Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian Nazi

On 24 October 1945, Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian Nazi, was executed and a new word entered common usage.

Born 18 July 1887, Vidkun Quisling’s life and early career had started promisingly. As a child, the son of a Lutheran pastor, he was considered somewhat a mathematical child prodigy and, as a young cadet coming out of military school, he gained the highest recorded marks in Norway.

Vidkun Quisling, CBE

After leaving the army, where he had worked his way up to the rank of Major, Quisling worked as a humanitarian, helping with the great famines in Russia during the 1920s. It was in Russia he became an avid anti-Communist and, in doing so, helped British interests in their diplomatic wrangling with the Soviets. In 1929 the British, so grateful to Quisling for his help, awarded him the CBE.

Between 1931 and 1933 Quisling was Norway’s Minister of Defence but then, disillusioned with democracy, resigned and formed his own ‘National Unity’ party, a Norwegian equivalent of the German Nazi Party. But the Norwegians had little time for fascism and in the 1933 national elections, Quisling’s party polled little more than 2% of the vote and gained no seats.

Quisling and Hitler

With no support and no influence, Quisling looked destined to wither away into obscurity. But in Adolf Hitler, whom Quisling visited in December1939, he had a friend.

In April 1940, Quisling met German agents in Copenhagen and divulged secrets concerning Norway’s defences. Six days later – Germany invaded. On 9 April, Quisling stormed into the studios of Oslo’s radio station and declared himself prime minister. German representatives demanded that Norway’s king, Haakon VII, recognise Quisling. The king refused but, in danger, went into exile to England and there formed a government-in-exile.

With German backing, Quisling ordered all resistance to stop. Once Germany had established control of Norway the Nazis put Quisling in charge of their government of occupation. So trusting were the Germans of their Norwegian puppet that two years later, in 1942, they appointed Quisling Prime Minister and granted him full license to run the country without interference.

But on 9 May 1945, the day after Germany’s unconditional surrender, Quisling was arrested. King Haakon returned to his country, arriving amidst emotional scenes of jubilation.

Norway had abolished capital punishment in 1905, but its government-in-exile reinstated it specifically for Quisling and his highest-ranking colleagues. Hence, charged with high treason, Quisling was executed by firing squad on 24 October 1945. He was 58.

The Definition of Quisling

The word quisling entered common usage during the war as term denoting a traitor. Today, in the Oxford English Dictionary, a quisling is defined as, ‘a person cooperating with an occupying enemy force; a collaborator; a traitor.’

In 1940, King George VI revoked Vidkun Quisling’s CBE.

Rupert Colley
Read more about the war in World War Two: History In An Hour published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats and as audio.