Tysklandsarbejdere = Danes working in Germany doing WWII –
They will be referred to as Danish Germany-workers
Many became unemployed in the early years of the occupation. Because of the war, Danish companies could no longer act as much in other countries as they used to. That’s why they had to fire employees.
However, unemployment fell sharply from 1942. Partly because many companies began to produce goods for the Germans. Partly because about 100,000 Danes travelled to Germany to work. But also because large-scale construction of German fortifications were launched in Denmark, which employed many construction workers.
It was important for Danish politicians that people get to work. In this context, it meant less that many new goods and fortifications benefited the German occupying power.
Denmark in crisis
The problems of unemployment grew in Denmark in 1940-41. The occupation simply sent the country in crisis. Suddenly, companies could no longer obtain the materials from abroad to produce their products. At the same time, they also lacked coal and oil to operate their machines. Therefore, many companies had to close and fire their employees.
Action against unemployment
However, from 1941, more and more jobs began to occur in Denmark. This was due, among other things, to the government making efforts to get people into work. But also that the Germans needed the efforts of Danish workers. Through cooperation between the Danish Government and the Germans, among other things, the Major Danish-German construction projects started.
The main measures to combat unemployment were:
Campaigns against unemployment. During the occupation, major campaigns were carried out to create new jobs. In particular, the National Association for the fight against unemployment (LAB) carried out large-scale waste collection. The collections provided, among other things, Food residues that could be used for pig feed. And clothes residues that could be used for replacement clothes. Many unemployed were thus given work as collectors-the so-called ‘ waste men ‘.
Distribution of work. In order to reduce the impact of unemployment, work sharing was introduced. This meant that groups of workers had to share the limited amount of work that was to be given.
Fortifications. An important remedy for unemployment was the major construction of German military bunkers in the west coast of Jutland. Around 100,000 Danes were under occupation in the construction industry. The Germans borrowed the money for wages and building materials from the Danish state. Throughout the occupation, the Germans lent a total of 4.8 billion kroner of the state to new buildings.
Goods to Germany. Many Danish companies, which were threatened with closure due to the war, found a way out of selling goods to Germany. This german consumption of Danish goods secured jobs that had otherwise disappeared.
Replacement production. The shortage of goods gradually began to mean more jobs. When there was no oil or coal to run the machines of the factories, people had to enter and do the work that the machines had previously performed. And because no goods could be bought from abroad as before, new Danish companies grew up. The substitute products manufactured. E.g. shoe of fish skins.
Brown coal and peat excavation. The war meant a shortage of coal from abroad, which was previously warmed up. Thousands of workers were therefore given jobs with the excavation and drying of peat and brown coal.
Germany’s workers. Finally, it was also important that about 100,000 Danes under the 2nd World War II travelled to Germany to get work done. Danish Germany-workers often lived in poor conditions. Germany was a “dictatorship state”, and “oppression” was common in the workplace. At the same time, allied bombardments meant that German cities were dangerous to live in. It is believed that every tenth Danish worker in Germany therefore travelled home ahead of time. However, in many cases, the German state attempted to force foreign workers to remain in Germany. If you left work in Germany without permission, you were ultimately risked being sent to the concentration camp.
In Denmark, forcing unemployed persons to take up employment in Germany was not allowed. Nor was it necessary in the first years of the occupation. During these years, many volunteered because of high unemployment. Gradually, however, the desire to travel was less. Municipalities and unemployment funds therefore put more and more pressure on the unemployed to get them off. For example, by giving less in support.
Source: Befrielsen 1945
Danish Germany-workers and Danish industry
There are still many myths associated with the occupation period. We’re going to with one of them, and that’s the case of Danish German-workers. There was probably only 10 per cent who chose to travel voluntarily. And that they were sent south for fuel, may have its accuracy. Companies were not forced to cooperate with the Germans. And the state did not force them. But they got raw materials as thank you for the cooperation. And many were dependent on this, otherwise they could well pack up and close. But why were all not punished for cooperation with the Germans? Some had earned plummeted with money and were even honored. You’d prefer to silence things. Denmark supplied 25% of Wermacht’s meat supply. In 1944, it was 160,000 tonnes of pig and beef. Nobody in agriculture was convicted. Also, Christiani, who built lots of U-boat installations for the Germans. He was instead decorated. Half of the contractors worked for the Germans. They built for 200 billion Kroner (about 30 billion USD). At least 23 Danish companies used forced labourers.
