My father and some of his friends joined the Kristian Stein Organisation towards the latter part of 1940. I am not exactly sure what my father’s mission was, but I do know he often had secret documents hidden in a dark closet under the stairs, ready to be distributed the next day.
When I was growing up we lived far enough out of Bergen for it to be considered ‘as living in the country’. My uncle and aunt had the house next door and my grandparents the flat upstairs, so I was never lonesome. My mother had six sisters and two brothers, and many of them came to see us regularly. I had friends in the neighbourhood – and one best friend, named Marit. She and I played together all the time. I used to envy her because she had a sister and a brother, and I was ‘all alone’. But she thought I was lucky. We’re never satisfied, are we? Anyway, life was quite good for us youngsters, but my parents, and everybody else, had many difficult times. Food was rationed and the Germans were all over the place. We had blackouts every night and money was in short supply because of the depression.
Unbeknown to the Kristian Stein members a spy had infiltrated the organisation. His name was Marino Nilsson and he worked for the Gestapo in 1940. I have read that he was a hopeless drunk, and was persuaded to spy for the Germans in exchange for alcohol. Some members became suspicious about his commitment, but by then it was too late. He knew the names and addresses of all the members.
It often rains in Bergen – surrounded as it is by seven mountains – and late in the evening of October 23rd 1941 was no different. I was fast asleep and my parents about to retire for the night when big, burly soldiers hammered on the door. My father, and six of his friends, were arrested and our house thoroughly searched. The soldiers simply went to each house and took them away. They became known as the ‘ Nesttun-Boys’ because they all lived in and around the area. 204 arrests took place in the Bergen-area over a couple of days. If any illegal maps or papers had been found when my father was arrested, he would have been shot. However, he was lucky because the papers had been delivered the day before.
I was totally distraught and can’t remember much of what took place, but if ever there was a ‘daddy’s girl’ that was me – My father was always there for me, kind and gentle.
After the arrest most of these men were sent to Ulven Leir, near Os some 10-15 miles south of Bergen. Before the war it was a Norwegian military training camp, and reverted to it in 1945. The seven boys from Nesttun were all together in one barrack, and six of them survived the hard times ahead. They spent the next nine months here. During those months my mother and I met my father just once, and that was thanks to a family who lived nearby and had a farm.
Here is the Soefteland-family with friends after the war. They had five children and owned quite a big farm not far from where the prisoners were held. Both Jon and Anna became involved with the Ulven Leir. Jon delivered farm produce to the prison camp and became aware of what was going on. He had to pretend to be on friendly terms with the officers in charge in order to be of help to the prisoners. As a farmer, and with help in short supply during the harvest, he persuaded the German officers that he needed men to help out. His cunning plan worked. He was given a list of the prisoners due to come and his wife, Anna, contacted the wives of these people. The pretence was that they were there to serve at the table during lunch. There were always at least two soldiers to guard the Norwegians, but somehow ‘stolen private moments’ were made possible. Anna would ask one of the men to go to the basement and collect some food, and made sure that the wife was down there waiting for him. That’s how my mother and I got to meet dad and give him a hug and a kiss. Jon and Anna were rewarded after the war, and Anna wrote a very interesting book about it all. A most remarkable family indeed. I can remember them and their cosy big livingroom full of ornaments, oak furniture and pictures. One of the sons played the guitar and had a lovely singing voice. Even the Germans enjoyed themselves. In fact, many of the quards were nice and fully aware of what was going on. They even warned Jon and Anna about some of the more Nazi-friendly soldiers.