The life story of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the dark-haired singer from the pop group, ABBA is a fascinating one. It’s one of those classic rags to riches stories, with a fair amount of personal tragedy along the way. But it’s also one with an fascinating historical context, and one which provided the compelling narrative for the documentary, “Norways Nazi Secret” which screened last night on Foxtel’s “History Channel”.
At the heart of the program was the story of her mother, Synni’s relationship with Alfred Haase, a member of the German occupying forces in Norway during the Second World War. Although the program makes the case theirs was a two-year love story, the program locates their narrative within the context of the bizarre Nazi scheme which encouraged German soldiers to “breed” with “racially pure” Norwegian women.
According to the documentary, there were many thousands of children in a smilar circumstance to Anni-Frid, who who were often born in special hospitals and asylums, and whose early lives were closely monitored and meticulously documented by the Nazi’s, with each child asssigned a “Lebensborn number”. Although the program explains how many of the young women saw nothing more in their relationship than, say, “the attraction of a uniform”, the program also explains how many of these young women were seen as traitors. When the war ended, many of the women and the children found themselves shunned by the broader community, with the children sometimes placed in mental institions.
Anni-Frid was luckier. To escape the shame associated with her birth, Anni-Frid she was taken at a young age by her grandmother to Torshalla, a small town in Sweden. Soon afterwards, her mother followed, though Synni died soon afterwards, aged twenty-one, from kidney disease. Although it’s said Anni-Frid’s father, Alfred had promised to return to Norway after the war, he never did, and thus Anni-Frid was raised by her grandmother.
Although Anni-Frid escaped most of the excesses of abuse faced by other children in a similar circumstances, the program concludes her vdecision not to speak publically about the associated issues is evidence that she too has felt a life-long shame. One of Anni-Frid’s early musical influences, Charlie Norman, also describes how in her early life, she would always avoid discussion about her heritage, and was always a little withdrawn.
In the 1970s, however, at the peak of ABBA’s popularity, Anni-Frid was contacted by her father, Alfred Haase. In his book, “Bright Lights, Dark Shadows”, one of those interviewed for the documentary, Carl Magnus Palm, explained the apprehension Anni-Frid felt about meeting her father for the first time. For reasons unknown, Anni-Frid and Alfred no longer maintain contact. And until this particular documentary, the only other time this story received widespread coverage was when Haase appeared in a German tabloid magazine, pleading with Anni-Frid to resume contact.
Over the years there have been a number of newsaper article and television programs which have touched on the story of Frida’s heritage, and I thought this was one of the best I’ve seen. The program doesn’t seek to be a “tell all documentary” about “Frida’s Nazi Past”. This is a series program which seeks to tell an important story, using the story of a well-known person to personalise the narrative. That the program features people like Carl Magnus Palm, who I really respect, as well as a child-hood friend of Synni Lyngstad, as well as the photographer, Bubi Heilimann who had a friendship with Frida also gives it an air of credibility and respectability.