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GERMANY: Denmark and the Nazis



From Christian Leitz: "Denmark during the German occupation was certainly unique among the histories of German-occupied countries. The invasion was, as David Pike has pointed out, over in a matters of hours. Denmark then retained its own government (with a Social Democratic prime minister!) until August 1943 and Denmark maintained near-normal economic relations with Germany, i.e. its population was saved from the ruthless exploitation suffered by other European peoples. And then there is, of course, the unique story of how Danes managed to save nearly all of its Jewish population (7,000, not 20,000) by shipping them across to neutral Sweden.

Yet, as has already been alluded in previous comments to you, there is the other side of the story. Resistance activities only really commenced in late 1943 (though that's not necessarily unique in a European context). Danish non-violent resistance is deemed to have been highly successful (I even watched a programme once which compared the actions of the Danes to those of Gandhi), but maybe this is more to do with the fact that, even in 1944, the Germans still managed to obtain agricultural products from its northern neighbour and that it was deemed strategically insignificant (particularly compared with Norway which had a more active resistance and was strategically very significant - Hitler's obsessive belief that the Allies might land there meant that even at the end of the war over 300,000 German troops were still stationed in the country). Finally, recent examinations of the wartime history of Denmark have pointed at the substantial level of collaboration that took place. If I am not mistaken, archival research has brought up the number of around 300,000 collaborators - a very substantial number for such a small population".

RH:In this very mixed picture, we should not forget the case of the Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr, who had worked with Ernest Rutherford in England. In 1939, one year before the German invasion of Denmark, he became president of the Royal Danish Academy and worked on problems of nuclear fission. The Germans planned to arrest him and make him work in Germany, but he fled to the US. Much has been written recently about attempts of German nuclear scientists to extract information from him.

Ronald Hilton - 1/12/03


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