Wergeland’s Legacy

Jewish Life in Norway, 1851-1945

Opening: May 05, 2009

Exhibition Curator: Britt Ormaaasen & Oskar Kvasnes

Exhibition Designer: Ori Glazer

The exhibition, held at Beit Hatfutsot under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Embassy to Israel, tells the story of Jewish immigration to Norway from 1851, following the struggle of the Norwegian national poet Henrik Wergeland for the abolition of the Jewish clause in the constitution – until 1945. It depicts the lives of people who fled from terror and persecution, and who looked for a land where they could live a peaceful life.

The exhibition also describes the encounter with a culture that was foreign to them and their struggle to put down roots in a new country. The people who came to Norway had a strong desire to become part of a nation. They wanted to become “ordinary” Norwegians while also upholding their Jewish way of life, which meant to live with a double identity. They discovered that they would pay a price for being different, and that anti-Semitism was not dead.

The exhibition ends with 1945, because World War II marks a turning point for all Norwegians seeking to build a modern society. The year 1945 was also a turning point for the Jewish community in Norway as their number declined to only about half of what it had been before the war.

The project is a joint production of Beit Hatfutsot, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and the Oslo Jewish Museum. The exhibition is based on material gathered through the Museum of Cultural History project “Norwegian-Jewish Documentation”, in cooperation with the Jewish Community of Oslo. The project was launched in order to gather information about Jewish life and history in Norway up to 1945. Most of the information collected consists of interviews with Norwegian Jews born before the war and photographs from private albums, which were buried, hidden by friends, or taken along, when fleeing to Sweden.

Curator in charge at Beit Hatfutsot: Geula Goldberg