The Great Escape
|I October 1943 Hitler demanded that the Danish Jews were sent to the concentration camps. But large parts of the Danish population helped to arrange escape routes to Scania, where high ranking policemen and civil servants defied the Swedish neutrality and took care of the 7.000 Danish Jews.
The Great Escape – Denmark
Thousands of Danes fled to Sweden in october 1943 across the Sound. Many from Gilleleje, Elsinore, Snekkersten and Espergærde.
|Thousands of Danes fled in october 1943 to Sweden across the Sound. Many from Elsinore, Snekkersten and Espergærde.
The Escape Across the Sound
Before October 1943
Shortly after the occupation the German occupying power banned travels between the Scandinavian countries. It was necessary to apply for a visa, which the Danes were to administer, but under German control. At the same time a Danish coast police was established to patrol the eastern Danish waters from Hundested in the north to Gedser in the south. The Danish marine was to control the adjacent waters.
From when Denmark was occupied April 9th 1940 to August 1943 only few refugees came from Denmark to Sweden. Partly because of the relative peaceful circumstances in Denmark, but also because of Sweden´s restrictive refugee policies. It appears from Swedish police reports that the Swedish policy of neutrality towards the strong and victorious Germany meant that they often sent the refugees back to Denmark.
The Coast Police
Vendepunktet (Overskriften skal oversættes til engelsk)
After a series of intense events August 29th 1943 in connection with the resignation of the Danish government and the internment of the Danish military, the number of refugees in September increased to 609, of which 61 were Jews. The rest was first and foremost military persons, resistance people, stateless persons, policemen, but also some unemployed and adventurers, who fled from the blacked out and restriction-ridden Denmark.
Flygtningestrømmen vokser (Rubrikken skal oversættes til engelsk)
The internment of the Danish army, the hostage-taking and the increasing tit-for-tat murders led to a marked increase in the refugee stream to Sweden in the course of the month of September. A number of artists and intellectuals, among them quite a few Jews, began to see the writing on the wall and arrange the crossing to the neutral Sweden.
The nuclear physicist Niels Bohr crossed September 30th, the same day as the architects Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen escaped from Skodsborg together with girlfriends and a fifth party, Herbert Marcus, who was also an oarsman. The boat had been collected by a Falck van in the Bagsværd Lake, as it was prohibited to have smaller vessels less than five kilometres from the coast. It was a dramatic crossing in an overloaded boat, which was unsuitable for that type of transport. Arne Jacobsen was of Jewish origin, and Poul Henningsen was on the list of the tit for tat murders, but he did not know that at the time. They both reached Stockholm, where they spent the rest of the war.
October 2. 1943: The Mass Escape of the Danish Jews
Dette tekstafsnit skal oversættes til engelsk fra Staffan eller Stigs tekst.
The Hunts for The Jews
The night between October first and second 1943 the Germans started a hunt for the Jews in Denmark with the object of sending them to the concentration camp Theresienstadt in the protectorate Bohemia-Moravia, the present Czech Republic. Officially the Germans explained in the daily press that the Jews were to blame for the disturbances in August. In order to compensate they simultaneously released the disarmed Danish soldiers.
The result was that 234 Jews were apprehended. The raid had follow ups in October and November, where an additional 190 Jews were apprehended. They were deported and 53 of them died in the camp. Most of them old and sick.
Concentration Camps in Europe
Sverige ändrar inställning
In the light of the events in August the Swedish state re-evaluated its policy of neutrality. October 2nd Sweden announced publicly that they would receive the Danish Jews as refugees. In close cooperation with – especially the Scanian authorities and administration, a number of privately based, illegal escape routes along the entire Zealand east coast were established.
The Civilian Resistance
The persecution of the Jews became a turning point for many Danes in their attitude towards the German occupying power. The close integration of the Danish Jews in the Danish society meant that the racial policy of Nazism offended the sense of justice of many Danish citizens. A larger number of the population now resisted actively; often citizens, who had no affiliation with the existing part of the resistance movement, who mostly were connected to the Communist Party and the Dansk Samling party.
In Copenhagen the students went on strike and some of them organized a collection of money, which came to very large sums: Approximately 1 million kroner, which in 1993 correspond to 20 million kroner.
Thousands of Jewish fellow citizens from Copenhagen made for the Sound coast, where there was total chaos for the first few days with regards to the organisation of this migration. Escape routes sprung up and at first without mutual connections.