Not all were suffering
Generations of Danes have been told at school that the occupation time was five dark, sad and poor years. But it was not necessarily for contractors, farmers and industrialists. It was in economic terms five bright years, five obese years. Not for everyone but for a great deal.
Prime Minister Jes Otto Krag despised the Danish German-workers
During the occupation period, 129,700 Danish workers travelled to Germany to work. For many years these workers were stamped by a cold and hatous tone. Thus, Prime Minister Jes Otto Krag despised them. He wrote the following:
It was not the best that went out. (The majority was disorganised) and the financial losses they inflicted were only small.
Of course, there must be no greater moral indulgence towards workers than other social groups who went to the Germans.
Their number was as it culminated around 30,000 men
When the bombs began to fall, they wisely went home
However, the number that went to Germany and Norway was relatively small (and yet large enough to prevent forced labour)
Why he should lie about the numbers, was along with the other accusations to put these people in disgrace. Jens Otto Krag’s accusations are made in the socialist work of Hartvig Frisch, Buhl and more: Denmark occupied and freed 1-3. It was probably released in 1947.
The Danish Germany-workers were threatened by the trade union
However, the Germany-workers were threatened with loss of economic benefits if they did not travel to Germany when they were unemployed. The trade union movement stood together on this at the time. For 90%, the workers were forced to travel.
In fact, the Danish workers had to work only 48 hours a week, but several were forced to work 60 hours. It does not look like the trade union could do anything or would do anything to prevent this. It is also unclear who was offered a folk high school stay instead of being sent south [Germany]. There were not many who were aware of this possibility.
Manpower for resources
The cooperative trade unions had pointed out to their local departments that it was important to send members to the south [Germany], because then Denmark could continue to get fuel. The Germans did not sanction with punishments as such, but they had a leverage on Denmark as they could supply raw materials as an exchange for labor. And this swapping seemed apparently to be in order with the Danish trade union.
But what was it historian Ditlev Tamm wrote in his book ”Retsopgøret efter besættelsen” (Court post-occupation):
‘Economic relations with the enemy during war have always been banned’
Danish Labour Union Confederation (Arbejdsmarkedsforbund) was adaptable
On 16 In May 1940, a circular was issued by the Danish authorities, which stated that there would be manpower for Germany and companies in Norway, which worked for the German war industry.
In the Danish Labour Federation, where over half were without work, the waves went high in the federal leadership. The federal president, Axel Olsen was very “adaptable” to the Germans. Apparently, the Germans would have proposed him as a minister in a Danish government, as the Germans demanded.
The trade unions delivered lists of red dots on communists and people who worked with the cooperators.
Many dead and wounded
Many Germany-workers were killed and wounded during their stay. The number of people involved has been disputed. The death toll is mentioned between 80 and 500. However, most of them survived work injuries, maltreatment and bodily injuries after English and American bombardments.
Employers notified workers to the Gestapo
As a rule, medical examinations and more were reviewed in a review camp. There could be a risk of staying for quite a long time, along with other nationalities. You slept in bunk beds. Catering and pay conditions did not meet the agreement at all.
Quitting work, and you could be sure that the Gestapo was looking for you. Danish employers in Germany reported Danish Germany-workers to Germany’s police. And I suppose you could not be unaware that the Gestapo was involved.
Some of the Danish workers were also so unlucky to be sent to a “worker education camp”, where they had to wear prison clothing and short-cut hair. Here they were always under the guarding of the SS.
Yes others ended up in one of the most notorious camps in the KZ system, Dora – Mittelbau. Here, the majority of prisoners worked in extremely destructive conditions to produce V1 – missiles and V2 – rockets in a factory that was designed in corridors and caves underground.
Not a guarantee of decent working conditions
The Danish workers were otherwise confident in the system when they had to work for Danish companies in the German. But it was far from a guarantee of proper conditions.
It turned out that many of the Danish companies were not really working in Germany. They rented the Danes to German companies for a larger or lesser fee. “White slave traders” These companies were renamed in the internal correspondence.
This “Slave trade” was contrary to Danish law from 1938. This law banned private work instructions. But it was now far from the only problem of the so-called “company effort” to the broken promises to the workers came other irregularities. The most frequent attempt by the firms was to circumvent the rules for repatriation of profits over the Danish – German clearing system.
German recruitment of Danish workers to jobs in Germany started with the approval of the Danish government already a few weeks after the entry of the German military occupation in Denmark. It immediately became a resounding success.
