The Espionage connected to the Soviet prisoners of war graves in North Norway 1945-51

Marte Stavrum Fagertun

During the summer of 1951, the Norwegian authorities started to remove the corpses of almost 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war from their graves in northern Norway. “Operation Asphalt” was set in motion. The operation was not uncontroversial. Most Norwegians in the region had a positive attitude towards the Soviet Russians, who had been tortured and mistreated by the German occupiers in Norway between 1941 and 1945. During the summer and early autumn of 1951, the corpses were collected and gathered at a central cemetery in Helgeland in Nordland. Voices critical of this controversial incident were silenced until 2013, when a handful of historians renewed their interest in this forgotten historical event. The author of the book “Med lik i lasten” (“Cadavers on board”), Halvor Fjermeros, claimed that Operation Asphalt was probably “one of the most secret stories of the Cold War”, when he promoted his book in the national media (Dagbladet, 2013). This is off course an exaggeration, but the paper will deal with the operation and put it in connection with the menace of Soviet espionage.

It will deal with how the cold war era and Norway’s membership in NATO from 1949 contributed to suspiciousness towards the fright of the use of the dead Soviet POWs, and how the Soviet activities and the menace of escalating Soviet activities towards the war graves in Norway in the period of 1949-51, dramatically changed the Norwegian war graves policy. 

Download fulltext paper (unfinished) here

Karl Lorentz Kleve