In Stockholm the Danish architect, Ole Helweg took the initiative for a meeting with the Swedish foreign minister and Ebbe Munck, who was the representative of the Danish resistance movement in Sweden, and with the help of Jewish circles in Sweden a boat was provided, which sailed from Malmo and this became the beginning of the Danish-Swedish refugee service, which was to sail 367 trips with refugees.
Very different people started separately or in groups to organize escape routes from the metropolitan area to the Swedish coast. Most came over from Copenhagen itself, but also from Gilleleje on the north coast and Snekkersten south of Elsinore were for a period of time became veritable escape centres.
Vellykket redningsaktion (Rubrik oversættes til engelsk)
The result was that the vast majority of Denmark´s, approximately 95% 7000 Jews in the course of October crossed over to safety on the other side of the Sound. Approximately 2-3000 directly from Copenhagen, where 80% of the Jews lived.
The Thomsen Route
|H C. Thomsen 18.9.1906-4.12.1944.
The Thomsen escape route was organized by the popular inn-owner of Snekkersten Inn.
H C. Thomsen 18.9.1906-4.12.1944.
The popular inn owner, H.C. Thomsen, Snekkersten Inn, organized the Thomsen route.
H.C. Thomsen was one of the most prominent escape helpers. In a close collaboration with the other routes, the inn became the maritime headquarters for the escape routes in Snekkersten.
An informer denounced the route in 1944 and Thomsen was murdered in the German concentration camp, Neuengamme.
Snekkersten Inn 1943
H.C. Thomsen´s Cutter
J. Gjersfelt, The Stella Route
The Escape Routes in Elsinore-Snekkersten
The Elsinore area was – because the short distance to Swedish waters (2 kilometres) an obvious crossing place and the small fishing village, Snekkersten, approximately four kilometres south of Elsinore became a junction for the illegal escape routes.
At first the crossings from Snekkersten were spontaneous and overt. Refugees arrived randomly and on their own initiative and made arrangements with the local people, mostly fishermen, who then sailed them across, if they were lucky.
In the time up and around October second the Danish police and the so-called coast police posed the greatest danger, as they monitored the boats and concentrated their efforts around the harbours. There were, however, incidents when pro-German inhabitants of Snekkersten called the police, who subsequently released the Jewish refugees.
In the beginning the coast police was very serious about the surveillance and prevented attempts of escape, but soon they were systematically involved in the crossings and their role in the Elsinore area was of great importance.
The coast police was stationed at Stella Maris on the north coast and here and other places they helped actively to monitor the Germans´ movements.
The Coast Police
Other public officers also helped. Vicarages were used for accommodations and many police officers were involved, for instance Thormod Larsen and Jørgen Sandholt from the “Elsinore Sewing Circle”. Some doctors helped to anaesthetize the weakest of the refugees, for instance the young doctor Jørgen Gersfelt, who became a central figure in the Snekkersten-crossings. Gersfelt started to anaesthetize vulnerable refugees, especially children, but soon his house was full of refugees waiting to cross over, and he was thus deeply involved.
Flugthjælperne og pengene
Gerfelt depicted the first period as quite chaotic: All types of boats were used and there were shipwrecks and deaths among refugees as well as the fishermen, who took care of the crossings.
(Oversættes til engelsk)Der foreligger også vidnesbyrd om, at nogle af fiskerne tog sig godt betalt for overfarten.
Gjersfelt´s Boat, Stella
Fra kaos til orden
Erling Kiær from the Sewing Circle confirms this account of the conditions in the beginning.
Gersfelt also described the financial circumstances involving the refugee transports as a motive to enter the activity. The fishermen set prices on the actual crossings, but in the beginning there was, according to Gersfelt, also “unknown go-betweens”, who made easy money on the transports.
Eventually bigger boats were used for the crossings. These could hold up to 20 persons and the crossing to Kobbarverket (The Copper Works) south of Raa, took, according to Gersfelt, approximately less than an hour, while the trip with a rowing boat could take 5 hours. The crossings reached culminated around october 8. -9th, where the coast police on Stella Maris was involved and Snekkersten had turned into a maritime station, until Gestapo finally appeared. Gersfelt´s account is a first-hand view of the situation and there are also memoirs available about the situation seen from the children´s point of view.
