The Danish resistance movements (Danish : Danske Modstandsbevægelsen) were an underground insurgency to resist the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. Due to the initially lenient arrangements, in which the Nazi occupation authority allowed the democratic government to stay in power, the resistance movement was slower to develop effective tactics on a wide scale than in some other countries.
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.
A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to withstand the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability. It may seek to achieve its objectives through either the use of nonviolent resistance, or the use of force, whether armed or unarmed. In many cases, as for example in Norway in the Second World War, a resistance movement may employ both violent and non-violent methods, usually operating under different organizations and acting in different phases or geographical areas within a country.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
By 1943, members of the Danish resistance movement were involved in underground activities, ranging from producing illegal publications to spying and sabotage. Major groups included the communist BOPA (Danish : Borgerlige Partisaner, Civil Partisans) and Holger Danske, both based in Copenhagen. Some small resistance groups such as the Samsing Group and the Churchill Club also contributed to the sabotage effort. Resistance agents killed an estimated 400 Danish Nazis, informers and collaborators until 1944. After that date, they also killed some German nationals.
Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring, in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome. In some circumstances it may be a legal tool of law enforcement and in others it may be illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of intelligence gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions.
BOPA was a group of the Danish resistance movement; it was affiliated with the communists and developed after the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
In the postwar period, the Resistance was supported by politicians within Denmark and there was little effort to closely examine the killings. Studies were made in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and people learned that there was sometimes improvised and contingent decisionmaking about the targets, with some morally ambiguous choices. Several important books and films have been produced on this topic.
During the invasion of Denmark on April 9, 1940 and subsequent occupation, the Danish king and government chose not to flee the country and instead collaborated with the German authorities who allowed the Danish government to remain in power. The Germans had reasons to do so, especially as they wanted to showcase Denmark as a "model protectorate", earning the nickname the Cream Front (German : Sahnefront), due to the relative ease of the occupation and copious amount of dairy products. As the democratically elected Danish government remained in power, Danish citizens had less motivation to fight the occupation than in countries where the Germans established puppet governments, such as Norway or France. The police also remained under Danish authority and led by Danes.
The German invasion of Denmark was the German attack on Denmark on 9 April, 1940, during the Second World War. The attack was a prelude to the main attack against Norway. The term Weserübung means Weser-exercise in English, named after the river Weser in northwestern Germany.
A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Daily life in Denmark remained much the same as before the occupation. The Germans did make certain changes: imposing official censorship, prohibiting dealings with the Allies, and stationing German troops in the country. The Danish government actively discouraged violent resistance because it feared a severe backlash from the Germans against the civilian population.
Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institutions, and corporations.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Immediately after the occupation began, isolated attempts were made to set up resistance and intelligence activities. Intelligence officers from the Danish army, known as the "Princes," began channeling reports to London allies as early as April 13, 1940. Soon afterwards, Ebbe Munck, a journalist from Berlingske Tidende, arranged to be transferred to Stockholm. From there he could more easily report to and communicate with the British.
London is the capital of and largest city in England and the United Kingdom, with the largest municipal population in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 965,232 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.6 million in the urban area, and 2.4 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Outside the city to the east, and along the coast, is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the county seat of Stockholm County.
Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 the Germans banned the Danish Communist Party and had the Danish police arrest its members.Those members who either avoided arrest or later escaped thus went underground and created resistance cells. From October 1942, they published a clandestine newspaper, Land og Folk ("Land and People"), which was distributed widely across the country. Circulation grew to 120,000 copies per day by the end of the occupation. At the beginning of 1943, the cells were centrally coordinated under BOPA (Borgerlige Partisaner - Civil Partisans), which also began to plan acts of sabotage.
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aim of conquering the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, and to also use some Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.
A clandestine cell system is a method for organizing a group of people such as resistance fighters, sleeper agents, or terrorists so that such people can more effectively resist penetration by an opposing organization.
Land og Folk was a Danish language communist daily newspaper printed in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 1919 and 1982.
