Thursday, January 25, 2007
Snow Treasure and Pimpernel Gold
Marie McSwigan's Snow Treasure is listed on my profile as one of my favorite books. This children's book was a favorite for three generations in my family. My mother read it. My sisters and I read a copy to pieces. My niece and nephews read it. It's the story of how Norwegian children smuggled gold out of Norway on their sleds during World War II, right under the noses of the Nazi soldiers. When I read the book, it said it was based on a true story. Now, current versions of the book no longer claim that. No matter what, it's one of the most exciting stories I ever read. (In 1968, a movie came out based on the book. It starred James Franciscus, and it stunk. DO NOT watch the movie.)
There were recent conversations on DorothyL, the mystery list, about Snow Treasure. Those of us who read it, universally loved it. Finally, someone wrote to say there was a nonfiction book about the rescue of the Norwegian gold reserves in 1940. Pimpernel Gold by Dorothy Baden-Powell is that story.
The Germans had been told that the Norwegians would not fight back when they were given an ultimatum as their country was invaded. They made a mistake. The Norwegians fought back. The Germans were delayed by ten hours in attacking Oslo. King Haakon, the Crown Prince, and the Government escaped and headed for the west coast and rescue. Eighty tons of gold bullion were taken from the bank under police escort, and started on a frantic journey to the coast. A small group of volunteers headed west with the gold, travelling via lorries, trains, and finally ships, hiding from the Nazis, and sometimes tricking the Germans in order to keep the gold moving.
I read Pimpernel Gold with the same sense of urgency I felt when reading Snow Treasure. This is a page-turner, a nonfiction adventure story of unknown Norwegian people who fought to preserve their country. It's no longer in print, but there are a number of copies available in libraries throughout the country. If you're interested in a wonderful story, ask a librarian about interlibrary loan.
Pimpernel Gold: How Norway Foiled the Nazis by Dorothy Baden-Powell. Ulverscroft, ©1978 (Large Print Edition), ISBN 0-7089-0700-8, 353p.