Leif Hovelsen

Leif Hovelsen

Tom Ross: Son of Norwegian ski pioneer triumphed over evil during WWII

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

In the first years after the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940, a bold Norwegian teenager with unexplored ties to Steamboat Springs risked his life to support the resistance.

Leif Hovelsen pedaled furiously past a roadblock with a shortwave radio rolled up inside the sleeping bag lashed to the handlebars of his bicycle. Detection might have cost him his life. Ultimately, it changed the course of his life forever.

Leif always will be regarded by the skiing community here as the embodiment of his father, Carl, who in February 1914 established the first Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival.

In so doing, Carl Howelsen (the Americanized version of the family surname), established a treasured tradition that still is gaining momentum 95 years later.

Carl Howelsen always will be recalled for the success he achieved in exporting ski sports to cities from New York to Chicago, then Denver and on to Hot Sulphur Springs and finally Steamboat Springs.

Leif Hovelsen, 85, remains passionate about skiing and about Steamboat, where his father's inspiration took full root. But there is a good deal more to this man, who, at the age of 19, was pulled from his parents' home outside Oslo and sent to a Gestapo prison.

Spend any time with Leif, and he freely will tell you of how choosing death over tyranny set him free. Press him a little, and he even will tell you what he thinks democratic society needs to do to move on from the moral morass of Guantanamo Bay.

The Gestapo ultimately caught up to Hovelsen when a colleague turned informant.

During his two-year imprisonment, he was pressed to cooperate with the Nazis. He refused until finally an officer told him he had a week to cooperate before a date was set for his execution.

It never happened, obviously. But during that week, Leif confronted his own mortality.

"I had to pass through a wall of fear and conquer hate," Hovelsen recalled last week. "I thought about my parents and that they needed me alive. I had one visit from my mother in two years.

"But I thought, if I give in for this, I will lose my soul and my personality."

Leif resigned himself to his inevitable death and found peace.

"I took a clear choice, choosing execution, and suddenly I was free. I felt an inner joy that was indescribable."

The Gestapo repeatedly postponed his trial and never came for Hovelsen. He studied history after the war and then joined a group called Moral Disarmament that worked to resist Soviet domination of free-thinking people.

Leif Hovelsen did not weigh in last week on the complexities of keeping America safe from legitimate terrorists who still may be imprisoned at Gitmo. And he expressed no desire to lecture America on how restore its integrity after the treatment of prisoners in the camp.

But as a man who forgave his Gestapo tormentors to their faces after World War II, he has the moral standing to tell us how to begin to move on.

"We have to acknowledge that it was wrong," he said softly.

Comments

Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

seeuski - Give it up! Obama is not going to ruin your world within the next 4 years. That was done the past 8.

Deal with it....Give this president a chance. You gave old Bushy plenty of chances and I'm certain you voted for his aging prodigy. The least you could do is give Obama more than 2 weeks to fix that mess.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? You are going to, with a straight face, compare the Muslim scum in Guantanamo with the innocents, Jews and others, who were mass murdered during WWII by the Nazi's? If you hate this place so much move to Venezuala, the great dictator Chavez awaits. The terrorist inmates at Guatanamo, including Khalid Sheik Muhammad, get their Korans and are allowed to pray to Allah freely there are no gas chambers and of the ones that have been released we have seen just yesterday are now back with their Al Quaida buddies threatening more death.

What a despicable flavoring to what could have been a beautiful story. Sucks!!!

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localboy17 5 years, 7 months ago

Well written Tom. Seeuski, you should rent the movie rendition. I know it is an extreme version of the truth that happens, and by no means am I taking the side of the terrorists, but often the US interprets aspects of a presons life and will destroy that persons life instead of chaulking the reasons up to coincidence. I don't know if you are talking to Tom or Leif, when you say move to venezuala, but in my opinion as a fan of Tom, and as some one that looks up to leif for his past, neither hates America. Maybe just relax a little bit and stop being uber extremist about terrorism. Not everyone that takes a different side than "screw those bastards!" hates America. It's called reason. Calm down.

