On April 9, 1940, at 5:00 a.m., the government of Germany informed the government of Denmark that Germany wished to occupy Denmark, and requested Denmark’s immediate submission.
A short while later, a single battalion of German troops landed by unarmored ship in Copenhagen harbor and occupied the city’s ancient (and totally useless) citadel—without firing a single shot.
The German soldiers informed the Danish soldiers on duty at the citadel that they were not free to leave—until later in the day.
German officials gave a live running commentary of the progress of the “battle”, such as it was, direct to Germany—by telephone, using standard Danish commercial telephone lines. The Germans placed their calls from a hotel directly across the street from the citadel. (The Danes, incredibly, had been too stupid to cut communications to Germany.)
At 7:20 a.m., the Danish government capitulated. The “war” was over. It was the briefest military campaign in recorded history.
At 1:00 p.m., General Kurt Himer, head of German operations in Denmark, received an audience with the Danish monarch, Christian X.
The Danish monarch had one—and only one—question on his mind: “Will I be able to keep my bodyguards?”
“Of course” was a startled General Himer’s reply.
The relieved monarch had nothing further to say—until the end of the pleasantries, when he confided in General Himer:
“General, may I, as an old soldier, tell you something? As soldier to soldier? You Germans have done the incredible! Again! One must admit that it is magnificent work!”
All present at the royal audience, dumbfounded at the Danish monarch’s words, and fearful that no one would believe what they had just witnessed, reported back to Germany—that very day, in writing—precisely what Christian X had uttered.
Christian X (“The Fighting Monarch”) was, of course, a frightful boob.
Never popular in the first thirty years of his reign, when he repeatedly—and disastrously—tried to inject himself into Danish politics, Christian X acquired an inexplicable degree of popularity during the German occupation. This was so even though he spent the final three years of the occupation in total seclusion, sequestered from his subjects because of ill health.
The many absurd stories about Christian X’s courageous and noble endeavors during World War II are all preposterous fictions.
Most ridiculous of all is the legend of Christian X wearing “The Yellow Star” in support of his nation’s Jewish citizens. In fact, Christian X never wore “The Yellow Star”—nor, for that matter, did Denmark’s Jewish citizens ever wear “The Yellow Star”. The story is pure myth.
When Germany seized absolute control of Denmark in August 1943, Germany finally issued an order calling for the roundup of Denmark’s Jewish citizens. Christian X, alone among European monarchs, did not protest the order—most likely because he was a notorious anti-Semite himself.
It is believed that the many apocryphal stories about the “noble” Christian X were fabricated from whole cloth while the war was still in progress—and were in response to numerous articles in American newspapers highly critical of Denmark’s ignoble and all-too-willing accommodation to the German occupation. Pro-Denmark stories were invented and planted in the American press in order to attempt to change American perceptions toward the Danes—and, from a pure public-relations standpoint, those stories were largely successful (although historians have always been harshly critical of Denmark’s unseemly readiness to accept foreign occupation without complaint and without resistance).
Denmark’s accommodation with Germany was, perhaps, the ugliest episode in Denmark’s ugly and highly militaristic history going back over a thousand years. Denmark’s shameful accommodation was just as ugly as—if not uglier than—the shameful accommodation of France.
Neither nation shall ever be able to live down its disgraceful behavior during the war.
It was only in 2003 that Denmark admitted, publicly and for the first time, that its cooperation with the Nazi regime had been “morally unjustifiable”.
Yet the innate trait of pettiness—if not vindictiveness—that runs through the Danish character showed itself as soon as the war ended.
The nation immediately arrested 40,000 citizens on suspicions of “collaboration”. (By comparison, Germany had arrested only 6,000 Danes during the entire five years and one month of occupation.)
Even though Denmark’s official policy throughout the war had been to encourage its citizens to collaborate, 13,500 of those charged with collaboration were convicted and punished. Most were sentenced to long prison terms.
Forty-six persons were executed—despite the fact that Denmark’s constitution forbade the death penalty.
The number of post-war executions for collaboration was three times higher than the number of Danes killed during the two-hour “war” that had occurred five years earlier.
Denmark had been placed on notice of the pending German invasion well in advance of April 9, 1940. The intelligence arm of Denmark’s army had provided the Danish government with the date of the attack as well as the German plans of advance. Denmark’s ambassador in Berlin had provided Copenhagen with the same information, as had the British government.
Nonetheless, the Danish government took no action. It did not even bother to inform the nation’s navy or police force what was expected to happen on April 9.
During the war, Denmark voluntarily created its own SS, complete with its own unique uniforms and insignia.
Denmark’s SS often paraded through the streets of downtown Copenhagen, with large, supportive crowds looking on.
Denmark also created regiments and brigades—including Panzer brigades and a special Freikorps Danmark—that served with the German Army on both the Eastern and Western Fronts.
Danes, understandably, are reluctant today to acknowledge such unpleasant if not painful facts about their nation’s history. For seventy years, Denmark has been mostly successful in sweeping such sordid goings-on under the rug. To this day, Denmark’s wartime shenanigans remain largely unexamined—by the Danes themselves as well as outsiders.
Yet more and more information about Denmark’s participation in the killing squads on The Eastern Front continues to emerge—while countless new photographs, documenting such participation, come to light year after year. The appearance of history tomes cannot be far behind. In fact, it is my understanding that Latvian historians are already hard at work on the subject.
The story of the tens of thousands of German civilians, mostly women and children, who died in post-war Danish internment camps—as the result of an official government policy of deliberate neglect—must be told at another time.