Ineke’s Mitten begins in Narvik, Norway, a place I was introduced to through the work of woodcut print artists Rockwell Kent and Bruce Carter.
Many years before I began work on Ineke’s Mitten, I collected books illustrated by Kent after being introduced to his work by my grandmother, the local historian. They lived near each other in the Adirondacks.
In 1972, I met woodcut print artist Bruce Carter who, in 1967 was an artist-in-residence in Narvik. He added to his substantial body of work during this time including several murals which hang in the Narvik City Hall and in the Kiruna City Hall in Sweden.
He gave me “Lars” and “Arctic Couple” which I have on my wall today.
I began reading about the Tenth Mountain Division while I was publisher of Vail Magazine and interestingly enough many of the soldiers in the division were from Norway.
So, my story naturally begins in Narvik. Lars became Nels and a sense of life in Narvik, after the invasion, came from a book I collected, illustrated by Kent, entitled The Mountains Wait by Theodor Broch. Broch’s account of the occupation, after April 1940, revealed the stoic Norwegian resistance which they called the Ice Front.
The attack on Narvik began in February 1941 as the Allies massed to come to the aid of Finland and Norway against the Germans. Narvik was the strategic seaport from which valuable Swedish iron ore was shipped.
A month later, British destroyer HMS Glowworm intercepted a portion of the German invasion fleet headed to Norway. She rammed one of the vessels and sank. The next day, April 9, the German invasion force struck Norway, during which five British destroyers sank nine German cargo ships and two destroyers.
By June 10, however, the Allies evacuated Norway shifting forces to the Battle of France. The Germans were now in control of the ice-free harbor and the iron ore transported by the Ofoten Railway from Kiruna in Sweden to Narvik.