The stolen children

Passage from a "contract" for 5 years at Svanviken labour camp for families. Here the parents confirmes that their children will be taken from them should they break the rules and be expelled from the camp.

The darkest chapter in the history of modern Norway?

 

Nasjonens barn (The Children of the Nation) is a project documenting how the Norwegian state in the years between 1896 and 1986 made an organised effort to rid Norway of our local travellers and their minority culture. A wide political agreement of the necessity of this lead to the destruction of many families and gruesome acts against individuals.

Travellers were considered degenerate and associated with low intelligence by both the political and academic establishment. Removing the travelling minority was an extensive project, making both travelling and their traditional trade illegal. Sterilisation was also used as a way to diminish the population. But the most effective tool was separating the children from their parents and their culture.

This exhibition displays portraits of some of these children and parents, as well as their stories. Official documents, photographs and newspapers give evidence of what happened and support their stories.

The Norwegian government continued this politics until 1986, and to this day the prejudice against travellers is still alive in many parts of Norway. The Norwegian government has, in a very humble way, apologised for what happened, but the chapter is still missing from our history books. The majority of the Norwegian people are not familiar with the story despite the apologies.
The documentation project aims to avert a collective displacement of this sad and dark piece of Norwegian history.

 

So far 26 travellers who were among the victims contributed to the project with their stories, their pictures and their documentation. We owe them gratitude for their effort, giving us the opportunity to a better understanding of our society.

 

Bernt Eide is a photojournalist and assistant professor in photojournalism at Oslo University College.

 

 

© Bernt Eide 2015 - EPOST: post(a)nasjonensbarn.no