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Josef Terboven
Terboven in 1942.
Gauleiter of Essen

In office
Succeeded by Fritz Schlessmann (acting, 1940–1945)
Reichskommissar for the occupied Norwegian territories

In office
Prime Minister Vidkun Quisling (1942–1945)
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Franz Böhme (acting, 1945)
Oberpräsident of Rhine Province

In office
Preceded by Hermann Freiherr von Lünick
Succeeded by None
Personal details
Born (1898-05-23)May 23, 1898
Essen, Rhine Province, Germany
Died May 8, 1945(1945-05-08) (aged 46)
Asker, Akershus, Norway
Political party National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)

Josef Antonius Heinrich Terboven (23 May 1898 – 8 May 1945) was a Nazi leader, best known as the Reichskommissar for Norway during the German occupation of Norway.

Early life

Terboven was born in Essen, the son of minor landed gentry. He served in the German field artillery and nascent air force in World War I and was awarded the Iron Cross, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He studied law and political science at the universities of Munich and Freiburg, where he first got involved in politics.

Nazi Party career

Dropping out of the university in 1923, Terboven joined the NSDAP with member number 25247 and participated in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. When the NSDAP was subsequently outlawed, he found work at a bank for a few years before he was laid off in 1925.

He then went to work full-time for the Nazi party. Terboven helped establish the party in Essen and became Gauleiter there in 1928. From 1925 on was part of the Sturmabteilung, in which he reached the rank of Obergruppenführer by 1936. On 29 June 1934, Terboven married Ilse Stahl, Joseph Goebbels' former secretary and mistress. Adolf Hitler was the guest of honor at the wedding. Terboven was made Oberpräsident der Rheinprovinz in 1935 and developed a reputation as a petty and ruthless tyrant.

Rule of Norway

Terboven (seated 2nd from right) with Quisling, Himmler and Falkenhorst.

Terboven was made Reichskommissar for Norway on 24 April 1940, even before the military invasion was completed on 7 June 1940. He moved into the Norwegian crown prince's residence at Skaugum in September 1940 and made his headquarters in Stortinget (the Norwegian parliament buildings).

Terboven ruled Norway as a dictator. He did not have authority over the 400,000 regular German Army forces stationed in Norway which were the command of General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, but he did command a personal force of around 6,000 men, of whom 800 were part of the secret police. Among his most brutal actions were his declaration of martial law in Trondheim in 1942, and ordering the destruction of Telavåg. Terboven was hated by the Norwegians and not much esteemed even by fellow Germans. Goebbels expressed annoyance in his diary about what he called Terboven's "bullying tactics" against the Norwegians, as they alienated the population against the Germans. Terboven nevertheless remained in ultimate charge of Norway until the end of the war in 1945, even after the proclamation of a Norwegian puppet regime under Vidkun Quisling, the Quisling government.

As the tide of the war turned against Germany, Terboven's personal aspiration was to organise a "Fortress Norway" (Festung Norwegen) for the Nazi regime's last stand. He also planned concentration camps in Norway, establishing Falstad concentration camp near Levanger and Bredtvet concentration camp in Oslo in late 1941.


With the announcement of Germany's surrender, Terboven committed suicide on 8 May 1945 by detonating 50 kg of dynamite in a bunker on the Skaugum compound. He died alongside the body of Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess, SS and Police Leader and commander of all SS troops in Norway, who had shot himself earlier.

Portrayal in popular culture

In the 1965 film The Heroes of Telemark, Josef Terboven was played by English actor Eric Porter.

Sources and references


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