For those left behind, wondering if husbands or fathers were still alive, the daily routine continued (as it has to).
Bergen is a main port, and because of this it was often under attack. The Allies were on constant alert because the Germans considered the city and its location to be of importance. They built a U-boat base and had ‘floating dock’ near Bergen.
On the 4th of October 1944, as the children of Holen School had arrived for their lessons, British planes flew over Bergen. The intended target was the U-boat base, but the bombs went astray and the school took a direct hit. Panic broke out, and many did not reach the safety of the bomb shelter. 61 children, 2 teachers and the caretaker were killed, and many injured. The Germans lost 12 men. My cousin, Odd, was one of the many volunteers who help dig out the dead and injured children.
Sometimes it was accidental, and not deliberate bombing, which shook our old city. On April 20th 1944 at 8.30 in the morning, a Dutch ship, ‘Voorbode’, heavily laden with explosives, was being repaired in Bergen harbour when it suddenly exploded. Many people were killed immediately and some were badly hurt or blinded. The ship’s anchor was blown 400 metres up the mountain and landed in a private garden. Fires broke out many places, and the old Hanseatic Houses in the harbour caught fire. The blast created a tsunami-like effect. People said they could briefly see the bottom of the fjord before the waves spouted up in the air.
The worst act of reprisal was the assault on the small fishing village of Telavåg in the spring of 1942. Two Gestapo officers had been shot and killed by two men who had been brought over from the Shetland Islands. The whole grown-up male population were sent to concentration camps, where 31 died. The women and children was interned and Telavåg was levelled to the ground. It was rebuilt after the war, and a museum in honour and remembrance of the people has been created.
But as a family we survived. My mother and her friends complained about the lack of good coffee. Food was certainly in short supply and sugar unobtainable. The wives of the Nesttun-Boys met regularly, which helped them all. For us it was a constant struggle to make ends meet. My grandparents meagre pension didn’t go far, but from time to time a man, I was told was uncle Bjarne, came to our house and gave my mother a few kroner. I was never allowed to tell anyone about this. To this day I don’t know where the money came from, and who the man was. Could it have been someone from the Stein-organisation? Those who managed to avoid being captured continued to work illegally throughout the war-years.