4:18 PM EST, November 26, 2012
Seventy years after Norway helped send hundreds of Jews to Auschwitz, the nation's police have apologized for their role in rounding up and deporting people to Nazi concentration camps.
The sober words from the Norwegian national police commissioner mark the first such apology from Norwegian police. After being invaded and occupied by Germany, Norway deported 772 Jews on ships leaving Oslo during the war. Only 32 of the people survived.
The vast majority were expelled from Norway on Nov. 26, 1942, when 532 Jewish people were loaded onto the Donau. It was the first leg of their journey to Auschwitz.
"Norwegian police officers participated in the arrest and deportation of Jews," police commissioner Odd Reidar Humlegard was quoted by Reuters as saying Monday. "It is fitting that I express my regret for the role police played in the arrest and deportation of these completely innocent victims."
Fourteen years earlier, the country acknowledged its role in the Holocaust and offered financial compensation for seized property, but its words at that time fell short of a full apology. That changed this year, when Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg formally apologized.
“The murders were unquestionably carried out by the Nazis. But it was Norwegians who carried out the arrests. It was Norwegians who drove the trucks,” Stoltenberg said in January.
Norwegians also marked the Monday anniversary of "a most brutal part of Norwegian history" with ceremonies at the docks. Culture Minister Hadia Tajik reminded the crowd that a recent study had found that 1 in 8 Norwegians hold prejudices against Jewish people, urging the public to continue the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination.
“I could say that it was about time” for the police to apologize, Auschwitz survivor Samuel Steinmann told the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen. “But it is good to hear.”