Hanna Kvanmo

Hanna Kvanmo
Member of the Storting
In office
Constituency Nordland
Parliamentary leader of the Socialist Left Party
In office
Succeeded by Kjellbjørg Lunde
Member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
In office
Vice chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
In office
Preceded by Gidske Anderson
Succeeded by Gunnar Berge
Personal details
Born Hanna Kristine Hansen
June 14, 1926
Died June 23, 2005
Nationality Norway
Political party Socialist Left Party
Profession Teacher

Hanna Kristine Kvanmo (June 14, 1926 – June 23, 2005) was a Norwegian politician for the Socialist Left Party. She served as a Member of Parliament from 1973 to 1989, representing the county of Nordland, as the first parliamentary leader of the Socialist Left Party 1977–1989, and as a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the five-member committee awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, from 1991 to 2002. From 1993 to 1998, she was the Nobel committee's vice chair. During her term on the Nobel committee, she was responsible for the decisions to award the Nobel Peace Prize to individuals such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat and Kofi Annan. By profession, she was a teacher.

Early life

Hanna Kvanmo grew up in extremely poor conditions in the Norwegian town Harstad. Her father was a fisherman and her mother was a factory worker. Her parents were divorced, and she was brought up mostly by her mother.[1]

During World War II, the German occupation of Norway offered opportunities for poor people such as Hanna, who dreamt of becoming a nurse. As an 18-year-old (in 1944), Kvanmo joined the German Red Cross as a nursing student. She was stationed for some time on the Eastern Front, and in the last days of the war, she found herself working as a practical nurse in Berlin, thus experiencing the horrendous circumstances during the bombing and fall of the city. After the German defeat, she was interned in the British sector of Germany and only returned to Norway in late 1947. In Norway, she was tried and convicted of treason on behalf of the German occupying authorities following the war. She was given an 8-month prison sentence, which was suspended after an appeal to the Supreme Court, and a ten-year suspension of her rights as a citizen. The International Committee of the Red Cross protested against Norway for the practice of convicting Norwegian nurses who worked with the German Red Cross, arguing that such convictions were in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which forbid the persecution of Red Cross personnel as a war crime. Nevertheless, any involvement with the German Red Cross society was considered an act of treason by Norwegian authorities, in contravention with international law.[2]

Her activities during the war were often questioned later in her political career in the Socialist Left Party. In 1990 she wrote the book Dommen (The Verdict), where she made accounted for her reasons for joining the German Red Cross, and her experience of the treason trial. Among other things, she wrote that she experienced the conviction as such a heavy burden she considered taking her own life. The book became a bestseller in Norway, selling more than 83,000 copies.

After several years as a single mother working as a cleaning lady and cook, she married and passed the university entrance exam (examen artium) with distinction and worked as a gymnasium teacher at Rana Gymnasium from 1962 to 1973.

Political career

In Rana, Kvanmo was persuaded into joining local politics, and in 1973 she was elected to parliament, representing the Socialist Left Party (SV). From 1977 she served as the parliamentary leader for the party. Her outspoken and humorous character made her popular with the general public , and she became the most prominent member of SV. In 1975 and 1981 she was also a delegate to the UN general assembly. She retired from parliament in 1989. From 1991 to 2002, she was a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, serving as the committee's vice chairman 1993-1998.

Kvanmo was known as an opponent of the EU, she was also a dedicated peace activist. After retiring from parliament she moved with her husband to southern Norway and the town of Arendal, where she focused most of her energy on being a grandmother and a great grandmother. When asked about modern politics in 1999 - ten years after she left parliament - she said: "I wouldn't touch it with a fire-poker." At the point when SV was the smallest party in parliament with only two delegates, she said in a speech in a plenary session that as long as she was in parliament, the party would take up considerable space in the building, referring to her own full figure. In 1985 Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published an opinion poll about the most admired Norwegians. Among men, King Olav V was the most admired, among women it was Hanna Kvanmo. When asked to explain such popularity she answered, "I was just myself."

As the news of her death made headlines in Norway, her memory was heralded among former political friends and adversaries. Party colleague Berge Furre talked about her "borderless solidarity for the small. She gave politics a warm face." Former prime minister from the conservative party, Kåre Willoch said of her: "She was one of the most visible politicians of her time. She had immense significance for the Socialist Left Party and perhaps saved it during a difficult time." He continued, "Her form was unusual, but she won respect. She was one of the political colleagues one will remember for as long as you have your memory. Exceptional." Former Labour leader and prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland called her "an unusually skilled debater, full of humor and fearless." Erik Solheim, SV-leader in the years following Kvanmo's retirement summed her up as somebody "who always cared for the individual, at a time when the Norwegian left wing was dominated by theorists." Stein Ørnhøi, who was Kvanmo's party colleague for a four-year term when SV only had two representatives in parliament, summed her up as "the last of her kind in Norwegian politics. There will never be anyone like her again."

Political views

She was highly critical of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for their efforts of negotiating Israeli-Egyptian peace in the late 1970s.[3] When she was leader of the Socialist Left Party it was the only party in the Norwegian Parliament that already by 1980 advocated recognising the Palestine Liberation Organization.[4] She later wished to withdraw the Peace Prize awarded to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.[5]



  1. Hans Fredrik Dahl (2008-07-21). "Dommen over Hanna - Litteratur". Dagbladet.no. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  2. "Hanna Kvanmo – Norsk biografisk leksikon". Snl.no. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  3. "Norge burde gått mot anti-Israel-resolusjon" (in Norwegian). 29 November 1977. p. 5. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  4. "Uendret norsk syn på PLO" (in Norwegian). 11 June 1980. p. 40. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  5. "Angrer på fredspris tfl Peres" (in Norwegian). 5 April 2002. p. 27. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
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