Kirkenes, the remains

Understanding that this is not just about being a boarderland, it is about what remains.

22nd March, 2019

When I wrote about Kirkenes before, I talked about borders and how they had shaped the history of this country. This place is also shaped by what remains.

North-Eastern Norway became the staging area for the German assault on the Soviet Union. The target for the German Wehrmacht was the harbour city of Murmansk, just 200 km from the border. However, at Litsaelva, halfway between Kirkenes and Murmansk, their offensive ground to a halt. The Wehrmacht hardly made any further progress during the three years of hostilities that followed. Kirkenes found itself in a very exposed position, and was subjected to constant bombing attacks from the hard-pressed Soviet forces. The air raid sirens sounded more than 1,000 times in Kirkenes and the town was bombed over 300 times.

The worst attack of all took place on 4 July 1944, when 140 houses were left in flames following a merciless Soviet assault. Kirkenes became one of the most frequently bombed towns on the European mainland – second only to Valletta on Malta. During the bombing raids people sought safety in Andersgrotta, an air-raid shelter in the centre of the town that can shelter over 2,500 people.

As we started to explore Norway more deeply, we began to see how this country is also made up of what remains. Very little of Kirknes was left standing by the end of the war. As we would later see in other towns, what did remain was built around and incorporated into new buildings, re-using rubble wherever possible. The remains of a wall from the 1500’s that survived was blended into new walls and what you think is an old building is perhaps only seventy years old. 

Lagom, that Norwegian concept of minimalism I am trying to get my head around, is perhaps part of this stoic rebuilding of what was ripped apart. There is no fat on the land here. Rather, it feels like there was an underlying desire to rebuild only what was needed. The picture below is from a restaurant we visited here. Perhaps it hints at what that minimalist mindset has become today. 

Author: Rockweather

I am a writer, musician, teacher, and researcher at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in Auckland, New Zealand.

2 thoughts on “Kirkenes, the remains”

    1. Thanks Nic.
      Yes, it was not their battle. In my earlier post on Narvik, I explain a little more about the background of why Hitler was so interested in Norway. There were a number of Nazi sympathizers in Norway at the time that he could rally to drive his aims of making the Norwegians the next Herrenvolk.

      Unfortunately the Like behavior is part of the WordPress design. It is similar to the Facebook Like – you have to be signed-on to like.

      Thanks again for reading my dispatches from the front.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: