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The Jewish Community of Oslo

Oslo

Capital of Norway

The first known mention of Jews in Norway was in relation to the question of admitting "Portuguese Jews" who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497, respectively; some were allowed to enter Norway, and Portuguese Jews were later exempt from the 1814 ban prohibiting Jews from entering the country. While Jews were given limited rights to travel within the kingdom of Denmark-Norway in 1641, these rights were rescinded in 1687, when Jews were banned from Norway unless they had been granted a special dispensation. Jews found in the kingdom were jailed and expelled.

The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 prohibited Jews from being admitted to Norway. This ban lasted until 1851 when, after lobbying by a number of individuals, including the poet Henrik Wergeland, the politician Peder Jensen Fauchald, and the school principal Hans Holmboe, Jews were allowed to enter and live in Norway, and were awarded religious rights that paralleled those of Christian dissenters. The first Jew settled in Oslo in 1852, and the population grew slowly after that. According to the national census of 1890, there were 136 Jews living in Oslo; by 1900 that number had increased to 343. Many of those who settled in Oslo before 1880 came from Denmark and Central Europe; after 1880, the majority of the newcomers were arriving from Eastern Europe.

A Jewish cemetery was established in 1869, and religious services began to be organized in the 1880s in rented rooms. There was also a Jewish trossamfund (federation of local religious organizations) with 30 dues-paying members. By 1917 the community had grown enough that a new cemetery was opened, and in 1920 a synagogue was opened on Bergstein Street, Det Mosaiske Trosamfund (The Mosaic Community). That same year another synagogue, the Den Israelitiske Menighet (The Israelite Congregation), was also inaugurated.

Many Jewish organizations and institutions were founded during the first decades of the 20th century. Among them were a Jewish youth organization established in 1909, which published a monthly journal starting in 1914, a Zionist organization that was established in 1912, and a women's organization that opened in 1913, and which was affiliated with the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) after World War II. The Oslo Jewish community also established a number of social organizations during the interwar period, including a home for Jewish orphans which opened in 1924, and a home for the elderly, which opened in 1936. The monthly journal "Hatikva" was published from 1929 until 1939.

During the 1930s, approximately 500 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia received permission from the Norwegian authorities to come to Norway. By the time Germany occupied the country on April 9, 1940, approximately 1,800 Jews lived in Norway, with more than 1,500 in Oslo and the district. The other 300 lived in Trondheim.

THE HOLOCAUST

The Germans began organizing persecutions of the Jews all over the country beginning in the fall of 1942. On October 26, Jewish men were arrested, and most of them were deported on November 26th to Auschwitz, together with their families. In total, 758 men, women, and children, most of whom were from Oslo and its districts, were victims of the Nazi regime. Only 25 of those who were deported ultimately survived. More than 900 Jews, mostly from Oslo, succeeded in escaping from Norway to Sweden.

POSTWAR ERA

Between 1947 and 1949, approximately 500 displaced persons received permission to enter Norway. Most of them settled into Oslo and the surrounding areas, and many subsequently emigrated to Israel, Canada, and the US. Later, in 1956, Jews fleeing the Hungarian Revolution also arrived in Norway.

After the war, new organizations were founded within the Jewish community of Oslo. A B'nei Brith lodge was established in 1952, and a few years later a B'nei Akiva branch was founded, among other Zionist institutions, as well as Magbit (the United Jewish Appeal). A community center next to the synagogue was built in 1959. In 1980 a Jewish kindergarten opened, and 1987 saw the establishment of a home for the elderly near the synagogue. Additionally, the newspaper "Jodisk Menighetsblad" ("Jewish Community Letters") was published from 1976-1991.

In 1987, approximately 900 Jews lived in the Oslo area, while the total number of Jews living in Norway was approximately 1,200.
Place Type:
City
ID Number:
261209
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Conductor. Born in Nizhni-Novgorod, Russia, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and furthered his piano studies with Leopold Godowsky in Vienna. He then became conductor of the Moscow Opera. In 1922 Dobrowen led the Dresden State Opera, first performing Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV. In 1924 he conducted opera in Berlin and in 1927-1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Between 1931-1934 he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. From 1936-1939 Dobrowen conducted the Budapest Opera. At the outbreak of World War II he went to Sweden and enjoyed great success conducting the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra and the Goeteborg Philharmonic. In 1948 he conducted at La Scala in Milan.
Dobrowen’s list of compositions includes several piano concertos and pieces for piano solo; and 1001 NIGHTS for orchestra (1922). He died in Oslo, Norway.

