The entrance to the 1944 tunnel, where 3500 people took refuge during the last weeks of the war.(Photo: Trude Pettersen)
Rørbua, Norway’s first free administration building after World War II and the 1944 tunnel, where 3500 people were hiding during the last days of the war, were both declared preserved at a ceremony on Saturday.
“These two heritage sites are important symbols on Norway’s freedom after the Second World War,” Director General Jørn Holm of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage said in his speech at the ceremony. “They might not be grandiose monuments, but they have meant a lot for people and for our freedom and democracy.”
HM King Harald, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended the ceremony.
The Norwegian flag was hoisted on Rørbua on October 25 1944, after Soviet forces had liberated the area from German troops the same day, and the municipality council that had been elected in 1940 held their first meeting here while the rest of the country was still occupied.
In the so-called 1944 tunnel, 3500 people had taken refuge during the last weeks of the war, denying to follow the occupation forces’ order to evacuate. “Today it is hard for us to understand the anxiety and insecurity the people in the tunnel felt,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
The Norwegian flag was hoisted on Rørbua, like it was 70 years ago on the first free administration building in Norway. (Photo: Trude Pettersen)
Hundreds of people had gathered at Sydvaranger Mine in Bjørnevatn outside Kirkenes for the ceremony on Saturday. For people in the area, stories about life in the tunnel, about the children being born there and about the Soviet soldiers bringing the population freedom and food, are well known.
“I am very glad to see how well the memory of the Soviet Army’s efforts is being kept alive here”, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said and added the celebration of the anniversary is important in the two countries’ bilateral relations.
As part of Norway’s celebration of the 200 anniversary of the Constitution, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage has preserved a long list of buildings throughout the country that have played an important role in Norwegian democracy. Amongst the most famous are Oscarsborg Fortress in the Olsofjord, which played an important role in the first day of the German occupation through sinking of the cruiser Blücher on 9 April 1940, and the Eidsvoll building, where Norway’s first constitution was signed.
Rørbua was built in 1938 as a bath house for mine workers and a home for the bath attendant and his family. Before the war nobody could know that this small wooden house would play such an important role in Norway’s history.