On 9 April, 1940, Germany launched a surprise attack on Denmark and Norway. Denmark fell the same day, and was used as a springboard for German air units on their way to Norway. The mountainous Scandinavian country proved to be a tougher nut to crack, as the terrain, few roads, and long coastline combined with determined defenders and a British and French expeditionary force made the German invasion a dicey affair. Still, they pulled it off, not least because the attack on Belgium, the Netherlands, and France a month later made the British and French disengage in Norway in order to deal with the new threat.
The soldiers in the photo wear snowshoes. They don’t appear to be Gebirgsjäger, but seems to be regular infantry. I once met a veteran, Pavel, who had been a soldier on occupation duty in northern Norway. He was Polish by birth (from the Gdansk/Danzig area), but the German occupation authorities had Poles of military age forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht. About half a million Poles ended up serving their occupiers. The veteran served in a battalion of Polish soldiers with German officers, first on occupation duty in France, then Norway. The soldiers weren’t happy with their officers, and one winter night (winter of 1943-44?) when he was patrolling the Norwegian-Swedish border on skis, he was on the top of a slope. Pavel looked at his colleague, then at Sweden, and took a decision. With a push of his ski poles, he went down the slope to Sweden, and crossed the border.
He spotted a Swedish soldier standing guard, and approached him. Pavel was wearing a white snowsuit with the cowl over his helmet, so it was only when he lowered the cowl, revealing his German helmet, that the Swede realized who it was he had before him. He bolted off, returning with an officer. Pavel was taken to a barracks, where he was interrogated. He swapped cigarettes for chocolate, the chocolate bar upsetting his stomach. Then followed internment for the rest of the war, where he worked in forests as a lumberjack. After the war, he knew that the Communist puppet government in Poland took a rather dim view on Poles who had served with the Germans, but his father was missing so he wanted to help his mother and siblings.
Pavel was arrested when he got back, but managed to escape back to Sweden. His father returned, but he tried to go back a few years later. The Polish authorities were looking for him, and feeling the heat, he snuck aboard a steamer bound for Sweden, hiding in the coal bins under a layer of coal, revealing himself only when the ship entered international waters. This time he didn’t chance it, but stayed in Sweden, where he got himself a job and started a family. I think his daughter still lives in the same building as me, and he told me that he had written down his adventures. They haven’t been published, so this is the one place you can read about what happened to a young Pole who was a soldier in the German army.