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Turning Points in My Life 1

Freda Isaksen

When I married a Norwegian and left England which was my native country, I was young, naive and in love, so I thought that my new life would follow a straight and narrow path. I had no idea that World War II would begin and bring drastic changes.

So many war-time stories have been told, how many have we heard of bravery and heroism, tragedy and death and just personal experiences? It is easier to relate and weep over the tragic loss of one person than over the fate of millions of innocent people. Yet each and every one of the millions could have told a story if only he or she had been allowed to live.

My name along with others of my fellow country-men was on a list stating that we were to be taken from our homes on a given date to meet an uncertain fate, because of our Jewish faith. But when that day came I was gone, I could make my personal V for victory sign because one more intended victim of Nazi atrocities had survived to tell a wartime story.

Until the night of April 9, 1940, my family had lived peacefully in Trondheim and expected to live there for the rest of our lives. There was our home, our business, and our livelihood. All Norwegians were concerned about the troubling war news in Europe but never dreamed that Germany would invade the Scandinavian countries.

That night we were awoken by the noise of many airplanes flying overhead, too many to be normal, so we turned on the radio and heard the announcement that Norway was now a part of the German Reich. We immediately telephoned our brother who lived in the center of town, and he told us that soldiers wearing swastikas were marching in the streets of our peaceful city. The next morning the whole family gathered together and we all felt sure that Great Britain would not allow this atrocity to continue and would most surely send troops to liberate Norway. In the meantime we considered it unwise for us as Jews to remain in a Nazi occupied country. So it was decided that the married brothers would take their families across the border into Sweden and the unmarried men would remain and fight with the armed forces. There were nine brothers and one sister besides the wives and children living in the city. My husband, young and patriotic as he was, chose to remain in Norway and fight to regain our country. His mother was reluctant to leave her home. She had fled her native country in her youth because of persecution. I was pregnant and did not want to leave my husband. But after three days the tension was so great that we three women who stayed behind followed the family into Sweden.

I walked away from our home leaving everything I owned behind me, not realising that I would never return to live there. Nor did I know then that we took the last train that the Germans allowed to leave Norway. Just one day later and I would have missed the opportunity to escape. Then I would not be here to tell how my war time experiences would lead me to yet another country, and challenge me to become a totally different person.

Footnotes

  1. This story addresses one of the major events described in Freda’s Autobiography. See also a letter to the Los Angeles Times.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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