As he was led away to two years of solitary confinement and torture by the Gestapo, his mother called from the door, “Lief, never forget Jesus” and Hovelsen, recently dead at 87, apparently never did.
Betrayed by a colleague in the Norwegian Resistance, his torturers offered freedom in return for the same treachery, but the underground radio-operator, who had spread broadcasts from the exiled King Haakon VII, refused. He recalled: “I felt in my heart there was no other option than a clear ‘No’. As I was about to take this deep resolve, something extraordinary took place. I experienced the contradiction of being truly free at the unique point of having lost everything.”
When he was liberated in 1945, British officers gave him a chance to turn the tables on his captors and choose their punishments: he refused.
Soon afterward, the Telegraph reports, “he offered forgiveness to one Gestapo officer who had tortured him, the man said nothing ‘but his body shook all over.’ Just before his subsequent execution, the torturer had asked to take Communion. Hovelsen was to write: ‘When I answered the Nazis with the same treatment meted out to me, their spirit had conquered me. When I forgave I had conquered National Socialism.’”
Once Norway and Germany were reconciled, he adopted the cause of Soviet dissidents, befriending Vladimir Bukovsky and campaigning for Andrei Sakharov’s Nobel Prize.
His funeral on 30th September, at the Central Lutheran Church of Oslo, was full of mourners.
Requiescat in Pace.
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