Espen Berg had no friends to speak of, no family. Her life was lived in a series of small circles. The market, the pharmacy, the church. Even the friendliest townspeople ignored her, having been repelled by her disfigured face and violent silence. She died unmourned, her body discovered by chance when Pastor Ølveg stopped in to see why she had missed Sunday services.
In the Oslo airport, I came upon Ølveg at the bar. No longer a pastor and quite drunk, he told me the story of Espen Berg. As a beautiful young girl, she had fallen in love with a Nazi soldier and given him a child. They lived amidst public disapproval as man and wife until 1944, when the young man was killed in an air raid. When the Nazis burned the city to the ground in February, 1945, Espen was unable to rescue her daughter, try as she might.
In 1945, Hitler ordered a scorched earth policy in Norway to ensure nothing would be left for the Soviet forces who were pushing his forces westward in Northern Norway. German troops were ordered to burn and destroy everything they could. As a result, almost every building in Norway’s vast northern area from Finnmark to Hammerfest in the west was put to the torch.