Why a Paperclip?

During World War II, Norwegians wore paperclips on their clothes to demonstrate their opposition to Nazism and to anti-Semitism.

Prior to starting this campaign, we verified that Norwegians wore paperclips as a form of resistance.

In his book, The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski wrote about the paperclip. “Norwegians are said to have remembered proudly the humble item’s origins in their country, when during World War II, they ‘fastened paper clips to their jacket lapels to show patriotism and irritate the Germans.’ Wearing a paper clip could result in arrest, but the function of the device ‘to bind together’ took on the fiercely symbolic meaning of ‘people joining against the forces of occupation.'” (Random House, 1992, p. 60)

His source is Nanna Segelcke, who wrote Made in Norway, which was published by Dreyer in Oslo in 1990.

Also, author Sakina Kagda’s book Norway published by Marshall Cavendish as part of their Cultures of the World series, referred to Norwegians wearing paperclips. “Norwegians expressed their resistance to the German occupation in many ways. Some wore paper clips, a Norwegian invention, on their cuffs or lapels . . .” (p. 34).

Further, Mrs. Irma Balle, who lived in Norway during the German occupation, verified that she wore a paperclip as part of the resistance.

Ivar Kraglund, Deputy Director of the Norway Resistance Museum, explained that wearing paperclips was not a government-sanctioned operation but rather a grass-roots operation started by a group of citizens who were appalled at Nazism. He further explained that Norwegians had worn red hats and then red vests to symbolize their opposition. But, these articles of clothing were too noticeable. Hence, they started wearing paperclips. For additional information, visit the Norway’s Resistance Museum website at http://www.mil.no/felles/nhm/start/eng. Exhibit #11 mentions Norwegians wearing paperclips. Take a virtual tour of the Norwegian Resistance Museum at www.memorialmuseums.org/staettens/druck/640 or at travel sites, such as tripadvisor.com, virtualtourist.com, and visitnorway.com.

In We Are Going to Pick Potatoes published in 2010, Irene Leven Berman wrote, “There was an abundance of stories describing how the Norwegians had managed to fool the enemy and how they showed their patriotism by wearing red knit hats with a tassel or a paperclip in their lapels.” (p. 107)

In Of Norwegian Ways, Bent Vanberg wrote, “Loyal Norwegians wore the clip proudly, knowing well that they risked arrest, deportation, imprisonment, and even execution by displaying this simple sign of their true feelings.”

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