Denmark under German occupation

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King Christian X riding on his birthday in Copenhagen, September 26, 1940

During the Second World War , Denmark was under German occupation for five years, from April 9, 1940 to May 5, 1945 . Unlike other occupied countries, the institutions of Denmark remained intact until 1943.

The invasion

"Weser Exercise-South"

The aim of the " Operation Weser Exercise " carried out by the Wehrmacht on April 9, 1940 under General Leonhard Kaupisch was to secure the supply routes to Norway, which was also occupied. From 4:15 a.m., the invasion of South Jutland took place according to the Weser Exercise-South company , with troops landing in Copenhagen at the same time . Aalborg Airport on the northern tip of Jutland was particularly important . Leaflets entitled OPROP (Appeal), written in a clumsy Danish / Norwegian, were dropped. Under the threat of the bombing of Copenhagen, the Danish government protested after two hours against the violation of the country's neutrality , but nevertheless submitted to the occupation , which officially became a peaceful occupation; The forced decision was also approved by the opposition, with the exception of the communists and national conservative circles. The Danish army only offered resistance in places (in Copenhagen, in South Jutland, in the Storstrømsbroen area and on Zealand ). In Copenhagen, the Guard Training Battalion defended Amalienborg Palace against the landing troops that the German mineship Hanseatic City of Danzig had disembarked on the Langelinie. 16 Danish uniformed men died in the process (14 of them in northern Schleswig).

On the evening of April 9th, Denmark was completely occupied. On that day, the Wehrmacht was able to use the Danish railway network and the airfields in Jutland to supply and support the German troops in Norway. The "Weser Exercise-South" company was successfully completed on April 10th. The Danish armed forces retained the army and fleet until 1943.

The Faroe Islands remained in British influence, as did Iceland; the United States established military bases in Greenland .

The occupation 1940–1943

Danish soldiers on April 9, 1940

In a note to the Danish government, the German side guaranteed territorial integrity and declared that it would take over the armed “protection of the kingdom of Denmark ” and its neutrality; because they had no ideological goals - after all, the National Socialists viewed the Danes as Aryans or explicitly apostrophized them as “ Teutons ” - they could continue to fall back on Danish food deliveries and wanted to create a kind of model or “ protectorate ”. The highest German representative was the Reich Plenipotentiary and Ambassador Cécil von Renthe-Fink ; he faced the Danish Minister of State Thorvald Stauning ( Social Democratic Party ). The country did not see itself at war with the German Reich in terms of international law , and "[t] he occupation in Denmark was a special case of civil administrations in 'Germanic' countries up to August 1943, which, however, was similar to the Reichskommissariats in terms of objectives", so the historian Werner Röhr. In contrast to its other occupation regimes in Europe, “when Denmark surrendered, Germany committed itself to precisely that binding force which was basically excluded with the jus ad bellum : the preservation of the territorial and state integrity of the country, thus not interfering in internal affairs . But this form of occupation was increasingly undermined and openly abandoned in 1943 in favor of direct intervention options. "

The head of state, King Christian X , stayed in the country.


The head of government formed a grand coalition without the weak Danish National Socialists. The newspapers were subjected to censorship. The diplomatic relations between the two countries remained composed and Denmark could at any rate for the time being and to third countries maintained.

On June 22, 1941, several hundred Danish communists were arrested. They were sent to the Danish Horserød camp , and on October 2, 1943, 150 of them were deported to the German Stutthof concentration camp because not enough Jews were captured during the raid on the Jews . After the " Operation Barbarossa " began in 1941, Adolf Hitler forced Denmark to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact , which was incompatible with the Danish goal of neutrality; a Danish resistance arose. The government refused to discriminate against Jews, as well as the introduction of the death penalty and military courts with jurisdiction over Danes.

After Stauning's death in May 1942, his party colleague Vilhelm Buhl took over the government. When the German Reich government exerted increasing pressure in the course of the " telegram crisis " in autumn 1942 and replaced the diplomat Renthe-Fink with SS man Werner Best as the new Reich plenipotentiary, the previous Danish Foreign Minister Erik Scavenius became the new Minister of State. He, too, was able to prevent some things, for example he rejected a customs union and a currency union with Germany and did not accept National Socialists into his government.

On March 23, 1943 there was an election for the Folketing , in which the Danish National Socialists received about 2% of the vote.


Armed Danish auxiliary policeman in HIPO uniform

The army was demobilized with the exception of 2,200 soldiers , and no units of the Danish army were integrated into the Wehrmacht.

The SS set up the Frikorps Danmark ; about 6000 National Socialists and members of the German minority volunteered. The government prevented minors from being recruited .


With the occupation of Denmark, contact with the formerly most important trading partner, the United Kingdom, was completely lost and Germany now took its place. However, this was not a complete break with the previous economic policy of Denmark, but only strengthened the turnaround established in a German-Danish trade agreement in 1934 to precisely determine the annual exchange of goods.

