german occupation of denmark

The Country That Wasn’t

After the end of the Second World War, Denmark was liberated from German occupation. Everything was a mess politically. It was unclear what was going to happen to far-flung provinces and colonies of the Kingdom of Denmark, which at the time included Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The residents of Faroe Islands took matters into their own hands. They voted 50.74% in favor of independence from Denmark. Their declaration of independence was annulled by the Danish King, Christian X. Technically the Faroe Islands had been independent for just two days!

Later, a compromise was reached, and it was determined that the Faroe Islands would be granted greater self-rule.

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King Christian X of Denmark riding through the streets of Copenhagen during the German occupation of Denmark in World War II.
When Denmark was occupied by Germany in 1940, 69-year-old King Christian X opted to stay in his country and not go into exile unlike many of his European counterparts. Instead, he showed his resistance to the Nazi occupation with daily rides through the Danish captial, Copenhagen, on his horses “Black” and “Rolf” – unaccompanied by any guards. The Danes would wave at their king or doff their hats, and he would salute back. It is told that a German soldier once remarked to a young boy that he found it odd that a king would ride without a bodyguard. Reportedly, the boy replied, “All of Denmark is his bodyguard.” King Christian X would continue his daily rides until a fall from his horse on 19 October 1942 left him more or less invalid for the rest of his reign. He was, however, still seen as a symbol of national independence and mental resistance by many and to this day, he is known by Danes as “Rytterkongen” – The Riding King.

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Today, March 28th, 2016, would’ve been the 106th birthday of Denmark’s beloved Queen Consort, Ingrid. 

Ingrid Victoria Sofia Louise Margareta was born as an Princess of Sweden on March 28th, 1910 to Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and his wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught. At the age of ten Ingrid’s mother passed away from meningitis during her eighth month of pregnancy with her sixth child. Ingrid was raised to a sense of duty and seriousness. She was well educated and interested in sports, especially horse-riding, skiing and tennis. Because of her mother’s ties to the British Royal Family, many believed that Ingrid would someday marry her second cousin, King Edward VII, but after meeting in 1928 no engagement was announced for the pair. However 7 years later, it was announced Ingrid would be married to her third cousin, the Crown Prince of Denmark, Frederick. 

The Princess married Frederick in her homeland of Sweden at Stockholm Cathedral on May 24th, 1935. The wedding was covered by the media so much so that they were criticized by all of the attention it was given. Ingrid gave birth to three daughters; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (b. 1940), Princess Benedikte of Denmark (b. 1944) and Princess Anne-Marie, later Queen of Greece (b. 1946). 

During the German occupation of Denmark during World War II, Ingrid was known as the “silent resistance and public patriotic moral” to the people of Denmark. Her open defiance of the occupation forces made her grandfather, King Gustav of Sweden, worry about the risks, and in 1941, he sent a demand to her to be more discreet “for the sake of the dynasty” and its safety, but she reacted with anger and refused to obey, and she had the support of her spouse, who shared her views. One display of defiance shown by Ingrid was her positioning of the flags of Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom in the window of the nursery at Amalienborg, the royal residence in the centre of Copenhagen. 

On April 20th, 1947 Ingrid became Queen of Denmark after her husband’s ascension to the throne. As Queen, she reformed the traditions of Danish court life, abolished many old-fashioned customs at court and created a more relaxed atmosphere at official receptions. She was interested in gardening and art, and renovated the Gråsten Slot according to her own historical research about the Palace’s original appearance. 

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Portrait photo of Danish Resistance member Jørgen Kieler after being captured. After intense interrogation by the Germans, Kieler was sent to Neuengamme and then to the Porta Westphalica concentration camp.

Jørgen Kieler (born 23 August 1919), a Danish physician, is remembered primarily for his participation in resistance activities under the German occupation of Denmark in the early 1940s. Together with his sister, Elsebet Kieler, he published Frit Denmark or Free Denmark, an illegal newspaper. As a member of the Holger Danske resistance group, he helped hundreds of Danish Jews to escape to Sweden and avoid extermination.

Despite capture by the Germans and time in a concentration camp, he returned to Denmark after the war and then completed his studies in the United States. In 1980, he became director of research at Kræftens Bekæmpelse (the Danish Cancer Research Institute).

Kieler has written a number of books about the German occupation and about concentration camp syndrome.