The Danish resistance movements (Danish: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BOPA (Danish: Borgerlige Partisaner, Civil Partisans) 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 1942, the Communist Party of Denmark was banned by the German authorities. Communists organized small sabotage cells across the country, formed mainly by veterans who had been part of the volunteer anti-Franco brigades of the Spanish Civil War. However, as arms were scarce, their weapons were often gasoline and matches, and only small-scale operations were carried out.
On January 25, 1943 a group of students—who had previously been refused membership in the communist resistance group due to its members' distrust of elitists (including students)—set fire to a stock of German listening devices at Dansk Industrisyndikat in Hellerup using a bottle of spirit. The students were accepted into the group, which changed its name from the original KOPA (Kommunistiske Partisaner, Communist Partisans) to Borgerlige Partisaner (Civil Partisans) or BOPA. The new name was at first used jokingly by old members, since "borgerlig" in Danish also means "conservative", but it soon became the most widely used name.
Operations grew in magnitude as individuals with inside knowledge of possible targets joined the group. Young apprentices from large factories proved especially useful in identifying targets that were supplying the German military. The cells attacked factories such as Burmeister & Wain and Riffelsyndikatet in 1943, Riffelsyndikatet (again) and Global in 1944, and Always in 1945.Bovrup-kartoteket
Bovrup-kartoteket ("The Bovrup File") is a partial transcript of the member file of the National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (Danish: Danmarks Nationalsocialistiske Arbejderparti; DNSAP) created in 1945 by Danish resistance members and published as a book in 1946. The transcript is named after Bovrup, the hometown of DNSAP's leader Frits Clausen who created the actual DNSAP member file.
The transcript is incomplete with 22,795 entries, while the actual DNSAP member file had 50,000 entries.
The year the Bovrup File was published, the court of Copenhagen classified the file leaving only historians with access to it.
In November 2018 an association of Danish genealogists published the subset of 5,265 entries for members born in 1908 or before, i.e. at least 110 years ago.Clearing murder
A Clearing murder was a revenge killing of a known and popular Dane in the last part of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. When a German or Danish soldier or informant was killed by the Danish resistance movement, the Peter group performed one or more clearing murder.
Hitler, at some time in the latter half of 1944, ordered that 10 civilians be killed each time a German soldier was killed by civilians. In Denmark, this was modified so that only one civilian was shot for one German soldier.
The first clearing murder was of famous author and priest Kaj Munk January 4, 1944. Subsequently, several doctors were murdered, including a senior consultant in Vejle and four doctors in Odense. In all, it is estimated that around one hundred people were killed in clearing murders.
Usually the clearing murders were done as street shooting in order to increase the terror impact of fear and uncertainty in the general population. The aim was to turn the population against the Danish resistance movement. Doctors were especially vulnerable to clearing murders since they were out to look after the sick at any time of day.
The Germans demanded the Danish newspapers to print articles linking resistance killings and clearing murders next to each other on the same page.Danish Brigade in Sweden
The Danish Brigade in Sweden (Danish: Den Danske Brigade i Sverige) or in short, the Danish Brigade (Den Danske Brigade/DDB) (also referred to as Danforce) was a military unit made up of Danish refugees during World War II. Trained and supplied by Sweden, the brigade was created to help liberate Denmark. Ultimately it was only deployed on the day of the German surrender in the country and was involved in very little fighting.Danish Freedom Council
The Danish Freedom Council (Danish: Danmarks Frihedsråd) 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.De frie Danske
The Free Danes (Danish: De frie Danske) was a Danish resistance newspaper published in Copenhagen about monthly from December 1941 to 24 May 1945. It was the first Danish non-communist resistance newspaper and the first to bring photographs and also one of the largest with final issues reaching a circulation of 20,000. Especially notable was the June 1944 Invasion Issue titled 'The Free Danes Welcome our Allied Friends' with a four colored front page photo of one US and one British rifleman each in front of their national flags.Deportation of the Danish police
During World War II, the Danish government chose to cooperate with the Nazi occupation force. Even though this applied to the Danish police as well, many were reluctant to cooperate. As a result, a large number of members of the Danish police force were deported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany. The Gestapo established the collaborationist HIPO Corps to replace them.Erling Foss
Erling Christian Foss (25 February 1897 – 15 June 1982) was a Danish civil engineer, famous for his contributions to the Danish resistance movement. As a result of contacts with Ebbe Munck and the Danish army's intelligence service, he became involved with the resistance at an early stage of the German occupation of Denmark. In September 1943, he became a member of the Danish Freedom Council representing De Frie Danske.
In February 1944, he took up a mission in Stockholm involving arms deliveries to the resistance and negotiations to have Denmark recognised as an Ally. He sent regular reports to Christmas Møller who draw on them for BBC broadcasts to Denmark.After the war, he became active in the Danish Conservative Party, supporting membership of NATO and relations with West Germany.Frank Noel Stagg
Commander Frank Noel Stagg, RN, (25 December 1884 in Tonbridge, Kent—25 October 1956 in London) was a Royal Navy officer known for his role in Danish and Norwegian resistance movements during the Second World War.
