Max Manus was born on the 9th of December 1914, in Bergen, Norway. His father was Johan Magnussen was Norwegian, but his mother was Danish. Johan moved to " Spanish speaking countries " for several years, and when there changed his name to Juan Manus. After returning to Norway Max, after some soul searching, decided to join a band of his fellow countrymen in helping their Finnish brothers in their fight against the Russians during the Soviet - Finnish " Winter War of 1939 - 1940. In Finland he was trained to shoot and to ski. He was also trained in survival skills. When they were ready they marched to the front. Max in his book, " Det Vil Helse Ga Godt ", ( It usually ends well ), describes temperatures that never went above 40 degrees, and the unbelievable drudgery of his circumstances. As with all wars this " drudgery " was interrupted by moments of fear and horror.
Max tells of a battle that took place between the Norwegian / Finnish forces and 5 - 6,000 Russians who were patrolling near their position. The Russians made the mistake of attacking a position where the allies had just set up a series of rows of barbed wire. Then instead of withdrawing they decided to press the attack for about an hour. This futility cost the Russians about a hundred men before they finally abandoned the attempt. Max describes in his book how the Russian bodies would freeze in the below freezing temperatures, and become distorted into strange shapes.
Max also describes an artillery barrage that was directed at his position which lasted for quite sometime. Max lay on the freezing ground for 5 hours in the snow with only a log to hide behind for protection. On the other hand during the periods of "drudgery" he mentions the companionship of his Norwegian comrades, and the friendships he made with his Finnish allies. They had plenty of time to talk, when there were lulls in the fighting, in their tents as they cooked their coffee, and tried desperately to stay warm.
The war ended in Finland at 11 : 00 on March 13, 1940, on the Salla front. Max found out when a Swedish officer ( Yes the Swedes were there also. Scandinavians stick together in a time of crisis ), stood up and signalled him by waving his arms wildly. Max, thinking he was crazy, crawled through the snow to his position, to avoid snipers, and saw a strange look upon his face. The officer then told max that there was peace settlement, and that the war was over.
On the 9th of April Max arrived back in Norway at a place called Tornea. It was here that he learned that Norway had already been attacked by the Germans, and that some of their cities had already fallen. Max was devastated and admitted that most of the men felt disgraced and ashamed of the fact that the Finns had fought so well against the Russians, but Norway had fallen with barely a fight. The British tried to fight on but their efforts were wasted, and they were forced to pull out of Norway. It made Max sick to see how some of the Norwegians were passive, and mingled freely with their occupiers. He was greatly angered when he saw his own countrymen working for the Nazis who Max called pigs ( Svina ).
Max on the other hand, along with other resistant organizers, traveled up and down the country organizing, recruiting, and gathering up weapons. Max took huge risks in doing this, and admits in his books that it made him shutter after the war when he thought of the chances he and his fellow countrymen took to build the resistance network. Many of the weapons were hidden in surrounding farms, and Max worked with rifle clubs to gather weapons. They also began to make homemade weapons such as hand grenades, which sometimes were as dangerous to the thrower as the receiver.
There is a very funny story in Max' s book about his weapons gathering, and the transporting of such weapons. Max was transporting four suitcases full of guns to Oslo, via the rail system. He had gotten help to load the suitcases onto the train, but in Oslo he struggled to off - load the suitcases onto the station platform by himself . As he stepped onto the platform he ran right smack into a " whole mass " of Nazis soldiers. Seeing that he was struggling with the cases four German soldiers actually helped Max carry them off of the train platform !
One of the first acts of defiance that Max and his comrades performed was to put up propaganda posters over cinema posters, and to drop leaflets. These papers were made in Nasjonal Assembly colors, and were not very large, about 15 x 10 centimeters. Some business owners were afraid that the Nazi leaders would ruin their businesses because of these posters, and wanted them taken down. Most left them up. Later in the war the resistance actually printed false German newspapers with the Norwegian resistance points of views in them.
One day when Max came home to his apartment in Vidarsgate 4, he opened the front door as he always did, but when he stepped inside he was confronted by 6 men who had entered his flat and were waiting for him. Max was trapped ! The intruders shouted at him : " Dette er Statspolitiet " ! ( This is the state police ! ) They made Max empty his pockets and then started to interrogate him. Max was afraid that he might be made to talk so he decided on a daring plan of escape. He got up and ran straight through his living room window, head first, and landed in the yard below. Amazingly he was not killed but he was badly injured. When he came to he was in the back of a car and his hands were handcuffed behind his back.
Max was in such bad shape that the State Police took him to the Ulleval Sykehus ( hospital ), where the doctors bandaged him and took X - rays. When he was being examined by the doctor Max told him that he was an important person in the resistance movement and that he could not be handed over to the Nazis. The doctor, to protect Max and keep him at the hospital, exaggerated Max' s injuries including telling the State Police that he had a broken back. He was also aided by a nurse named Liv who told the guards that he might die, and that they therefore could not stay in the room. Max contemplated taking his own life rather than be interrogated by the Gestapo.
Max had a man named Per Jacobsen to thank most for his escape. Per smuggled in some fishing line which helped them formulate an escape plan. The plan was that Per would drive a car to a nearby street and then cut a hole in a nearby fence which would give him access to the side of the building where Max was being held. Max would throw down the fishing line, which Per would attach a rope to. Max would then pull up the rope, tie it on something sturdy, and climb down the rope to freedom.
In the early morning hours of the day he was supposed to be handed over to the Germans, Max secured the rope to a crossbeam, and looked at his comrades below. The height made him dizzy as he looked at his rescuers who were dressed in white camo jackets to blend into the snow. He had been bedridden for 27 days and was weak from his injuries. Although he was not sure he could make it out the window, after hugging the nurse who had helped him, Max took hold of the rope with his right arm, ( his left arm was all but useless) and using his feet as brakes slowly lowered himself down the rope that was being held tight by his comrades. When he finally landed in the snow Max described it as a lovely feeling to stand once again on firm ground. They helped Max to the waiting car and after a harrowing ride through, and around Nazi checkpoints, reached a cabin in Roa which was a safe hiding place. Max was free !
On a sad note Per Jacobsen who's brave efforts helped the Norwegian cause greatly, was arrested three seperate times, and was eventually sent to a concentration camp in Germany where he died. May he feast with Odin in the great Hall of Valhalla !
Next : To England through Sweden and Russia.... and then back again !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !