Posts tagged Per Krohg

Profiles in Courage: Lauritz Sand

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Lauritz Sand. Drawing believed to be by Odd Nansen’s friend Per Krohg.

Lauritz Sand was born in Trondheim, Norway on October 1, 1879.  Like Odd Nansen, Sand was artistic, and like Odd Nansen, he studied architecture.  When his artistic career failed to get off the ground, he elected to pursue a military career instead, with the Royal Dutch East Indies Army.

Following his retirement from the military in 1906, Sand turned to managing plantations in the Dutch East Indies, becoming the superintendent of the Anglo-Dutch Plantations in 1922.

Sand returned to Norway in 1938.  Soon after the German invasion in April, 1940, he began to apply his military and managerial skills to resistance work.  He was an early member of the military intelligence organization XU (which he may have had a hand in naming), for which he mapped German military installations in Norway.  When XU was infiltrated by the Nazis, Sand was arrested in September 1941, and brought to the notorious Victoria Terrace for interrogation.  Despite extensive and repeated torture, he gave only a one-word answer to all questions put to him: Nei (No).

Eight months after Sand’s arrest, here’s how Odd Nansen describes his friend’s condition inside Grini Prison:

“Easter Eve!  Thanks to high-mindedness and generosity we had only one hour’s extra work today.  This was an Easter gift to the prisoners, which was announced on parade at one o’clock.  The prisoners showed a commendable mastery of their rejoicing: a pale smile brushed as it were over the tired faces.

We held a short entertainment in the hospital this afternoon.  All the patients were lying or sitting out in the long corridor.  The “stage” was just outside Sand’s door.  Sand’s?  Or was it the ghost of Sand I saw there, propped up in the bed with pillows?  A white-haired, emaciated old man, staring in front of him and sucking mechanically at the pipe he could just hold onto with the hand that was free from bandages and plaster.

He nodded faintly to me when I sat down; I nodded back; it struck me there was something familiar about the man.  Thus I slowly recognized him, feature by feature.  It was actually the Sand I knew, the Sand I had lunched with almost daily last spring and summer.  Last summer he was going around brisk and springy.  Now he was a broken man; his eyes sat deep in his skull; his cheeks had fallen in; his neck and chin had dried up and contracted.  I saw that he could not move. The only living thing about him was his eyes, deep down in their sockets.  I don’t know what the gangsters have done to him, and I don’t want to ask.  It must be an atrocious thing that can change a man so.  His arm was broken in two places, all the fingers of his right hand were out of joint, his whole body seemed an affliction.  He got part of this treatment at the Terrace, part of it here.  And it is known who are guilty.  I don’t know how I managed to perform this evening, only that I got up in my turn and repeated Norsk sang, by Collett Vogt, to Sand, to Sand alone, and tried to put into it all I felt he was a martyr for.  I had such a desire to tell him right out that I was burning with pride to be his countryman.  But there was a guard standing motionless outside his door, and I could see he understood Norwegian; he was following the program with his face.  When I had said the poem, I moved; I couldn’t sit any longer facing Sand’s door and looking at him.  I was to sing some lively songs for the patients, and how was I to get through them with Sand before my eyes?  The hell of the German concentration camp is no longer in Germany alone.  It makes one shiver to think what may happen before this nightmare is done with.  It’s said they told Sand that as soon as he recovers they will smash him to bits again until he talks.” (Saturday, April 4, 1942)

Lauritz Sand recuperating in bed. Note the pipe in his left hand.

Eight months later, Sand was still recovering in the Grini Prison hospital:

“Truth to tell, holidays in prison soon lose their charm.  There’s miserably little to do.  I can’t lie sleeping all day, and this morning I took refuge with Sand up in the hospital for a couple of hours.  He likes a chat, likes to be “received again” among the living.  He is now decidedly in a fair way to get better.” (Saturday, December 26, 1942)

In the closing days of the war, Sand was notified that, as a result of his continued intransigence, he would be executed by firing squad on May 17, 1945.  Only Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, spared him from this fate.

Although Lauritz Sand never fully recovered—physically or mentally—from his four-year ordeal, he devoted himself for the remainder of his life to working on behalf of war veterans.  And, miraculously, despite all the abuse he had experienced, Lauritz Sand lived for another eleven years, dying 66 years ago today (December 17, 1956) at age 77.

