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The Jewish Children's Home in Oslo was established in 1939 under the auspices of Nansenhjelpen, a humanitarian organization established by Odd Nansen, the son of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen. It was intended as a safe haven for Jewish children under the Holocaust, yet all the children eventually had to flee to avoid deportation when Norwaymarker itself was occupied by Nazi Germany.

The first director, Nina Hasvold, was recruited by Norwegian psychiatrist Nic Waal after they had become acquainted in Berlinmarker while attending the Kinderseminar (Seminar on Children) run by Wilhelm Reich. Nansenhjelpen board member Sigrid Helliesen Lund was also active in establishing the home.

The first inhabitants of the home were Jewish refugees from Viennamarker (known as Wienerbarna, "the Vienna children"), who had arrived in June 1938 on the pretext of a summer vacation with the Norwegian Jewish community. After some time at the Jewish community's cabin at Skui in Bærummarker and in foster care, they moved into rented facilities in Industrigaten and finally into a building the Jewish community had acquired at Holbergsgate 21 in Oslomarker.

Through the work of recently arrived psychiatrist Leo Eitinger and Nina Lustig (who was later detained and deported, and immediately murdered in Auschwitz) from Brnomarker, Nansenhjelpen applied on humanitarian grounds to admit 100 Czech Jewish children who otherwise faced a grim future under the Nazi regime. The ministry of justice only reluctantly approved the application for a few (among them the noted psychiatrist Berthold Grünfeld), on the grounds that it would be "difficult to get rid of them."

When Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany, conditions progressively worsened for the Norwegian Jewish community in general and also for the inhabitants of the Jewish children's home. Though Sigrid Helliesen Lund had the foresight to burn the entire list of Czech Jewish refugees on April 9 1940, German and Quisling authorities eventually caught up with the home.

Seven children were sent back to their families in Austriamarker; all of these perished in the Holocaust. In addition, one boy who moved out of the home in October 1942 was murdered in Auschwitzmarker.

By the time the Nazi authorities ordered the detention and deportation of all Jews in Norway in November 1942, there were nine boys and five girls in the home. The staff at the home, individuals affiliated with Nansenhjelpen, and other helpful people with contacts within the generally unhelpful Norwegian resistance movement planned, improvised, and successfully carried out a complicated and daring escape. All the children in the home were able to evade capture and found their way to Sweden.

All 14 children survived the Holocaust and subsequently found new homes in Norway, Swedenmarker, the United Kingdommarker, and the United Statesmarker. In the summer of 2007, all were still alive.

Of those who participated in the rescue effort, seven were honored as being among the Righteous among the Nations through Yad Vashemmarker in 2006:

  • Caroline Waal, who orchestrated the escape, relying on her personal network of friends and family.
  • Nina Hasvold, the director of the orphanage.
  • Gerda Tanberg, who hid the children in her second floor apartment in Ullern.
  • Martin Solvang, a taxi driver who was very active in the underground railroad to Sweden, and drove the children to Elverummarker.
  • Ola Rauken, a grenselos ("border pilot"), who took the children into his farm and walked them 17 kilometers toward the border.
  • Ola Breisjøberget, who took them across the border.
  • Sigrid Helliesen Lund, a member of Sivorg who dedicated herself from the outset to saving the children's lives, planning the escape and arranging for provisions.

See Norwegian Righteous Among the Nations for a complete list of those Norwegians recognized.


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