Joachim Roenneberg, 'Hero' Who Foiled Nazis' Nuclear Dreams, Dies

Elias Hubbard
October 23, 2018

OSLO-The leader of a daring World War II raid to thwart Nazi Germany's nuclear ambitions has died at age 99, Norwegian government officials said October 21.

Joachim Roenneberg was a World War II hero who led a team of five Norwegian resistance fighters on a daring raid to blow up a Nazi heavy water plant in German occupied Norway.

The operation - during which not a single shot was sacked - has been recounted in books, documentaries, films and TV series.

The plant was blown up that day in February 1943, becoming what Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg calls "the most successful sabotage campaign on Norwegian soil during the war", per the New York Post.

The explosion in Telemark, southern Norway, deprived Nazi Germany of a key ingredient that could have been used to produce nuclear weapons.

Picked by Britain's war-time Special Operations Executive to lead the raid when he was only 23 years old, Ronneberg was the youngest member of Operation Gunnerside, which penetrated and destroyed key parts of the heavily guarded Norsk Hydro plant.

The Heroes of Telemark starred Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris
Image The Heroes of Telemark starred Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris

Making the raid especially notable was that not a single gunshot was sacked; in a 2014 documentary, Roenneberg said the attack went off "like a dream", per the AP.

They then skied to their destination before penetrating the fortress-like plant to blow up its production line.

While a manhunt ensued, the group fled hundreds of miles across the mountains, with Roenneberg skiing to neighboring Sweden, a neutral country in the war, two weeks later.

Mr Ronneberg made a last minute decision to cut the length of his fuse from several minutes to a matter of seconds, in order to ensure the explosion would take place.

"We must not forget what he stood for and has passed on to us", said Eva Vinje Aurdal, mayor of his hometown of Aalesund, 380 kilometers (235 miles) northwest of the capital, Oslo.

The town ordered flags to fly at half mast on Monday and flowers were laid at the foot of a sculpture of Rønneberg, showing him in a uniform, walking up a rocky path.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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