Fredrik Mowinckel

Fredrik Mowinckel. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Freiburg
Fredrik Mowinckel. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Freiburg

Little is known about mutual romantic relationships between Norwegian and German men during the German occupation of Norway 1940-1945 (see Jordåen and Wolfert 2015).  In 1990, an article in the magazine Fritt Fram stated rather bluntly that Germans were "the best lovers" (Walderhaug and Skeid 1990). The authors said that between 1940 and 1945 especially Oslo was an "Eldorado" were German and Norwegian men met in parks and streets. They also claimed there to be sexual relations between Norwegian men and German soldiers all over the country. They had little concrete evidence to support their provocative statements however, except what historian Nils Johan Ringdal (1952-2008) had presented from the mid-1980s onwards (see Ringdal 1986 and 1987). But he had not mentioned any names either. Ringdal wrote about a man who repeatedly harassed German soldiers in the street Stortingsgaten in Oslo during the occupation, and he mentions another homosexual Norwegian man who frequented the German run night club "Löwenbräu" at Universitetsgata 26. Ringdal mentioned raids against public toilets in Oslo on at least two occasions in 1944, and that a group of men were once brought in to the German security police (Møllergata 19), from a "half-private establishment". Among them there were probably several homosexual men. From Ringdal's descriptions the journalists in Fritt Fram concluded, perhaps hastily, that "on all locations where activities could take place unobserved, there could be love nests for gay men of both nationalities. These men had a well-developed knack for practicing their love life in obscurity, there was very little openness and tolerance towards homosexuality in 1940s Norway" (Walderhaug og Skeid 1990: 35).

Difficult circumstances

The difficult "love nest" circumstances for Norwegian and German men in long term relationships are demonstrated by the case of Gustav Schreiber (1904-1945) and Charles Petterson (1916-1980). They met in the fall of 1943 in Bergen, where Schreiber was part of the organization Todt (see Gustav Schreiber's archive folder, NStO). Not only did he arrange employment for the young Petterson at his office, but also let him stay at his apartment. This was frowned upon by at least one of the neighbors, and already in the spring of 1944 the two friends were informed upon. It is unknown if the motivation was anti-German or anti-homosexual sentiments. Only a few days later both Schreiber and Petterson were convicted by the military court in Bergen. Since a German was involved, the paragraph 175 of the German penal code was used to convict both. But while Petterson was sentenced to one year and three months, Schreiber was sentenced to two years and three months in prison since he had a homosexual record from before. Petterson served most of his sentence in Germany, but returned to Norway just before the war ended. Schreiber, on the other hand, was sent to the labor camp Börgermoor close to the Dutch border. The life and work conditions there were miserable, and on January 10th, 1945, Schreiber died in the camp at the age of 40.

Another example is the actor Karl Heuer (1916-1986) from Berlin and his Norwegian friend. Heuer was at some point promoted to service in Norway, and according to his later wife Erika Wilde-Heuer (1921-2001) he had an intimate relationship with a Norwegian man from the resistance movement (see Wilde-Heuer, AdK). His first name was Ragnar, and he tried to convince his friend to flee to Sweden, but before they got that far, their relationship was discovered, and Heuer was court-martialed. Since the court was unaware of Ragnar's resistance activities and since Heuer confessed to the relationship, he wasn't sentenced to death, but put in solitary confinement at Akershus Fortress in Oslo. After some time Heuer was sent to a penal battalion in Russia, and later served in Italy where he was taken prisoner by the Americans. He married in 1949, but suffered the mental and physical consequences of his abuse in jail his whole life. Who exactly Ragnar was, and what happened to him when the relationship with Heuer was revealed, is still unknown. It is likely that he too was punished, but to this date no documents have been found. Ragnar apparently stayed in touch with his German friend, because Erika Wilde-Heuer claims that he visited the married couple in Berlin in 1954.

