chapter  8
10 Pages

Charisma from below? The Quisling Case in Norway

ByNorway Stein Ugelvik Larsen

This first brief sentence illustrates the main point that will be discussed here: how the Norwegian ‘Führer’ managed to create a very strong and largely unbroken bond of loyalty and affection with many of the members of the NS party. This was particularly so among the small circle of young followers that were close to him within the Party, but it was also true of a much wider circle of members. To them, Quisling was a mysterious and somewhat distant person. He was extremely intelligent, had curious manners, and often gave the appearance of being distant during private conversations, even sitting quietly throughout entire banquets.1 Although he appeared to have an inner ‘calling’, he did not act in a way that could be called typical of a ‘charismatic leader’. The point is captured well by one of Quisling’s most vociferous opponents, Eivind Berggrav, the Bishop of Oslo and leader of the Norwegian Church, who has written of Quisling:

when he delivered his long speeches he did not look forward, he spoke as if he was in an empty room without addressing himself to anyone. Suddenly he would become angry, and then he was very much alert and uncontrolled both in tone and words. It was something like the helplessness in his manner that appealed to you directly. He had no sense of humour, and was inflexible. It seemed as if he was blindly following a one way street without exits: sometimes he appeared absent-minded. All in all, however, there was something significant about him that told you he was by no means an ordinary man.2