By mid-October 1940, the number of Danish workers on way to Germany already rounded up to 20,000.
Great Danish support for the “Nazis”
At one point, the idea arose that, besides Danish workers, we could also attract Danish building contractors. Everything was needed. Eventually the jobs were freed by people who were going to the front. Germany was pleased with Denmark’s backing, and so they backed us up with the war industry.
Large plans for Danish companies
Hitler’s chief agent Albert Speer had major plans for the “World Capital Germania”. Gigantic buildings had to be created. But also the third largest city in the kingdom had great plans. This involved a radical disappearance of the inner city of Hamburg.
A gigantic suspension bridge over the port area, to which the largest ships would have to pass, would connect the north and south of the Elbe.
Danish general consultant enthusiastic about the Germans ‘ plans
One of those who liked the big plans was the general consul of Denmark in Hamburg, Marinus L. Yde. He had served as head of the General Consulate of Denmark in Hamburg since 1921. His pronounced German position was not weakened by the “Nazi” takeover. On the contrary, he sought connection with the deeply corrupt “Nazi” hardliner, Karl Kaufmann, one of Hitler’s trusted.
Great Hamburg – The plans were already given the blue stamp in the early summer of 1939. The many victories created a euphoric atmosphere in Germany. Expectations were an early end to the war. The regime’s prestige increased. But now the position of power should first be translated into stone and symbols. And it was here the Danish construction companies and for that matter Dutch and Belgian too, came into the picture.
Contractors went along
And the Danish companies were eager to build worker housing and the establishment of large air protection cellars. Marinus L. Yde contacted Foreign Minister Scavenius and engineer Niels Monberg from the construction company Monberg & Thorsen. They were both his personal friends.
And soon the top of the Construction Association, the Engineering Association, the Academic Architect Association and the Danish Employers ‘ Association came together with German representatives.
Minister secured his own company
Now it was not new to cooperate with NS Germany. There was also the Fugleflugtslinjen (literally: bird flight line), where minister of Public works, Gunnar Larsen, in July 1940, had committed the Government to cooperation with the Germans around the “Fugleflugtslinjen”. He could also secure his old company F.L. Smith.
Yes and then there was also the great arrangement that Danish industry showed in the eastern regions of Germany, that is to say, all the areas that the Germans had attacked [taken back] in Poland.
Politicians: “Calm down”
The Germans would also like to have Danish manpower for wartime projects. But then it was intended to succeed through the Deutsche Arbeitsvermittlungsstelle. These were to be recruited under German companies.
All in all, the Danish organization’s people reacted positively and interested with the prospect of so much work. The conditions that the Germans offered were found as very favorable.
The Germans imagined that the Danish contractors should bring their own tools, vehicles, heavy equipment, etc. But Social Minister Kjærbøl did not find it right to deny the Germans ‘ wishes, but wanted to limit it as much as possible. One should preferably keep the Germans at arm’s distance and avoid committing Danish-German agreements and joint ventures.
The politicians believed that the 20 companies involved would have to cope with 1,000 men. But this was considered by the contractors to be a ridiculous number. At that time, 28,000 had already been traveling to Germany of which 7,500 to Hamburg.
The case was closed to the mainstream media
Sunday, 27. October Berlingske Morning newspaper reported extensively about the great Hamburg plans. In Hamburg, general consul Marinus used to give words such as “daring” and “gigantic” about all the construction projects that the Danish contractors had won.
Mainstream media was silent on the matter. The Foreign ministry’s press agency seemed to understand that the matter should not be mentioned anymore. The head of the ministry’s Legal-political department, Niels Svenningsen, was prohibited from mentioning the case. And it succeeded in completely darkening the case.
The government: “It was not a injunction”
A significant number of construction industry companies were particularly interested in cooperating with the Germans. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a meeting on 13 June 1940 expressed:
That it was desirable for contractors to undertake the executions of the work.
But a sentence was also added that the construction industry forgot:
But of course it is all free to whether he wants to or not
The construction industry, or parts of it, laid it out as a state order and used in its successful efforts to iron out its share of responsibility for the collaborative work.
The Government reiterated that this was not a notice. The construction association turned back several times. The response was also addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And it was emphasised that the government could not give guarantees that there would be no subsequent prosecution.
Conspiracy against the Government
Both Thorsen, Kjærbøl and Stauning attempted to limit the initiatives. But the president of the contractor ensured that the Germans were told. He hoped that the Germans would put pressure on the Danish Government.
