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Vidkun Quisling, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Terboven, and Nikolaus von Falkenhorst seated in front of officers of the Waffen-SS, German Army and Air Force in 1941
Vidkun Quisling, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Terboven, and Nikolaus von Falkenhorst seated in front of officers of the Waffen-SS, German Army and Air Force in 1941

Quisling (/ˈkwɪzlɪŋ/; Norwegian pronunciation: [²kvɪslɪŋ]) is a term originating in Norway, which is used in Scandinavian languages and in English for a person who collaborates with an enemy occupying force – or more generally as a synonym for traitor.[1][2][3] The word originates from the surname of the Norwegian war-time leader Vidkun Quisling, who headed a domestic Nazi collaborationist regime during World War II.


Use of Quisling's surname as a term predates World War II. The first recorded use of the term was by Norwegian Labour Party politician Oscar Torp in a 2 January 1933 newspaper interview, where he used it as a general term for followers of Vidkun Quisling. Quisling was at this point in the process of establishing the Nasjonal Samling (National Unity) party, a fascist party modelled on the German Nazi Party. Further uses of the term were made by Aksel Sandemose, in a newspaper article in Dagbladet in 1934, and by the newspaper Vestfold Arbeiderblad, in 1936.[4] The term with the opposite meaning, a Norwegian patriot, is Jøssing.

Popularization in World War II

The use of the name as a term for collaborators or traitors in general probably came about upon Quisling's unsuccessful 1940 coup d'état, when he attempted to seize power and make Norway cease resisting the invading Germans. The term was widely introduced to an English-speaking audience by the British newspaper The Times. It published an editorial on 19 April 1940 titled "Quislings everywhere", in which it was asserted that "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 Daily Mail picked up the term four days after The Times editorial was published. The War Illustrated discussed "potential Quislings" among the Dutch during the German invasion of the Netherlands. Subsequently, the BBC brought the word into common use internationally.[5][6]

Chips Channon described how during the Norway Debate of 7–8 May 1940, he and other Conservative MPs who supported Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain called those who voted against a motion of no confidence "Quislings".[7] Chamberlain's successor Winston Churchill used the term during an address to the Allied Delegates at St. James's Palace on 21 June 1941, when he said:[8] "A vile race of Quislings—to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries—is hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while grovelling low themselves." He used the term again in an address to both houses of Congress in the United States of America on 26 December 1941.[9] 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: "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."[10] The term subsequently entered the language and became a target for political cartoonists.[11]

In the United States it was used often. Some examples include: In the Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Turk and Daffy (1944), it was uttered by a Thanksgiving turkey whose presence is betrayed to Porky Pig by Daffy Duck. In the American film Edge of Darkness (1943), about the Resistance in Norway, the heroine's brother is often described as a quisling.

Verb form

The back-formed verb, to quisle (/ˈkwɪzəl/) existed. This back-formed verb gave rise to a much less common version of the noun: quisler.[12]

However, H. L. Mencken (generally considered[by whom?] to be a leading authority on the common English usage in the United States) even in 1944 appeared not to be aware of the existence of the verb form,[13] and to quisle has entirely disappeared from contemporary usage.[14]

Postwar use

"Quisling" was applied to some Communist figures who participated in the establishment of Communist regimes. As an illustration, the renegade socialist Zdeněk Fierlinger of Czechoslovakia was frequently derided as "Quislinger" for his collaboration with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.[15]

"The Patriot Game", one of the best known songs to emerge from the Irish nationalist struggle, includes the line "...those quislings who sold out the Patriot Game" in some versions[16] (although the original uses "cowards"[17] and other versions substitute "rebels"[18] or "traitors").[19]

In a June 2018 New York Times column, Paul Krugman called US President Donald Trump a "quisling", in reference to what Krugman described as Trump's "serv[ing] the interests of foreign masters at his own country’s expense" and "defend[ing] Russia while attacking our closest allies".[20] Other publications also revived the term in the 2010s for use in describing President Trump and his associates and supporters.[21]

In pop culture

In Max Brooks' novel World War Z, "quisling" is used to describe humans that have broken down psychologically and act like a zombie.

In the 2019 film Drunk Parents, when a bumbling neighbor adds to the main characters' problems, the character Frank (Alec Baldwin) refers to him as a "little quisling".

In Season 1, Episode 8 of the TV series Billions, Bobby Axelrod announces to his staff that: "everyone is on notice until I find out who is on level and who is a quisling".

See also


  1. ^ "Quisling". Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Quisling". Collins English Dictionary (10th ed.). Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Quisling". Princeton Wordnet Dictionary.
  4. ^ Godal, Anne Marit (ed.). "Quisling". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norsk nettleksikon. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  5. ^ Dahl, Hans Fredrik (1995). "Quisling". In Dahl; Hjeltnes; Nøkleby; Ringdal; Sørensen (eds.). Norsk krigsleksikon 1940–45 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Cappelen. p. 334. ISBN 82-02-14138-9. (in Norwegian)
  6. ^ "First Days of 'Total War' on the Western Front". The War Illustrated. 1940-05-24. p. 540. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  7. ^ Jefferys, Kevin (1995). The Churchill Coalition and Wartime Politics, 1940–1945. Manchester University Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780719025600. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  8. ^ Prime Minister Churchill, Winston. "Speech to the Allied Delegates". British Library of Information. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  9. ^ "Say Quislings Back Winnie". The Windsor Daily Star. November 26, 1946. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
  10. ^ Prime Minister Churchill, Winston (December 26, 1941). "Address to the Congress of the United States". British Library of Information.
  11. ^ Tangenes, Gisle (19 September 2006). "The World According to Quisling". Bits of News.
  12. ^ "Quisler". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  13. ^ Mencken, H.L. (February 1944). "War of Words in England". American Speech. 19 (1): 13. doi:10.2307/486526.
  14. ^ Bolinger, Dwight L. (April 1941). "Among New Words". American Speech. 16 (2): 147. doi:10.2307/487442.
  15. ^ Gunther, John (1961). Inside Europe Today. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 334. LCCN 61-9706
  16. ^ "The Patriot Game lyrics". Bells Irish Lyrics. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Patriot Game lyrics". Bells Irish Lyrics. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  18. ^ Gerry Kearns (June 2015). "Geographical Formation 2: Larry Kirwan". The Geographical Turn. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  19. ^ Jude Collins (December 3, 2016). "Pat Kenny and Sinn Féin by Peter Pymen". Jude Collins website. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  20. ^ Paul Krugman (June 11, 2018). "A Quisling and His Enablers". New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  21. ^ Rich Lowry (January 27, 2016). "The Quisling Establishment". Politico. Retrieved July 17, 2018. Joe Scarborough (April 13, 2018). "Trump's miserable crew has never been so desperate". Washington Post. Retrieved July 17, 2018. These are desperate times for the quislings of Trump Robert Zubrin (August 2, 2016). "Is Donald Trump A Russian Quisling?". The Federalist. Retrieved July 17, 2018. Philip N. Dieh (June 22, 2016). "How the GOP is like an occupied country in World War II". The Hill. Retrieved July 17, 2018. The historical reference that more aptly applies to pro-Trump Republicans is that of the Quislings "Trump supporters are the new quislings". Los Angeles Times. October 14, 2016. Retrieved July 17, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 November 2019, at 14:22
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