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Week 27 - 2020

Symbolic acts and pictures of

Photographer Unknown, the Liberation: Crown Prince Olav recieves a warm welcome upon his return to Norway, 1945. NTB archive photo / SCANPIX

Symbolic acts and pictures of

What constitutes our experience of having a collective identity; as part of a group or as part of a nation? Pictures influence us. This picture of Crown Prince Olav returning to a liberated Norway was, and is, part of shaping the history of Norway during and after World War 2.

Already five days after Germany surrendered on the 8th of May in 1945, Crown Prince Olav (1903-1991) returned from exile along with five members of parliament. A throng of people had lined up in the streets, all eager to welcome the Crown Prince home. What a powerful symbolic significance it was that he, as the only royal heir since the middle ages to have grown up in Norway, returned, back to the country that had endured a five year long occupation by Germany. Moreover, the Crown Prince and his entourage even dared to drive in an open car; a decision that was thoroughly disliked by the security guards. In front of the car we see freedom-fighter Max Manus, clearly marked by the seriousness and responsibility he has been given as the protector of the Crown Prince. He’s most likely suffering through quite a few heart palpitations, all the while Crown Prince Olav fulfills his own assignment; to be a symbol of unification for a whole nation, with a smile on his face and with his hand outstretched.

We don't know who the photographer is, but the photo has become a very important image documenting the days in May in 1945. The image composition gives us an impression of the massive crowd, with people nearly pouring out of the windows in the background. Everyone wanted a glimpse of the homecoming Prince. It's not difficult to understand the symbolic value a picture like this has. It was likely no coincidence that the Crown Prince and Princess and the Royal Family choose to drive in an open car through the streets of Oslo this year, during a very different 17th of May. In addition, they choose to drive the very same car as seen in the picture. The picture with Crown Prince Olav set the precedence for his predecessors, and today's Royal Family is continuing to take part in creating new collective memories for Norway's inhabitants.


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