As time went on, many other insurgent groups formed to oppose the occupation. These included the Hvidsten group, which received weapons parachuted by the British, and Holger Danske, which was successful in organizing sabotage activities and the assassinations of collaborators. The Churchill club, one of the first resistance groups in Denmark, was a group of eight schoolboys from Aalborg. They performed some 25 acts of sabotage against the Germans, destroying Nazi German assets with makeshift grenades and stealing Nazi German weapons.
When the Germans forced the Danish government to sign the anti-Comintern pact, a large protest broke out in Copenhagen.
The number of Danish Nazis was low before the war, and this trend continued throughout the occupation. This was confirmed in the 1943 parliamentary elections, in which the population voted overwhelmingly for the four traditional parties, or abstained. The latter option was widely interpreted as votes for the Danish Communist Party. The election was a disappointment for the National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (DNSAP) and German Reichsbevollmächtigter . Dr. Werner Best abandoned plans to create a government under Danish Nazi leader Frits Clausen, due to Clausen's lack of public support.
In 1942-43, resistance operations gradually shifted to more violent action, most notably acts of sabotage. Various groups succeeded in making contacts with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) which began making airdrops of agents and supplies. There were not many drops until August 1944, but they increased through the end of the occupation.
On 23 April 1940,members of Danish military intelligence established contacts with their British counterparts through the British diplomatic mission in Stockholm. The first intelligence dispatch was sent by messenger to the Stockholm mission in the autumn of 1940. This evolved into regular dispatches of military and political intelligence, and by 1942-43, the number of dispatches had increased to at least one per week. In addition, an employee of Danmarks Radio was able to transmit short messages to Britain through the national broadcasting network.
The intelligence was gathered mostly by officers in the Danish army and navy; they reported information about political developments, the location and size of German military units, and details about the Danish section of the Atlantic Wall fortifications. In 1942, the Germans demanded the removal of the Danish military from Jutland, but intelligence operations continued. It was carried out by plainclothes personnel or by reserve officers, since this group was not included in the evacuation order.Following the liberation of Denmark, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery described the intelligence gathered in Denmark as "second to none".
As the years went by, the number of acts of sabotage and violence grew. In 1943, the number grew dramatically, to the point that the German authorities became dissatisfied with the Danish authorities' handling of the situation. At the end of August, the Germans took over full administration in Denmark, which allowed them to deal with the population as they wished. Policing became easier for the Nazis, but more and more people became involved with the movement because they were no longer worried about protecting the Danish government.
In particular, the Danish Freedom Council was set up in September 1943, bringing together the various resistance groups in order to improve their efficiency and resolve. An underground government was established. Allied governments, who had been skeptical about Denmark's commitment to fight Germany, began recognising it as a full ally.
Due to concerns about prisoners and information held in Gestapo headquarters at the Shellhus in the centre of Copenhagen, the resistance repeatedly requested a tactical RAF raid on the headquarters to destroy records and release prisoners. Britain initially turned down the request due to the risk of civilian casualties, but eventually launched Operation Carthage, a very low-level raid by 20 de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers, escorted by 30 P-51 Mustang fighters. The raid succeeded in destroying the headquarters, releasing 18 prisoners of the Gestapo, and disrupting anti-resistance operations throughout Denmark. However, 125 civilians lost their lives due to the errant bombing of a nearby boarding school.
In 1943, the movement scored a great success in rescuing all but 500 of Denmark's Jewish population of 7,000-8,000 from being sent to the Nazi concentration camps by helping transport them to neutral Sweden, where they were offered asylum.The Danish resistance movement has been honoured as a collective at Yad Vashem in Israel as being part of the "Righteous Among the Nations". They were honoured as a collective rather than as individuals at their own request.
Another success was the disruption of the Danish railway network in the days after D-Day, which delayed the movement of German troops to France as reinforcements.
By the end of the war, the organized resistance movement in Denmark had scored many successes. It is believed to have killed nearly 400 persons (the top official number is 385) from 1943 through 1945, who were Danish Nazis, informers or collaborators thought to pose a threat to the Resistance, or Danes working for the Gestapo.The rationale behind the executions was discussed, and several accounts by participants said a committee identified targets, but no historic evidence of this system has been found. In the postwar period, while the killings were criticized, they were also defended by such politicians as Frode Jakobsen and Per Federspiel.