Denmark should now primarily produce goods that were of particular interest to Germany. The focus was on the one hand on the iron and steel industry, on the other hand Denmark should develop a more agrarian economy and supply ten percent of Germany's total demand for meat, butter and sugar as well as 90 percent of the demand for fresh fish. At the beginning of the occupation, the German Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture therefore drafted a plan for Danish agriculture, the stated goal of which was to maximize the production and delivery of food to Germany. Significantly under the German State Secretary Herbert Backe , a system was set up in which farmers, their organizations and Danish society in general increased production and exports to Germany out of their own interest.

In addition, an agreement on Danish temporary workers in Germany was reached in the German-Danish Committee on Trade Agreements. A total of 64,000 Danish citizens had been recruited by 1941.

Since there was a lot of German military money in circulation, the local currency inflated heavily. In the summer of 1940 negotiations were held on a German-Danish customs and trade union. The Danish Foreign Minister Erik Scavenius hoped for a fixed exchange rate between the Danish krone and the Reichsmark , while the German negotiating side wanted to introduce the Reichsmark as the sole means of payment in Denmark. The negotiations were broken off on the Danish side. Under the impression of German victories, Scavenius wanted Denmark to secure a good position in the reorganization of Europe that could be expected after the war .

The occupation period 1943–1945

Strikes, sabotage and resistance to state power on the part of the Danish resistance led to a German ultimatum on August 28, 1943: a ban on assembly, the introduction of a curfew, military courts and the death penalty were demanded. The government refused. The next day the government was dissolved and the commander of the German troops in Denmark, Hermann von Hanneken , introduced martial law and declared a state of emergency. Parliament no longer met; the state secretaries of the ministries took over the management of government affairs. The Danish remaining army was disarmed, it came to the scuttling of the Danish fleet .

Boat with Jews on the crossing from Falster to Ystad in Sweden, 1943

The deportation of the Danish Jews planned by the Germans for October 2, 1943 was thwarted by a unique rescue operation : 7,000 Jews were able to be exiled by helpers in ships and boats to Sweden after the German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz had previously secretly given a confirmation of admission Swedish government had obtained. Almost 500 Jews fell into German hands and were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp , but up to 50 people survived the war thanks to the ongoing protests of the Danish government.

After the landing in Normandy in 1944, the Danish resistance blocked the Danish State Railways for several days so that no German soldiers could be sent to France to reinforce them.

The government tried in vain to prevent the deportation of Danish citizens by setting up the Frøslev internment camp . The camp was soon taken over by the occupying forces as the Fröslev police prison camp, and around 1200 inmates were deported to Germany.

Since the 10,000-strong Danish police, according to the German opinion, did not act tough enough against the Danish resistance and Hitler feared that the majority of their members - as happened with the Paris police - could switch fronts, they were defeated as part of the Möwe military action on 19. Disbanded September 1944. 2235 police officers were deported to the Neuengamme and Buchenwald concentration camps. In the “police-free time” that followed, there was a wave of apolitical crimes such as robbery and theft.


The economic situation became more difficult as resources were needed at the front; however, Denmark's economic situation in Europe was comparatively good. The cost of coal and oil rose sharply, and many everyday goods were rationed .

German refugees in Denmark

After the advance of the Red Army , hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated across the Baltic Sea from February 1945 on Hitler's orders , mainly from Pomerania , Danzig and West and East Prussia . On February 9, 1945, the first refugees arrived in Copenhagen on a refugee ship. Schools, hotels and sports facilities were requisitioned for their reception.

In the Danish population this was seen as a “second occupation”. The Danish central administration refused to cooperate and protested in an official protest note with reference to the Hague Land Warfare Regulations to the Reich Plenipotentiary Best. The Danish Medical Association (Den Almindelige Danske Lægeforening, DADL) refused to provide medical care for the refugees. The urgently needed medical help for the refugees was used by the Danish and German authorities as a means of negotiation in order to achieve other interests. The Danish negotiators under State Secretary Nils Svenningsen wanted to secure the release of the approximately 4,000 Danish citizens who had been deported to Germany. The head of the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin, Ernst Kaltenbrunner , on the other hand, tied this to the condition of the re-establishment of the Danish police, which had been dissolved in 1944 and which should now also have been used in the fight against terrorism. De facto this would have meant that the Danish police should have acted against the Danish resistance movement. The German authorities in Denmark did not give the refugees medical care a priority either, and Werner Best spoke in the course of the war propaganda of hospitals that had been specially set up for the refugees. So there was no help: By the end of the war, around 6,580 refugees had died. After the Wehrmacht troops withdrew from Denmark in May 1945, around 250,000 refugees were housed in Denmark in barracks and camps formerly used by the Wehrmacht. The last inmates were not repatriated to Germany until February 1949.

