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The Smith in Hjelmeland

By Leif S. Rode

Supreme court lawyer Leif S. Rode was Georg Fjellbergs defense attorney.
He wrote this prologue which he read at the unveiling of the monument.

Fjellberg was his name,
As the mountains,
A hard-working, handy man,
A smith in Hjelmeland.

His head stood from
His powerful shoulders
As if he was an elk.
His hand a cave
That swallowed yours.
But his eyes were innocent,
Faithful, trusting, good,
Questioning and childlike -
Which was not understood
For now he stood a Bösewicht
Before the German Reichskriegsgeriecht.

He had of course gone to the war,
But hardly heard the sound of guns:
In Røldal he was told
The war was over.
But before they parted and went home
The Captain thanked them
And asked them all to take
Their equipment and their guns.
But, he said, take care
So no others find them.

Seven spare rifles there were;
All must go
And the smith said
He would take them
And now before they went,
Leaving nothing behind,
Two boxes filled
With cartridges he took.

In the smithy at home
Work must be done,
And of course before he started
He removed the King’s uniform
But over his blue overalls
He kept his armband
For he was still a soldier
Though in civil life a smith.

He worked fast; soon
Most work was done
And carefully he took out
All that he had brought
Stored in a dark corner.
He applied paraffin
With oil, tow and Vaseline
With all that iron and steel might need
To be stored for a long time,
For all should go to the mountains
Before night fell.

But could he, a simple smith
Be trusted with a task like this?
And could one carry out this task
Wearing overalls?
An armband he had, but today
He must wear his true colours.
Over the yard he went
Up to the storehouse loft.
He knew no custom
For such journeys, but
When the smith came out
He wore his uniform.

He had never read a book
On knights in tournaments,
But his lady’s colours took:
Grey-green jacket, cap and trousers,
Mother Norway’s field dress!
Can a son’s love
Be shown with more dignity
And more humility?

So he was ready –
And up he went
To the plateau’s silent sphere.
One would think
Eight rifles sufficient load,
But with a strap around him
He reached the top,
With two boxes of cartridges
As an extra load.

Far from paths and buildings
He knew of a cave:
He must go; he made
A goat’s track up the mountain
If he were an elk,
How much more today!
The rifle barrels became
Wild swinging antlers,
A fey, fantastic silhouette
Seen against the sky.

Was he prepared?
If someone came
Was a rifle ready?
We do not know.

As days grew cold,
The Germans decreed
That all weapons
Must be handed in.

In Hjelmeland, far in the mountains,
There lay an ancient cave.
Over that which lay there
The plateau itself held watch
And no word was said.

In the smithy’s forge,
A six foot man wielded the hammer,
Making shadows against the wall,
But no other saw
Signs of what had passed.
A pile of old wrappings
Lay in the dark room,
Lay empty – and kept silent.

A year passed – there was a tear
In the smithy’s veil of silence.
An informer’s poison found its way
To the smith’s door,
And now he stood before the court.
Amid sparkling marks of rank,
A strange tongue was spoken,
Etiquette was stiff and hard,
But as calm as if he were at home
Sounded the smith’s steady voice.
Unassuming as is the farmer’s way,
He described the order he received
And the path he took.

That the court was impressed
Is perhaps too much to say,
But no sound was heard
Until he finished his story
And translation made.
The court then wished to know,
Did he carry all alone?
They could not believe such strength
And guessed “Mittätterscaft”.
“Yes, it was a heavy load
But I have borne more before”,
And then the boyish smile,
“You know, one needs to take a rest!”

But did he not care
That weapons must be given up?
“They were not at my home,
I owned no weapons”.
“No, they were never mine,
They were the Captain’s.
I had no right to
Give up the Captain’s things,
For I, you must not forget,
Should only hide them”.

“You saw it as a breach of trust
If you were not silent?”
“I would have betrayed my duty
And been without honour,
For the Captain’s order
Only he can rescind
And if the weapons should come down,
He himself must say”.

But would not they be
Used against the Germans?
For a moment he was silent,
“You must ask the Captain,
I was not informed,
I should only hide them”.
But does this Captain live?
“I have not heard otherwise”.

“You mean we should believe
You did not understand
That for you as for others
German orders apply!”
The tone was threatening,
The voice was hard.
“I am not in German service”
Was the smith’s assured reply.

I looked at the judge
And looked again at him,
Separated by an abyss –
Could a bridge be built?
It was as if the mountain itself
Came in and stood there.

I listened to the simple words –
Where had I heard them?
From the east and from the north –
He was Sverre Duva’s Norwegian brother!
Though stripped he was
Of the weapons Duva bore.
But as he who stood guard alone
Against the enemy on his bridge
The smith faced overwhelming power
Standing firmly in his place
And the call of duty is as stubborn
In the Finnish forest
As in Norway’s fell:
An order stands as given,
Only one commands;
Obey the order you receive
And die for it.
This is the soldier’s ABC,
A German should know that.
But “Es ist kindisch ganz und gar”,
Was the Prosecutor’s brusque reply.

And so the final question:
If the plan was not
To prepare an attack,
But only to hide the guns,
Why take them and prepare them
So well, lubricated?
And why not save himself
From hardship in the mountain
And simply scrap them,
Throwing them in the sea?

The noble man stared.
For the smith from Hjelmeland
It was a sin against the Holy Ghost
To throw away such value!
The splendid weapons destroyed!
Iron and steel of great worth!
The smith no longer answered,
But without a word being said
It was easy to guess his thoughts,
“This judge is off his head”!

Counsel for the defence laid weight
That much military knowledge
The smith had hardly learnt,
But one thing alone:
To obey the orders he was given
To the last dot
And he took up the thread
That the Prosecutor had started:
“Der Schmied sei kindisch? – Mag wohl sein,
doch Hohes Reichsgericht,
dann leuchtet es ja eben ein
er ist kein Bösewicht,
und Kinder – schiesst man nicht”!

Judgement fell – short, concise,
The court said it was proven
And no mercy shown.
Self-evidently, they judged
The smith from Hjelmeland
            zum Tode.

He stood as before, pale but steady.
Sven Duva would die again,
Now as a Norwegian soldier.
He stood there huge, magnificent.
Judgement was quietly passed.
“This cannot be right, Counsel!”

His glance was sad,
But his handshake firm
And calmly the strong man entered
The prison van.

Our hope remained
Twenty-five days.
Then came the news – it was over!
For an “illegal weapon store”
Fjellberg the smith was shot.

And how it passed at the end
We know so little still,
But that he walked and did not crawl
Of that we can be sure,
For I have seldom seen a man
So sure that he did right.

He showed no trace of hate
As he listened to the priest.
He tried to understand
So strange a judgement,
Without meaning.
As long as he could stand
Able to think,
His mind was fixed
On this that he had said:
“This is not right!”
And surely in his eyes there was
Something questioning, childlike,
That was not understood.