “…it has become necessary, and it is more than ever urged, that restraint and caution be exercised.” Von Falkenhorst ordered his soldiers to avoid all political discussions or controversies (these matters were the responsibility of the Gestapo, not the army). But there was less tolerance whenever a threat emerged against troops or army property:  “In such cases […] Military force should be brought into action in its full severity […] where action is taken it must be ruthless and employ the severest measures“.

Left to right: Vidkun Quisling, Heinrich Himmler, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven and General von Falkenhorst in Norway 1941. Photo: German Federal Archives.
Left to right: Vidkun Quisling, Heinrich Himmler, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven and General von Falkenhorst in Norway, 1941. Photo: German Federal Archives.

A separate document from the collection offers a string of examples of various possible “offences” by the local population, along with the acceptable response to be taken by German soldiers.


A German National is insulted or struck because he is German.

Measure to be taken by the Wehrmacht:

Provisional arrest of the culprit if he is caught in the act.



A local commander is informed on a Wednesday that on the previous Tuesday a German National was struck.

Measure to be taken by the Wehrmacht:

Report to Security Police (Gestapo).



A Norwegian girl of friendly disposition towards Germans has her hair cut short.

Measure to be taken by the Wehrmacht:

Provisional arrest of the culprit, but only if caught in the act, or if strongly suspected of attempting to escape. In other cases report to the Security Police.



Public statements by fortune tellers or members of sects derogatory to Germany.

Measure to be taken by the Wehrmacht:

In cases of serious insults, for example, in respect of the Fuehrer, provisional arrest, otherwise report to the Security Police.



Subversive preaching by Ministers of Religion either in the pulpit or at the graveside.

Measure to be taken by the Wehrmacht:

Particular restraint and caution necessary. In all cases only report to the Security Police.

We can see from the above that even those who were merely suspected of even the slightest offence against the German occupiers would soon attract the attention of the Security Police, the Gestapo, which did not bode well for those under suspicion.

Another document makes clear that “All political parties in Norway, together with all branch and subsidiary organisations are dissolved and forbidden […] the Nasjonal-Samling, with its affiliated branches and organisations, is the only exception to these prohibitions. Its activity is subject to no restrictions.

Vidkun Quisling, founder of the Nasjonal Samling party, whose name has become synonymous with the word 'traitor'. Photo: the National Archives of Norway.
Vidkun Quisling, founder of the Nasjonal Samling party, whose name has become synonymous with the word ‘traitor’. Photo: the National Archives of Norway.

The Nasjonal Samling was a far-right Norwegian political party that had never been able to gain even a single seat in the Storting, the Norwegian parliament. The German army however, was ordered to aid its transformation: “No difficulties, either of a personal nature or of organization, must be allowed to obstruct the granting of every aid in building up the Nasjonal Samling.” The party’s founder, Vidkun Quisling, was appointed Minister-President of Norway by the German authorities in 1942. He would serve in that role until the final Nazi defeat more than three years later. To this day, the world “quisling” is synonymous with “traitor” in several languages. Knut Hamsun, the Nobel Prize winning author, was another of the few Norwegian Nazi sympathists, who even eulogized Adolf Hitler after his death.

A facsimile of a German document which details how the Norwegian press ought to be handled under the military occupation, as it appears in the booklet, from the National Library collections.
A facsimile of a German document which details how the Norwegian press was to be handled under the Nazi occupation, as it appears in the booklet, from the National Library collections.

One of the most interesting documents in the collection relates to the handling of the local Norwegian press, which was ordered to “publish only such news as is designed to further, or at least not to hinder, the policy of the German Reich“.

Here are some of the specific directives included in the document:

German and Italian official communiques must be published daily and, wherever possible, on the front page.

The greatest care must be taken in publishing every sort of report that it contains nothing that might lead to unrest among the population in any way.

All reference to former political questions in Norway (the question of the King, the Nygaardsvold Government, the Party System, Trade Unions &c.) is forbidden.

In publishing German news and news from countries with which Germany is at war, preference has to be given to German news. This extends to typography as well (make-up, head-lines, size of type, etc.).

Weather reports are absolutely forbidden. In this category are included weather surveys dating back over long periods, damage through bad weather, lightning, temperature, snowfall, and indirect reference to weather in sporting news.

Reports on economic matters, regardless of whether they are short announcements or detailed surveys, must avoid showing the slightest negative tendency.

When reporting on domestic politics in Norway:

All attacks on the German authorities, either in direct or veiled form, must be suppressed.

The following reminder to encourage an optimistic and happy atmosphere was also included:

Editorial staff cannot be too often prompted not merely to write in the sense of their instructions without comment, but to adopt a positive attitude, i.e. in their articles Editors must give full support to measures taken in Norwegian domestic politics and express themselves in a positive sense.

In conclusion, the document adds:

The above outlines should form the subject of intensive oral instructions to editors. In no circumstances must these instructions be made public, nor must the fact that such instructions have been given to editors become known in any way. Editors should, however, make notes while they are receiving oral instructions.

The document is signed “Dr. Ehmer, Captain, Army Press officer.


Amy Simon, a cataloguer in the National Library’s Foreign Languages Department, contributed to this article.