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400,000 German troops surrender in Norway in 1945?

#1
I have often read that there were 400,000 German 'service personnel' - not just soldiers, but police, technicians, etc. in Norway that surrendered in 1945. At the war's end 28,500 Norwegians were imprisoned for serving in German police or army units in their country. To me then, 428,000 armed men supporting the Reich, seems unusual, given that the population of Norway in 1940 had been below 3 million, meaning there was around 1 German serviceman for every 7.5 Norwegians. This seems an incredibly high ratio especially after June 1944 when it was clear that the invasion of western Europe was coming through Normandy. Added to that, it had taken only 120,000 German soldiers, plus naval support, to conquer Norway in 1940.

First, I wonder if this 400,000 is an accurate figure or if it is simply one that has been bandied around for so long that people no longer question it. Second, I wonder what difference could these 400,000 men made, given that they represented equivalent to a field army, even two? Why were they not sent to Normandy, to the Battle of the Bulge or to defend the Rhine? Did soldiers somehow get themselves reassigned to Norway which actually was not fought over after 1940? It seems unlikely that the German garrison in Norway would have altered the outcome of the war, but surely throwing even just 200-300,000 extra men into the battle for Normandy or Belgium or in Poland and Hungary would have slowed up the British/Americans or the Soviets by some weeks, perhaps even months. It may have allowed the British/Americans to reach Berlin before the Soviets. Of course, they would have withdrawn as they did from the areas of Czechoslovakia that they advanced into, so as to fit the agreement with Stalin. However, for many in the German armed forces being overrun by the western Allies rather than being carted off to Siberia, would have been a very different outcome.
 

Coiler

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#2
From here, page 312

From January to May 1945, while the German armies on the main land were being ground to pieces, the Twentieth Mountain Army wason a near-peacetime basis. Even the rumors, predictions and premoni-tions of an invasion subsided. General der Gebirgstruppe FranzBoehme, who replaced Rendulic as Armed Forces Commander, Norway, in January when the latter was transferred to the command of the Army Group North, complained that he found some units still observingSunday as a holiday. Although he condemned the practice as a "re-grettable failure to appreciate our total situation," he had little to recom-mend other than that the day be used for National Socialist Leadership courses or athletic competitions. An OKW observer had described Norway at the end of 1944 as one of the most peaceful spots in Europe,and so it remained to the end of the war despite a gradual increase insabotage and resistance activity.
And from page 310

The year 1944 passed for the Army of Norway, as the previous two had, in waiting for an invasion that did not come. At mid-year its strength stood at 372,000 men, but before the end of summer it had lost about 80,000 through the transfer of three divisions and miscellaneous smaller contingents to shore up the tottering fronts in Russia and France. In the fall, forced by the hostile attitude of Sweden to deploy units along the Swedish border opposite Oslo and Trondheim,the army briefly experienced a personnel shortage
Didn't find an exact quote for numbers on VE Day in that source, but they were transferring the forces they thought were viable to other fronts to the best of their ability.
 

Skinny87

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#3
I can answer this!

I just need time to type on the computer

(Very) short answer: Hitler had a lasting obsession with retaining substantial forces in Norway as both a form of National Redoubt, and also because he constantly feared invasion by the Allies there from about 1943 onwards. There is - in my opinion - at least some evidence that the latter was stoked by Hitler's encounter with General Andrew Thorne when he was British Military Attache in Berlin in the 1930s, and Thorne's subsequent assignment to command SCOTCO (Scottish Command) which would lead any invasion of Norway.
 

neonduke

Continuity Menshevik
#4
How suitable would Southern Norway be as a staging point for Allied aircraft and paratroops, specifically in 1945 to support an invasion of Germany? I've gamed that scenario in Panzer General with large paratroop drops around Hamburg but I was well aware I was exploiting the system.
 

Coiler

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#5
How suitable would Southern Norway be as a staging point for Allied aircraft and paratroops, specifically in 1945 to support an invasion of Germany?
By 1945, not very. In January, they're still in the Battle of the Bulge and won't have such "luxuries" on their mind. Afterwards, their advance is going to be so successful that a complex operation like that won't be considered cost-effective.
 