"A man from the outskirts of Bergen"

Thanks to recent research we now have verified information about a third homosexual Norwegian-German couple during the occupation years. Nils Johan Ringdal wrote in 1987:

A man from the outskirts of Bergen had regular sexual relations with a German soldier during the early phase of the war. The relationship could possibly have been held secret, but the man was rather noticeable and had manners that could not be mistaken. His German friend played along. The small extant homosexual community in Bergen did not approve of the relationship, although some could admit to many of the Germans in uniforms being handsome. The man from Bergen must be regarded as a tyskertøs [girls who had relations with German soldiers]. No one could benefit from contact with him. The German security police in Bergen eventually took action. It is difficult to say if the demonstrative manners of the couple were the deciding factor. The result was that the German soldier was shot, whereas the man from Bergen was sent to a German concentration camp with a pink triangle, the symbol used to mark homosexual men (Ringdal 1987: 182-183).

This account is, according to Ringdal, based on statements from homosexual actor Arne Bang-Hansen (1911-1990) who lived in Bergen around 1940, but we should remember that his account and interpretation of the turn of events is not necessarily correct (see Bang-Hansen 1985: 18ff). In particular the statement that the Norwegian was sent to a concentration camp with a pink triangle is questionable. To this date no evidence has been found of such cases, and Ringdal's and Bang-Hansen's description therefore seems to be an echo of the contemporary belief that all homosexuals convicted under Nazi rule were sent to concentration camps.

Today there is no doubt that the man from the "outskirts of Bergen" was Fredrik Gade Mowinckel (1903-1951), a well-off political scientist who lived in Åsane, north of Bergen. Mowinckel was the nephew of Norway's earlier prime minister Johan Ludwig Mowinckel (1870-1943) and already his family background made him "rather noticeable". If he stood out in other ways, for example by manners or an appearance that clearly indicated homosexuality, is unknown. Fredrik Mowinckel was born September 23rd, 1903, son of merchant and ship-owner Magdalon Mowinckel (1871-1917) and his wife Inni Mowinckel (born Inga Georgine Lorange, 1882-1933). The couple had four children, and in 1910 the family lived in a villa on the adress Store Parkvei 3a, in a part of Bergen built for the city's well-to-do citizens in the late 19th century. The Mowinckel family originated in Oldenburg in Niedersachsen (Germany), and came to Bergen around 1750. Fredrik Mowinckel finished lower secondary school (middelskole) and went to New York in September 1921 for language studies. A year later he returned to the USA, this time together with a younger brother, for language studies in Minnesota. December 1st, 1930, he moved to France to study four years at École libre des sciences politiques in Paris, a private University founded by political scientist Émile Boutmy in 1872. Fredrik Mowinckel stayed in the French capital until 1934. The same year he bought land in Åstveit, outside Bergen, where he built a house and lived the following years. Fredrik Mowinckel never married, and was 36 years old when the war came to Norway.

Fredrik Mowinckel. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Freiburg
Fredrik Mowinckel. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Freiburg

Apparently German-friendly, ignorant and ashamed

After breaking the German paragraph 175, Fredrik Mowinckel was sentenced to ten months in prison by "Gerichtsherr und Admiral der Westküste Norwegen" on October 23rd, 1940 (see Prisoner card FM, StHH). In other words, only six months after the Germans invaded Norway. His German friend was the 21 year old private Hans-Werner M. (born 1918). Precisely what caused the prosecution of the two is not known, but a petition for pardon by the lawyers Anton (1905-1966) and Ole Friele (1897-1991) at the end of 1940 mentions two offenses against paragraph 175 under the influence of alcohol, in the span of a few days in the summer of 1940 (see court diary FM, BArch). They concerned oral sex, but in the second case the act was not even performed. The petition was denied, and Fredrik Mowinckel was transferred from Akershus Fortress in Oslo to the men's prison Fuhlsbüttel in Hamburg on January 11th, 1941. It seems the city of Hamburg and its prisons was a geographically convenient point of entry for convicted Norwegian homosexuals to the German prison system during the occupation (see Jordåen og Wolfert 2015: 484).

