Marianne Neerland Soleim is Head of the Barents Institute and has been working on questions related to Soviet prisoners of war in Norway for more than a decade.(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
Head of the Barents Institute Marianne Neerland Soleim on Saturday will receive President Putin’s letter of appreciation for her effort to identify Soviet prisoners of war who died in German camps in Norway.
More than 13,700 Soviet prisoners of war died in German camps in Norway during World War II. Only half of them have been identified. Marianne Neerland Soleim has led a project that succeeded in identifying 4000 new victims by name.
On Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Kirkenes in connection with the celebration of the 70th anniversary for the liberation of Eastern Finnmark. He will then give Soleim President Putin’s letter of appreciation for her “significant contribution in keeping alive the memory of those who died defending their Fatherland and preserving Soviet military graves,” the ministry’s web site reads.
“I’m very happy to get this kind of appreciation, but most of all I’m glad that the question of Russian prisoners of war in Norway receives so much attention,” Soleim says to BarentsObserver.
Soleim has been working on the issue of Soviet prisoners of war in Norway for more than a decade.
In the work to identify the victims, Soleim and her team from the Falstad Centre and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology used German prisoner cards from Russian archives and databases to find out where prisoners died and where they were buried.
“We get a lot of inquiries from Russian relatives searching for their ancestors, especially from grandchildren of lost soldiers, “Soleim says. “They want to know where their grandfather had been held, and how and when he died.” The team would then send a copy of the prisoner card - which often had a photo of the prisoner, to the relatives. “Many of these families have been waiting more than 70 years to find out what happened to their father or grandfather.”
In the early 1950s all Soviet graves in Norway were moved to a central graveyard on the island of Tjøtta in Nordland county. The Norwegian Government has allocated NOK 2.5 million (app €300,000) to a memorial at Tjøtta that will show all the names of the victims that have been identified. Hopefully the memorial will be ready before May 2015, Soleim says.