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playa46 5 years, 7 months ago

Woah seeuski, relax a bit, give him a chance...

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Localboy, I definately was not directing my angst at Leif, it was not he who mixed in the present with the past. And no, I have a right to take offense at the comparison of the terrorists in Guantanamo to the Holocaust victims of Hitler. Sorry if I hurt your feelings by smackin down your boy Tom. And baloney about he doesn't hate America, the treatment those murderers in Guantanamo receives is way over the top, they deserve far less. But don't worry yourself, Obama is goin to set them free to fight another day. I would love to see you and others of the same mindset go and reason with the Al Quaida members. Enough talk from you all, how about the action. Hope you make it back with your heads.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Pass the koolaid you 2. Oh, have you gotten your bailout yet? ACORN is about to get several hundred million of our money. Obama's first interview= El Arabia news. Wonderful. Pelosi wants millions for abortion because that will save money. This string was about something else but the Apre ski koolaid has caused a drunken frenzy amongst the Obamamaniacs. We'll be watching over the next 4 years, and although I do want it to go well, I just don't want the debauchery that you all want. No socialism and no paybacks to the thiefs like ACORN and others. And Dukey, I don't go along with your silly statemant about the last 8 years. It was the dems and the redistribution of wealth programs via loans to unqualified borrowers that has brought down the world wide economy. The true facts are there for all to see with regard to Fannie/Freddie liar loan programs and the dems defense of them during Congressional hearings. The Repubs were called bigots by the dems for questioning the need for oversight. The videos of the hearings are available on youtube and c-span etc. Thanks to George W. Bush for keeping us safe since 9/11. I hope Barrack Hussein Obama has the wisdom to follow suit. We know thru Clinton that the appeasement process does not work. And the World was ok until the last 2 years when the dems took over Congress. Now back to the point: Tom Ross ruined a beautiful story with his stupid left wing anti American Guantanamo interjection. If he needed to he could have used an example like Darfur etc. which I am sure we would all have agreed to.

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trump_suit 5 years, 7 months ago

"Spend any time with Leif, and he freely will tell you of how choosing death over tyranny set him free. Press him a little, and he even will tell you what he thinks democratic society needs to do to move on from the moral morass of Guantanamo Bay."

I think this is a perfectly appropriate comment from a former POW. Even conservative republicans that were members of our armed forces oppose the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. John McCain has railed against all of the torture/detainment policies of the Bush administration, and would have come out against said treatment had he been our president.

Lets not mix economic policies with the closing of Gitmo/Guantoanamo. Two completely different policies and decision points. You do not have to be Democrat, Republican or Independant to disagree with human rights violations, just human.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

seeuski - Your comments were so predictable and YOU turned it into a political rant, nobody else.

Redistribution of wealth programs........Are you kidding? Was that a joke? Liar loan programs? You are basically stating that the typical mortgage applicant over the last 5 years could not read.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Duke: It didn't matter if applicants could read, your Acorn pals would file suit to force banks to lend. It was not required to prove income, as that would be cruel. This does not sound like capitalists in action. U.S. haters decry Guantanamo and Abu Graib as the end of all decency. Terrorists are always victims, and as long as the left will rise to the bait, they will continue to find backers for their cause. Europe will buy the victim role, as it allows them to sit on their hands, do nothing, and proclaim the U.S. and Israel as bullies.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

The analogy of the Gestapo treatment of the Norwegian civilian population in WWII and the American detainment of suspected terrorists in Gitmo is simply not a fair or apt comparison.

Neither is the comparison of execution and waterboarding.

After careful consideration, I must say I come down on the side of dunking those terrorists at every opportunity.

Does it make me feel good? No.

Does it make me feel bad? Not really.

Does it feel like it would be a dereliction of duty not to do it if it might save a single American life? Yes.

