“Mentalities of War, Mentalities of Peace”: Capital Punishment in the Norwegian “Treason Trials”, 1941–1948
This chapter analyses the changing role of the death penalty during the Norwegian “legal reckoning” (rettsoppgjør) with wartime collaborators and foreign war criminals after World War II. It traces transformations in official and public narratives surrounding the death penalty from when it was first adopted in 1941, to when the last execution was carried out in 1948. In doing so, the chapter takes a twofold approach: firstly, it looks at how the death penalty was justified at the official level, and secondly, it examines how these official justifications interacted with public discussions about the viability, morality and necessity of employing the death penalty. Throughout the chapter, the changing role of the death penalty is related to more fundamental shifts in attitudes towards the legacy of the occupation on the one hand and the (re-)construction of the nation’s self-image on the other. In the context of this chapter, the death penalty therefore serves both as an object of study and as a lens through which to explore some of the underlying currents of Norway’s post-war reckoning with collaborators and war criminals.