Oral History Interview with
Chief, Marshall Plan Division, Ministry of Commerce, Norway, 1948-58.
Knut Getz Wold
May 21, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened January 1966
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Knut Getz Wold
May 21, 1964
by Philip C. Brooks
Mr. Getz Wold is the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Norway. He was recommended to me by the American Embassy in Oslo, and in a letter from Douglass Ballentine, of the Embassy, Mr. Getz Wold was referred to as the "Number 2 man" of the bank. Both Mr. Halvard Lange and Mr. Knorad Nordahl said that Mr. Getz Wold was one of the best men I could talk to.
As will be evident from the reading of the transcript, he is articulate and lucid. He could easily have gone into more details as to statistics and economic matters, I am sure. He is a rather spare man, with glasses, rather tall and thin, and a bit scholarly looking. He speaks excellent and fluent English with great ease.
Philip C. Brooks
DR. PHILIP C. BROOKS: Mr. Getz Wold, would you be kind enough to tell me first, so I will be sure to have it accurate in the record, what was your position in 1947, 1948? I understand that you were associated with the organization that was set up here to administer the Marshall Plan program.
MR. KNUT GETZ WOLD: Yes, that is right. I was, at that time, a division head, what we call in Norwegian, ekspedisjonssjef, in the Ministry. The Ministry of Commerce was divided into three or four divisions, all directly subordinate to the Minister.
I was in charge of one of them, which was concerned with foreign trade policies and operations of the Marshall Plan. I had this job from the spring of 1948 until 1958, when I came here as a deputy governor in the Bank of Norway. I should, perhaps, emphasize that I started in the spring of 1948, so my memory of what happened in 1947 is not quite so direct as it is in relation to what happened later on.
BROOKS: What was your position before that, Mr. Getz Wold?
GETZ WOLD: I was at that time, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs. I took part in the Havana Conference on International Trade, in the winter of 1947 and 1948.
BROOKS: As a person who was concerned with economic and social matters in Norway, generally, you
probably would have general impressions on many of these things.
GETZ WOLD: Yes, I would.
BROOKS: Even though you were not directly involved.
GETZ WOLD: At the outset, I was not directly concerned with the administration.
BROOKS: We think, in our country, of the Marshall Plan as one of the high spots of the Truman period. Is it so regarded in Norway? Were people here quite conscious of it and was it a significant thing at the time?
GETZ WOLD: Yes, I think it's fair to say that that is a feeling which is commonly shared among the majority of Norwegians. That feeling became stronger gradually than it was at the outset. Norwegians have a very positive appreciation of the achievements of that period.
I think most people look back upon the Marshall Plan as a very significant event.
BROOKS: I've been told that the interest of the Scandinavian countries, in the Marshall Plan was somewhat indirect, that the primary interest, that they had, was in the recovery of export markets on the Continent. Would you say that's correct for Norway?
GETZ WOLD: I think this was a wide-spread feeling when the Marshall Plan was initiated. We hadn't really felt, to the same extent as several other countries, direct emergency needs for foreign currency and so on. We were keenly interested in restoring export markets. The first evaluation as to the needs for aid in this country in 1947 was too low in relation to what was considered a realistic figure later on. But, this attitude gradually changed. The aid
given was, for a couple of years, very important. Norway got very considerable aid in relation to our total economy.
BROOKS: I was going to ask you, what do you think were Norway's greatest postwar needs? What kind of aid do you have in mind specifically?
GETZ WOLD: We did get financial aid in the form of, of course, foreign exchange, which covered our import needs to a large extent. We carried through, during that period, a considerable reconstruction and investment program. Compared with all other European countries, we had, at that time, as we have, for that matter, even today, an extremely high investment level. This was supported, by a fairly high internal rate of savings and the "austerity" policy. During that period and into the early fifties, Norway pursued an austerity policy, with rationing of consumers'
goods, a high level of taxation and so on. So our reconstruction and development needs were supported by a high rate of internal savings. But, that was not enough in a country which had been devastated through war and with capital equipment worn down to a large extent. We had to supplement our own savings by capital imports, either in the form of loans, or, mainly during the operation of the Marshall Plan, through direct aid -- gifts.
BROOKS: Norway has had an unfavorable balance of trade ever since the war, is that not right?
GETZ WOLD: That is right. Of course, our total current balance of payments has not been as unfavorable as the trade balance as such, because we have additional net revenue, particularly from the large mercantile fleet. But, with the exception of a few boom years in the shipping
industry, there has been a net deficit in our current balance of payments. This has been covered by capital imports from abroad in the form of loans or direct investments, or, through most of the Marshall Plan period, by direct aid from the United States.
BROOKS: I noticed, Mr. Getz Wold, in some statistics I read recently that the gross national product of Norway in 1946 was, I think, twice what it was in 1938. Does that sound right to you?
GETZ WOLD: In real figures, no. No, it couldn't because there had been a sharp reduction during the war. I think there was a remarkably rapid recovery in Norway, perhaps quicker than in most other countries. But, as early as 1946, no. A real level of GNP twice that of 1938 was not attained until the early fifties. I wonder whether yours are not nominal figures. That may
BROOKS: [Reading] Gross National Product, 1938 - 5,857 million kroner; 1946 - 11,030 million kroner.
GETZ WOLD: Yes, but surely, these are nominal figures, that is the explanation. Real GNP was not nearly as big as that, because of the increase of the price level. Real GNP in 1946 was about the same as in 1938, or slightly above.
BROOKS: What did you consider the greatest needs as to the direction of this aid? Was the primary aim to rebuild the shipping fleet, or to rebuild industry, or what was the main concern?
GETZ WOLD: There was a considerable emphasis on rebuilding and investments. The shipping fleet was considered important, partly because more than half the tonnage had been lost during the
war, when the Norwegian fleet sailed for the Allies. So there was a particularly acute need for rebuilding. This was considered a high priority target, because the ships were able to earn foreign exchange to cover import needs. Now, it has always been the case that most of the Norwegian ships are built abroad in England, in Sweden -- nowadays to a large extent in Germany and Japan, but of course not during this period. Sweden and Great Britain were the main suppliers. We had to rely upon credits from abroad to be able to finance that reconstruction.
BROOKS: When General Marshall made his speech, what many people consider the really unique feature of it was the suggestion that the European countries, themselves should draw up their statement of needs and administer this program rather than simply having it a direct "handout," as some people called it, from the United States. Did the Norwegians
feel that the necessary degree of cooperation among European nations was possible, that briefly after the war?
GETZ WOLD: There was a rapid development of public opinion on this point. When the initiative was first taken, most Norwegians, perhaps particularly in the government and the administration, would have preferred to have a definite amount of money allotted for our own uses. The idea that this was to be a common European enterprise, that the import needs of each country had to be scrutinized, to be judged one against the others was a rather new thought at the time. When the Marshall Plan Mission came to Norway, we felt they were nice people, whom we were happy to see. But I think at the outset many of us feared that this would lead to a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy and that it might create difficulties. But, the
climate changed very soon. It became generally appreciated that this approach had a definite positive value in itself. And, of course, it did create the habits of cooperation inside the OEEC in Paris. As an international economic organization, the OEEC was a tremendous success, because the Americans insisted upon European cooperation from the outset. I think many European Governments were often irritated not to be able to negotiate directly with the American authorities only on the am