Fredsvennenes Hjelpetjeneste: Quaker-led relief work in Finnmark after the Second World War

Strachan, Marion Margaret (2022). Fredsvennenes Hjelpetjeneste: Quaker-led relief work in Finnmark after the Second World War. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Norway was occupied by Nazi-led forces from April 1940 to May 1945. In late 1944, the German army was driven out of Russia by Soviet forces and one of the routes for retreat was into the very north of Finnmark, then the most northerly county in Norway (from 1 January 2020 the county was combined with the county of Troms immediately to the south). As German troops withdrew from Finnmark and the northern part of Troms, they forced about two-thirds of the area's approximately 75,000-strong population to evacuate to more southerly parts of Norway. Those who stayed hid in very difficult living conditions and in constant fear of discovery. On orders from Hitler, the retreating forces used scorched earth tactics to ensure that the advancing Soviet army would find as little shelter as possible and to deny the Norwegian government in exile in London the possibility of re-establishing a presence on Norwegian soil. After liberation national and regional authorities had to undertake an enormous reconstruction project that lasted many years.

In 1946 and 1947 Fredsvennenes Hjelpetjeneste [The Friends of Peace Relief Service – FHT], a small relief organisation founded and led by Norwegian Quakers, undertook relief work in northern Norway with the aim of giving voluntary practical help to the region's inhabitants as they rebuilt their communities. FHT co-ordinated assistance given by a number of other peace organisations from Denmark, Sweden, Britain, the USA and Finland, with a total of 180 volunteers over the two years working in Finnmark under the Norwegian organisation's auspices.

The primary purpose of the thesis is to examine FHT's work in Finnmark and to make the account available to an Anglophone audience for the first time. After outlining the historical context, the thesis reconstructs the founding of FHT and the participation of the partner organisations, investigating the role played by shared and overlapping networks. It describes FHT's relief work in Finnmark, and examines the range of tasks undertaken, the groups of volunteers who participated and the challenges encountered in working with the Norwegian authorities, with local people and within the volunteer body itself. The thesis situates FHT's project in the wider spectrum of other Quaker-led relief work and of humanitarianism more generally in the first half of the twentieth century, not least in Norway. It examines the need for co-operation between relief organisations and relevant authorities, different models of relief work, and women and relief work. It investigates what drew the different participating organisations to take part in FHT's Finnmark project, the ways in which each preferred to work and the (relatively few) tensions between national groups of volunteers.

FHT's work in Finnmark is little known within Norway and is virtually unknown elsewhere. As well as being the first academic exploration of the topic, the thesis also makes an original contribution to the historiography of Quaker relief and of northern Norway.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham, Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), David Adshead Scholarship
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DL Northern Europe. Scandinavia


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