Quisling, Vidkun, 1887-1945, Norwegian fascist leader. An army officer, he served as military attaché in Petrograd (1918-19) and Helsinki (1919-21) and later assisted Fridtjof Nansen in relief work in Russia. He was Norwegian minister of defense from 1931 to 1933. He then left the Agrarian party to found the fascist Nasjonal Samling [national unity] party. In 1940 he helped Germany prepare the conquest of Norway. Remaining at the head of the sole party permitted by the Germans, he was made premier in 1942. Despite his unpopularity and difficulties with his German masters and within his own party, he remained in power until May, 1945, when, after the Germans in Norway surrendered, he was arrested. He was convicted of high treason and shot. From his name came the word quisling, meaning traitor.

See biography by P. M. Hayes (1972).

Quisling, after Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling, who assisted Nazi Germany to conquer his own country, is a term used to describe traitors and collaborators. It was most commonly used for fascist political parties and military and paramilitary forces in occupied Allied countries which collaborated with Axis occupiers in World War II, as well as for their members and other collaborators.

That Quisling's name should be applied to denote the whole phenomenon of collaborationism is probably due to the place of Norway on the list of countries occupied by the Third Reich. Unlike Poland, Norway was considered 'Aryan' in Hitlerian ideology, and unlike Denmark, it was further off, nearer Britain, and did not share a land border with any territory under German control. Thus, Norway was the first country where local, non-German, fascist parties took part in the conquest of their own country after the start of the war. The universality of the term in the English language may be due to the involvement of Britain in the battle for Norway so early on in the war.

In contemporary usage, "Quisling" is synonymous with "traitor", and particularly applied to politicians who appear to favour the interests of other nations or cultures over their own. In American English, the term is less well known than the equivalent phrase "Benedict Arnold". Also, in Norwegian, if you remove the "q" and the "i" in "quisling" - you get "(a) usling" which means "someone who is ignoble or iniquitous". This was used more or less humorously during WWII in Norway.

Quisling organizations in World War II


In popular culture

The many references in cartoons, television entertainment programs, and the like, show how widespread the word quisling became after the Second World War.

  • In a wartime cartoon by a Norwegian cartoonist published in Sweden in 1944, "Audience with Hitler", Quisling says: "I am Quisling", and Hitler's adjutant replies: "And what is your name?".
  • In the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Turk and Daffy, on Thanksgiving Day, Daffy Duck at first hides the turkey from Porky Pig and then tells Porky where the turkey is. The turkey hears this betrayal, turns toward the audience and simply says, "Quisling!"
  • In Max Brooks's novel World War Z, "quisling" refers to a human that had broken down psychologically due to the presence of zombies and thus begun acting like a zombie. These humans attack other humans mindlessly, but, ironically, are still attacked by normal zombies who can tell the difference.
  • In the eighteenth episode on the first season of the television series House, House jokes angrily with Cuddy saying, "You know, there is a new biography on Quisling you might find interesting." Cuddy doesn't understand, requiring House to explain and thus spoil the joke.
  • In an episode of the British TV series Filthy, Rich and Catflap, Richie Rich calls the milkman "Quisling" while accusing him of carrying knowledge that could "put back the British game show 50 years."
  • In the board game Renegade Legion: Interceptor, there is a character named "Ronald Quisling" who is an ingratiating but traitorous man, who seeks to backstab and replace his commanding officer.
  • In one of Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strips, Linus called Snoopy "Quisling!" after revealing his hiding place in a game of hide and seek.
  • The 1972 story Day of the Daleks, in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, sees the Doctor accuse the controller of Earth of being a Quisling for his collaboration with the Daleks.
  • In the song 'Insect Nation' by comedian Bill Bailey, he describes Crabs — who would supposedly ally with the insects in enslaving humanity — as "Sideways Quislings".
  • In the Irish rebel song "Patriot Game", the last line refers to those who signed the compromising treaty with Britain that left Ireland divided as "qwislings".
  • On January 7, 1998 Norm Macdonald was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman just after it was announced that he had been fired from Saturday Night Live. Throughout the interview, Letterman kept referring to MacDonald as a "Quisling" for not having fought with NBC executives to keep his job at SNL; this was made even funnier by the fact that MacDonald had no idea what the word meant. During a commercial break, MacDonald was given a dictionary to look up the word, and later in the interview he read the definition on the air.
  • In the David Thomas and Foreigners song 15 Seconds, Thomas refers to music journalist David Fricke as "one of the apologists, one of the Quislings/for the repopulation of the American continent with clones".
  • In the Robert Silverberg novel The Alien Years, quislings were humans who collaborated with the Entity invaders.
  • In an episode of the BBC's The Thick Of It, spin doctor Jamie accuses character Julius Nicholson of leaking political information to the press and calls him a "Mimsy bastard fucking Quisling leak fuck".
  • In an episode of the BBC's My Family, Ben Harper refers to his son Nick as a "cash and carry Quisling."
  • In E. E. Knight's Vampire Earth series, the inhabitants of the Ozark Free Territory refer to humans who collaborate with the Kurian invaders as Quislings.
  • The song Green Shirt, on Elvis Costello's album Armed Forces, contains the line, "...cause somewhere in the quisling clinic / there's a shorthand typist taking seconds over minutes. / She's listening in to the Venus line. / She's picking out names. / I hope none of them are mine."
  • In the video game Mass Effect, Ashley Williams claims she does not want her family name to "go down with the likes of Quisling" after she reveals that she is a descendant of a human general made infamous by his surrender to alien forces.
  • The Hives have a song called "B is for Brutus" on their Tyrannosaurus Hives album, which contains the lyric "Judas, Brutus, Quisling time has come to do / What's expected of you", namedropping two other notable traitors.
  • In episode 2x23 of Boston Legal, Denny Crane, upon suspecting another lawyer of having become an opposing witness, says, 'Don't tell me you've turned Quisling.'
  • In the Bed and Brake Fast episode (5x18) of Corner Gas, Dog River police officer Davis borrows Brent's car to catch unsuspecting speeding vehicles. To keep Brent oblivious (and cooperative), Davis always returns the car clean and in a better shape. Upon getting a ticket issued by Davis -- in Brent's car -- a furious Wanda calls Brent a quisling.


See also

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