Retreating German soldiers who were disarmed at the border near Krusau near Flensburg in 1945 and returned to Germany from there

End and balance

At the beginning of May 1945 , the last imperial government under Karl Dönitz was established in the border town of Flensburg in the suburb of Mürwik . It commissioned a German negotiating delegation chaired by the new Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, with armistice negotiations with the British armed forces. On May 4, the delegation on the Timeloberg near Wendisch Evern signed the partial surrender of the Wehrmacht for Northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands , which came into force on May 5, 1945 at 8:00 a.m. In the same month the German soldiers withdrew from Denmark. The Frøslev internment camp near Flensburg was also liberated on the same day. In the period that followed, members of the German ethnic group were interned there for collaboration.

With the exception of Bornholm in 1945, Denmark was hardly bombed. About 850 people died in the resistance movement, 1,800 sailors were killed by submarines, among other things, and 600 Danes were killed in German concentration camps . After the war 40,000 people were charged with collaboration arrested and 78 of them in processes sentenced to death. Of these, 46 were actually executed . In Denmark, too, there are occupation children of German soldiers and Danish women.


See also


  • Robert Bohn (ed.): The German rule in the "Germanic" countries 1940-1945. Steiner, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-515-07099-0 .
  • Arne Gammelgaard: Uninvited guests. East German refugees in Denmark 1945–1949. Leer 1985 (= zero hour and after; 7).
  • Ruth Meyer-Gohde: Denmark's economic policy reaction to the occupation of the country in 1940/41. In: NORDEUROPAforum (2006: 2), pp. 51–70 ( PDF ).
  • Nathaniel Hong: Occupied - Danmark's Adaption and Resistance to German Occupation 1940–1945. Frihedsmuseets Venners Forlag, Copenhagen 2012, ISBN 978-87-88214-79-6 .
  • Gustav Meissner: Denmark under the swastika. Ullstein, Berlin / Frankfurt a. M. 1990, ISBN 978-3-550-07652-7 .

Web links

Commons : Denmark under German occupation  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Karl-Georg Mix: German refugees in Denmark 1945–1949. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-515-08690-0 , p. 19.
  2. Cf. Fritz Petrick: Denmark, the "model protectorate"? In: Robert Bohn (Ed.): The German rule in the "Germanic" countries 1940–1945. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-515-07099-0 , pp. 121-134, here p. 122. The Danish government did not regard the German occupation as an actual warlike action, see Karl Christian Lammers : Die German occupation policy and its Danish partners. A research balance sheet. In: Robert Bohn, ibid., Pp. 135–144, here p. 136.
  3. a b Karl Christian Lammers, ibid., P. 136.
  4. a b Karl Christian Lammers, ibid., P. 135 f.
  5. ^ Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 122.
  6. ^ Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 121 f.
  7. For the structure of the authority of the Reich plenipotentiary from the end of 1942 see Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 129 f.
  8. a b Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 133 f.
  9. Quoted from Werner Röhr: System or organized chaos? Questions of a typology of the German occupation regime in the Second World War. In: Robert Bohn, ibid., Pp. 11–46, here p. 41.
  10. ^ Karl Christian Lammers, ibid., P. 137 .
  11. The Danish "government [...] retained - with a brief interruption during the so-called telegram crisis in autumn 1942 - its diplomatic representation in Berlin until the end of the war ." Quoted from Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 122.
  12. ^ Matthias Bath: Danebrog against swastika. Wachholz, 2011, ISBN 978-3-529-02817-5 , p. 131.
  13. ^ J. Eppstein: Denmark under the Germans. Cape. 5, p. 51 ff. In: Denmark. British Survey Handbooks, Cambridge University Press, 2004, SN 9781107426153.
  14. ^ Mogens R. Nissen: Nazi price policy in occupied Denmark. In: NORDEUROPAforum - magazine for politics, economy and culture. ISSN  1863-639X , issue 1/2004, pp. 25-44
  15. ^ Mogens R. Nissen: How Danish agriculture gained in the German occupation 1940-45. Cathol. Univ. Leuwen, 2009 PDF; 390 kB [1]
  16. Ruth Meyer-Gohde: Denmark's economic policy reaction to the occupation of the country in 1940/41. In: NORDEUROPAforum (2006: 2), pp. 51–70.
  17. See Fritz Petrick, in: Robert Bohn, ibid., P. 130 ff.
  18. ^ Matthias Bath: Danebrog against swastika. Wachholz, 2011, ISBN 978-3-529-02817-5 , p. 227 ff.
  19. Michael Schultheiss: Did you think about the small children ...? Negotiations about medical aid for German refugees in Denmark at the end of the Second World War. In: NORDEUROPAforum (2009: 2), pp. 37–59.
  20. Cf. sh: z : 70 years after the end of the Second World War: The last imperial capital Flensburg and a yellowed piece of history. from: May 5, 2015; Retrieved on: January 23, 2015