The Kayak Club
Children on the Run
Gestapo skrider ind
The activities of the Gestapo had until then restricted itself to the searching of hotels and boarding houses in the area and in some cases (Pension Torbenhus) a few Jews had been arrested. Because of this private accommodation were used in Snekkersten, especially around the harbour. The Snekkersten Inn with the renowned landlord, Thomsen, was the haunt of a great deal of the boat people and became known as “Færgekroen” (The Ferry Inn).
Eventually and especially after the arrival of Gestapo chief, Juhl, the presence of Gestapo was felt with raids on the inn and it culminated with an arrest on Snekkersten harbour, where 12 men were sent to Horserød, but got off with an 8 days stay. Unfortunately this episode did not become known in Copenhagen and the situation in Snekkersten degenerated into the grotesque.
Snekkersten Inn the the 1940´s
The transports now became much more dangerous and the danger came from many sides, also from Sweden, where people, who had already escaped, showed great incautiousness in their letters home to Denmark.
The Gilleleje Tragedy
Because of the tense atmosphere efforts were made to have crossings with bigger ships and a transport of 100 Jews from Snekkersten to Gilleleje was arranged, where a schooner was to sail them across. In this operation there was a certain amount of cooperation with the Kiær-group, and it was Kiær himself, who was in charge of the extensive convoy to the north.
However Gestapo had gotten wind of the operation and on the evening of October 6th 1943 approximately 100 Jews were arrested on the loft of the church. Gestapo-Juhl said later during interrogation that he became suspicious, when they did not want to let him into the church.
Tilbage til Snekkersten
The captives were taken via Horserød to the German concentration camp, Theresienstadt, but the Jews from Snekkersten, except a few, escaped and were accommodated in Espergærde, from where they escaped in the nick of time. Everybody crossed; the last 30 were rowed across in fishermen´s boats. When Gestapo entered Villa Søblik opposite the harbour, the last trip was sailed from Snekkersten itself and instead Humlebæk, approximately 8 kilometres south of there, was used.
The Sewing Club
|“The Elsinore Sewing Club” was the largest and best-organized escape route in Elsinore. The route disintegrated in June 1944. For many years after the occupation, “the Sewing Club” met tradionally once a month in “Klostercafeen in Elsinore.
“The Elsinore Sewing Club” was the largest and best-organized escape route in Elsinore. The route disintegrated in June 1944.
The Sewing Circle Is Established
The experiences from Gilleleje did not invite to repetitions of big transports and the strategy was altered. They now wanted to use medium-sized and fast boats. This was where the Sewing Circle and Erling Kiær entered the picture. October 10th the Sewing Circle got themselves their own boat and Erling Kiær more or less took up residence in Helsingborg. He made arrangements with the Swedish authorities and from here he made daily trips to the Danish coast, at first in the day in the south as well as north.
Kiær said of the activities in this period that it was not especially dangerous, but eventually the Gestapo had gotten wind of the events in Snekkersten and it culminated with the first arrest of landlord Thomsen November 11th 1943.
Another transport, the so-called Christmas transport from Snekkersten took place, but at that point the transports from here had become highly dangerous, because informers as well as civilian Gestapo agents had been brought into action. The refugees on this day were stayed in gateway on Strandvejen 174, while a Gestapo agent stayed in the barbershop a few metres away.
Kiær continued the transports, even though there was no great need. Although the activity increased at the end of November, when a large part of the Danish officer corps, including the commander-in-chief, general Knutzon, fled across the Sound. The risk was, according to Kiær, at this point heavily increased, because the Germans patrolled the waters systematically. In a number of posthumous papers from detective inspector Thormod Larsen from Elsinore you can feel the circumstances and the atmosphere surrounding the transports in the often-coded correspondence.
Samarbejdet med Sverige
The traffic now moved away from the south coast and Kiær sailed in the following period almost every night to the Marienlyst Seaside Hotel. In the beginning of December the Sewing Circle got a new and faster boat and sailed with different types of refugees. In the middle of December the conditions in Sweden worsened and Kiær now worked together with the three musketeers (who in fact were four, chief superintendent Friiberg, lance corporal Palm, and the corporals Olson and Feldt in Helsingborg). They sidestepped their own authorities, but after New Year the Swedish authorities in Stockholm officially recognized the Kiær-route.
