The first director, Nina Hasvold, was recruited by Norwegian psychiatrist Nic Waal after they had become acquainted in Berlin while attending the Kinderseminar (Seminar on Children) run by Wilhelm Reich. Nansenhjelpen board member Sigrid Helliesen Lund was also active in establishing the home.
The first inhabitants of the home were Jewish refugees from Vienna (known as Wienerbarna, "the Vienna children"), who had arrived in June 1938 on the pretext of a summer vacation with the Norwegian Jewish community. After some time at the Jewish community's cabin at Skui in Bærum and in foster care, they moved into rented facilities in Industrigaten and finally into a building the Jewish community had acquired at Holbergsgate 21 in Oslo.
Through the work of recently arrived psychiatrist Leo Eitinger and Nina Lustig (who was later detained and deported, and immediately murdered in Auschwitz) from Brno, Nansenhjelpen applied on humanitarian grounds to admit 100 Czech Jewish children who otherwise faced a grim future under the Nazi regime. The ministry of justice only reluctantly approved the application for a few (among them the noted psychiatrist Berthold Grünfeld), on the grounds that it would be "difficult to get rid of them."
When Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany, conditions progressively worsened for the Norwegian Jewish community in general and also for the inhabitants of the Jewish children's home. Though Sigrid Helliesen Lund had the foresight to burn the entire list of Czech Jewish refugees on April 9 1940, German and Quisling authorities eventually caught up with the home.
By the time the Nazi authorities ordered the detention and deportation of all Jews in Norway in November 1942, there were nine boys and five girls in the home. The staff at the home, individuals affiliated with Nansenhjelpen, and other helpful people with contacts within the generally unhelpful Norwegian resistance movement planned, improvised, and successfully carried out a complicated and daring escape. All the children in the home were able to evade capture and found their way to Sweden.
See Norwegian Righteous Among the Nations for a complete list of those Norwegians recognized.
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