Posted by: Sarah | May 13, 2012

Norway Says Goodbye To A Great War Hero: Gunnar Sonsteby


Last Thursday (10th May 2012) Norway lost a hugely respected war veteran – Gunar Sønsteby.  Last year I wrote a post about things I’d still like to do whilst in Norway and one of them was to meet this chap.  His story is so amazing, it would have been an honour to spend just a few minutes with him.

Gunnar Fridtjof Thurmann Sønsteby was a member of the Norwegian resistance movement during WW2 and is known to be the highest decorated citizen in Norway.  He was the sole surviving member of the underground team of saboteurs led by Max Manus who executed a number of missions against Nazis in occupied Norway.  Here are some facts about him:

  • He trained as a saboteur in Britain during 1943
  • He famously said “When your country is taken over by 100,000 Germans, you get angry”
  • He smuggled out printing plates from the Norwegian Central Bank so Norwegian kroner could continue to be printed during the war
  • He blew up the office for Norwegian forced labour to halt the Nazi’s plan to send young Norwegians to the Eastern front – all the records were destroyed
  • He stole 75,000 ration books putting pressure on authorities to stop the planned cut in rations in Norway
  • He destroyed or damaged aircraft, trains, ammunition and resources that supported Nazi troops
  • He was a good forger and he regularly replicated the signature of Karl Marthinsen, the leader of the Norwegian Nazi police, in order to destroy or prevent Nazi plans
  • After the war he studied at Harvard University and worked in the oil industry
  • When the 2008 film Max Manus was released, Sønsteby and his wife attended the premiere and the film became the most successful film in Norwegian history
  • Until recently Sønsteby regularly visited schools to talk about his life during WW2 and the role of the resistance
  • Not surprisingly, Sønsteby was high on the Nazi most wanted list so he was a master of disguise.  He used 30-40 different names and identities.  The Germans never found out his real name until after the war.

Obviously Sønsteby didn’t do all of the above alone.  He was the operations director of the resistant force and without his colleagues (many of which were captured by Nazi forces) he couldn’t have completed many of the missions.  You can view the Max Manus trailer below.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for keeping Gunnar Sønsteby’s legend alive. I had not heard of this great Norwegian hero until reading your post. Isn’t May 10th–the same day he died, celebrated as Norwegian Indpendence Day? Thank you!

  2. Thanks Anna – glad you enjoyed the post. Such a shame – he seemed to be such a lovely chap. Regarding Independence Day, that is on May 17th so this coming Thursday. It’s going to be fun. The flags are going up everywhere already! I love how patriotic the Norwegians are.

  3. I ador this wonderful letter Ø in his surname!


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