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888-1947), mineralogist, born in Zurich, Switzerland, where his father was a distinguished physical chemist, and educated in Heidelberg, Germany, and Oslo, Norway, universities. In 1905 he became a Norwegian citizen. He taught at the university of Oslo (then Christiana) becoming professor and director of its Mineralogical Institute at age 26. One of the foremost mineralogists and crystallographers of his generation, Goldschmidt founded the science of geochemistry. He established the crystalline structure of over 200 compounds of chemical elements from which he derived the basic laws of geochemical distribution. He was appointed director of the Norwegian Raw Materials Laboratory. In 1929 Goldschmidt became professor of the University of Goettingen's Faculty of Natural Sciences and head of its Mineralogical Institute but resigned in 1935 as a result of Nazi policies and returned to Oslo. In World War II he was twice arrested by the Germans but escaped to Sweden and then to England and after the War went back to Oslo.

Jewish kindergarten, Oslo, Norway, 1982.
Photo: Debbi Cooper, Israel.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Debbi Cooper, Israel)
Conductor. Born in Nizhni-Novgorod, Russia, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and furthered his piano studies with Leopold Godowsky in Vienna. He then became conductor of the Moscow Opera. In 1922 Dobrowen led the Dresden State Opera, first performing Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV. In 1924 he conducted opera in Berlin and in 1927-1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Between 1931-1934 he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. From 1936-1939 Dobrowen conducted the Budapest Opera. At the outbreak of World War II he went to Sweden and enjoyed great success conducting the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra and the Goeteborg Philharmonic. In 1948 he conducted at La Scala in Milan.
Dobrowen’s list of compositions includes several piano concertos and pieces for piano solo; and 1001 NIGHTS for orchestra (1922). He died in Oslo, Norway.

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888-1947), mineralogist, born in Zurich, Switzerland, where his father was a distinguished physical chemist, and educated in Heidelberg, Germany, and Oslo, Norway, universities. In 1905 he became a Norwegian citizen. He taught at the university of Oslo (then Christiana) becoming professor and director of its Mineralogical Institute at age 26. One of the foremost mineralogists and crystallographers of his generation, Goldschmidt founded the science of geochemistry. He established the crystalline structure of over 200 compounds of chemical elements from which he derived the basic laws of geochemical distribution. He was appointed director of the Norwegian Raw Materials Laboratory. In 1929 Goldschmidt became professor of the University of Goettingen's Faculty of Natural Sciences and head of its Mineralogical Institute but resigned in 1935 as a result of Nazi policies and returned to Oslo. In World War II he was twice arrested by the Germans but escaped to Sweden and then to England and after the War went back to Oslo.

Jo Benkow (born Josef Elias Benkowitz) (1924-2013), politician, president of the Norwegian Parliament, born in Trondheim, Norway. During WW2 he fled to Sweden and then to Great Britain and Canada where he served in the Norwegian Air Force. He returned to Norway after the war and worked as a photographer and until 1956 he was an editor for the magazine Norsk Fotografisk Tidsskrift.  

Benkow entered local politics in 1959 and in 1965 he was elected to the Norwegian National Parliament. He served in various parliamentary committees while advancing in the party hierarchy becoming deputy party chairman in 1974 and in 1980 party chairman of the conservative Høyre party. In 1985 he was elected President of the Parliament, a post he held for two terms until his retirement in 1993.

Benkow was visiting professor at Boston University from 1994 to 1996. His published books include Fra synagogues to Løvebakken (1985) ("From Synagogue to Løvebakken" – Løvebakken is a place outside the building of the Norwegian Parliament), a self-biography, and Olav – menneske og monark ("Olaf – Man and Monarch"), a bestseller book about his friend King Olaf V of Norway. Benkow lectured extensively on Middle East topics and on anti-Semitism. He criticized the opinions of the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kara Wiloch on Israeli calling him "the most racist person in the country". 

Barbu Solomon (born Solomon Bernard Itic) (1904-1965), politician and jurist, born in Burdujeni, Romania (then part of Austria-Hungary). Having joined the Romanian Communist Party in 1948, he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party until 1965. During 1948-1949 he was the Romanian Ambassador to Norway. He served as a deputy in the Great National Assembly (Communist parliament) from 1957 to 1965 and he also was a judge at the Supreme Court of Communist Romania from 1956 to 1962 and then Vice-President of the Supreme Court from 1962 to 1965.

