Driving from the Arctic Circle

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We head south from the Arctic Circle center back towards Mo-I-Rana. There aren’t a lot of major attractions along the road but the landscape is pretty scenic so it is an enjoyable little drive back.

We stop along the road at a little parking lot down at a river. The view from here is pretty – but it turns out the place has a sinister past. The area used to be home to a minor concentration camp from the time of the Second World War.

Shortly after the Germans started their operation Barbarossa in late June 1941 they took a lot of Soviet soldiers as prisoners. It didn’t take long before these prisoners were used as forced labor around Europe. The first Soviet prisoners started to arrive in Norway in august and September 1941 and more kept arriving through the remainder of the war.

There was only a tiny population in northern Norway and the Germans had huge constructions plans due to the war. They needed to build the Atlantic wall to protect the long Norwegian coast against attacks from the powerful Royal Navy which stilled ruled the sea. They also needed to strengthen the infrastructure of northern Norway so they could transport troops and equipment up through Norway to the frontline at the edge of Norway at the small town of Kirkenes which were only a few kilometers away from the soviet border.

Soviet memorial

There was a great need for the forced labor and around 11,000 worked on the rail line between Mo-I-Rana and Fauske which were the next leg of the planned railroad to Kirkenes. Some of the prisoners had been based in a camp where we stopped – a total of 63 had died here worked to death trying to build the railroad. The soviet prisoners made a little monument here at the end of the war when the camp was liberated. The graves themselves have been moved along with many other graves to the island of Tjøtta where there is a big war cemetery for a large portion of the dead soviet prisoners. The monument is still standing here though along the road as a reminder of the history of the area. the railway to Fauske was finally build – but it never made it all the way to Kirkenes and after the war nobody really made a great effort to build the railroad through the lightly populated area they made do by boat until the highway was finally build.

We drive away from the ghost at the memorial and stop a little further down the road. There is a nice stop here where there are some small trails – the weather is looking pretty dodgy as it has most of our trip so we decide to only go to a small bridge across the river before we head back to Mo.

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