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Last September Christoph Spreng participated in an international symposium of the Open University of Catalonia's Campus for Peace and was subsequently asked to submit an article for their Pioneer series of the Journal of Conflictology about the life of Norwegian Leif Hovelsen. The article was published in May 2011.

Leif Hovelsen (Photo: Edward Peters)Leif Hovelsen (Photo: Edward Peters)As a student, Hovelsen was active in the resistance against the Nazi occupation of Norway. He was betrayed to the SS, got arrested and was taken to Grini Concentration Camp. There he was put into solitary confinement and was interrogated, tortured and threatened with a death sentence. A profound transformation came about which led Hovelsen to devote his life to reconciliation between individuals and nations. This experience brought him to the industrial Ruhr area of Germany where he worked with others to build up a new, different kind of country. Informally, and in hindsight, effectively, he later contributed to a new relationship between the governments of Bonn and Oslo. Still later he was engaged in creating coalitions of conscience on both sides of what was still the Iron Curtain; a personal contribution to what became visible by the fall of the Berlin Wall and also the Glasnost and Perestroika process.

Background and Family

Leif Hovelsen had a modest, wholesome family upbringing. His father was a sportsman, and a professional skier. He was known to have made a ski-jump whilst playing a Souza tune on his accordion without interruption, and eventually became famous in the USA, touring with the renowned Barnum & Bailey Circus and promoting skiing in the State of Colorado. For papa Hovelsen hardly anything seemed impossible to do. Leif ’s mother was the devoted caregiver and believer. Leif seemed to thrive during his school years in Oslo. And with the war of ideas at large in the Europe of the 1930s his eager mind and heart grappled with concepts in philosophy and psychology. His childhood beliefs seemed too small to him now. Although attracted by the writings of Karl Marx, he was not convinced by them and continued searching for an all-embracing perspective. He was keen to be somewhere at the forefront. And sure enough, with the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, it did not take long before a clandestine shortwave radio receiver was mounted underneath the desk in his room. He had just begun his university studies and would excuse himself from the family room to ‘do homework upstairs’. But he was listening to messages of the exiled King Haakon VII and government from London, distributing them via underground press and eventually being responsible for equipping others with shortwave receivers. In his autobiographical book1 he writes about these days: “Mother was suspicious at my eagerness to do homework. One day she surprised me when she entered my room. I had forgotten to lock it. I feared that my enterprise was foiled, at least in our home. But smilingly she asked: ‘Would you also get me a headset?’ Later, the three of us would often sit there and listen.”

You can download the full article here in PDF>>

Hovelsen JOC Vol2no1.pdf176.65 KB