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The Jewish Community of Oslo
Oslo

Capital of Norway

The first known mention of Jews in Norway was in relation to the question of admitting "Portuguese Jews" who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497, respectively; some were allowed to enter Norway, and Portuguese Jews were later exempt from the 1814 ban prohibiting Jews from entering the country. While Jews were given limited rights to travel within the kingdom of Denmark-Norway in 1641, these rights were rescinded in 1687, when Jews were banned from Norway unless they had been granted a special dispensation. Jews found in the kingdom were jailed and expelled.

The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 prohibited Jews from being admitted to Norway. This ban lasted until 1851 when, after lobbying by a number of individuals, including the poet Henrik Wergeland, the politician Peder Jensen Fauchald, and the school principal Hans Holmboe, Jews were allowed to enter and live in Norway, and were awarded religious rights that paralleled those of Christian dissenters. The first Jew settled in Oslo in 1852, and the population grew slowly after that. According to the national census of 1890, there were 136 Jews living in Oslo; by 1900 that number had increased to 343. Many of those who settled in Oslo before 1880 came from Denmark and Central Europe; after 1880, the majority of the newcomers were arriving from Eastern Europe.

A Jewish cemetery was established in 1869, and religious services began to be organized in the 1880s in rented rooms. There was also a Jewish trossamfund (federation of local religious organizations) with 30 dues-paying members. By 1917 the community had grown enough that a new cemetery was opened, and in 1920 a synagogue was opened on Bergstein Street, Det Mosaiske Trosamfund (The Mosaic Community). That same year another synagogue, the Den Israelitiske Menighet (The Israelite Congregation), was also inaugurated.

Many Jewish organizations and institutions were founded during the first decades of the 20th century. Among them were a Jewish youth organization established in 1909, which published a monthly journal starting in 1914, a Zionist organization that was established in 1912, and a women's organization that opened in 1913, and which was affiliated with the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) after World War II. The Oslo Jewish community also established a number of social organizations during the interwar period, including a home for Jewish orphans which opened in 1924, and a home for the elderly, which opened in 1936. The monthly journal "Hatikva" was published from 1929 until 1939.

During the 1930s, approximately 500 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia received permission from the Norwegian authorities to come to Norway. By the time Germany occupied the country on April 9, 1940, approximately 1,800 Jews lived in Norway, with more than 1,500 in Oslo and the district. The other 300 lived in Trondheim.

THE HOLOCAUST

The Germans began organizing persecutions of the Jews all over the country beginning in the fall of 1942. On October 26, Jewish men were arrested, and most of them were deported on November 26th to Auschwitz, together with their families. In total, 758 men, women, and children, most of whom were from Oslo and its districts, were victims of the Nazi regime. Only 25 of those who were deported ultimately survived. More than 900 Jews, mostly from Oslo, succeeded in escaping from Norway to Sweden.

POSTWAR ERA

Between 1947 and 1949, approximately 500 displaced persons received permission to enter Norway. Most of them settled into Oslo and the surrounding areas, and many subsequently emigrated to Israel, Canada, and the US. Later, in 1956, Jews fleeing the Hungarian Revolution also arrived in Norway.

After the war, new organizations were founded within the Jewish community of Oslo. A B'nei Brith lodge was established in 1952, and a few years later a B'nei Akiva branch was founded, among other Zionist institutions, as well as Magbit (the United Jewish Appeal). A community center next to the synagogue was built in 1959. In 1980 a Jewish kindergarten opened, and 1987 saw the establishment of a home for the elderly near the synagogue. Additionally, the newspaper "Jodisk Menighetsblad" ("Jewish Community Letters") was published from 1976-1991.

In 1987, approximately 900 Jews lived in the Oslo area, while the total number of Jews living in Norway was approximately 1,200.
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Barbu Solomon
Jo Benkow
Victor Moritz Goldschmidt
Dobrowen, Issay Alexandrowitch

Barbu Solomon (born Solomon Bernard Itic) (1904-1965), politician and jurist, born in Burdujeni, Romania (then part of Austria-Hungary). Having joined the Romanian Communist Party in 1948, he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party until 1965. During 1948-1949 he was the Romanian Ambassador to Norway. He served as a deputy in the Great National Assembly (Communist parliament) from 1957 to 1965 and he also was a judge at the Supreme Court of Communist Romania from 1956 to 1962 and then Vice-President of the Supreme Court from 1962 to 1965.

Jo Benkow (born Josef Elias Benkowitz) (1924-2013), politician, president of the Norwegian Parliament, born in Trondheim, Norway. During WW2 he fled to Sweden and then to Great Britain and Canada where he served in the Norwegian Air Force. He returned to Norway after the war and worked as a photographer and until 1956 he was an editor for the magazine Norsk Fotografisk Tidsskrift.  

