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Resistance Museum, Bergen

  
  - darkometer rating:  3 -

A museum in Bergen about the time of WWII and the resistance movement during the occupation of Norway by Germany. It's less comprehensive than its counterpart in Oslo, but somewhat more modern in design and thus well worth a look.   

>More background info

>What there is to see

>Location

>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations

>Photos

 
More background info: For historical background on the main topic of the museum see under Norwegian Resistance Museum, Oslo, and also Industrial Workers Museum Vemork, Falstad Centre, Theta- Museum as well as under Norway in general.
 
The official name of the museum is Bergenhus Festningsmuseum, and indeed its scope goes somewhat beyond the topic of Norwegian Resistance 1940-45. This is however its main focus, so for ease of reference it's filed here simply under "Resistance Museum".
 
It's a relatively recent addition to the city's museums; the current exhibitions were only opened between 2004 and 2007. The museum is administered under the aegis of the Armed Forces Museum in Oslo.  
 
 
What there is to see: The museum comprises several separate but thematically more or less linked exhibitions on three floors. The core is the one about Norwegian Resistance as such, but other parts go beyond this, starting on the ground floor, which has a small exhibition about the role of women in Norwegian military history.
 
On the first floor there are also collections of historic newspaper cuttings/facsimiles, including underground ones (but you'd need a good knowledge of Norwegian to get much out of these parts – otherwise it's quite boring), as well as a section about Norway's contribution to international UN missions since WWII.
 
The latter is quite interesting in itself, given that Norway has indeed played a crucial part in many such peacekeeping missions, from Angola to East Timor and many more (see also Armed Forces Museum, Oslo, which has a much more comprehensive exhibition on the same topic!).
 
Another extra section is a small exhibition about the regiment that was sent to Germany after WWII to assist the Allied Powers, more precisely those from Great Britain, in the reorganization and rebuilding of war-torn Germany.
 
On the top floor, finally, is a more traditional section about the older history of the Bergenhus Fortress from its beginnings almost a millennium ago through its important role in the Middle Ages and into more modern times. But unless you're really into such older (military) history it's not particularly exiting.
 
But now to the main part, the more elaborate first floor exhibition about the Norwegian Resistance of the years 1940 to 1945, i.e. during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in WWII.
 
It kicks off, predictably, with the rise of Nazism, both in Germany and within Norway itself, especially under Quisling's Nasjonal Samling party, followed by the invasion of Norway under the code name "Weserübung". It is pointed out that allegedly the citizens of Bergen were much less willing to accept the occupation and collaborate (compared to e.g. Oslo or Trondheim).
 
The formation of civilian resistance, in addition to the (more or less failed) military resistance, is given much space, naturally. Artefacts on display include various weapons, communication devices, forged documents and the implements used for producing these. On the grimmer side are whips and other torture tools used by the Gestapo in their repression of any opposition.
 
There is a short section about the Holocaust. In the case of Bergen, this meant the deportation of (the relatively few, only about 20) Jewish citizens in the autumn of 1942 (i.e. when the implementation of the "final solution" got into full swing all over the Nazi-occupied territories).
 
There was an interesting detail that I noticed here: where the info panel said that these Jews were sent to Auschwitz in Poland, I found that the latter country's name was scratched out, presumably by an aggravated previous visitor to the exhibition, and next to it the following "correction" was scratched in crude letters: "III Reich (Germany)". The objection is at best only partly justified, though. It is true that the area was annexed by Germany after its invasion of Poland and as such could be regarded as German territory, since it was administratively integrated into the "Provinz Oberschlesien" (unlike the somewhat different status of the "Generalgouvernement" further east). But originally it had not been part of the Reich but indeed was in any case still legally a part of Poland from the point of view of international law. Accordingly it returned to its Polish name Oświęcim immediately after the war. So in the present tense, Auschwitz is indeed "in Poland" in any case. In other words,  the "correction!" of the information panel would almost imply a denial of the illegality of the German occupation of the place, probably unintended. Anyway it's a) pernickety and b) a minor act of vandalism, whatever justification there may have been. You may disagree with a museum's text (and you can express this e.g. in the guest book), but taking the liberty of interfering with it like this, is despicable.  
 