Chief Constable Göte Friberg
Helsingør/Snekkersten-Ruterne trevles op
From the end of 1943 the Germans intensified their patrols, which had serious consequences for the escape routes. January 20th 1944 the Sewing Circle had planned two crossings from the north coast, specifically Hellebæk. At the second transport they forgot to coordinate the action with the coast police and it went wrong, when a German patrol, which was stationed in Hellebæk, emerged. The Germans challenged them and then opened fire. Thormod Larsen was hit and disabled for life. One of the passengers was also badly injured, but the transport managed to get to Sweden. One of the young assistants from the Sewing Club, Leif Olsen, was caught. The Germans tortured him and he gave away the structure of the organisation and the names of the involved parties.
In April 1944 presumably the Sewing Circle’s cashier, Børge Rønne, made a report to the Danish authorities in Stockholm about the activities of the Sewing Circle. About a month later Kiær was caught (May 12th) and sent to concentration camp in Germany and that same month Gersfelt fled to Sweden.
In the course of May 1944 most of the routes had been uncovered and the arrest of Thomsen in August 1944 put a stop to the activities in Snekkersten. H.C. Thomsen was sent to the concentration camp, Neuengamme in Germany, where he died in December that same year.
The organisation and structure of the escape routes in the Snekkersten area are quite complicated and often overlap, but they can be described thus: Apart from the refugees´ private deals with the fishermen, three groups especially dominated the routes. From these five routes were established.
Thormod Larsen and Tove Wandborg
|Large||Tove Wandborg, the nurse who gave Thormod Larsen the kiss of life.
The Great Escape to Sweden
|On arrival to the Scanian harbours in Helsingborg and Malmo the refugees were interrogated by the Swedish police and sent to hastily established refugee camps.
The Great Escape-Sweden
On arrival to the Scanian harbours in Helsingborg and Malmo the refugees were interrogated by the Swedish police and sent to hastily established refugee camps.
Swedish Refugee Policy
The First Foreigners´ Laws
The close cooperation with the Swedish authorities ensured that so many people got over. The background was a change in the Swedish refugee policy after August 29th 1943.
At that time Sweden pursued and immigration policy, which was very restrictive. According to the first foreigners´ law from 1927 a person could be refused admission at the border “if it could be assumed that he had planed to apply for a permanent stay, and that it in all likelihood could be assume that he was not able to earn a living.”
January 1st 1938 a new foreigners law was introduced, which was in force, when the intense persecution of the Jews went on in November in Germany and Austria. That, which really separated the new law from the previous, was that there was s passage on political refugees, which said that if there was a reason to believe that a refugee had political motives, the directory of social services should decide whether the individual was allowed to stay.
But the Jews were not considered political refugees! In principle the Swedish border was closed to them. As the Jews according to the Nuremberg-laws were not German citizens, they could not be sent to any state and therefore they would not be allowed in the country.
The Escape to Sweden
As Sweden did not demand a visa of travellers from Germany, it was required that the passport showed who could return to the country, and thus be allowed to enter Sweden. So Sweden demanded, at Germans and Jews had different passports! Otherwise compulsory visa had to be introduced when travelling to Sweden.
Switzerland had the same demands. The Germans introduced a special passport law on October 5th 1938. According to this law the Jews had to have a “J” stamped on the first page of their passports. Whether the German passport law was a result of the Swedish and Swiss demands, or if it would have been introduced anyway, is difficult to establish, but the facts remain: Sweden issued such demands and Germany introduced a passport law, which satisfied the Swedish demands.
Gøre Friberg, superintendent of police in Helsingborg during the war, was well informed on the conditions and he wrote in his book “Stormcentrum Øresund”:
Immediately after the German passport, we, who worked in the border stations, that is, the passport control, received a circular letter from the social services. It said that people wit a “J” passport were to be considered immigrants. They were not to enter the country without special permission. This came to apply to all Jews, when the few of them, who could be considered political refugees, did not count in the immigration statistics.” (p. 31). Furhermore Friberg wrotes: “It is a fact that the result of the Swedish foreigners´ legislature in practice was, that the fleeing Jews were turned away at the Swedish border.
Protection of Swedish Labour
The Swedish immigration and refugee policy was meant to protect Swedish labour against competition many people from the unions and the academic circles participated in this cool-headed position. In Lund a meeting was called in the Academic Society on March 6th 1939, and a clear majority of the more than a thousand students present voted for a resolution, which warned against the immigration of “foreign elements”.
Even after April 9th 1940, when the Germans occupied Denmark, only a few refugees arrived in Sweden from the other side of the Sound. Until August 28th 1943 only 150 Danish refugees were granted asylum in Sweden.