Staggs was a Naval Control Service Officer in Trondheim and Copenhagen before the war, and was connected with the Norwegian Section of Special Operations Executive from October 1940 to July 1942, He was the planner of the raid on the Lofoten Islands.
He was honoured for services to the Norwegian Navy at St Olav on 17 October 1944.Frihedsfonden
Frihedsfonden was founded on May 31, 1945. It was a charity for the families of fallen members of the Danish resistance movement until its dissolution in 1996.Frøslev Prison Camp
Frøslev Camp (Danish: Frøslevlejren, German: Polizeigefangenenlager Fröslee) was an internment camp in German-occupied Denmark during World War II.
In order to avoid deportation of Danes to German concentration camps, Danish authorities suggested, in January 1944, that an internment camp be created in Denmark. The German occupation authorities consented, and the camp was erected near the village of Frøslev in the south-west of Denmark, close to the German border. From mid-August until the end of the German occupation in May 1945, 12,000 prisoners passed through the camp's gates. Most of them were suspected members of the Danish resistance movement, Communists and other political prisoners. Living conditions in the camp were generally tolerable, but 1,600 internees were deported to German concentration camps, where 220 of them died (approximate numbers).
Towards the end of the war, the Swedish count Folke Bernadotte tried to get all Scandinavian concentration camp prisoners to Sweden. Simultaneously the Danish administration negotiated with the Germans about rescue of the Danish prisoners in Germany. As a result of these efforts many Scandinavian prisoners came with the White Buses from the German camps. In March and April 1945 10,000 Danish and Norwegian captives were brought home from Germany. Some of the returning prisoners came to Frøslev Prison Camp. Among those were some of the 1,960 deported Danish policemen, which had been arrested and deported on 19 September 1944.Gerda III
Gerda III is a lighthouse tender located at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, United States. Gerda III was built in 1928 in Denmark and was used as a common work boat. In 1943 Gerda III was used by 19-year old Henny Sinding to smuggle Jews from Nazi occupied Denmark to Sweden. Approximately 300 Jews were rescued by Gerda III. The Danish Parliament donated Gerda III to The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Mystic Seaport now cares for the vessel and features her as part of their collection of watercraft. The rescue story is the subject of the film, A Day in October, released in 1991.Grethe Bartram
Maren Margrethe Thomsen, known as Maren Margrethe "Grethe" Bartram and "Thora" (23 February 1924 – January 2017), was a Danish woman who informed on at least 53 people from the Danish resistance movement during the Second World War, resulting in the early communist resistance groups being dismantled and many of their members being sent to Nazi concentration camps. Bartram informed on her brother, husband and close acquaintances.Bartram was given the death penalty after the war. The sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1947. In 1956 she was released and moved to Halland in Sweden where she lived under her married name.Liselund
Liselund is an 18th-century aesthetically landscaped park, complete with several exotic buildings and monuments. Located close to Møns Klint on the north-eastern corner of the Danish island of Møn, it is deemed to be one of the finest examples in Scandinavia of Romantic English gardening. The park was created in the 1790s by French nobleman Antoine de Bosc de la Calmette for his wife Elisabeth, commonly known as Lisa. Liselund, roughly translated, means Lise's grove.Poul Andersen
Poul Dalby Andersen (April 19, 1922 – May 29, 2006) was a printer who served in the Danish resistance movement during World War II and later published one of the remaining two Danish-language newspapers in the United States.Rescue of Stutthof victims in Denmark
The rescue of Stutthof victims in Denmark took place on 5 May 1945 at Klintholm Havn, a small fishing village on the south coast of the island of Møn, when a barge full of famished Nazi concentration camp prisoners was towed into harbour.Rescue of the Danish Jews
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.
The rescue allowed the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population to avoid capture by the Nazis and is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to aggression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue, and the following Danish intercession on behalf of the 464 Danish Jews who were captured and deported to the Theresienstadt transit camp in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust.Schalburgtage
Schalburgtage was the popular name for the retaliation which Germans and their Danish collaborators carried out as revenge for resistance activity in the last part of the occupation of Denmark between 1944 and 1945. The word is partially a reference to sabotage and partially to the Schalburg Corps who carried out most of the actions.
The occupying power called it counter-sabotage, but the Danes quickly adopted the name schalburgtage. In fact, most of the schalburgtage was carried out by the Peter group, most of whose members were also members of the Schalburg Corps.
Schalburgtage was directed against both the Danish resistance movement and Danish society in general. This introduced killings of esteemed Danes which occurred when a German soldier or a Danish informant was killed. These killings were called clearing murders.Three Hearts and Three Lions
Three Hearts and Three Lions is a 1961 fantasy novel by American writer Poul Anderson, expanded from a 1953 novella by Anderson which appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction.