From escaping Nazi-Germany to teaching at SIU: The story of Kris Juul


Kris Juul, a 94-year-old Norwegian veteran, Nazi-Germany refugee and former SIU professor smiles for a portrait while speaking about his time in Norway on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at his home in Carbondale. Juul was one of several Norwegians that were able to escape the Nazi rule. Juul later had boarded a ship with about 400 to 500 Norwegian students and went to the United States. “When I woke up, the ship was in the harbor in New York,” Juul said. “There [was] the Statue of Liberty [at] about 5 o’clock in the morning.” (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Kris Juul, a 94-year-old Norwegian veteran, Nazi-Germany refugee and former SIU professor, will be the first ever Allied soldier to be honored by the Honor Flight Network.

The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans for sacrifices made in their service.

“It’s an honor to have him on our flight,” said Nancy Brown, retired Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Southern Illinois Veterans Honor Flight.

Brown said Juul has an amazing story about escaping the Nazis and has very much earned the right to go on one of the honor flights.

“We actually hadn’t expected it, but he definitely is a WWII veteran and fought alongside the U.S.,” Brown said.

Born in Norway in 1924, Juul was 16 years old when the Nazis invaded in 1940 — he was someone they wanted on their side.

From 1939 to 1942, Juul attended high school or “gymnasium” in Norway and his success there was published in the local press.

“Every year he was in the gymnasium had the highest score in the country and they published it everywhere,” Kris Juul’s wife,Joan Juul, said.

When the Nazis were in Norway from 1940 to 1945, they were looking for bright young soldiers to recruit into their army and Juul was on top of their recruiting list.

“I had damn good education in Norway,” Juul said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Juul was commended on having his own independent thoughts and his ability to not be influenced by Nazi propaganda, according to Norwegian recommendation letters provided.


[aesop_document type=”image” src=”” caption=”Letter of Recommendation 1″]

[aesop_document type=”image” src=”” caption=”Letter of Recommendation 2″]


Hitler and the Nazis used propaganda to spread ideals of National Socialism which included racism, anti-semitism and anti-Bolshevism, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Nazi’s message was communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials and the press.

On April 9, 1940, the Nazis invaded Norway and civil rule was established by the Reich Commissariat of Norway, a civilian occupation regime which collaborated with a pro-German puppet government.

The puppet government was installed in Norway so the Nazis could govern the country with their own interest.

As a result, the Norwegian King and prewar government fled to London where they continued their governmental duties.

Juul was ordered join the S.S. in 1944 at the age of 21. The S.S., or Schutzstaffel ran concentration and extermination camps across Europe and was part of the elite agency of security and surveillance for Nazi Germany.

Instead of joining the S.S., Juul chose to work with The Underground in 1942, which was a secret escape network working against the Nazis and their agenda.

“He remembers that he agreed to operate a radio in his bedroom – the only radio in Årøsund – and report on news he learned from the BBC,”  Kris Juul’s daughter, Kitty Juul, said. “According to one of the letters of recommendation from one of his teachers, he risked his life to save his village from the Nazis.”

The Underground helped young men who were drafted to flee Norway.

According to a letter of recommendation from a teacher, Juul felt he could better serve his country from England.  

Kris Juul, former SIU professor laughs alongside his daughter Kitty on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at his home in Carbondale. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

“They wanted to save him and keep him from the Nazis. The Nazis wanted the brightest people from Norway,” Joan Juul said. “So they saved him through the underground.”

“Kris has said time and time again all these people risked their lives above and beyond to save him,” she said.

Juul narrowly escaped capture by the Nazis in 1941 when they raided his university, the University of Oslo.

“When the Nazis came, the university took a strong stand against the Nazis and the president was arrested,” Joan Juul said. “They took away all the professors and students that they could find.”

Juul didn’t attend university the day the Nazis came to his school because he didn’t have classes. He went into hiding after his university was raided by the Nazis.

“The students and professors who were not caught, [the Nazis] kept looking for them anyway,” Juul said. “I was one of those they were looking for, that’s how I was in hiding – I didn’t know, nobody said anything.” 

“The less you know, the less you can reveal,” he added. 

The Underground protected Juul in Oslo where he was kept in hiding for weeks. In the meantime, his parents remained at home and had no idea where he was.

For their safety, he did not tell them he was leaving.

When the war ended, the BBC announced which Norwegian boys were still alive and that’s when his parents found out he was coming home, Kitty Juul said.

After the university was raided, a professor secretly continued to educate and test students in hiding and put test results in a bank until after the war.

Kitty Juul said the students and professors who were captured across universities in Norway were taken to concentration camps.

“The Nazis had sent all the professors and teachers to concentration camps,” Kitty Juul said. “All the intellectuals were taken away.”