I guess I simply have no reservations with waterboarding a terrorist who I would otherwise kill if caught in the act of terrorism. I cannot embrace any compromise in safeguarding Americans.

I love Americans more than I care for terrorists.

But hey that's just me and I could be wrong!

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

Fred,

Banks were not forced to lend. Most, if not all, commercial banks were not the cause of this economic crisis. Regulations would not allow for those types of loans. Investment lenders caused the problem. Greed caused the problem. Consumers with no sense caused the problem.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Duke, Are you tellling me that this was an example of free markets at work? You have been listening to the Barney and Chris show.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

"Spend any time with Leif, and he freely will tell you of how choosing death over tyranny set him free. Press him a little, and he even will tell you what he thinks democratic society needs to do to move on from the moral morass of Guantanamo Bay."

I guess Tom had to press an 85 year old man, a decent man at that, into a statemant on Guantanamo. What the heck do you expect him to say? I love torture. Why would Tom not ask Lief how he feels about beheadings, stonings, the Taliban etc. etc. etc. Or even ask what he thinks of the desire of these Muslims to sanitize the world of Christianity, Judiasm, Bhudism or any other faith even Atheism and see if he retorts, well it must be deserved because of the US's terrible treatment of these poor people in Guantanamo. Nonsense!!! We are at war with the 21st century Nazi's, period. Sadam Hussein was a big fan of Hitler and governed in the mold he read and learned in Mein Kampf. The US under W did what had to be done on so many levels and should have been done early on in WWII not in 1944 but 1939 or 40. The Jews begged the US to bomb the death camps so the Nazi's would not have the tools to kill so many so fast but we flew right over on the way to other targets and a few more million died. For you guys to compare Guantanamo with the death camps is a wild destortion of history and will only create an environment for future terrorism like what we received on 9/11. But ofcourse, you probably are of the belief that W was behind that also, I have heard that nonsense from others. I must admit that I am a little sensative on this subject since I have relatives who were in the concentration camps and my Fathers family in Poland were wiped out. We have the right people, or subhumans, in Guantanamo and I feel no sympathy for your cause to free them. Sorry. What a great powder day though.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Dukey, You are wrong, wrong, wrong again. The fannie/freddie failure in 2003 was caused by what kind of loans? DING.... Liar loans. Those programs were increased in the late 90's and Clinton even warned the Dems that it was risky as he admitted on GMA before the election. Why don't you look it up for yourself. Seek the facts the election is over and your man won so there could be no harm in you seeking the real truth. The fact that ACORN used strong arm tactics with big Banks in Chicago back in the 90's to loan to poor people in the city and realized that they could pressure their Congressional leaders, Dems, to ease the regs and cause the Banks to have to lend because then Freddie/Fannie were backing the notes. They then fell into the redlining clauses so off we went and here we are. I beleive these programs were a Democrat backed way of legally redistributing wealth because now the taxpayers(us) are bailing out all of these institutions which leant(gave money) to unqualified borrowers knowing that they would default but the Gov't was guaranteeing the notes now so they had to or face redlining charges.

Or of course it was W's fault. Ho hum.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

"Redistribution of wealth programs::..Are you kidding? Was that a joke? Liar loan programs? You are basically stating that the typical mortgage applicant over the last 5 years could not read."

Dukey, The loans that started the default merry-go-round were originated in the early 2000's NOT just the last five years and all notes are backed by investment or securities. Do you work for free or are you greedy and take a paycheck? The programs began to tighten up a few years ago and some were even dropped as the defaults began to show. The real easy ones that were backed by Gov't did include no income, no/doc, no employement and stated income. I don't know where you get your info but try someplace other than NBC/MSNBC.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Tom, I think that this is your first article with a little mustard on it. I like it, and will eagerly look to read your next one. Give us something to chew on.