The movement lost slightly more than 850 members, in action, in prison, in Nazi concentration camps, or (in the case of 102 resistance members) executed following a court-martial.
The Danish National Museum maintains the Museum of Danish Resistance in Copenhagen.
Since the late 20th century, there has been more discussion about the morality of some of the killings carried out by the resistance, sparked by a TV series about the death of Jane Horney, a Danish citizen killed at sea in what Frode Jakobsen defended as an act of war.
With the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, the issue was re-examined in two new studies: Stefan Emkjar's Stikkerdrab and Peter Ovig Knudsen's Etter drabet, "the first profound approaches into the topic."Both authors used veterans of the resistance movement, and covered the sometimes contingent, improvised nature of some of the actions. It suggested that some of the noted Bent Faurschou-Hviid (Flammen)'s executions may have been mistakenly directed by a double agent. Knudsen's work was adapted as a 2-hour documentary film, With the Right to Kill (2003), which was shown on TV and later released in theaters. These works have contributed to a national discussion on the topic. Flame and Citron (Flammen og Citronen, 2008) is a fictionalized drama film based on historic accounts of the two prominent Danish resistance fighters, directed by Ole Christian Madsen. It portrays some of the moral ambiguity of their actions.
The extent to which the Danish resistance played an important strategic role in the war has been the subject of much discussion. Immediately after the war and until about 1970, the vast majority of accounts overrated the degree to which the resistance had been effective in battling against the Germans by acts of sabotage and by providing key intelligence to the Allies. More recently, however, after re-examining the archives, historians concur that, while the resistance provided a firm basis for moral support and paved the way for post-war governments, the strategic effect during the occupation was limited. The Germans did not need to send in reinforcements to suppress the movement, and garrisoned a comparatively small number of Wehrmacht troops to defend the country. The resistance did not enter into active combat. Even the overall importance of Danish intelligence in the context of Ultra is questionable.
In his history, No Small Achievement: Special Operations Executive and the Danish Resistance 1940-1945 (2002), Knud Jespersen examined the relationship between British Intelligence and the Danish Resistance. He quoted a report from SHAEF stating that the resistance in Denmark
"caused strain and embarrassment to the enemy...[and a] striking reduction in the flow of troops and stores from Norway [that] undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the reinforcements for the battles East and West of the Rhine."
Examining the British archives, Jespersen also found a report concluding "that the overall effect of Danish resistance was to restore national pride and political unity."He agreed that this was the movement's most important contribution to the nation.
At the outset of World War II, Denmark declared itself neutral. For most of the war, the country was a protectorate, then an occupied territory of Germany. The decision to occupy Denmark was taken in Berlin on 17 December 1939. On 9 April 1940, Germany occupied Denmark in Operation Weserübung and the king and government functioned as normal in a de facto protectorate over the country until 29 August 1943, when Germany placed Denmark under direct military occupation, which lasted until the Allied victory on 5 May 1945. Contrary to the situation in other countries under German occupation, most Danish institutions continued to function relatively normally until 1945. Both the Danish government and king remained in the country in an uneasy relationship between a democratic and a totalitarian system until the Danish government stepped down in a protest against the German demands to institute the death penalty for sabotage.
The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On October 1, 1943, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. The Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many Danish citizens, managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews, plus 686 non-Jewish spouses, by sea to nearby neutral Sweden.
Forum Copenhagen is a large multi-purpose, rentable indoor arena located in Frederiksberg, Denmark. It hosts a large variety of concerts, markets, exhibitions and other events. The venue can hold up to 10,000 people depending on the event. The Forum operates as a convention center, concert hall and indoor arena.
Holger Danske was a Danish resistance group during World War II. It was created by veteran volunteers from the Winter War who had fought on the Finnish side against the Soviet Union. It was among the largest Danish resistance groups and consisted of around 350 volunteers towards the end of the war. The group carried out about 100 sabotage operations and was responsible for around 200 executions of informers who had revealed the identity and/or the whereabouts of members of the resistance. The group was named after the legendary Danish hero Holger Danske.
Georg Quistgaard was one of 102 members of the Danish resistance to the German occupation of Denmark in World War II who were executed following a court-martial.
