| Belgrade

A cartoon book on the Yugoslav Prisoners of War

We often get to hear stories about adult Yugoslav Prisoners of War in Norway during the Second World War, but Norwegian journalist Ingebjørg Jensen decided to focus on young boys who were among them.

It all started in 2015 when she gave a lecture about her teaching methods for youngsters, based on her three previous cartoon books about the Second World War in Norway. All her books were about Norwegian children who suffered the consequences of war more than the average Norwegian child.

The youth coordinator from Narviksenteret, who also attended the lecture, later contacted her and asked if she would be interested in making a book about the Yugoslav prisoners in the Beisfjord SS-camp in 1942. “I read Ljubo Mladenovic’s book, and was shocked and fascinated by the story, especially when I understood that there were young boys among the prisoners,” says Jensen referring to the “Beisfjord Tragedy” book.

So she started investigating the topic and based her cartoon book on Mladenovic’s book, German documents, and other books about Yugoslav prisoners in other SS- camps, as well as testimonies from local Norwegian people. “From the name list I found two young boys, Simo and Mile, and chose them as my main characters. I don´t know if they saw all those terrible things that happened in the camp, but what happened is very well documented,” she explained.

The book tells their story from the moment the ship comes to Narvik with 900 prisoners on June 24 1942, until the surviving 150 leave the camp four months later, for yet another SS-camp. It shows both the German and Norwegian guards, how the locals tried to help - mostly in vain, and how the prisoners tried to organise resistance against SS cruelty, helping each other survive. Also, mostly in vain.

The drawing process when she made the first sketches of brutality and suffering was extremely emotionally exhausted. “I had nightmares during the first three weeks while I tried to choose between different terrible scenes, and put them into drawings. But later I ‘got used to’ them, and concentrated on how to make them grip the reader,” Jensen noted.

When asked to explain the main idea of her Beisfjord cartoon, she said that in Norway it has always been easy to put all the blame on the Germans. “But for me it has also been important to show Norwegians both as kind helpers and as perpetrators, guarding the prisoners. They were volunteers, but still had some choices within the camp; Be brutal and get more days off and other privileges, or not. None of them really helped the prisoners in Beisfjord, though they did it in other camps.”

The book has already started its tour and the first stop was Narvik, while Bergen promotion is scheduled for October 19 followed with the Raptus comics festival in Bergen on November 10-12.

Jensen hopes the book will be translated into Serbian and all ex-Yugoslav languages, since it is telling the story of people from all these countries,  resisting the Nazi invasion and the Ustasa, and paying a terrible price for it.