But back to the exhibition as such: much of the rest of it outlines the history, roles and fates of various groupings of the Norwegian Resistance, including the Theta group (see Theta Museum). In addition there are lots of images from Bergen during WWII. One incident is picked out in particular: on 20 April 1944 a Dutch cargo vessel loaded  with explosives and destined for Hammerfest blew up in Bergen's harbour killing ca. 150 and injuring thousands and laying the surrounding cityscape in ruins, including much of the Bergenhus Fortress. Since the incident occurred on Hitler's 55th birthday, it was immediately assumed that this must have been some sort of sabotage act. As far as could be ascertained, though, it was simply an accident – one that shouldn't have happened where it happened, since such dangerous cargo was normally banned from inner harbours such as Bergen's.
 
Another episode that was to prove especially tragic for the Norwegians was the large-scale Allied bomber attacks on the submarine base in Bergen's harbour later in 1944, including that of 4 October, in which a school was hit, together with various other civilian buildings, causing the largest loss of Norwegian lives in any one day in the war. "Collateral damage" would be the contemporary term …
 
The exhibition finishes, as could also be predicted, on a much lighter note, namely with a section on the liberation of Norway and peace celebrations.
 
The Resistance Exhibition is bilingual (almost) throughout, with translations into English at a generally good quality. The other sections are much less accommodating for foreigners in this respect.
 
On balance, at least the core part on WWII and the resistance is a worthwhile addition to the other things to do in Bergen. If you've already seen the Norwegian Resistance Museum in Oslo and other smaller museums on the topic that can be found in various places in the country, then the overlap/repetition may be a bit too much … I also noticed that I was beginning to tire somewhat of the repeated sight of resistance fighter mannequins in woolly jumpers. But if you're new to the topic, the Bergen exhibition is very illuminating and strikes a good balance between the traditional kind of museum outline and only a restrained "modernism" (multimedia, screens, etc.). And given that admission is free (a rare treat in Norway!) you can't go wrong with giving it a go in any case.
 
 
Location: on the eastern edge of the Bergenhus Fortress complex in Bergen, north of the old harbour and the Bryggen Hanseatic quarter.
 
Google maps locator:[60.3998,5.3215]
  
 
Access and costs: not too difficult to get to; free.  
 
Details: To get to the museum from central Bergen first proceed to the harbour front along Bryggen and onward past the more modern buildings on Slottsgaten, then turn right; the museum is towards the northern end of Sandbrogaten, but the entrance is on the fortress side, i.e. facing west.
 
Opening times: daily except Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
Admission free (very unusual for Norway!)
 
 
Time required: Something like an hour will probably do for most visitors, unless you have a deeper interest in the general history of the fortress too in which case you may spend longer here.
 
 
Combinations with other dark destinations: in general see under Bergen. The nearest other dark site is the Theta Museum in the adjacent Bryggen quarter. Within the fortress grounds itself, the WWII-era, German-built bunker just north of the Haakon's Hall may be of marginal interest too.
 
 
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The museum is on the edge of the expansive complex of the Bergenhus Fortress, which also includes a couple of Bergen's prime tourist sights, the Rosenkrantz Tower, the tallest brick edifice of the complex, and the impressive Haakon's Hall (Håkonshallen), a monumental medieval banqueting hall.
 
Bryggen, the old Hanseatic quarter of densely packed timber buildings and today the city's foremost tourist draw, is also just round the corner.
 
See also under Bergen in general.    
  
  
 
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 1 - part of the fortress complexBergen Resistance Museum 1 - part of the fortress complex
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 2 - typical woolly jumperBergen Resistance Museum 2 - typical woolly jumper
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 3 - the grim period of German occupationBergen Resistance Museum 3 - the grim period of German occupation
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 4 - forging documentsBergen Resistance Museum 4 - forging documents
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 5 - artefactsBergen Resistance Museum 5 - artefacts
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 6 - more artefactsBergen Resistance Museum 6 - more artefacts
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 7 - how to maintain a resistanceBergen Resistance Museum 7 - how to maintain a resistance
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 8 - older historic partBergen Resistance Museum 8 - older historic part
  • Bergen Resistance Museum 9 - contemporary UN missions sectionBergen Resistance Museum 9 - contemporary UN missions section

 
 

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