Teillager 6 sværholt: The archaeology of a world war II prisoner of war camp in finnmark, arctic Norway

Radoslaw Grabowski, Bjørnar Olsen, Póra Pétursdóttir, Christopher Witmore

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This article presents the results of fieldwork undertaken over the last four summers at a World War II prisoner of war camp at Sværholt in northernmost Norway. The labour camp for Soviet prisoners was established in 1942 as part of the construction of the German coastal battery at Sværholt, a fortification within the Atlantic Wall. In late fall 1944 the camp, the coastal fort, and the local Norwegian hamlet were abandoned and destroyed in step with the massive and abrupt German retreat from this northern region. This paper describes the remains of the camp and the coastal fort, as still manifest in the barren landscape, and presents in detail the findings of excavations and associated investigations conducted in the camp area. Analysing these findings, particular emphasis is placed on the question of what an archaeological approach can divulge concerning the camp, its construction and conditions, and the 'trivial' details of everyday life often passed over by historical accounts. Ultimately, we suggest that the things found challenge our common assumptions about the relationship between prisoners, guards, and locals, and further discuss to what extent the forced encounter at Sværholt also may have included some measures of sympathy within the yet hostile context of war and occupation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalFennoscandia Archaeologica
StatePublished - 2014


  • Archaeology of the recent past
  • Atlantic Wall
  • Contraband exchange
  • Landscapes of war
  • Memory
  • Prisoner of war camps
  • Things


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