The Hvidsten Group was a Danish resistance group during World War II named after the Hvidsten Inn between Randers and Mariager in Jutland where it was formed.
The Danish Freedom Council was a clandestine body set up in September 1943 in response to growing political turmoil surrounding the occupation of Denmark by German forces during the Second World War.
Major Flemming Bruun Muus, DSO was a Danish author and resistance fighter during the German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War.
The Churchill Club was a group of eight teenage schoolboys from Aalborg Cathedral School in the north of Jutland who performed acts of sabotage against the Germans during the occupation of Denmark in the Second World War.
The Red Meadows is a 1945 Danish war drama directed by Bodil Ipsen and Lau Lauritzen Jr. based on resistance fighter Ole Valdemar Juul's 1945 novel of the same name. The film, starring Poul Reichhardt and Lisbeth Movin, is a suspense tale revolving around the memories of a Danish saboteur as he awaits his execution in a German war-time prison. Filmed in Denmark only months after the end of the German occupation during World War II, Red Meadows was a tribute to the Danish resistance fighters. The film received the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is considered a stylistic masterwork.
Eli Fischer-Jørgensen was a professor of linguistics at the University of Copenhagen, she was a member of the Danish resistance movement fighting against the German occupation of Denmark.
Bent Faurschou Hviid was a member of the Danish resistance group Holger Danske during World War II. He was quickly named "Flammen", for his red hair. In 1951, he and his Resistance partner Jørgen Haagen Schmith, were posthumously awarded the United States Medal of Freedom by President Harry Truman.
Events from the year 1943 in Denmark.
Jørgen Haagen Schmith, better known under the codename Citronen, was a renowned fighter in the Danish resistance movement during the German Occupation of Denmark of 1940-45. In 1951 he and his partner Bent Faurschou Hviid were posthumously awarded the United States Medal of Freedom by President Harry Truman.
Gunnar Dyrberg was a member of the Danish resistance movement during World War II, leading the Holger Danske, a Danish resistance group in the capital Copenhagen, from 1943 to 1945. After the war, Dyrberg became a public administrator, holding several appointed positions in government, and later a public relations executive in banking. For more than 40 years, he also owned and operated a horse farm, breeding and training Icelandic horses in Høsterkøb, North Zealand.
Knud Jespersen was a Danish politician. Jespersen served as chairman of the Communist Party of Denmark between 1958 and 1977 and was a member of parliament between 1973 and 1977.
Monica Emily Wichfeld was a leading member of the Danish resistance during the German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War.
Kjeld Toft-Christensen MC was a Special Operations Executive officer and Danish resistance fighter during the Second World War. Toft-Christensen was born in Copenhagen to Aage and Elna Elise Toft-Christensen but later emigrated and joined the French Foreign Legion. During the Second World War he served with the Free French in North Africa before he left for England where he joined the British Army. He was trained as a parachutist and in sabotage tactics in the Buffs and obtained the rank of Lieutenant. On 4 April 1944 he was dropped into Skive in Denmark to assist the local resistance under the codename "Dahl". Kjeld Toft-Christensen joined the resistance in Aarhus as a liaison and intelligence officer. He became a part of the newly formed L-groups, focused on assassinations, and worked primarily in and around Aarhus.
Povl Falk-Jensen, better known under the codename Eigil, was a fighter in the Danish resistance movement during the German occupation of Denmark of 1940–45. Falk-Jensen was a member of the resistance group Holger Danske and the leader of the sub-group Eigil. Falk-Jensen was responsible for eleven executions of informers or collaborators and wrote his memoir entitled Holger Danske - Afdeling Eigils sabotager og stikkerlikvideringer under Besættelsen.
Anna Louise Christine "Lone" Maslocha, also Masłocha, née Mogensen was a Polish-born Danish photographer who became a resistance fighter during the German occupation of Denmark in World War II. She was associated with the Polish-English intelligence service and with the Danish resistance movement Holger Danske and worked for the prominent Danish resistance member Citronen.
The Underground did not receive the Righteous Among the Nations title, which is only awarded to individuals, not to groups. This was also in the spirit of the request expressed by the members of the Danish underground not to honor them as individuals.