After August 29th 1943
But there were people, who helped the refugees. Not least in the police in Helsingborg, where Gösta Friberg and Carl Palm with white lies and cunning, with thought and hard work saved many. But Friberg also relates in his book, how he on October 2nd 1943 was told by the foreign ministry in Stockholm that the border police from now on could discount all passport formalities.
In the first three war years only 150 refugees arrived in Sweden, but in one week in October several thousand arrived. In one day, 900 arrived in Helsingborg. In the month of October approximately 7000 Jewish-Danish refugees arrived in Scania.
Chief Constable Göte Friberg
The Security Police in Helsingborg
Refugee Pressure on Helsingborg
Helsingborg received in the course of the hectic month of October 1943 more than 4000 Jewish refugees and an enormous organising was required. During the first refugee accumulation in the begining of October the Grand Hotel was filled and several other hotels. It was then necessary to find a refugee camp, which could be used for some time, before the refugees were taken further up the country in order to make room for others.
Ramlösa Spa, which was hibernating, was opened and functioned as a receiving central for all those, who were landed in Landskrona and north. The Ramlösa camp had a permanent doctors´ station, headed by a Danish doctor. As the flow of refugees were steady it was important that they could taken to new camps further up in the country and such an organisation quickly started to function.
Joint Cooking in Ramlösa
|Small||Large||Helsingborg – Accommodation in Ramlösa Spa
“To Separate the Grain From the Chaff”
The camp had staff, whose task it was to find “stickers”, i.e. Nazi spies and other observers, who posed as refugees. The most dangerous were placed in the prison in Kalmar. It was somewhat sensitive that Sweden held “stickers” interned for the Danes until the end of the war. It was a silent arrangement without any papers between the Danes and the Swedes, who trusted each other.
It was clear that Göte Friberg from Helsingborg and the detective superintendent in Malmo, Richard Hansen, was involved in this arrangement. Richard Hansen repeated a conversation with the defence minister Per Edwin Sköld in these words, reported in a series of articles in “Svenska Dagbladet”1984-85 by Orvar Magnegård: “You must know that the government closes its eyes for what you are doing. If it is discovered, we cannot do anything to defend or help you. However, after the war you and police superintendent will be forgiven.
In the beginning of 1945 16,700 Danish refugees had arrived in Sweden, and 60% of these came via the Helsingborg area. All in all approximately 25.000 foreigners arrived in Helsingborg int he course of 1943-45.It was the events of August 29th 1943, which opened up Sweden.
Denmark in Sweden
Bøn til stjernerne
Hærger mit land.
Natten splintres af bombebrag,
Clearingsmord på den lyse dag!
Ser ikke land
Skjuler mit land
Miner driver i Øresund,
Mørket gaber med ild i mund.
Ønsker og tanker
Naar ikke land
Lys for mit land!
Lad med fred på den klare dag
Røgen ringle fra husets tag,
Fylde mit land
(Den danske digter Otto Gelsted fra sit eksil i Sverige)
The Unofficial Denmark in Sweden
After August 29th 1943 the Danish envoy in Stockholm, chamberlain J.C.W. Kruse and his entire staff declared themselves independent and were thus ready to make an effort for the refugees, which poured over the Swedish border. The Swedes now received the Danes with open arms and they were allowed to establish a Danish press service. The editor Erik Seidenfaden had approximately 40 employees and was now able to transmit the attitude of the “unofficial” Denmark to the world public as a news service.
The Resistance in Sweden
It was also from Stockholm the Danish Liberation Council´s representative, Ebbe Munch, cleverly facilitated the connection between the resistance movement in Denmark and the allied authorities. In reality Munch functioned as an unofficial envoy and held the administrative and financial threads in his hand. A refugee office also established in Stockholm headed by professor Stephan Hurwitz and the later conciliator, Sigurd Wechselmann.
From Malmo editor Leif Hendil, Ekstra Bladet (Danish newspaper) directed the biggest Danish escape route: Danish-Swedish Refugee Service. A large part of the money to this came from Swedish Jews.
The Reception of the Refugees in Scania
At the reception in Helsingborg or Malmo the refugees went through medical examination, and were fitted out, if necessary. The police – often in cooperation with the Danish police, also investigated their circumstances, because they were afraid of spies.