Skinny87

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#6
Forgive me, problems at home mean I'm not going to get to a computer any time soon, but some bullet points for consideration. A lot of this has come out of my research for Operation Doomsday (my planned novel to be done some time this side of 2040)
  • For generalities, as far as I'm aware, the Norwegian resistance was the most organised and efficient resistance organisation in all of the Occupied countries, with a remarkable element of unity. That would, I imagine, make it much harder to withdraw occupation troops from Norway back to operations elsewhere, lest you give Milorg the chance to strike a blow
  • After all, see what happened even with those troops - major coups like the strikes against the Heavy Water plant, and then the ferry carrying the remaining Heavy Water supplies afterwards.
  • And from my research, while I don't want to accidentally promote some kind of myth about Norway having no collaborators, it does seem unique in that a) Quisling and the Nasjonal Samling was rather isolated both from the general population (especially as Quisling fucked the initial occupation and had to back pedal publically about just how much he was in bed with the Nazis; b) Quisling and NS were even more ignored by the Nazi regime than Vichy and had less legitimacy; c) there was an active government-in-exile that benefitted from a non-controversial figurehead in King Olaf; d) there was no division between resistance groups as severe as between, say France or Holland
  • Given the above, it seems like keeping that many troops in Norway was required purely as a precaution
  • In addition, many of the putative 350,000 were administrative and rear-echelon troops, Kriegsmarine, or SS and therefore hardly frontline combatants able to serve on the Eastern Front. And with many U-Boat bases, many of the 350,000 were U-Boat crews and support staff
Now, as to the theory around General Andrew Thorne, well this comes from my own research over the past decade or so, inspired my volunteering at the Queens Own Hussars museums and going through their files, including back-copies of various journals. One journal had an abbreviated version of Stephen Ashley Hart's The Forgotten Liberator: The 1939–1945 Military Career of General Sir Andrew Thorne which I later supplemented with my own research

Now Thorne is a fascinating character whose inability to achieve recognition for his military-related achievements is almost on a par with @Japhy favourite George Henry Thomas. A skilled brigade commander in the First World War, and Corps commander in the Second World War, he was on a par with Montgomery by late 1940, only with a personality that didn't make his contemporaries want to brain him with an ashtray after thirty seconds. However he made the fatal mistake of being too quiet and unassuming with Alanbrook, who favoured Montgomery and placed him in charge of XII Corps in 1941, the plum command that led eventually to the Eighth Army and eternal (and controversial) fame.

Now Thorne instead was appointed to command Scottish Command, which from 1943 onwards was assigned theoretical responsibility for the liberation of Norway and the surrounding areas. It was a fairly ramshackle force that was regularly drained of manpower for Italy and Normandy, so why would his appointment be so concerning to Hitler?

Well, to answer that we go back to the 1930s, and Thorne's service as British military attache in Berlin. Thorne met with Hitler several times, itself a rare occurrence, and by all accounts the Fuhrer was rather taken with Thorne. Not only had Thorne penned a number of military tracts that Hitler approved of, but during a late-night reminiscence they realised they had served for some time effectively opposite each other on the Western Front in 1914-15, with Thorne apparently calculating their might have been within a few hundred yards of each other at some points. Hitler kept tabs on Thorne throughout the conflict, and his appointment to Scottish Command was apparently remarked upon by the Fuhrer; of the many books catalogued by the Allies from the Fuhrerbunker at the end of the war, several were written by Thorne, and kept relatively close to hand. While hardly a decisive influence, Hitler's strangely magnetic attraction to Thorne likely factored into the decision to retain such a high concentration of troops in Norway.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#9
Pretty sure that Churchill at least did semi frequently raise liberating Norway as an option. So those troops there were kind of required as you can bet if they were not there the Allies would take advantage.
 

lordroel

Active member
#10
I have often read that there were 400,000 German 'service personnel' - not just soldiers, but police, technicians, etc. in Norway that surrendered in 1945. At the war's end 28,500 Norwegians were imprisoned for serving in German police or army units in their country. To me then, 428,000 armed men supporting the Reich, seems unusual, given that the population of Norway in 1940 had been below 3 million, meaning there was around 1 German serviceman for every 7.5 Norwegians. This seems an incredibly high ratio especially after June 1944 when it was clear that the invasion of western Europe was coming through Normandy. Added to that, it had taken only 120,000 German soldiers, plus naval support, to conquer Norway in 1940.

First, I wonder if this 400,000 is an accurate figure or if it is simply one that has been bandied around for so long that people no longer question it. Second, I wonder what difference could these 400,000 men made, given that they represented equivalent to a field army, even two? Why were they not sent to Normandy, to the Battle of the Bulge or to defend the Rhine? Did soldiers somehow get themselves reassigned to Norway which actually was not fought over after 1940? It seems unlikely that the German garrison in Norway would have altered the outcome of the war, but surely throwing even just 200-300,000 extra men into the battle for Normandy or Belgium or in Poland and Hungary would have slowed up the British/Americans or the Soviets by some weeks, perhaps even months. It may have allowed the British/Americans to reach Berlin before the Soviets. Of course, they would have withdrawn as they did from the areas of Czechoslovakia that they advanced into, so as to fit the agreement with Stalin. However, for many in the German armed forces being overrun by the western Allies rather than being carted off to Siberia, would have been a very different outcome.
You now i always had a idea, instead of Alpine redoubt, what if instead the Norwegian redoubt, a couple SS Divisions on strength, a lot of German small naval units including their new U-boats might be better than the original plan.