Book Review: Hitler’s Arctic War

Hitler’s Arctic War: The German Campaigns In Norway, Finland and the USSR 1940-1945, by Chris Mann & Christer Jorgensen

Although the arctic area of northern Scandinavia had apparently not previously been known as a high-intensity war zone prior to World War II, thanks to Hitler this was indeed the case during World War II. These matters are little known to the wider population, but Hitler and Stalin’s wars in Scandinavia, which make up the subject of this book, were important for the course of World War II and also for the people of those nations themselves [1], of whom I count at least one personal friend who escaped the horrible burning of the retreating Wehrmacht in the Finnmark area of extreme northern Norway and later settled near Portland, Oregon, where she happens to be a relatively close neighbor of mine. This book is not a serious academic history, but it gives good explanatory text, cites its sources well, and provides vivid (and sometimes disturbing) photos to show the war as it took place in Scandinavia.

In terms of the contents and structure of the book, the organization is both topical and chronological. The book begins with a look at Germany’s role in Finnish independence and their role in giving Stalin a free hand to invade Finland in the Winter War [2]. Then the authors discuss Germany’s invasion of Norway, the initial invasion of extreme northern Russia during Operation Barbarossa, which was largely unsuccessful, and the resulting stalemate, which was in part due to Finnish refusal to antagonize the allies by greedily invading the Soviet Union and fully allying with Germany, the war on the Arctic conveys, which included a great deal of commando missions and other skullduggery [3] as the Allies sought to tie down and distract German forces in Norway while also delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union through the Arctic supply route. Then the authors tackle the successful Soviet counterattack that drove Finland out of the war while that brave little nation somehow managed to preserve its independence through adroit diplomacy despite its weakness relative to both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and also discuss the price of occupation by showing that sullen Norwegian refusal to assimilate to Nazi racialism [4], Hitler’s timidity in using his navy, and German assumptions of Soviet weakness [5] after the Winter War, and the fact that so many German troops were tied down in defending Norway from illusory Allied assaults ended up drastically weakening the German war effort elsewhere. The authors close with the following apt summation of the book’s materials: “The man who brought the war to the Arctic [Hitler] was also guilty of losing it there (213).” For those who are interested in the obscure matter of the Arctic front of World War II, this book is a very good introduction, and a good encouragement to further reading.

The authors of this book deserve a great deal of praise for giving lavish attention to a neglected area of World War II. They show Finnish cleverness in diplomacy, the passive resistance of Norway to overwhelming occupation force, where there was a German soldier for every ten Norwegian citizens, a rate of occupation that would have required, for example, 900,000 occupying soldiers for Union armies after the Civil War, to make a fair comparison, which is a ridiculous amount of overkill, as the authors correctly note. The authors pay close attention to matters of supply and logistics, showing how decisive these concerns were in the provisioning of armies and in the conduct of military affairs, as well as the resourceful way that the Soviets lured many Finns to their death through the sexuality of their female soldiers, until the Finns put an end to such efforts with their own violent countermeasures, and one of the photos even shows the unappealing Norwegian traitor Quisling rejoicing in a large host of clearly underage female company. Although much of this book is quite unsettling and even brutal, the authors deserve a great deal of credit in shining light and providing photo evidence of areas of the war that are often neglected but that proved critical in the course of World War II, despite their remote and inhospitable theater in the Arctic north.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

Book Review: The Shetland Bus

[4] See, for example:

Book Review: Of Norwegian Ways

[5] See, for example:

Book Review: Why The Germans Lose At War

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: Hitler’s Arctic War

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