Kaj Munk

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Kaj Munk
Kaj Munk.jpg
Photo of Kaj Munk published in
the De Wervelwind , February 1944.
BornKaj Harald Leininger Munk
(1898-01-13)13 January 1898
Lolland, Denmark
Died4 January 1944(1944-01-04) (aged 45)
OccupationPlaywright and Lutheran pastor
Notable worksPilatus, Ordet, Kærlighed

Kaj Harald Leininger Munk (commonly called Kaj Munk) (13 January 1898 4 January 1944) was a Danish playwright and Lutheran pastor, known for his cultural engagement and his martyrdom during the Occupation of Denmark of World War II. He is commemorated as a martyr in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church on 14 August, alongside Maximilian Kolbe.[ citation needed ]

Denmark constitutional monarchy in Europe

Denmark, officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country and the southernmost of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark lies southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark also comprises two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand, Funen and the North Jutlandic Island. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark has a total area of 42,924 km2 (16,573 sq mi), land area of 42,394 km2 (16,368 sq mi), and the total area including Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi), and a population of 5.8 million.

Lutheranism branch of Protestantism based on the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.



He was born Kaj Harald Leininger Petersen on the island of Lolland, Denmark, and raised by a family named Munk after the death of his parents. From 1924 until his death, Munk was the vicar of Vedersø in Western Jutland. [1] Munk's plays were mostly performed and made public during the 1930s, although many were written in the 1920s. Much of his other work concerns the "philosophy-on-life debate" (religion—Marxism—Darwinism) which marked much of Danish cultural life during this period.[ citation needed ]

Lolland island of Denmark

Lolland is the fourth largest island of Denmark, with an area of 1,243 km2 (480 sq mi). Located in the Baltic Sea, it is part of Region Sjælland. As of 1 January 2013, it has 62,578 inhabitants.

Ulfborg-Vemb was a municipality in the former Ringkjøbing County on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in west Denmark.

Jutland mainland of Denmark, a peninsula north of Germany

Jutland, also known as the Cimbric or Cimbrian Peninsula, is a peninsula of Northern Europe that forms the continental portion of Denmark and part of northern Germany. The names are derived from the Jutes and the Cimbri, respectively.

On one occasion, in the early 1930s, in a comment that came back to haunt him in later years, Munk expressed admiration for Hitler (for uniting Germans) and wished a similar unifying figure for Danes. [2] However, Munk's attitude towards Hitler (and Mussolini) turned to outspoken disgust, as he witnessed Hitler's persecution of the German Jewish community, and Mussolini's conduct of the war in Ethiopia. In 1938 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published on its front page an open letter to Benito Mussolini written by Kaj Munk criticising the persecutions against Jews. [1]

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Danes people of Denmark

Danes are a North Germanic ethnic group native to Denmark and a modern nation identified with the country of Denmark. This connection may be ancestral, legal, historical, or cultural.

Benito Mussolini Duce and President of the Council of Ministers of Italy. Leader of the National Fascist Party and subsequent Republican Fascist Party

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician and journalist who was the leader of the National Fascist Party. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943; he constitutionally led the country until 1925, when he dropped the pretense of democracy and established a dictatorship.

Early on, Munk was a strong opponent of the German Occupation of Denmark (1940–1945), although he continually opposed the idea of democracy as such, preferring the idea of a "Nordic dictator" who should unite the Nordic countries and keep them neutral during periods of international crisis. His plays Han sidder ved Smeltediglen ("He sits by the melting pot") and Niels Ebbesen were direct attacks on Nazism. The latter, centering on the figure of Niels Ebbesen, a medieval Danish squire considered a national hero for having assassinated an earlier German occupier of Denmark, Count Gerhard III, was a contemporary analogue to World War II-era Denmark. Despite friends who urged Munk to go underground, he continued to preach against Danes who collaborated with the Nazis.[ citation needed ]

