«Operation Asphalt» 1951

From 1941 to 1945, approximately 93,000 Soviet Prisoners of War were sent to Norway by the Nazi regime to work as slave laborers. Many of them died due to exhaustion, undernourishment and executions.

In the summer of 1951, the Norwegian government authorized a plan to relocate close to 8,000 Soviet Prisoner of War graves in Northern Norway. The operation was given the code name «Asphalt» and from August to November the remains were moved to the island of Tjøtta, close to the town Sandnessjøen.

The official reason given by the Norwegian cabinet was to simplify supervision, by relocating them to a single grave site. The unofficial consideration was probably the possibility of eliminating an excuse that Soviet representatives used to travel around in Norway.

The operation caused a great deal of negative response, but few demonstrations took place. The work was completed according to plan, except in one town where local communists and other inhabitants protested intensely against the excavation.

Since 1951, and throughout the following decades, «Operation Asphalt» remained a story rarely told. The last few years have brought new information to the public and made the incident quite well known, following many years of limited focus on the history of the Soviet Prisoners of War in Norway during the German occupation.