Norwegian production company, Paradox, are currently making a feature film about the infamous Vidkun Quisling, the man responsible for one of the greatest betrayals during WWII.
The German occupation of Norway ends after five years on May 8 1945. The rebuilding of the nation must begin, but the chapter of Nazi occupation must be closed for healing to start. Vidkun Quisling, the Prime Minister of Norway and notorious Nazi collaborator, sits in a dark cell at Akershus Fortress. He has made the greatest betrayal of all and must now be held accountable for his actions and the atrocities that the ideology of Nazism led to. 'The parallels to what created and drove Quisling and forces in our present time are frightening', says Finn Gjerdum, producer at Paradox.
There are many words with a high level of usage but a low level of understanding. Quisling
is a good example of this. The term quisling was coined by the The Times
in an editorial in April 1940, entitled 'Quislings everywhere'. The term soon came into common use internationally. With the passing of time, it had fallen into disuse until more recently. 'Quisling', as synonymous with 'traitor', is one of the favourite terms of abuse used by some supporters of Scottish independence to describe those who wish Scotland to remain part of the UK.
There is, of course, an irony in any nationalist hurling that extreme term of abuse at someone who disagrees with them. The SNP has a hidden past which fits more accurately with the description 'quisling' than any views expressed by a modern-day supporter of the UK. Released MI5 documents purport to disclose the wartime conversations of leading nationalist, Arthur Donaldson, who became SNP leader in the 1960s. Apparently he had been talking about setting himself up as some kind of Scottish 'Quisling', in the event of a Nazi invasion of the UK.
At its conference in 1939, SNP leader Andrew Dewar Gibb told party members that 'imperial England' had no right 'to criticise the actions of any other country [i.e. Germany]'. Hugh MacDiarmid, still hallowed as Scotland's foremost nationalist poet, argued in the 1930s that Nazism should be a model for Scottish socialist nationalists. In 1940, he wrote a poem admitting that if London should be destroyed by bombs, 'I hardly care'.
Professor Douglas Young was chair of the SNP in 1940 when he was imprisoned for leading a group of nationalists who refused conscription in an English war. I doubt if either Arthur Donaldson or Douglas Young had genuine Nazi sympathies but they couldn't see past nationalist paranoia and sense of grievance, and therefore saw their enemy's enemy as their potential 'friend'.
The 1930s is a period 'whaur extremes meet', as MacDiarmid himself wrote. Ideologies of left and right sometimes became indistinguishable. Labour had its Oswald Mosley, who with others went off to form the fascist New Party and the blackshirts. The Tories had their appeasers of Germany along with sections of the establishment. The MP for Ayr, Sir Thomas Moore, wrote widely in support of Hitler and fascism in the 1930s. The Daily Mail
carried the infamous front page story Hurrah for the Blackshirts
by Lord Rothemere.
We shouldn't judge today's political parties or movements by their darkest moments in history. The opening lines of L P Hartley's The Go-Between
remind us: 'The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there'. The real danger is when we choose to blot out the past from memory or dismiss it all as 'fake news'. We unlearn its lessons at our peril and end up doing things exactly the same.