The Nazis had sent all the professors and teachers to concentration camps – all the intellectuals were taken away.

— Kris Juul

After hiding for weeks at the university president’s apartment in Oslo, the Underground came to take Juul to Sweden.

“The Underground came to get me out of the country,” Kris Juul said. “They took me to a harbor to a fishing boat and then at night they took me across the North Sea to Sweden.”

Juul and a friend left from the coast of Norway. 

The boat ride was about 10 hours, and they traveled through the Oslofjord, a narrow inlet in the south-east of Norway and continued through the North Sea.

When Juul and his friend were smuggled out of Norway in the fishing boat, they hid by lying on their stomachs on the deck underneath fishing nets to conceal themselves from any Nazis.

German boats went back and forth all the time looking for refugees, Juul said. 

“We were lying there, but that was nothing,” Juul said. “When we were far enough out to sea [and] there were no more German ships, we got out from under the nets and then we got to Sweden.”

It was four o’clock in the morning when Juul arrived in Sweden after being smuggled on the boat from Norway.

At the time, Sweden was a neutral country and friendly to Norway.

“They put me on an island which was as big as this room with no vegetation and I fell asleep” Juul said. “When I woke up somebody in a uniform stood looking down at me.” 

“It was a Swedish policeman and he said ‘welcome to freedom.’ That’s after five years of being under Nazi occupation, so the idea of being in freedom was fantastic,” he said. 

Juul stayed in Sweden for several weeks along with 50,000 Norwegian refugees until an English plane came to Stockholm.

In 1944, Juul boarded the plane and flew to London to join the Royal Norwegian Air Force and escape after being drafted by the Nazis.

In England, he met the crown prince of Norway who was the acting head of Norwegian services. There, Juul signed up to be in the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

Originally he wanted to be a pilot, but the training center was discontinued because it was close to the end of the war, so instead Juul began handling maps in the Norwegian Air Force.

Juul worked in an English military center near the channel between England and France and said at one point he oversaw a German prisoner of war camp.

In addition to being in the Air Force at the time, Juul was also going back to University of Oslo part time.

When Juul arrived in London, the city had been bombarded for years due to “The Blitz,” a German bombing offensive against Britain throuhgout 1940 to 1941.

“The city was in ruins but the people were still strong,” Juul said. 

As a result of the destruction, families were living in London’s Tube network underground and from there people would go to work, he said.

When Juul was in London, U.S. planes would fly over the city on the way to German-occupied territories to bomb.

“I still have the incredible feeling of joy,” Juul said. “All these planes were going to bomb my enemy and we are going to win.” 

Despite the strikes, Juul said he was still traumatized because only one third of the planes would come back.

“Many of these young soldiers, they were flying their first flight and their last,” he said. “This is traumatic but it’s true and they died for us and these were young boys from all over the country.” 

When the war ended, the U.S. government arranged for 500 students from the University of Oslo to come to the U.S. to study at different universities and colleges.

Juul said American universities offered scholarships because they knew the University of Oslo had been closed down for five years. Juul wanted to study English and was accepted for a scholarship to Western Michigan University where he went on to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

He was still in the gymnasium when the teachers were sent to concentration camps and he took over teaching some of the lower grades – that’s when Juul decided he wanted to be an English teacher.

His goal was to study for one year in the U.S. and return to Norway to teach English. 

When Juul was awarded the scholarship, he had two weeks before the boats left.

Juul rushed down to Oslo to get the records necessary for him to go to Western Michigan. He said that process of getting the papers he needed for his visa and passport usually took weeks.

“I went to the police headquarters and, lo and behold, the man behind the counter I knew very well because he was [my] next door neighbor,” Juul said. “So [the process] took about 15 minutes instead of five months and that’s one of the remarkable things.”

Juul boarded a ship with about 400 to 500 Norwegian students and went to the United States.

“When I woke up, the ship was in the harbor in New York and there is the Statue of Liberty about 5 o’clock in the morning,” Juul said. 

In some of Juul’s first days in New York, he was put in charge of a section of a summer camp in Bear Mountain where he had 10 students.

“They were 12-year-olds and black… I had never seen a black child before,” Juul said. “I was supposed to be scared shitless but I was not – I thought they were darling.” 

Juul said he was subsequently invited to many lectures from many countries to talk about his experience and kindness with children.

After studying at Western Michigan University, he worked on his graduate work at Wayne State University in Detroit where he got a master’s degree in psychology, and then a Ph.D. in educational psychology.

He made his way to Carbondale after he was invited to work at SIU by a friend who was head of the special education department.

Juul accepted, and taught special education at SIU from 1970 to 1993. He has been living in Carbondale ever since.

“We are very happy here,” Juul said. 

Features Editor Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kittfresa.

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Campus editor Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.