Knud Højgaard, along with several other major contractor companies, was deeply involved in a conspiracy against the government, which led to a rejection of the Social Democrats and democracy as such.
“Can we get the approval”
The fear of being excluded was apparently the reason why Wright, Thomsen & Kier, together with another of the great companies of the past, Christiani & Nielsen, contacted the construction Association in the summer of 1944. They had worked diligently for the Germans and would have the board to approve their activities.
At the General Assembly of the contractor after the liberation, Einar Thorsen emphasized that the Germans had been held back and [they had] raised national concerns about a large Danish involvement in Germany.
In view of the ongoing transitional justice and the threat of confiscation of the collaborators ‘ fortunes, it was clearly important to create common ground on what the contractor association members said about cooperation with the Germans. But now it bears the very clear mark of after rationalization. In the course of events there was no trace of restraint on the part of the association.
Companies outside traditional approvals
The Germans quickly hired Danish companies outside the traditional authorisation procedure. After less than half a year of company efforts, there were already a dozen companies in progress, in addition to those who had received approval. In May 1942, 128 companies were already under contract. Most Danish companies were in Kiel, and here there was plenty of work at Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.
Danish contractors received contracts for the reconstruction and repair of bomb-damaged buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.
180 Danish companies in Germany
Some of the Danish companies were unable to cope financially. They slipped just as quietly down to become “white Slave traders”. Complaint were made from the Danish side to the worst of them. In November 1942 it already went beyond 15 companies.
In 1945, the State Emigration Office stated that a total of 180 Danish companies in the building and construction sector had been active in Germany for a shorter and longer period.
Højgaard & Schultz pressed the employees
Højgaard & Schultz had attempted to press the workers to remain in the company’s service in Germany in addition to the time that they had contractually committed to, in violation of the facts, to threaten them with, that ‘if they return to Denmark they would not be able to sustain “a living” of any kind if, at the end of the contractual relationship, left the company against their wishes” [in other words: if you leave, you will face hard times back home]
Promises were not met
The company ‘Industribyg’, which had promised the workers when hiring, that they should work in a Danish-led workplace under Danish superiors, but instead left them to German companies.
Nymark & Olsen had given the workers the promise of free catering and higher hourly wages, which was not kept. There were numerous other examples.
A good contribution to the German war economy
In total, there were a total of 127,910 Germany-workers. And of these, 27,745 was affiliated with the Danish “company effort”. Thus, one in five works was hired for Germany by a Danish contractor company.
In view of Denmark’s population, it was not a negligible contribution that Danish contractors made through their organizations to the German war economy.
The Germany-workers were cheated
And to the workers whom Jens Otto Krag despised, it was used quite considerable resources from the state emigration office and the Danish consulates in Germany to help them. They had been cheated or had problems with their employer.
In 27 companies, embezzlement was found to be committed by the company’s proprietor,
In 67 companies, the transfer of workers ‘ accumulated wages to the families in Denmark appeared to be disorderly.
36 companies were taken in an attempt to illegally transfer profits, including by abusing the accounts of the employees.
And in 62 companies, there were irregularities and violations of the rules related to the remuneration of other contractual relationships, typically not paying the promised salary or refusing the workers to be resolved from the employment relationship so that they could go home when contract time expired.
At least 23 Danish companies used forced labourers
At least 23 Danish firms with independent contracts with their own construction management in Germany have used forced labourers from Poland, the Soviet Union and perhaps also the German-occupied countries for a substantial part of the workforce.
In fact, For the company Villadsen, it has been established that the company’s large reconstruction contract in Rostock employed in 1943 forced civilians from the Soviet Union. Approximately 200 prisoners of war were made available.
Højgaard & Schultz used forced labor at a floodbank construction in Poland. In the year 2000, the company initiated an impartial investigation into their past. The background was Therkel Strædes revelations. The results of the studies were that Højgaard Holding in 2001 created a fund.
Højgaard believed in victory
Højgaard & Schultz also had a great collaboration with the Siemens Bau Union. The infamous leader Kaj Højgaard was not in doubt in 1941 that it was only a matter of time when Hitler was the victor. And here he stood together with F.L. Smidth’s representative in the government, Gunnar Larsen.
Well 50 years after the end of the war, the past catch up with F.L. Smidth. Historian Joachim Lund’s revelations led to a violent media storm. The crisis led to F.L. Smidth in 1999 creating a fund for surviving forced labourers.
