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Oscar Torp

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Oscar Torp

Oscar Torp
Prime Minister of Norway
In office
9 November 1951 – 22 January 1955
Monarch Haakon VII
Preceded by Einar Gerhardsen
Succeeded by Einar Gerhardsen
Minister of Social Affairs
In office
13 November 1936 – 25 June 1945
Prime Minister Johan Nygaardsvold
Preceded by Kornelius Bergsvik
Succeeded by Sverre Støstad
Personal details
Born Oscar Frederik Torp
(1893-08-06)6 August 1893
Skjeberg, Norway
Died 1 May 1958(1958-05-01) (aged 64)
Oslo, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Kari Hansen
Profession Civil servant, electrician
Religion Church of Norway

    (8 June 1893 – 1 May 1958) was a Norwegian politician for the Norwegian Labour Party. He was party leader from 1923 to 1945, and mayor of Oslo in 1935 and 1936. In 1935 he became acting Minister of Defence in the government of Johan Nygaardsvold. He was also Minister of Social Affairs from 1936 to 1939, and then Minister of Finance from 1939 to 1942. He was appointed Minister of Defence again in 1942 in the London-based Norwegian exile government. He continued until the election in 1945 when he became Minister of Provisioning and Reconstruction until 1948.

Hailing from Skjeberg, he was first elected to the Parliament of Norway representing Oslo in 1936, but did not take a seat in the Parliament until 1948. He then became the fraction leader for the Labour Party in Parliament. He became Prime Minister of Norway in 1951 when Einar Gerhardsen stepped down from this position; the move was reversed in 1955 when Torp became President of the Storting. He held this position until his death.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Party chairman and cabinet member 2
  • Post-war career 3
  • Prime Minister 4
  • Domestic statesmanship 5
  • Death 6
  • References 7

Early life and career

He was born in Østfold county from 1921 to 1923.[1] He was also a supervisory council member in the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions from 1920 to 1925, and board chairman of Østfold Arbeiderblad from 1921 to 1923.[3] He was married to Kari Hansen (1893–1967) since April 1916.[1] He was the father of Reidar Torp.[4]

Party chairman and cabinet member

In 1922 Torp was a delegate at the Fourth Comintern Congress.[5] In 1923 the revolutionary wing that had assumed power in the Labour Party in 1918 had split into two wings, one for and one against Comintern membership. Torp belonged to the latter wing, which assumed power at the 1923 national convention. Torp was elected chairman of the entire party.[1] When he became chairman, the chairman of the party's youth wing (Peder Furubotn) was four years older than he was.[6] Torp chaired the party until 1945.[3] It has often been said, however, that Martin Tranmæl was the "real" chairman of the Labour Party.[1]

Torp had been a member of Sarpsborg city council from 1919 to 1923 and deputy member of Aker municipal council from 1925 to 1928[3] when he in 1930 moved to Oslo.[1] He served as mayor in 1935 and 1936,[7] and was elected to the Parliament of Norway in the Norwegian parliamentary election, 1936. By that time he had already become acting Minister of Defence in Nygaardsvold's Cabinet, filling in for Fredrik Monsen who was ill. He was then Minister of Social Affairs from November 1936 to July 1939, and Minister of Finance from July 1939 to March 1942.[3] In April 1940 Norway had been invaded by Nazi Germany, and Torp was responsible for initiating the successful flight of the Norwegian National Treasury.[2] After overseeing the start of the flight, he fled together with the rest of Nygaardsvold's Cabinet. In Åndalsnes he was injured in the foot during the German air raids. The Cabinet ultimately reached Tromsø where they embarked for England, where they stayed until the war's end.[1] Torp was acting Minister of Defence from November 1941 to February 1942, and then the permanent Minister of Defence from March 1942 to November 1945, in Nygaardsvold's and Gerhardsen's First Cabinet.[3] Torp was a former antimilitarist, and was imprisoned for five months in 1924 as he called for a military strike, but shed this ideology from the mid-1930s.[1]

Before the Second World War, Torp was also chairman of

Party political offices
Preceded by
Emil Stang, Jr.
Chairman of the Norwegian Labour Party
Succeeded by
Einar Gerhardsen
Political offices
Preceded by
Eyvind Getz
Mayor of Oslo
Succeeded by
Trygve Nilsen
Preceded by
Trygve Nilsen
Mayor of Oslo
Succeeded by
Trygve Nilsen
Preceded by
Adolf Indrebø
Norwegian Minister of Defence

