Arkivet: The past and the present

Arkivet: The past and the present

The violence at Arkivet in Kristiansand constitutes some of Southern Norway's darkest chapters in terms of occupation history. Gestapo took over the State Archive in January 1942 and turned it into a regional headquarters. More than 300 people were brutally tortured regularly in the building's basement. Today more than 6000 people visit Arkivet each year to learn about the dark past. Most of these are school children and students.

During the war years more than 3500 people from the region were imprisoned in the building for more than four days. The take over was led by Hauptstumführer and Criminal Commissioner Rudolf Kerner, the head of the German Secret Police in Kristiansand.
Many of them became victims of Gestapo's method of interrogation, which consisted of torture and torment.  162 persons were executed or died in concentration camps. These people are today honoured by name on a stone monument by the entrance to the building.

Arkivet's reputation as the "House of Horror" and the "Stronghold of Torture" reached far beyond Norway's borders. The prisoners at Grini, the Gestapo prison camp in Oslo, referred to Arkivet as the country's most notorious place for physical and psychological violence and torture. Among the Gestapo headquarters established in Norway, Arkivet is the only one that has been conserved. Its appearance today is almost authentic to the way it looked during the war years.

Arkivet 2013

Today the building serves multiple functions:

  • Centre for documentation and education about the war years 1940-45
  • Centre for forward-looking work on peace and conflict
  • Co-localisation of humanitarian organisations

The reason behind recreating parts of the Gestapo headquarters is to give our visitors an idea of the activities and the atmosphere at Arkivet during the period 1942-45. It is a means to visualise the results of a totalitarian ideology. Founded on atrocities, Arkivet has today become a centre for work on peace, human dignity and social research. Influential organisations such as the Red Cross, Save the Children, UN-Association, Amnesty International, and ARC-aid are examples of Arkivet's public involvement. The old "House of Horror" has been given a new and future-oriented role.

Our hope is that history will help us to better understand our contemporary society. We also believe that the struggle for human dignity and human rights continuously must be claimed by new generations