King Haakon did not forget Sand’s service.  He visited Sand in November 1945 while he was still recuperating in the hospital, and made him a Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. 

In 1952, four years before his death, a bust of Sand, now legendary as “Norway’s most tortured man,” was unveiled just outside the gates of Grini Prison. It contains a single-worded inscription: NEI.   King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav attended the ceremony.

Bust of Lauritz Sand.

I think we can join in with Odd Nansen when he observed in his diary on Sunday, March 3, 1942: “There is a Norwegian we can take off our hats to.”

Lauritz Sand with his Order of St. Olav (and his pipe).

Wow! A New Play Based on Nansen’s Diary!

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No sooner than I had just finished posting a new blog describing my recent article in the Scandinavian Review about Odd Nansen and his art world, featuring fellow Grini prisoner Per Krohg, among others, I learned yesterday about a new play called “The Bøyg,” written by A.J. Ditty.  According to Ditty, the ostensible protagonist in the play is the very same Per Krohg, and the play’s action is derived from diary entries in Odd Nansen’s From Day to Day: One Man’s Diary of Survival in Nazi Concentration Camps.  Ditty calls Nansen’s diary “an extremely important primary text for this play.”

The Bøyg will be performed tomorrow, September 26 at the Stockbridge Theater in Derry, NH at 2pm.

Ditty describes his play as “a lot about making art in isolation.” It focuses on events described by Nansen in his diary in late December, 1942.  At the time the prisoners were preparing to celebrate Christmas—the first Christmas many of them will have ever observed in prison, and they struggle to preserve a sense of home.

The Bøyg is an amorphous character (really, just a voice) in Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt.  Published by Ibsen in 1867 and first performed in 1876, with musical accompaniment by Edvard Grieg, it remains one of the most widely performed Norwegian plays.

Henrik Ibsen

Ibsen based his verse play loosely on an earlier Norwegian folktale, Per Gynt.  In my article in the Scandinavian Review, I focus on Norway’s “tightly interconnected web of artists.”  That web—and the Lysaker Circle I describe—also included writers as well.  The Per Gynt folktale was first recorded and collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen.  Asbjørnsen also collaborated with Jørgen Moe in a collection of Norwegian folktales which became so famous it was simply referred to as “Asbjørnsen and Moe.”  Who illustrated Asbjørnsen and Moe?  None other than Erik Werenskiold, Fridtjof Nansen’s friend and neighbor, and a leading member of the Lysaker Circle.  Tightly interconnected indeed.

Ditty was recently interviewed by New Hampshire Public Radio about his play, which interview can be heard in full here.

Serendipity strikes again!

Odd Nansen’s Art World

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Those of you who have read From Day to Day know full well Odd Nansen’s artistry.  In 41 illustrations Nansen depicts in great detail the squalid, dangerous life of a concentration camp prisoner.

Where did Nansen develop his artistic ideas and technique?

Recently I was approached by the Scandinavian Review to write an article about Nansen for their Spring/Summer issue.  I chose to write about Nansen’s many connections to the art and artists of his day.  Norway was (and still is) a small country—when Nansen moved to the U.S. in 1927, New York City alone had a population more than twice that of all Norway.  So it is not surprising that Nansen was closely connected to many artists through his family, his neighbors, his friends, and even his fellow prisoners.

Below is the link to my Scandinavian Review article—I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about a different aspect of Odd Nansen.

Pages from SR 2021 SPRING_Grini_Circle_Artists

Upcoming Events

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Book Signings

  • February 22, The Adult School, NJ*
  • February 26, 2023: Temple Avodat Shalom, River Edge, NJ
  • March 28, 2023: Shalom Club, E. Windsor, NJ
  • March 29, 2023: Kemmerer Library, Harding Twp., NJ
  • March 30, 2023: Institute for Learning, New Haven, CT
  • March 31, 2023: Institute for Learning, New Haven, CT
  • May 15, 2023: Polhogda, Lysaker, Norway
  • * = Virtual

People are talking


"Your presentation was outstanding, and the audience was captivated by your deep and touching involvement in this amazing web of World War history, intrigue, and tragedy. Your deep understanding of the Nansen/Buergenthal connection really helped to bring history alive for our members."

Thomas Huber, President
Life Long Learning at Sun City Carolina Lakes

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