The Monuments Men

Back to The Monuments Men | Kavli, Capt. Guthorm

Guthorm Kavli ( 1917-1995 )

Guthorm Kavli was a highly respected Norwegian architect and art historian from Trondeim, Norway. He received a degree in architecture from Trondheim University in 1941 and a degree in art history from Uppsala University in Sweden in 1946. Later in life, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Trondheim University in 1967.

When the Germans invaded Norway on the morning of April 9, 1940, they were met with largescale resistance. In Trøndelag, a region of middle Norway, the main defense took place at Hegra, a fortress on the valley ridge overlooking the Stjørdal valley. Here, Kavli and 200 volunteers held back several thousand German troops for twenty-three days. Courageously fighting off their invaders, the Norwegian resistance endured shelling, bombing, and dreadful living conditions. By the time they surrendered to the German forces on May 5, 1940, they were the last Norwegians still fighting in South Norway.

After a period of imprisonment, Kavli returned to his architectural studies. In September 1941, he escaped across the Norwegian border into Sweden. He studied art history in Uppsala for a brief period before escaping to England in May 1942 after several failed attempts. He joined the Norwegian forces in Scotland before connecting with FO2, the Norwegian High Command in London. During his spare time he started writing a book entitled Norwegian Architecture, Past and Present (1958). He also arranged for Norway’s entry into the United Nations Exhibition held in London.

Kavli served as a Monuments Officer for the Norwegian Army from 1942-1945. In 1944, he supplied the MFAA with a personally-compiled list of Norway’s Protected Monuments. After Germany’s surrender, Kavli was assigned to the SHAEF Mission to Norway as a member of the Norwegian Liaison Corps. While in Oslo, his knowledge of Norwegian architecture was integral to the success of the MFAA effort. In June and July 1945, Kavli delivered lectures outlining the work of the MFAA and SHAEF to the Norwegian Museum Directors and at the conference of the Allied Ministers of Education Commission for the Protection of Cultural Material. In October 1945, he published the article “How Norway’s Art Treasures Survived” in The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs. The article recounted the evacuation of the Norwegian National Gallery, as well as the story of Norwegian officials giving Himmler a fake copy of a sword he had selected from the Historical Museum. His other publications include The Royal Palace in Oslo (1970), Jarisberg (1983) and Norges Festninger (1987).

After returning to civilian life, Kavli remained an intensely active Monuments Man at heart for the duration of his life. He was deputy director of the Oslo Museum of Applied Art from 1950-1961, served on the State Committee for the Protection of Architecture in Case of War starting in 1961, and head administrator of the Royal Palace in Oslo from 1962-1987. In addition, he served as President of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences from 1963-64 and Chairman of the Norwegian Society for the Protection of Ancient Monuments from 1974-76. He also received the Herman Schrimer Award from the Norwegian Institute of Architects in 1958. In 1981, Kavli was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 1986 a Commander of the Norwegian Order of St. Olav.

Guthorm Kavli died in 1995.