The Mystery of the Nazi Envelope, or the Search for Arthur Gorum
I spent much of this last winter sorting through my grandfather’s collection of stamps. They come from a variety of sources. Some he clearly cut off envelopes. Some he probably purchased, as they are in glassine envelopes. Some were gifted to him by a cousin in 1935.
I have zero idea how he came into possession of this envelope (click to enlarge).
The stamps make this question easy, on account of Norway having a long and illustrious history of boring stamps labelled with the slightly humorous (and, therefore, memorable) Norwegian country name: Norge.
Then there’s the postmark. A lot of countries have unhelpful postmarks, such as the letters around the outside of these. However, the center states “10 2 41.” Norway, like many European countries, lists dates as day, month, year, so this was postmarked February 10, 1941.
Was Norway even invaded by Germany? It’s not a country that gets mentioned much in history class. Moreover, Norway has a history of being neutral. A quick spin through Wikipedia tells me Germany invaded Norway in April of 1940, with Norway surrendering in June.
The Med Luftpost Par Avion label simply means this is meant to be airmail, which makes sense since it’s going to the U.S.
Geoffnet and Nazi Emblems
I love the internet. 10 seconds tells me Geoffnet is German for opened. This has gone through a Nazi censor who has opened the letter, studied the contents (which I do not possess), sealed it up with white tape and stamped its status on it.
Around the outside of the circular stamps is the phrase Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, which translates as Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. Their responsibilities included propaganda and censorship.
The original handwriting says something like Her Strabhur Sorum, Jackson, Montana, U.S.A. Thankfully, someone has scribbled “Arthur Sorum” in pencil above it. I would guess it’s a woman’s handwriting. It’s certainly not Grandpa’s. Actually, it’s pretty similar to my mom’s (although I’m not nearly convinced it is hers), but she has passed.
Now I abuse the Internet.
When you do searches for people, there’s all sorts of sites that state they have good info. Some of them even do. However, many only offer the info up after you have paid them. Don’t fall for it. Everything I use here has been collected for free.
My first Google search is “Arthur Sorum Montana,” and I get really lucky. Several sites offer info from the 1940 U.S. census, including archives.com. In 1940, There was an Arthur Sorum, age 32, living in Wisdom Township, Beaverhead, MT. He lived with Cora Sorum, 23, and William Sorum, 3.
But, most helpfully, he was born in Norway in approximately 1908.
So where is Wisdom Township in relation to Jackson, the address on the envelope? About 18 miles, with both towns residing within Beaverhead county (as per Wikipedia). I’m guessing Wisdom Township is so small that in 1941 the closest post office was in Jackson. Notice there isn’t even an address on the envelope. Even today there’s less than 10,000 people in the entire county.
Ancientfaces.com gives us an Arthur Sorum who lived from 1907 to 1987, with his final home being in Anaconda, MT, about 70 miles from Jackson. It also lists Cora Sorum as having lived from 1916 to 2002, which makes her 23-24 in the 1940. She also died in Anaconda. So Arthur and Cora were in the same household in 1940, and the modern records of Arthur and Cora are the right age and put them in the same town.
I can’t find an obituary for Arthur, But Cora’s states she married Arthur in 1934 in Dillon, which is also in Beavershead county. They worked on ranches in “the Jackson area” until eventually moving to Anaconda. It also gives lists of more relatives.
A couple other sites give me a William Sorum, also of Anaconda, who is currently 77 years old, which makes him 3 at the time of the 1940 census. WhitePages.com tells me where William A Sorum, age 65+, specifically lives within Anaconda.
Which still tells me absolutely nothing about how my grandfather came to possess it.
Who sent it?
The return address is small and tough to read. The name is Ole Sorum, but I cannot make out the location listed. Nor can I find Ole Sorum online, which doesn’t surprise me. His records are both older and foreign. I find one born in Norway 1831, but that would make him 110 in 1941, so that seems an unlikely match.