17.9.2012 | 08:30
Earlier this year Rabbi Abraham Cooper of The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the annual broadcast of the Hymns of the Passion in Iceland. However, the 17th century anti-Semitic hymns are not the only spooks from the past haunting the Icelanders.
The Nazi sympathies of one of Iceland's leading authors of the 20th century create a stir in Iceland, long after his death. Gunnar Gunnarsson (1889-1975), a renowned author of his time, had clear cut Nazi sympathies, a fact that many Icelanders do not want to hear, see or listen to.
Gunnarsson published the bulk of his work in Denmark in Danish, where he was quite a significant author in the first half of the 20th century. Gunnarsson was actually considered several times for the Nobel Prize in literature. Gunnarsson was also a highly regarded author in Germany, and especially in Nazi-Germany where the elite took a great fancy to him. In Germany Gunnarsson was defined as the Icelandic farmer´s son, an image which tickled the aesthetics of the Nazis.
Gunnar Gunnarsson was also fascinated by the Third Reich. He was a member of the Nordische Gesellschaft, an organisation headed by Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler as well as the butcher from Riga, Hinrich Lohse. Nordische Gesellschaft was an organisation, through which the thugs and criminals of the Nazi regime sought Scandinavian academic acceptance and cooperation. Plenty of intellectuals in Scandinavia were eager to participate in this Nazi charade, Gunnarsson being one of the most ardent supporters. He made numerous trips to Germany giving lectures and promoted conferences and shows for the Nordische Gesellschaft in Denmark as well as contributing to Der Norden, the monthly of the organisation. He received an honorary doctorate at a Nazi University in Germany and Nazi-Germany became his major source of income. In his native Iceland, Gunnarsson wrote a letter to Hitler praising the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria. The letter was published in an Icelandic daily.
The final salute of Gunnar Gunnarsson to Nazi Germany was his sudden trip from Iceland in early 1940 to Germany, where he gave lectures and read from his works in 44 different cities and towns. The visit was crowned by his personal meeting with Hitler on 20 March 1940 in the office of the Führer in Berlin. The personal photographer of Hitler, Heinrich Hoffmann, caught Gunnarsson together with Hinrich Lohse, leaving the meeting with Hitler. Lohse, who was also a farmer´s son like Gunnarsson, continued his career organizing the killing of Jews by the thousands in Latvia, while Gunnarsson returned to his Icelandic sheep-farm. After the war his Nazi sympathies were hushed down and he became one of the most ardent spokesmen of Nordic cooperation and a critic of Socialism in Iceland.
Recently the Icelandic historical/archaeological blog, Fornleifur, written by Dr. Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson (and you are reading it by the way, in a special English version), dealt with the post war denial of Gunnarsson's Nazi sympathies. The blog was among other things critical of a recently published biography on Gunnarsson, which claims he wasn´t a Nazi at all. A state run institution in his name, Gunnarsstofnun, at his Bavarian style villa at Skriduklaustur in East-Iceland, doesn´t give detailed information about his co-operation with Nazi Germany.
On 16 September four photographs of Gunnarsson's visit to Germany in 1940 were published on Fornleifur, (where Gunnarsson Nazi sympathies had been dealt with on an earlier occation) and one of them was donated to the Gunnar Gunnarsson research Center in East Iceland. The Icelandic State Broadcasting service, (RÚV), the same day published the photograph of Gunnarsson on the the steps of Hitler's headquarters which had appeared on Fornleifur. However, after roughly two hours on the website of the state broadcasting service, the news item (here in a printscreen) and the accompanying picture vanished into thin air. No traces could be found of the this news item. Censorship had hit Iceland again. It was obviously not possible to show a photograph of an Icelander licking the boots of Nazi war criminals in the official media in Iceland.
The Icelandic broadcasting service which annually proudly broadcasts the reading of the anti-Semitic Hymns of the Passion, as the highlight of Icelandic culture, doesn´t seem to be comfortable publishing incriminating pictures of one of the main authors of Iceland fraternizing in the courts of Adolf Hitler. It is still to be seen who ordered the censorship.
There used to be something rotten in the State of Denmark, but its rapidly spreading.
Gunnar Gunnarson in Königsberg (Today the Russian Kaliningrad)
Gunnarsson thanks the inhabitants of the the city of Gera in Thüringen. Note how well ornatedet the literary enthusiast of Gera are.
Gunnar Gunnarsson signes the Golden Book of the city of Reichenberg (Today the city of Liberec in the Czech Republic)