Iceland was in Heinrich Himmler’s sights in the 1930s. Himmler and other Nazis were fascinated with Nordic myths, a fact that is still annoying Iceland to this day. When the poet W.H. Auden visited Iceland, he was startled by the number of Nazis touring the country at the same time. The scout sent to convince Icelanders to join the Nazis, Dr. Werner Gerlach, became disappointed in the Icelandic people. He found them to be lazy and not concerned enough with their “family and race”:
“An Icelandic student was asked by his fellows, when discussing the Jewish matters: ‘Would you marry a Jewish woman?’ And he answered: ‘Yes, why not?’ Even the director of the national museum will hand an ashtray to a negro in a red coat.”
He was especially upset about how late everyone woke up in the morning:
“Earlier than ten in the morning, there is no possibility of waking anyone, and women not earlier than 12. Men work irregularly. Unemployment. Men do not use their energy for working, but rather to not go to the dogs. Everything, which for us is unimportant, becomes a goal for them (swimming, table tennis).”
Dr. Werner Gerlach was arrested by British Forces during their invasion of Iceland (Operation Fork), but Dr. Gerlach was released as a prisoner of war in 1941.
On November 10, 1944, the Icelandic cargo ship, Goðafoss, was sunk off the coast of Iceland by German U-boat. The ship, captained by Master Sigurður Gíslason, was stopping–against orders–to help the survivors of the sunk British steam tanker, Shrivan, which was torpedoed by a U-boat. The Goðafoss was torpedoed off the coast of Reykjanes by U-300, a German U-boat. Twenty-five of the forty-four people on board died, including two Icelandic doctors, a man and wife, returning from Harvard and their three children. The attack was visible from land and Icelanders could watch as the Góðafoss sank in less than seven minutes.
It’s a common statement for Icelanders to say, “the only war we’ve been in is the Cod War!”, but war affected Iceland, whether it was directly involved or not.
Here is the approximate place where the Goðafoss sunk (the wreck still hasn’t been found):
If you would like to read more quotes from the Nazi scout, Dr. Werner Gerlach, they are available in the National Archives of Iceland.
Below we have a video of Siguður Guðmundsson, a crew member on the Goðafoss, meeting Horst Koske, a member of U-300, 67-years after the terrible incident.