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Croatian Parliament president Marko Došen giving Nazi salute (far left) accompanied by Catholic Church leaders in 1944

A quisling (/ˈkwɪzlɪŋ/; Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈkʋɪsˈlɪŋ]) is a person who collaborated with Axis forces in occupied Allied countries during World War II - including members of fascist and collaborationist political parties and military and paramilitary forces. In contemporary usage, quisling is synonymous with traitor, and particularly applied to politicians who appear to favour the interests of other nations or cultures over their own.


The term quisling was coined by the British newspaper The Times in an editorial published on 19 April 1940, entitled "Quislings everywhere" after the Norwegian Vidkun Quisling, who assisted Nazi Germany as it conquered his own country so that he could rule the collaborationist Norwegian government himself. The Daily Mail picked up the term four days later, and the BBC then brought it into common use internationally.[1] The Times' editorial asserted: "To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor... they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Aurally it contrives to suggest something at once slippery and tortuous."

The term was used by the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill during an address to both houses of Congress in the United States of America on 26 December 1941. Commenting upon the effect of a number of Allied victories against Axis forces, and moreover the United States’ decision to enter the war, Churchill opined that; “Hope has returned to the hearts of scores of millions of men and women, and with that hope there burns the flame of anger against the brutal, corrupt invader. And still more fiercely burn the fires of hatred and contempt for the filthy Quislings whom he has suborned.”[2] It subsequently entered the language, and became a target for political cartoonists.[3]

The noun has survived, and is still in current use, appearing during 2008 and 2009 in articles in The New York Times,[4] Die Zeit[5] and The Times.[6] In contrast, the back-formed verb to quisle /ˈkwɪzəl/, has largely disappeared from contemporary usage.[7] The verb seems to have fallen out of use comparatively quickly, since by early 1944 there was evidence that H.L. Mencken — generally considered to be a leading authority on the common English usage in the United States — was not aware that it already existed.[8] The back-formed verb to quisle also gave rise to a much-less common version of the noun: quisler.[9]

That Quisling's name should be applied to denote the whole phenomenon of collaborationism is probably due to the place of Norway on the list of countries occupied by the Third Reich.[citation needed] Norway was considered "Aryan" in Hitlerian ideology, and unlike Denmark it was further off and did not share a land border with any territory under German control. Thus Norway was the first country where local, non-German, fascist parties took part in the conquest of their own country after the start of the war. The universality of the term in the English language may be due to the involvement of Britain in the battle for Norway so early in the war.[citation needed]

In contemporary usage, quisling is synonymous with traitor, and particularly applied to politicians who appear to favour the interests of other nations or cultures over their own. In American English, the term is less well known than the equivalent phrase Benedict Arnold. Nonetheless it appeared in the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Turk and Daffy, uttered by a Thanksgiving turkey whose presence is betrayed to Porky Pig by Daffy Duck. Also, in a 1966 Peanuts comic strip, Linus tries to hide in Snoopy's doghouse only to have the beagle rat him out. "Traitor! Quisling! Squealer!" Linus shouts at Snoopy as his sister Lucy drags him away.

When one removes the ‹q› and the ‹i› in quisling, the result is usling, Norwegian for wretch. "Vidkjent Usling" (widely-known wretch) was used more or less humorously during World War II in Norway.[10] Another joke was nicknaming the two-krone banknote Quisling, and the one-krone note an usling, hence there were two uslings to one Quisling.[11]

Quisling organisations in World War II



  • Flemish National Union
  • Rexism


  • Ustaša – Croatian Revolutionary Movement


  • National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark


  • Mouvement Franciste
  • Milice française
  • Légion Française des Combattants
  • Amis de la Légion
  • Légion Française des Combattants et des volontaires de la Révolution Nationale
  • Service d'Ordre Légionnaire
  • Parti Populaire Français
  • Rassemblement National Populaire



  • Republican Fascist Party


The Netherlands

  • Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging


See also

Culture specific:

  • Benedict Arnold (United States)
  • Ephialtes (Greece)
  • Hanjian (China)
  • Jash (Kurdish)
  • Lee Wan-yong (Korea)
  • Malinche (Mexico)
  • Mir Jafar (Bengal)


  1. Dahl, Hans Fredrik (1995). "quisling". In Dahl, Hjeltnes, Nøkleby, Ringdal, Sørensen. Norsk krigsleksikon 1940–45. Oslo: Cappelen. p. 334. ISBN 82-02-14138-9.  (Norwegian)
  2. "Prime Minister Winston Churchill's address to the Congress of the United States". December 26, 1941. 
  3. Tangenes, Gisle (19 September 2006). "The World According to Quisling". Bits of News. 
  4. Cohen, Roger (22 February 2009). "What Iran's Jews say". 
  5. "Die unerhörten Tage der Freiheit". Zeit Online. 21 August 2008.  (German)
  6. "Béla Király: Hungarian nationalist". Times Online. July 10, 2009. Archived from the original on May 24, 2010. 
  7. Bolinger, Dwight L. "Among New Words" American Speech, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Apr., 1941), p. 147.
  8. "Will there be a verb, to quisle?" Mencken, H.L. American Speech, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Feb., 1944), p. 13.
  9.[dead link]
  10. "jøssinghumor". Norsk krigsleksikon. Retrieved 23 August 2010.  (Norwegian)
  11. "Krigshumor". Quislingutstillinga. p. 2. Retrieved 23 August 2010. 

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