Postwar Justice in Norway and Denmark, 1945-1965 | Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik - MPISOC
01.04.2019 - 31.05.2023 /

Postwar Justice in Norway and Denmark, 1945-1965

Following the liberation from German occupation, societies across Europe faced the difficult question of how to bring to justice those individuals who had collaborated with the wartime enemy. In many countries, violence ensued before more formalised legal and administrative procedures could be established. Once legal and political institutions were re-established, many individuals were brought to trial for their wartime actions, often leading to imprisonment, fines, the loss of civil rights, and sometimes the death penalty.

The Norwegian ‘treason trials’ were the most extensive post-war ‘reckoning’ with wartime collaboration in all of Europe. Planned meticulously by the Norwegian government from its London exile, the trials saw the reintroduction of the death penalty – previously abolished in 1902 – and the blanket criminalisation of membership of the collaborationist party Nasjonal Samling. Due to the sweeping laws adopted by the exile government during the occupation, 3.2% of the entire Norwegian population came to be investigated for treason after the liberation in 1945. However, the trials were largely based on legal decrees that sat uneasily with Norway’s pre-war legal principles, and they came to be met with increasing public scepticism as the distance to the occupation grew. My monograph, entitled "The Quislings", traces the evolution of the Norwegian post-war ‘reckoning’ from its earliest planning stages up until the last major parliamentary debates about its legacy one generation later. It is forthcoming in the 'New Studies in European History' Series of Cambridge University Press.

In addition to my monograph, I have published on the topic of postwar justice and reconciliation in Norway and Denmark, focusing in particular on the penalty of ‘loss of civil rights’, the use of the death penalty as well as the particular challenges and dynamics of postwar justice in the German-Danish border region.


Seemann, Anika:
On War, Loyalty, and Reconciliation - The German Minority during the Second World War and the Postwar Legal Reckoning, in: Like Snow in the Sun? The German Minority in Denmark in Historical Perspective, Berlin 2022.

Seemann, Anika:
“Mentalities of War, Mentalities of Peace”: Capital Punishment in the Norwegian “Treason Trials”, 1941–1948, in: Konrád, Ota; Barth, Boris; Mrňka, Jaromír (eds.): Collective Identities and Post-War Violence in Europe, 1944–48. Reshaping the Nation, Basingstoke 2022, S. 225-252.