Between 1940 and 1945, German occupiers transformed Norway into a vast construction zone. This remarkable building campaign, largely unknown today, was designed to extend the Greater German Reich beyond the Arctic Circle and turn the Scandinavian country into a racial utopia. From ideal new cities to a scenic superhighway stretching from Berlin to northern Norway, plans to remake the country into a model “Aryan” society fired the imaginations of Hitler, his architect Albert Speer, and other Nazi leaders. In Hitler’s Northern Utopia, Despina Stratigakos provides the first major history of Nazi efforts to build a Nordic empire—one that they believed would improve their genetic stock and confirm their destiny as a new order of Vikings.
Drawing on extraordinary unpublished diaries, photographs, and maps, as well as newspapers from the period, Hitler’s Northern Utopia tells the story of a broad range of completed and unrealized architectural and infrastructure projects far beyond the well-known German military defenses built on Norway’s Atlantic coast. These ventures included maternity centers, cultural and recreational facilities for German soldiers, and a plan to create quintessential National Socialist communities out of twenty-three towns damaged in the German invasion, an overhaul Norwegian architects were expected to lead. The most ambitious scheme—a German cultural capital and naval base—remained a closely guarded secret for fear of provoking Norwegian resistance.
A gripping account of the rise of a Nazi landscape in occupied Norway, Hitler’s Northern Utopia reveals a haunting vision of what might have been—a world colonized under the swastika.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the Spiro Kostof Book Award, Society of Architectural Historians
- Shortlisted for the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize, Canadian Historical Association
- Azure Magazine's Gift Guide: Seven Books for Distanced Design Lovers
"Drawing from a staggering trove of archival letters, maps, plans and diaries, Stratigakos’s Hitler’s Northern Utopia gracefully juxtaposes the oppressor’s dream with Norway’s brutal reality as she examines the country’s occupation and the labor force that worked on building the Nazi fantasy state that never was."—Lucy Tiven, Washington Post
"As well as being a fascinating account of an unfamiliar but important aspect of the Second World War, this book is an exemplary model of scholarship. . . . It is a remarkable achievement, compelling in its originality and fascination, and a vital addition to the huge literature on the most horrific war in modern history."—Simon Heffer, The Telegraph
"A fascinating archival study, Hitler’s Northern Utopia is the result of meticulous sleuthing through newspapers and old documents written in three different languages.
"—Johanne Elster Hanson, Times Literary Supplement
"Among a younger generation of scholars unafraid to confront such once-taboo material, none has surpassed Despina Stratigakos. . . . In her latest book, Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway, Stratigakos . . . demonstrates a keen understanding of how Hitler’s perversion of architecture reflected that thwarted master builder’s ideological values, even beyond the German fatherland. Not the least of the surprises in this admirable but unsettling new study is that among the twenty or so countries subjugated in whole or in part by the Nazis, Norway was unique because Germany spent more on development there than it extracted in booty."—Martin Filler, New York Review of Books
"If you thought (as I did) that, 75 years on from Hitler's death, there could surely be nothing new to learn about him, then this book by U.S. architectural historian Despina Stratigakos is an eye-opener."—Tony Rennell, Daily Mail
"Unusual and provocative. . . . A special strength of the book is Stratigakos's attention to the fate of POWs—some Serbian, but mostly Russian. . . . Norwegian historians are coming to terms with both the occupation and their country's response in the 1950s and 60s. Hitler's Northern Utopia should be high on their must-read list. Nor will non-specialist readers be disappointed in it."—Jonathan Beard, Michigan War Studies Review
"Architectural historian Despina Stratigakos mines a little-known chapter in 20th century history with insight, clarity and encyclopedic rigour. From the vision to re-fashion Trondheim into a new cultural capital to the scheme for an imposing super-highway linking the new city to Berlin, the book chronicles a darkly fascinating saga. It’s a chilling vision of the world as it could have been — and a reminder of architecture’s role in creating it."—Azure Magazine
"The reader gets an enormous amount of information about Norway in this beautiful and well-written book. Professor Stratigakos deserves much gratitude for a book which combines clear-headed precision and richness of detail with an understanding for the human cost of history."—Lars Baerentzen, Krigshistorisk Tidsskrift
"Despina Stratigakos’s book compellingly engages with a lesser-known aspect of Nazi planning and spatial logistics – the occupation of Norway. . . . With skilful narration Stratigakos propels the reader from Hitler’s 1934 visit to the Norwegian fjords towards the 1940 German invasion. . . . The book is an accessible yet multidimensional assessment of space and ideology, wrapped up in a rich narrative of archival materials. Despina Stratigakos undoubtedly contributes to studies of landscape and memory."—Tereza E. Valny, History: Journal of the Historical Association
"[A] fascinating new study. ... Highly recommended.""—Choice
"We all remember the image: a would-be Viking 'shaman' clad in horns, fur, feathers, and Norse tattoos storming the U.S. Capitol on 6 January 2021. Hundreds of White supremacists waving Confederate flags and brandishing Nazi insignia joined him in attempting to hunt down legislators in an effort to halt the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election. In her riveting new study Hitler’s Northern Utopia, Despina Stratigakos takes us beyond the noxious theatrics of the Capitol insurrection to the horrifying reality of policies and plans imagined and partly realized by the regime of Adolf Hitler as it too indulged fantasies of connection to the Nordic past."—Barbara McCloskey, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
"“Hitler’s Northern Utopia provides an original and fascinating perspective on a lesser-known aspect of the Third Reich’s vision to create a thousand-year empire during the Second World War. Lavishly illustrated with black-and-white photos that effectively accompany its lively prose, Hitler’s Northern Utopia presents a unique view of Germany’s attempt to incorporate a neighbor with which it shared deep-rooted racial and social ties. The book’s accessibility and unique perspective from an architectural historian will no doubt be of interest to students of World War II, the Third Reich, the history of its occupied countries, and the use of art and architecture as instruments of the state.”"—Mark Montesclaros, H-Net
"Well-written, assiduously researched. . . . A fascinating case study, based on original documents."—Journal of Modern History
"Thorough and informed."—Alexander Adams, Alexander Adams Art
“Tackling a subject that has not been covered before, this original book adds to our knowledge and understanding of the Nazi occupation of Norway, Nazi expansionism, and the ideology of a new European order. Drawing on a wealth of new sources, and featuring an impressive range of illustrations, Hitler’s Northern Utopia is filled with interesting detail.”—Tim Kirk, author of Nazi Germany
“Using underexplored archives and bringing new material to light, Hitler’s Northern Utopia is an excellent history of the construction and significance of architecture and infrastructure projects in Nazi-occupied Norway. Despina Stratigakos also gives equal and subtle attention to Speer and Hitler’s imagined Norway as part of a postwar Germanic empire.”—Paul B. Jaskot, author of The Architecture of Oppression: The SS, Forced Labor, and the Nazi Monumental Building Economy
“Written by an accomplished architectural historian, this unusual study investigates Hitler’s racial fantasy of Nordic brotherhood by exploring the built remains of the German occupation of Norway and the popular resistance against it. This original account is supported by impressive photographs that illustrate the stunning extent of Nazi ambition as well as the failure to realize most of the plans.”—Konrad Jarausch, author of Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the 20th Century