The Legal Settlement and Reconstruction in the Norwegian Newsreel Norsk Filmrevy, 1945–1949
‘This is irrefutable evidence of Nazi barbarism’, so the Norwegian newsreel Norsk Filmrevy (NF, also called Filmavisa) reported in June 1945 as the audience watched the opening of mass graves holding the remains of bodies of Norwegian patriots being dug out by prisoners. The excavation was one of a long series of events that constituted the Norwegian legal settlement after the Second World War. The Norwegian exile government in London had decided to do it thoroughly in order to prevent widespread reprisals. Even membership of the Norwegian Nazi Party (Nasjonal Samling) was made a criminal offence. The Norwegian legal settlement was among the most comprehensive conducted in post-war Europe, with nearly 50,000 Norwegians being convicted of treason. The legal settlement was a central element in the reconstruction of the country and it was important that reconstruction policies were widely accepted by the public. In order to court positive public opinion, the new government established formal contact with the Norsk Filmrevy and other media through the Enlightenment Committee for the Reconstruction.
The Norsk Filmrevy was shown as a trailer before the ordinary feature film, and was seen weekly by about 600,000 viewers. It reported frequently on wartime events and post-war reconstruction, offering numerous images of war memorials. The recurrent message was that the victims had sacrificed their lives for their fatherland, and that survivors had a moral obligation to reconstruct the country. This retrospective coverage of the war was part of what Professor Anne Eriksen has termed ‘The Grand Narrative of the War’. This chapter will argue that such live pictures gave the audience a strong visual popular memory of the war, and will examine the significant role played by the Norsk Filmrevy in these constructions. It will also argue that the reporting that uncovered torture and other atrocities legitimized a strict juridical settlement. It will tap into debates on the role played by media in the transition phase from dictatorship to democracy, in order to legitimize transitional justice policies in both the short and long term.