Fredrik Mowinckel appeared to, to some extent, have been German-friendly. At least his defendants used this as an argument towards the "Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht in Norwegen". According to Anton and Ole Friele, Mowinckel's hospitality was an expression of his amiable position towards the Germans. They claimed that as long as the hospital ship Meteor had been harbored outside Åsane, Mowinckel's home had been a "comfortable landing place". Mowinckel had often had members of the Wehrmacht visiting his home, and Hans-Werner M. had moved about his house as if at home. In addition, Mowinckel was supposedly unaware of the German penal provisions. He knew that Norwegian authorities would not have prosecuted such a case; in Norway homosexual contacts between men older than 21 were in practice not persecuted. Mowinckel himself confessed to his homosexual inclination. He declared that he had invited several German soldiers to his home, had given them gifts, and then "taken advantage" of the relationship to "satisfy his homosexual urges". But oberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (1885-1968) declined the petition for pardon "on principal grounds" (court diary FM, BArch).

On March 23rd, 1941, Fredrik Mowinckel again petitioned for pardon. He admitted to now "being ashamed" of his actions, and was "deeply distressed" (court diary FM, BArch). But also this petition was denied. The general inspector at the prison in Hamburg wrote: "Mowinckel is a very wealthy, independent man, without profession, who lives entirely according to his urges. Thus he was a friendly host who invited German soldiers to his home, supplied food and drink, and particularly served alcohol to make them amenable to his homosexual actions. He succeeded in this, and has therefore seduced members of the Wehrmacht to perform punishable deeds for which they now serve prison time. M. was already sentenced relatively mildly by the court, taking into consideration the laxer regulations in his home country. By my judgment, there is no reason to be more accommodating than that. M.'s conduct is irreproachable and he works properly. Still I find no special grounds to approve his petition" (court diary FM, BArch). Fredrik Mowinckel's sentence was for unknown reasons changed and reduced from ten to eight months, at the latest in the spring of 1941, and Mowinckel was released from the prison in Germany on June 12th, 1941.

After 1945, Fredrik Mowinckel lived in Oslo at the address Bygdøy allé 25. He probably returned to Norway before the war ended, because on August 25th, 1944, he sold his three lots in Åsane to general manager Anton Grimsmo (1867-1958). Fredrik Mowinckel probably died in 1951 at an age of 47 (see, but so far no official documents have been found that confirm this.

"Only by the utmost hardness"

What happened to Hans-Werner M., Fredrik Mowinckel's German friend, is not documented in detail either. In 1940, the 21-year-old was subordinate to the German navy and in his first year of service in a naval air defense unit. On the same day as Mowinckel, he received a prison sentence of one year and six months. This was almost twice of what his Norwegian friend got, but his sentence was based on two "offenses": fornication between men and theft. Aboard the steamship Pionier on the way from Denmark to Norway, M. had namely stolen gun ammunition to sell to his friends. How this came to be known, and who had charged M., is not clear. When it comes to the "sexual relationship" M. was seen as the seduced, and the sentence was to be served until April 7th, 1942. From the prison Akershus in Oslo, M. was likely first sent to the German military prison in Torgau in Sachsen, and by the end of April, 1941, he was in the military prison camp Pinnow (Brandenburg). Later he was at the military prison Bernau, northeast of Berlin.

In 1941, M.'s brother, who was a low-ranking officer, petitioned for pardon, but was denied. The commander of the German air defense division in Bergen claimed that M. "had not shown any soldierly predisposition at all during his time at the commando and had not shown interest in overcoming the errors pointed out to him. He was in all respects void of character, indifferent and not very cooperative. His interests were only in the non-official arena. He is a man who solely follows his urges and without restraint. Only by the utmost hardness can he be brought to the right path." When it concerns the ammunition theft M. was apparently the prime mover, and also in the breach of paragraph 175 he supposedly tried to involve a friend from his battery "in his dirty deeds". The commander stated: "The wicked disposition he has exposed by additionally accepting both money and presents, was in such grave conflict with soldier's honor that pardoning him or postponing the punishment would have been unreasonably lenient." Finally he wrote, irreconcilably, that M. "due to his disposition will always be a danger to discipline in the platoon" (court diary FM, BArch).