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localboy17 5 years, 7 months ago

Seeuski, What is missing from your comments is any knowledge what so ever about who you are talking to, which is both a positive and a negative of these coments. immediately you chaukled me up as a liberal, one against the war, one for obama, and also against bush and the republican party. Assumptions are the wrong move my friend. You know nothing. And I hope by saying pass the koolaid, you ment that as something other than a racist joke. If not, then it is only boosting my argument that you are ignorant, afraid, defensive, and will forever be held back by that.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

local, Why not state your ideals instead of your generality about my ignorance to your political beliefs. All you did was jump on me for my total disagreement of Tom's comparisons.

"Well written Tom. Seeuski, you should rent the movie rendition. I know it is an extreme version of the truth that happens, and by no means am I taking the side of the terrorists, but often the US interprets aspects of a presons life and will destroy that persons life instead of chaulking the reasons up to coincidence. I don't know if you are talking to Tom or Leif, when you say move to venezuala, but in my opinion as a fan of Tom, and as some one that looks up to leif for his past, neither hates America. Maybe just relax a little bit and stop being uber extremist about terrorism. Not everyone that takes a different side than "screw those bastards!" hates America. It's called reason. Calm down."

What am I supposed to get from that post? Sorry if I offend you but how the heck is pass the koolaide racist? Weird!

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Maybe reread my initial post along with Toms statement,

"Spend any time with Leif, and he freely will tell you of how choosing death over tyranny set him free. Press him a little, and he even will tell you what he thinks democratic society needs to do to move on from the moral morass of Guantanamo Bay."

And reconsider your 1st retort towards me. You could have just made a comment about the article but you chose to attack me personally so maybe it is you that has the thin skin. You gave and you recieved. Tough!

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

Fred - Yes.........20-30% market appreciation annually will cause the cash to run out when cost of living increases annually average 3-5%. This is really simple mathematics if you think about it. The consumers took advantage, as did realtors and brokers.

'Liar Loans'............BS on that one again. That goes back to greed and hedging bets that can't be covered.

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localboy17 5 years, 7 months ago

pass the koolaid could certainly be received as a racial statement, depending upon your views about the presidents race.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

Pass the Koolaid = James Jones incident not racist

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Terry Noble 5 years, 7 months ago

The name calling, ranting, bickering, etc. that goes on and on in here is a good example of why we as Americans are in the mess we are in. Doesn't anyone stop to think about the example we are setting for our children when they read these comments from the supposed adults around them? Doesn't anyone see that taking things and misinterpreting them does nothing but fuel ignorance? I would think most of you would understand what Tom was getting at and not jump at the chance to attack him. If we don't come together and do what is needed to fix our situation then we are doomed. What ever happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt? What ever happened to forgiveness? What ever happened to using logic and reason to solve problems? Look within yourself and say "what can I do to improve myself as an individual"? "What can I do to promote good will and rational solutions to the problems we face?" Get with it before it's too late. The price of failure is no longer an option, we have to be united and together! Please put your petty differences aside and concentrate on a united solution. Attacking Tom just because he left himself open to it isn't a solution.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Oh look another opinion has appeared. I did run into Lief this morning downtown and I stand by my first post and add mustard to it. The gentle old man has hearing aids walks gingerly and seems frail. Thrusting his story into the current political debate by putting words into his mouth was wrong. Sorry if that offends anyone.

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Terry Noble 5 years, 7 months ago

In my opinion this was a great article as it depicts what a great man Lief is. To exercise forgiveness is a quality I hope will never be lost. Lief's courage and dedication to freedom is another quality that I pray will never be lost by my fellow Americans. True he was the son of a great man but he is a great man in his own right. I would be proud and honored to be in his company any time any where. I also try to learn from history and I'm sure he could teach me much that may never be written. God Bless you Lief I know you will never stop professing what you have learned and believe in no matter what anyone says. To not learn from history is to be doomed to repeat it. And thank you Tom for persisting to use freedom of speech and writing in spite of what they try to do to tear it down!

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