"Hitler's Tame Canary"

Germans Arrive in Copenhagen

On April 9, 1940 Germany occupied Denmark without facing any real resistance. King Christian and the Danish government told the Danes to remain calm and "discreet" towards the occupation for the good of Denmark.

Shortly afterwards the whole antiaircraft defense system was handed over to the Germans for whom it became an important weapon in the defense of Hamburg. Even more important for the Germans was Aalborg airport that, with the help of Danish workers, was completed in three months to become the most strategic airport in northern Europe. According to some historians this airport was the main reason for the occupation of Denmark.

Winston Churchill called Denmark "Hitler's tame canary" but later on he had to concede that the intelligence gathering of the Danish resistance "was second to none". It carried out a lot of sabotage activities without any outside help. It was able to direct Allied bomb raids on targets such as the Gestapo headquarters in Odense, Aarhus and Copenhagen. In 1943 the underground Danska Frihedsrådet became the real government of the country and was so regarded by the Allies.

The two first years of the occupation were relatively calm, with a reluctant collaboration between the Danish government and the German authorities. With time the resistance movement grew and there was more widespread sabotage of the Riffel arms industry and rail transportation, sometimes coordinated with bomb raids by the British RAF. The Danish priest Kaj Munk became more and more outspoken against the Germans and was savagely killed.

                                            King Christian X Denmark                                Kaj Munk                                     Winston Churchill

When the terror of the German-Danish Schalbourg command did not stop the resistance, the German army occupied the Royal Palace and all official buildings. At this point part of the Danish fleet fled to Sweden, while several naval ships were sunk by their crews. By October 1943 the Gestapo started deporting Danish Jews, but through the heroism of the Danes, almost all were rescued and escaped by fishing boats to Sweden.

When the Danish-German Brondum gang set fire to the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the Danes were incensed and this resulted in the largest strike "Folkestrejken" ever of the Danish people. There were barricades and street fights where 97 Danes were killed and 600 injured by the Germans. Now the Danes showed their resolve through such actions as always ringing their bike bells when they passed a German parade. Public gatherings were forbidden but song gatherings with as many as 700,000 participants singing Danish patriotic songs became more and more common.

The occupation took a definite turn when the RAF precision bombed the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen rescuing the resistance men imprisoned there but sadly hitting the French School with 109 casualties.

On May 4, 1945 the Germans capitulated while the hunt for collaborators and "tyskepigerne" girls intensified. Many were shot point blank if they resisted the least. 40,000 suspects were rounded up but most were let go by the country that survived the German occupation better than any other.

The administrators and politicians who had been the real collaborators from day one of the German occupation were never brought to justice in the "Rettsopgoret" trials that ensued.. On the contrary, they were praised as the saviours of the nation.

During this special year there has been much debate in Denmark whether or not the Danes accepted the occupation by the Germans too easily.

When Queen Margrethe spoke May 5 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, she reminded the Danes that they had had it much easier than others but that also in Denmark there were the abused and deported.

"Without them there would be nothing to remember with pride and happiness".


Source: Nordic Way Directory.com: http://www.nordicway.com/search/WWII.htm