After these preliminary arrangements they were allowed to travel on in Sweden, if they had contacts, which could procure work and housing. If not, they were sent to refugee camps in the neighbourhoods of Helsingborg and Malmo.
With so many people crammed in the hastily established refugee centres, it was no wonder that harassments arose. Not just internally among the refugees, but also in relation to the Swedish hosts. The Danish poet, Otto Gelsted was among the first to escape in October 1943. Here he came in close contact with a group of fellow Jewish refugees and in his memoir novel: “The Refugees in Husaby”, he conveys a well-informed picture of the atmosphere.
The Reception in Malmo
The Reception in Malmo
The Reception in Malmo
Work, Schooling and Education
At this time there was a lack of labour in Sweden, and many entered the Swedish labour market. All in all the Danish refugees were helped in every kind of way by the Swedish authorities and private citizens. Schools were established for the children; Danish students were admitted to the universities, scientists and artists were allowed to continue their work.
On November 15th 1943 a Danish school was established in Lund with 40 pupils. January 1st 1944 primary school started and July 1st the school had 170 pupils and 25 teachers. A dansih school was also established in Göteborg, which had 200 pupils and 25 teachers at the end of the war. Furthermore there were smaller Danish schools in Helsingborg, Jönköping and Norrköping.
Danes studied at the universities in Lund, Uppsala, Stockholm and Göteborg and in 1944 final Danish jurisprudence university exams were held in Stockholm. Examiners and external examiners were Danish and eight students passed the exams. As the world war progressed and Germany lost footing, many of the refugees wanted to leave their mark on the course.
The editor of one of Denmark´s largest newspapers, Herbert Pundik has explained this in his memoirs; “Det kan ikke ske i Danmark (1993) (It Cannot Happen in Denmark):
One of the historians of the occupation in Denmark, Hans Kirchhoff assessed in 2001 the reasons why
Children on the Run
The Gratitude of the Refugees
The Danish Brigade
The weak Danish military was given, in the autumn of 1943, permission to establish a secret highly trained army in Sweden, Danforce. Also called: The Danish Brigade. A clear breach of Sweden´s neutrality policy.
|The weak Danish military was given, in the autumn of 1943, permission to establish a secret highly trained army in Sweden, Danforce. Also called: The Danish Brigade. A clear breach of Sweden´s neutrality policy.
The Danish Brigade
Time Lines for the Decision Making Process
The Danish Resistance Army in Sweden 1943-45
After some considerations the Swedes also gave the Danes the opportunity to establish a secret army, “The Danish Brigade”. The Swedes armed the brigade and ended up promising them air force and naval support in case of the landing of the brigade in Denmark.
For a third of the 17-18.000 Danish citizens in Sweden the Brigade became their basis in an otherwise apathetic and empty existence as refugees. With the Danish traditions of the Brigade, the firm organisation and the strong fellowship and not least the feeling of their being able to save Denmark, many found a meaning in life.
The Resistance Army
The Danish Brigade became a small Danish resistance army in the neutral Sweden. The Brigade was established on November 15th 1943 at the request of the Danish intelligence service and Danish and Swedish Social Democratic politicians and was officially dissolved on July 10th 1945.
At its height in the spring of 1945 the force included approximately 5000 Danish refugees with a core of 8-900 officers from the Danish army and navy. The Brigade also included 200 women.
Calling it a police force, which after the war should help to maintain law and order in Denmark, solved the problem of explaining the presence of a Danish army in the neutral Sweden. The real intention with the Danish Brigade´s tasks was during the whole period uncertain. Among the brigadiers themselves as well as among the Danish and Swedish politicians and the Allies.
However, one important aspect was clear among the politicians on both sides of the Sound and the top officers: The resistance army was a nationalist Army, which was to be the resigned politicians´ counterbalance to the Danish Liberation Council and influence of the resistance movement and with them the Communists in occupied Denmark.
In step with the development of the war, it was the progression of these matters, which was the cause of disagreements. The Danish collaboration government’s resignation in August 1943 and the internment of the Danish officers, created space for an alternative, secret “government”: The Danish Liberation Council, established in September 1943. This was cross-party, self-established organisation, which coordinated the efforts of the growing, illegal resistance movement. The influence of the Communists in the Danish Liberation Council was considerable and was due to their prominent role in the military sabotage and the illegal magazine distribution. However, it became the Social Democrat, Frode Jacobsen, who, in opposition to his leading party colleagues, became the leading figure. In contrast to the resigned government the Danish Liberation Council had the support of the population. This development meant:
- that the Social Democratic top politicians was robbed of their domination role in Danish politics, which was lost to their hereditary enemy, the Communists
- that the officers in the Danish army felt outdone by a flock of untrained extremist civilians.