Succeeded by
Fredrik Monsen
Preceded by
Kornelius Bergsvik
Norwegian Minister of Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Sverre Støstad
Preceded by
Kornelius Bergsvik
Norwegian Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Paul Hartmann
Preceded by
Birger Ljungberg
Norwegian Minister of Defence
(acting 1941–1942)
Succeeded by
Jens Christian Hauge
Preceded by
Egil Offenberg
Norwegian Minister of Provisioning and Reconstruction
Succeeded by
Nils Hønsvald
Preceded by
Einar Gerhardsen
Prime Minister of Norway
Succeeded by
Einar Gerhardsen
Preceded by
Erik Brofoss
Norwegian Minister of Trade and Shipping

June 1954
Succeeded by
Nils Langhelle
Preceded by
Einar Gerhardsen
President of the Storting
Succeeded by
Nils Langhelle
Civic offices
Preceded by
Johannes Gerckens Bassøe
County Governor
(absent from position)
Succeeded by
Gerhard Dahl
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Maurseth, 1987: p. 288
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^


Books about Torp include Nils Hønsvald's Oscar Torp, released in 1959, and Egil Helle's Oscar Torp – arbeidergutt og statsmann, released in 1983.[1] In 2007 Hans Olav Lahlum released Oscar Torp. En politisk biografi.[2]

Torp had a cerebral haemorrhage in the early 1950s, which he kept secret to most his acquaintances, even family. On 1 May 1958 he had a new cerebral haemorrhage, this time with a fatal outcome.[1] He died at Rikshospitalet. This was May Day, and Torp was scheduled as the main speaker in Stavanger. He was not able to do it, and thus, Arne Skaug read Torp's manuscript. When the speech was referred to in the newspapers the next day, it was accompanied by obituaries of Torp.[9] He was buried at Vår Frelsers gravlund.[8] A memorial stone was raised in Skjeberg in 1976.[1]


Torp was a member of the Labour Party central board and national board from 1945 to his death. He was also a board member of the Norwegian State Railways from 1948–1957 and chairman of the supervisory council of Folketeatret from 1948 to his death. In Vestfold he held a multitude of local chairmanships, including of the county tax board and the administration (Norwegian: Stiftsdireksjon) of the Diocese of Tunsberg.[3]

Torp was pressured to give the position back to Gerhardsen in January 1955, when Gerhardsen had strengthened himself for a few years as party chairman and President of the Storting. Torp, who was re-elected to Parliament in 1953 and 1957, succeeded Gerhardsen as President of the Storting, a position he held until his death. He was also County Governor until his death, albeit he was absent from the position for most of the time.[1] Gunvor Katharina Eker took his seat after his death.[3]

Domestic statesmanship

In November 1951 a political shock happened in Norway as Einar Gerhardsen unexpectedly resigned as Prime Minister of Norway. Gerhardsen then asked Oscar Torp to take over. Reportedly, Gerhardsen favored Sverre Støstad, but he rejected the offer.[2] Torp led his cabinet for four years, and also had to double as acting Minister of Trade and Shipping from 3 to 15 June 1954. Carl Henry took his seat in Parliament.[3]

Prime Minister

Much because of his exile, Torp was no longer found fit to be party chairman, and was replaced, against the party by-laws. He was also demoted to Minister of Provisioning and Reconstruction in Gerhardsen's Second Cabinet. He was pressured to leave this office as well,[1] and left on 10 January 1948. He sat through his parliamentary term to which he had been elected in 1945; until 1948 the deputy Eugen Amandus Pettersen had taken his seat. He was also the Labour Party parliamentary leader. He moved to Vestfold in 1948 as he was appointed County Governor there.[3] After a short time, he decided to stand for election again, and in 1949 he was elected for the Market towns of Vestfold county. In the same year he was one of the architects behind the Norwegian NATO membership.[1][3]

The German occupation ended on 8 May 1945, and the exiled politicians returned home. Torp chaired the Government Delegation from London to Oslo on 14 May 1945, and until 31 May 1945 he was thus the acting Prime Minister and acting Minister of Foreign Affairs in Oslo.[8]

Oscar Torp in April 1950

Post-war career


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