Nordic countries Geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic

The Nordic countries or the Nordics are a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic, where they are most commonly known as Norden. The term includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as Greenland and the Faroe Islands—which are both part of the Kingdom of Denmark—and the Åland Islands and Svalbard and Jan Mayen archipelagos that belong to Finland and Norway respectively, whereas the Norwegian Antarctic territories are often not considered a part of the Nordic countries, due to their geographical location. Scandinavians, who comprise over three quarters of the region's population, are the largest group, followed by Finns, who comprise the majority in Finland; other groups are indigenous minorities such as the Greenlandic Inuit and the Sami people, and recent immigrants and their descendants. The native languages Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese are all North Germanic languages rooted in Old Norse. Native non-Germanic languages are Finnish, Greenlandic and several Sami languages. The main religion is Lutheran Christianity. The Nordic countries have much in common in their way of life, history, religion, their use of Scandinavian languages and social structure. The Nordic countries have a long history of political unions and other close relations, but do not form a separate entity today. The Scandinavist movement sought to unite Denmark, Norway and Sweden into one country in the 19th century, with the indepedence of Finland in the early 20th century, and Iceland in the mid 20th century, this movement expanded into the modern organised Nordic cooperation which includes the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Especially in English, Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for the Nordic countries, but that term more properly refers to the three monarchies of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Geologically, the Scandinavian Peninsula comprises the mainland of Norway and Sweden as well as the northernmost part of Finland.

Dictator An absolutist or autocratic ruler who assumes sole power over the state

A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A state which is ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The word originated as the title of a magistrate in the Roman Republic appointed by the Senate to rule the republic in times of emergency.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party – in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

The Gestapo arrested Munk on the night of 4 January 1944, a month after he had defied a Nazi ban and preached the first Advent sermon at the national cathedral in Copenhagen. Munk's body was found in a roadside ditch in rural Hørbylunde near Silkeborg the next morning with a note saying "Swine, you worked for Germany just the same." [3] Four thousand Danes attended Munk's funeral.[ not in citation given ] [1] [ citation needed ]

Gestapo official secret police of Nazi Germany

The Geheime Staatspolizei, abbreviated Gestapo, was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe.

Advent Christian church season

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West.

Church of Our Lady (Copenhagen) Church in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Church of Our Lady is the cathedral of Copenhagen. It is situated on Frue Plads public square in central Copenhagen, next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen.

Munk's body was returned to his parish church, Vedersø, where it is buried outside the choir. [4] A simple stone cross was also erected on a small hill overlooking the site where Munk's body was dumped. [5]

Half of the January 1944 issue of the resistance newspaper De frie Danske was dedicated to Munk with his portrait filling the front page. The obituary Danmarks store Søn—Kaj Munk (The great son of Denmark—Kaj Munk) filled the next page, followed by excerpts from a new year's sermon he had given. Next came a description of his murder and a photo reportage from his funeral. Lastly the paper featured condemning reactions from influential Scandinavians, namely Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland, Jarl Hemmer, Johannes Jørgensen, Sigrid Undset, Erling Eidem and Harald Bohr. [6]

The Danish government allowed his widow, Lise, to live at the parish house until she died in 1998. The church and parish house were restored as a memorial and opened to the public in 2010. [7]


Munk often used a historical background for his plays—among his influences were William Shakespeare, Adam Oehlenschläger, Henrik Ibsen, and George Bernard Shaw. [8] As a playwright, Munk became known for "strong characters"—integrated people who fight wholeheartedly for their ideals (whether good or bad). In his play En Idealist, for example, the "hero" is King Herod whose fight to maintain power is the motive behind all of his acts until he is at last defeated by a show of kindness to the Christ child in a weak moment.[ citation needed ]

His 1925 play Ordet (The Word) is often said to have been his best work; it is an investigation of miracles from the unique (at least, to theatre) viewpoint of one who was not prepared to dismiss them. A family of farmers—of differing degrees of faith—find themselves reconciled to their neighbours through a miracle. A 1943 film adaptation titled The Word was directed by Gustaf Molander. A 1955 film version of Ordet was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, and won numerous awards, including the Golden Lion at the 16th Venice International Film Festival and the 1956 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. [9] [ citation needed ]

Monk's plays, many of which have been performed at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen, and elsewhere, include:

His play Niels Ebbesen has been translated into English (2007) by his granddaughter Arense Lund, and Canadian playwright Dave Carley.[ citation needed ]

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  1. 1 2 3 "The Kaj Munk Research Center - Aalborg University".
  2. "Ingen Dansk kan ære Hitlers Daad mere end jeg". 5 May 2003.
  3. Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer, 1960. Retrieved 23.3.13
  4. "Ulfborg-Vemb Touristbureau – Churches".
  5. "Hørbylunde, The pastor of Vedersø - 1001 Stories of Denmark".
  6. "KAJ MUNK IN MEMORIAM". De frie Danske (in Danish). January 1944. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  7. "Kaj Munk - Gyldendal - Den Store Danske".
  8. Kaj Munk, Den Store Danske, Gyldendal
  9. "Carl Th. Dreyer - Ordet".