The humiliation was great. Firstly the officers had not been allowed to show their worth on April 9th 1943. Between these two, normally hostile parties, a community of interests were created. By establishing an effective military alternative to the resistance army, under Social Democratic control, the politicians could secure themselves against a presumed Communist coup and the officers could re-establish the lost military honour.
There was agreement on the strategic (long term) goals, but disagreement on the tactics (how the goal was to be achieved).
- Should the Brigade be deployed before the Germans had surrendered? Perhaps supported be the Swedish military?
- Should the Brigade be deployed, when the Germans had surrendered?
The Placing of the Brigade in Sweden
The Brigade wanted to be placed in southern Scania, close to Denmark. But the Swedish government refused, because of the neutrality policy and because they were afraid of how the Germans would react. The Germans would probably not stand for such an obvious provocation so close to the Danish border.
In the spring of 1945, the Brigade had, with the increasing help of the Swedes, developed into a ramified military organisation with seven military camps in southern and middle Sweden. Five of them, Sofienlund, Ronneby Bruden, Ryds Brun, Tingsryd and Karlskrona on the border between southern Småland and Blekinge.
The Placement of the Camps
The First Camp, Sofielund
The Brigade´s Strength and Organisation
The Brigade never became, in spite of an elite training in the manner of the commando units we know today, a fighting unit, which could be deployed against the German occupying power in the Denmark. To the disappointment of the Brigade soldiers, the English officers, headed by general Dewing refused vehemently to let the Brigade try a suicidal mission like that.
In 1945 the Brigade consisted of five battalions, with major general K. Knudtzon as the commander.
- Four battalions with light equipment, light machine guns and small arms.
- Fifth battalion was heavily equipped with a machine gun company, a company equipped with 81 mm and 120 mm mortars.
Together the were a regiment, which could be bcaked up by a smal Danish fleet (Karlskrona) and squadron of planes, however they had not been trained to work with the English planes.
Brigade Commander K. Knutzon
The Mortar Group
Sätre Brün: Exercise
Women´s Army Corps in Hortunaholm
The International Influence
The discussions concerning this changed in step with the developments in the European battlefields in 1944 and 1945. The Danish Liberation Council’s close connection to the Englishmen’s international organisation of European resistance movements (SOE), meant that the English consistently rejected the Danish officers´ anit-Communist agenda.
The English foresaw that they´d might need the Brigade. In close cooperation with the resistance movement the united forces could tie down German troops in Northern Europe.
The End in Sight
As the war progressed in 1944, it gradually became clear for most people that the Germans would lose the war. The tactics of the English and the Americans were to avoid concentrating their troops in Germany. They were not interested in a war in Denmark, where they would to use manpower. They wanted the Germans to surrender without a fight. The Germans wanted the same, so they could concentrate on the defence of Germany.
The result of these strategic and tactical deliberations was that they did not want to deploy the Danish Brigade, as it would complicate things. The Brigade was to arrive after the Germans had surrendered. Then they could make sure that the Danish Liberation council and thus the Communist resistance movement were held in check.
The Soviet Union was not blind to the deliberations of the Allies and in the course of 1945 a radical change occurred. The Soviet Union did not want a Danish nationalist army under the command of right-wing officers to take away the pronounced influence of the Danish Communist resistance movement. In short: They felt, like the English and the Americans, but for other reasons, that the Brigade could stay where it was: Deep in the forests of Småland.
The international development and its effects were not easy to understand for the officers and privates in the Brigade. The boring military training and the wish to get in action was prominent.
The people in the Brigade were told again and again that they should wait. The internal division were many and the leadership had a hard time holding it all together.
As the war progressed many of the Brigade soldiers felt that they let down the resistance movement in Denmark by taking a “holiday” in Sweden. However, apart from some attempts of rebellion form officers as well as privates, they succeeded to hold it all together until May 4th 1945, when the Brigade was sent to Elsinore, Zealand.
In the Field
Swedish Generals Say Goodbye
The Homecoming of the Brigade in Elsinore
The Mayor in Elsinore Receives Them
Elsinore May 5th 1945.