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Diary of WWII prisoner on display

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Rolvaag Memorial Library currently has two special collections on display on the third floor. The book collection of Jørgen Jensen sits at the entrance. Jensen was a Norwegian-American who donated over 100 books about the Nazi occupation of Norway to the library. He made this contribution less than a year before his death in 2015, and it has been on display since March 1, 2016. Many of the books are in Norwegian – only a few are written in English.

Jensen was a native of Norway and a science student at the University of Oslo on April 9, 1940, the day that the Nazis invaded Norway. The university did not close until 1943, when 1,250 students were arrested and 650 of those arrested were sent to concentration camps in Germany. Jensen eventually fled the country alone and found shelter in Sweden with other Norwegian refugees, many of whom were students at Oslo as well.

In 1948, he came to the United States and settled in Maryland. Jensen’s collection contains diaries and historical accounts of the war and of important Norwegian figures during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Special Collections Librarian Aimee Brown was contacted by Jensen himself, who expressed his wish to donate his collection to the library, though he had no personal ties with the college. He had heard about St. Olaf’s Kierkegaard Library and other special collections, including that of the Norwegian American Historical Association. Brown reflected on her experience of curating the collection for the display.

“Though there is limited space in the front display, I tried to select the books that had the most visually interesting covers, so that students can get a feeling for the Norwegian experience of the war, even if they can’t necessarily read Norwegian,” Brown said.

Students can check out these books by asking one of the librarians. The display will be up until May.

The second special collection currently on display is the diary of Petter Moen, who was a writer for the underground press of the Norwegian resistance movement during the Nazi occupation. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 for his involvement in the resistance and imprisoned in Oslo. During his imprisonment, he used a pin from the blackout curtains to make raised dots in sheets of toilet paper, creating a diary that he could only write after dark so that the guards would not know. After each chapter, he would roll the sheets up and hide them under the floorboard.

Before his death 1944 on the way to a concentration camp in Westphalen, Germany, Moen told fellow prisoners about the diary he left behind in the prison. After the war ended, one of the men informed the Norwegian police about the existence of the diary and they pried up the floorboard to reveal Moen’s several scrolls of toilet paper. The diary was published in 1949 in Norwegian and in English two years later. Brown was contacted by Hans Magnus Aus and Berit Aus – the children of Moen’s brother’s friends – who wished to donate part of the diary to St. Olaf in 2015. Aus was given two pages of the diary as a gift from Hans Moen, Petter Moen’s brother. They were connected with the college through the Norwegian American Historical Association.

To see the documents outside of the display near the reference room, make an appointment with Brown. There are additional copies of Moen’s complete diary in both English and Norwegian, which students can check out from the library.

sovere1@stolaf.edu