Thank you JRT,
I understood your Danish, I think!
"Our English is your very familiar", is what the direct translation would be, but you probably meant that I'm very familiar with the English language. In Danish that would be something like; "Dit engelske er vældig godt".
I have been a Dane all my life but if such a thing as reincarnation exist, I must have been English at some point in time. English comes naturally to me and I have lots of opportunities to practice daily; watching English programmes on TV, reading books by English and American authors, and also through my work where I am often in contact with English speaking colleagues.
Your account of the Danish role in WW2 is very accurate and I'm rather flattered that you know so much about my country's history.
What is extremely interesting although at times confusing, is to observe past and current events and to understand how these events are influenced by the last 160 years of Danish history.
In 1848 - 50 Denmark fought another war with one of our arch-enemies Prussia over what today is Schleswig-Holstein in the northern part of Germany.
Here's a site with a very popular song from that time, inciting young men to walk into battle, today it is a song every child knows; "The day I marched off"
Sadly the text on the site explaining the complex and confusing background for the war is in Danish, but nationalism, civil unrest, disagreements on where the border to the south should rightfully be, were amongst the issues, as well as a real problem about who would be the rightful successor to the throne. The Oldenburgers were not able to continue the reign, I think too many of them were a bit too, shall we say excentric. Fresh blood was urgently needed. The current Royals are of the Glücksburg family and sometimes I wonder..... oh well, I'd better let it rest. Here\'s
a brief account in the English language about the conflict.
Foolishly we got involved in another war in 1864, again the issues was the southern border but by then the Danish Army stood against a foe who had learnt the lesson well and had united several forces from Prussia and Holstein. The Danish forces were ill-eqiupped and ill-prepared. Heavily out-numbered they were beaten in '64 in the Battle of Dybbøl", and every Dane is familiar with a painting representing the defeat and showing the soldiers as they retreat from the "Dannevirke" fortifications.
This left the country completely open and at the mercy of the victorious armies and there was a very real fear that this would be the end for Denmark as a nation. For some inexplicable reason and through the intervention of less hostile nations we only lost part of the Southern Jutland and were allowed to maintain our independence.
The deroute for the once mighty Northern country had reached it's absolute low-point. From ruling over Sweden, Norway and a Denmark that stretched deep into what today is Schleswig-Holstein, we were left with almost nothing. "What has been lost outwards, must be won internally" was the popular saying in those dark days. What we didn't have in territory we had to make up for by using what we had, better.
The 1864 defeat is still commemorated every year to this day, and only last year was the first time that Danish and German soldiers commemorated the day together. The events in ´64 was such a blow that it is still today a very important part of who we are and how we see ourselves.
When WW1 happend, naturally the bigget fear was that the Kaiser would finish the business from ´64 and take the rest of the country.
Erik Scavenius who was Foreign Minister at the time effected a type of "real-politik" which is still highly controversial: By maintaining friendly relations with both sides in the war, somehow he managed to keep the country out of WW1.
In 1920 some of the territory lost in ´64 was returned to Denmark through a referendum, but we were still very anxious about the powerful neighbour to the south.
With Hitler coming to power in Germany our fears were not put to rest.
People just south of the border but with strong ties to Denmark found themselves in a terrible situation, when they were forced to serve in Hilter's Wehrmacht.
When WW2 broke out it was clear that had the Danish forces opposed the oncoming Nazi's the result would not have changed by many hours. Years of disarmameant and pacifism had left the country completely unable to defend itself. Parts of the army and airforce were instead ordered to Sweden, where they could be kept in readiness, if and when they were some day needed.
As you mention JRT, parts of the navy simply sailed for allied port.
The fact that Denmark was occupied yet not occupied in the traditional manner, gave us the chance to save many lives, amongst these some 6 or 7000 jews who were smuggled into sweden, usually crossing the Øresund channel in small boats.
We have to some extent felt that not putting up a fight on April 9th 1940 was disgraceful, but the Norwegians who did go into combat when they were invaded, did not have the time and the chance to do much to save their jews, and I believe that while we feel bad about not taking up the fight, the Norwegians feel sad for not being able to save their jews. It seems like the choice was between bad and bad.
Most interestingly, the Prime Minister of this country at the time was Erik Scavenius, the diplomat who had kept us out of WW1.
Recent historical research indicate the the King; HRH Christian X, begged Scavenius to form a coalition government to save the country and to attempt to steer clear of the worst consequences of the war. Scavenius was very reluctant to do so, because he knew that he would be judged very harshly by history, for implementing such policies. In fact no-one in Danish politics at the time wanted to head such a government, but In the end he accepted the task and by doing so knew that he would become a very unpopular and hated man.
Indeed, in 1945, he was a persona non-grata, even with those circles that had implored him to head the government during the worst possible circumstances.
Some 60 years on I can't help but respect the man for his courage to once again conduct "real-politk". Without the benefit of 20-20 perfect hind-sight, the times must have been extremely worrying. The ghost of ´64 still weighing heavily on everyones' minds.
When the policy of cooperation finally broke down in 1943, general strikes and civil disobedience being the order of the day, the
Danish police force was arrested by the occupying forces, and resistance was finally offcial. What a turn in policy; from the
authorities encouraging Danes to join the Wehrmacht in 1939 and early 1940 (no doubt to appease), to officially sanctioning resistance three years later.
As a cynic I would say that by 1943 it was beginning to look like the allied might win the war after all, especially with the U.S.
becoming involved. But then again, with 20-20 hind-sight it is always easier to be critical. In early 1940 with only England in his way, Hitler looked unstoppable.
Certainly on May 4th, when the message of the Nazi forces' surrender in Holland, Belgium and Denmark was announced (everyone listned to BBC on illegal radios), the number of people involved with resistance in this country grew tremendously overnight!
As far as I know, no Danes fought in the Battle of Britain (three cheers, I'm finally on-topic) but some served in Bomber and Fighter Command and other arms such as SOE during the war. With the number of national TV-channels growing, I hope that someone will finally assemble and publish footage, interviews and other relevant material, so we can finally have a comprehensive account of the "5 accursed years" as they are known to us.
There are so many events worth remembering, from sabotage of production facilities and the training of Danish saboteurs by SOE, to the raid by Mosquito's on the Gestapo Headquartes in Central Copenhagen.
As you can see from reading this short bio
on Scavenius, we are still debating the war years, and I might add, also the aftermath which was known as "retsopgøret"; an attempt to identify and to deal with the collaborators.