Rebellion in Klaksvík – the employment of a doctor that led to rebellion

Hans Andrias Sølvará

Abstract


This article is about a Faroese conflict in the 1950ies between the majority of the citizens in Klaksvík and the authorities in Tórshavn regarding the resignation of a Danish doctor at the hospital in Klaksvík. The doctor, Olaf Halvorsen, who had a Nazi past in Denmark during the Second World War came to the hospital in Tórshavn in 1948 and was in April 1951 transferred to Klaksvík where he gained overwhelming support throughout the local population. In the meantime, however, Halvorsen was accused by the Danish doctoral community for having had Nazi sympathies during the Second World War. In 1949 the Danish doctor´s union arbitration gave him a reprimand for his ´national conditions` during the war. He was not sentenced any penalty, e.g. he was not excluded from the Doctor´s union, but the arbitration sentenced him to pay the courts costs, 601, 50 Danish Crowns, which he refused to do. This had the effect that Halvorsen lost his membership in the union, which was a precondition for practicing as a hospital doctor. Despite local support the authorities could not let him remain as a doctor at the hospital. Instead, a Faroese Doctor, attached to the leading family in Klaksvík, was employed at the local hospital.

This apparently minor case developed into a widespread and long­lasting conflict between the vast majority of the citizens in Klaksvík and the authorities in Tórshavn and later also the Danish authorities in Copenhagen that e.g. involved Danish warships with large numbers of police officers at the harbour in Klaksvík, bombs exploding at the police station and gun­ shots at the Faroese prime minister. During this uprising, which lasted for more than two years, from 1953­1955, lawlessness was the rule in the second largest city in the Faroe Islands, until the Danish authorities at last restored law and order in the city.

The sources behind the article are basically unpublished and so far unexploited primary material from both public archives and private collections in the Faroe Islands. While the main story is well known the analyses of the primary material in this article leads to revisions and new conclusions on the subject. On the analytical level a distinction will be made between the underlying historical and structural conditions behind the outbreak and development of the conflict and the primary actors in the conflict; and on the methodological level a comparison between the nonofficial governmental sourc­ es and the public sources will be used to reveal possible discrepancies between the authorities intentions regarding solutions of the conflict and the picture that the authorities – intentionally or unintentionally – gave the public. This article documents on the empirical level major discrepancies between the authorities real unofficial inten­ tions regarding a solution of the conflict and the picture that the authorities gave to the public.

The argument in the article is that it was 1) developing tensions between the industrial capital Klaksvík in the North and the administrative capital Tórshavn in the south, 2) socio­economic conditions in Klaksvík, the real industrial capital in the Faroe Islands, and 3) later on also tensions between the strong Faroese separation movement and Danish authorities, which were the main content in this major rebellion. It was, however, the combination between some powerless Faroese home­rule authorities and reluctant Danish authorities, which was the main reason for that this uprising developed into a real rebellion in Klaksvík. During the two years of lawlessness in Klaksvík the conditions could be and were used by rebels in Klaksvík and political parties in the Faroe Islands, which had other goals than to solve the problem.

This exploitation of the conflict, which only was made possible by a powerless space in the Faroese political realm, escalated the conflict further, but in the end this was a rebellion without clear winners. In conclusion it was not as often argued a united village population (95%) that challenged the local Faroese and later on the Danish state authorities, but it was basically a divided population split across political as well as religious lines that afterwards had to face a troubled self­image, which many were not proud of.

In a broader context the conflict about the doctor can be interpreted as a rebellion against the new home rule system of 1948 and its attempt to centralize the new political and administrative power in Tórshavn.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18602/fsj.v60i0.5

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