Benkow entered local politics in 1959 and in 1965 he was elected to the Norwegian National Parliament. He served in various parliamentary committees while advancing in the party hierarchy becoming deputy party chairman in 1974 and in 1980 party chairman of the conservative Høyre party. In 1985 he was elected President of the Parliament, a post he held for two terms until his retirement in 1993.

Benkow was visiting professor at Boston University from 1994 to 1996. His published books include Fra synagogues to Løvebakken (1985) ("From Synagogue to Løvebakken" – Løvebakken is a place outside the building of the Norwegian Parliament), a self-biography, and Olav – menneske og monark ("Olaf – Man and Monarch"), a bestseller book about his friend King Olaf V of Norway. Benkow lectured extensively on Middle East topics and on anti-Semitism. He criticized the opinions of the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kara Wiloch on Israeli calling him "the most racist person in the country". 

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888-1947), mineralogist, born in Zurich, Switzerland, where his father was a distinguished physical chemist, and educated in Heidelberg, Germany, and Oslo, Norway, universities. In 1905 he became a Norwegian citizen. He taught at the university of Oslo (then Christiana) becoming professor and director of its Mineralogical Institute at age 26. One of the foremost mineralogists and crystallographers of his generation, Goldschmidt founded the science of geochemistry. He established the crystalline structure of over 200 compounds of chemical elements from which he derived the basic laws of geochemical distribution. He was appointed director of the Norwegian Raw Materials Laboratory. In 1929 Goldschmidt became professor of the University of Goettingen's Faculty of Natural Sciences and head of its Mineralogical Institute but resigned in 1935 as a result of Nazi policies and returned to Oslo. In World War II he was twice arrested by the Germans but escaped to Sweden and then to England and after the War went back to Oslo.

Conductor. Born in Nizhni-Novgorod, Russia, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and furthered his piano studies with Leopold Godowsky in Vienna. He then became conductor of the Moscow Opera. In 1922 Dobrowen led the Dresden State Opera, first performing Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV. In 1924 he conducted opera in Berlin and in 1927-1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Between 1931-1934 he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. From 1936-1939 Dobrowen conducted the Budapest Opera. At the outbreak of World War II he went to Sweden and enjoyed great success conducting the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra and the Goeteborg Philharmonic. In 1948 he conducted at La Scala in Milan.
Dobrowen’s list of compositions includes several piano concertos and pieces for piano solo; and 1001 NIGHTS for orchestra (1922). He died in Oslo, Norway.
Jewish Kindergarten, Oslo, Norway, 1982
Jewish kindergarten, Oslo, Norway, 1982.
Photo: Debbi Cooper, Israel.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Debbi Cooper, Israel)
Victor Moritz Goldschmidt
Dobrowen, Issay Alexandrowitch

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt (1888-1947), mineralogist, born in Zurich, Switzerland, where his father was a distinguished physical chemist, and educated in Heidelberg, Germany, and Oslo, Norway, universities. In 1905 he became a Norwegian citizen. He taught at the university of Oslo (then Christiana) becoming professor and director of its Mineralogical Institute at age 26. One of the foremost mineralogists and crystallographers of his generation, Goldschmidt founded the science of geochemistry. He established the crystalline structure of over 200 compounds of chemical elements from which he derived the basic laws of geochemical distribution. He was appointed director of the Norwegian Raw Materials Laboratory. In 1929 Goldschmidt became professor of the University of Goettingen's Faculty of Natural Sciences and head of its Mineralogical Institute but resigned in 1935 as a result of Nazi policies and returned to Oslo. In World War II he was twice arrested by the Germans but escaped to Sweden and then to England and after the War went back to Oslo.

Conductor. Born in Nizhni-Novgorod, Russia, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory and furthered his piano studies with Leopold Godowsky in Vienna. He then became conductor of the Moscow Opera. In 1922 Dobrowen led the Dresden State Opera, first performing Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV. In 1924 he conducted opera in Berlin and in 1927-1928 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Between 1931-1934 he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. From 1936-1939 Dobrowen conducted the Budapest Opera. At the outbreak of World War II he went to Sweden and enjoyed great success conducting the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra and the Goeteborg Philharmonic. In 1948 he conducted at La Scala in Milan.
Dobrowen’s list of compositions includes several piano concertos and pieces for piano solo; and 1001 NIGHTS for orchestra (1922). He died in Oslo, Norway.