In mid-june, 1941, a section manager in Germany, named Moritz, also claimed that M. had not behaved satisfactorily. It had been "necessary" to punish him for not following the rules. According to Moritz' words, M. "lacked soldierly disposition", and had to be under constant surveillance (court diary FM, BArch). On the 10th of December, 1941, M. was released from the military prison in Bernau to an infantry battalion in the city Fulda in Hessen. At this point he had served two thirds of his sentence, and the remainder was deferred. What later happened to M. is not known, but there is evidence that he survived the war and died after 1975 (according to written information from Deutsche Dienststelle, Berlin).

It is still unclear what brought the relationship between Fredrik Mowinckel and his German friend to the court's attention. As Arne Bang-Hansen implied to Nils Johan Ringdal, the Norwegians had some reservations towards Mowinckel, where both him being German-friendly and his "carelessness" as a homosexual man are to blame. If the relationship between Mowinckel and the German soldier M. was of a romantic nature is hard to say. The lawyers Anton and Ole Friele did indeed claim that M. moved about Mowinckel's home as if it were his own, but is not known if M. actually was homosexual. Judging by the words of the general inspector in Hamburg it appears that Mowinckel "seduced" several members of the Wehrmacht to punishable deeds. Also other sources mention Mowinckel having several German soldiers in his home in 1940, and the relationship with M. does therefore not appear to have been necessarily exclusive.

Some thoughts regarding Norwegian-German sexual relations during the occupation

A Norwegian-German same-sex sexual contact in 1940 can be viewed from different perspectives today, and the case of Mowinckel/M. illustrates the difficulty of evaluating a relationship retrospectively when its main characters have not been given voices of their own. From the German perspective Mowinckel was as an immoral "seducer" who had abused not only one, but several young soldiers. By alcohol, gifts and general hospitality he had made several members of the Wehrmacht willing to take part in homosexual acts. Him being wealthy but without profession probably did not speak to his favor either. The soldier M. was seen as "without character" and "a danger to discipline". In addition to his apparent homosexual disposition, he was criminalized as a thief. From the Norwegian perspective, i.e. the lawyers Anton and Ole Friele, Mowinckel's behavior towards M. was "excused" as an expression of his German-friendly disposition. But here there could be an admission towards the occupying powers. Mowinckel's defenders portrayed the relationship as exclusive since M. moved about Mowinckel's home as if it was his own. In addition they claimed that he wasn't aware that the deeds were punishable by German law. Taking Mowinckel's high education into account, and him living abroad for a prolonged period, this statement is not completely credible.

Taking Arne Bang-Hansen as a representative of the contemporary "homosexual circles" in Bergen, it seems the couple was blamed for its "demonstrative demeanor". The relationship between Mowinckel and M. was "frowned upon", but in opposition to the German sources, Mowinckel wasn't seen as a "seducer", but as a "tyskertøs" (derogatory term for a girl who has relations with Germans), someone offering themselves. When Bang-Hansen claims that no one "could benefit from contact" with him, it is not clear if he refers to Mowinckel's "flirt" with the occupying powers, or to the purported fact that Mowinckel was an "obvious" homosexual. These reservations can stem from before the German occupation and be founded in Mowinckel being somewhat "feminine" or belonging to the upper classes. The only positive evaluation of Mowinckel's person therefore comes from his defenders – and a German general inspector in the prison in Hamburg. According to him, Mowinckel's conduct as a prisoner was "irreproachable", but not reason enough to show him mercy.

Today we tend to believe that homosexual contacts are expressions of love between equal partners. But that is of course not always the case. Sexual actions have many facets, and can also be an expression of power. We do not know for sure if Fredrik Mowinckel and Hans-Werner M. were in a romantic relationship, frowned upon by both German comrades and officers, and Norwegian hetero- and homosexual men. Theoretically we could be dealing with a case of abuse, where a grown, rich man from upper society took advantage of a young soldier's inexperience and naïveté. But it does not seem as though M. ever accused Mowinckel of having "seduced" or abused him. It would rather seem as though he – in the words of Arne Bang-Hansen – "was playing the same tune". Neither did the German court-martial argue in the direction of abuse. It could also be a case of a young, underpaid soldier seeing an opportunity to gain money, food, drinks and other gifts through prostitution. In any case, it is striking that none of the outsiders had anything good to say about M. As opposed to Mowinckel, he had no defender, and seems relatively deprived. What the relation was between Mowinckel and M., was probably only known to the two of them, and as long as we do not have their accounts, we can only speculate.

The little we know today about Norwegian-German sexual relations during the occupation is that paragraph 175 of the German penal code was used in cases where at least one German man was involved – even though the paragraph was not applicable in Norway (see Jordåen and Wolfert 2015: 469-478). As far as we know, the sentence was usually harder for the German party, partly for the simple reason that a homosexual German could have a "record" and be seen as a "habitual criminal", whereas the Norwegian counted as a "first offender" – or because the court respected that Norwegian law was not as strict as German law. As illustrated by the example Karl Heuer/Ragnar, we can however not be certain of that either. It seems that "romances" between Norwegian and German men during the war were unusual, and the "love nests" were far between. Sexual contacts between Norwegian and German men were extremely taboo, binational couples could not even count on sympathy and understanding from their own ranks – other homosexual Norwegian men. When the journalists in Fritt fram claimed in 1990 that there was "very little openness and tolerance around homosexuality in 1940s Norway" (Walderhaug and Skeid 1990: 35), one might add that this appears to be true not only for the heterosexual general society, but also for the small homosexual community in the country – at least with regard to Norwegian-German relations.

Note: The name Fredrik Mowinckel has not been published before. When it happens here, it is because it seems defendable from the fact that Mowinckel had a relationship with a German soldier and not a minor. The full name of M. – Fredrik Mowinckel's German friend – is protected until 2018 to respect personal privacy.

Note 2: Translated from Norwegian by Simon Mitternacht. German quotes and titles are translated from the Norwegian version of the text and not the original sources.


Bang-Hansen, Arne. 1985. Fra mitt skjeve hjørne. Oslo: Gyldendal.

Prisoner card of Fredrik Mowinckel (FM). Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StHH) 242-1 II, Ablieferung 13, jüngere Kartei.

Gustav Schreiber's archive folder. Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv Osnabrück (NstO): Rep 947 Lin II, 6636.

Jordåen, Runar and Wolfert, Raimund. 2015. Homoseksualitet i det tyskokkuperte Norge. Sanksjoner mot seksuelle forhold mellom menn i Norge 1940–1945. Historisk tidsskrift. 3 (94): 454-485.

Court diary Fredrik Mowinckel (FM). Bundesarchiv Freiburg (BArch), Abteilung Militärarchiv: PERS 15/73185 (Verfahrensakte).

Ringdal, Nils Johan. 1986. Tyskertøser av alle kjønn. Litt om homo- og heteroseksualitetens vilkår under annen verdenskrig. Løvetann. 5 (1986): 29-32.

Ringdal, Nils Johan. 1987. Mellom barken og veden. Politiet under okkupasjonen. Oslo: Aschehoug.

Walderhaug, Arne and Skeid, Svein. 1990. Tyskerne var de beste elskerne. Fritt Fram. 6/7(1990): 34-35.

Wilde-Heuer, Erika. Autobiographische Aufzeichnungen. Akademie der Künste (AdK) Berlin: Erika-Wilde-Archiv.

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