The forced labourers did not do it well enough
The Luftwaffe contacted the Copenhagen construction company Thorning-Christensen. It was not a big company. But the Germans had good experiences with the Danes, as they knew from other war projects, including an air protection plant in Kiel.
The German military made 75 men available. However, the Danish contractors were anything but satisfied with their efforts. It took far too long for them to mix concrete and built the thick bunker walls up. However, the employees they had been made available were exhausted and starved-out Polish and Soviet forced labourers. The proprietor of the Danish company complained that the health status of the employees was too low.
In 1944-45, the Århus company Jens Sørensen received a German order to clean up after an Allied bomb cruise over Hamburg. The Germans made KZ-camp inmates from Neuengamme available.
800 forced labor available
Engineer C. Krøyer’s Company was tasked with building a bunker for the German security Police in Hamburg and an airfield in Pomerania. They were provided with 800 so-called “building aid workers”. This was Soviet forced labourers from a nearby guarded camp.
Christiani slap – he was decorated
Rudolf Christiani is considered one of the major Danish business profiles similar to A.P. Møller. From 1935 to 43 he was a member of the Government of the party Venstre. Politically, he concentrated primarily on foreign policy. Christiani & Nielsen made a name for themselves with a special iron concrete. It allowed for bold and epoch-forming constructions.
The new material was used in very extensive quay constructions in Hamburg, Lübeck, Cuxhafen. And later, Bremen, Kiel and Stettin. These buildings gave the company an early foothold on the German market. Cooperation with the large German industrial barons, for example Krupp & Co. But the company’s heyday came with the NSDAP’s rise to power.
In Denmark, cooperation with the Germans was avoided. But the subsidiary in Europe worked very closely with the Germans. They constructed U-boat bases in Norway and France. They used lots of slave labor and KZ-camp inmates. On one of the U-boat facilities on the French Atlantic coast, there was written:
Wir Bauen für den Sieg (we build for victory)
Despite the fact that the former attorney General Carl Madsen had stacks of evidence for the company’s Dirty collaborator company, enough to send Rudolf Christiani behind bars, no case was ever raised.
Higher powers, personified by the Supreme Prosecutor, the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice and the political establishment, left the matter down. So Rudolf Christiani, like so many others of his kind, was never convicted of his misdeeds during the war. Soon he was back in the chief chair.
In 1954 Rudolf Christiani was appointed “Kommandør af Dannebrog” (commander of Dannebrog), which he was to his death in 1960.
[Dannebrog, Flag of Denmark]
It is also not very popular to say that Mads Clausen’s Danfoss delivered 408,850 kroner in services to the Germans. This is equivalent to six million kroner today. It was found that it was illegal so that the illustriously South Jutland company had to repay 72,242 kroner equivalent to 1.2 million kroner today.
No Danish companies were certainly not better than their German counterparts. It is a little difficult to find something on the various companies websites that show that they have been involved in employing forced and slave workers during the Second World War. With the use of forced labourers, Danish companies became part of the “Nazi” suppression apparatus.
150 Danes working with poison [?] in Auschwitz
In an article in working history titled “In the Smoke of the crematoria”, three historians, Therkel Stræde, Olaf Erichsen and Marius Hansen, documented that in the chemical plant I.G. Farben at the Auschwitz camp, 150 Danish workers were working. They were assumed by the Danish electricity installation company Dahl-Jensen. The cooperation with the Germans was approved by the Danish authorities.
Many myths about force
Each profession followed a very different policy. One was faced with a difficult dilemma where the German dominated market is the only open market. Companies could close the shop and fire employees or deliver to the Germans.
But there are just some myths that we need to have killed. Companies were not forced to carry out work for the Wehrmacht. It has been established as a fact, that in April 1940 the Germans threatened to forcibly employ Danish workers if contractors did not accept orders to construct bunkers and airfields in Jutland. But the story of the Germans threat is without hold in reality.
Myth fabricated by contractors
The myth of forced conscription of workers was fabricated by T.K. Thomsen, one of the holders of the large contractor company Wright, Thomsen and Kier. It happened in 1942 when the success of the German war was about to turn. T.K. Thomsen later reiterated it to the parliamentary investigation Court, which after the liberation examined the degree of Danish cooperation. The Court of inquiry took this for good without checking simultaneous sources. Eventually, this explanation is fixed as a matter of fact.
Danish companies traded for 200 billion. Kroner (about 30 billion USD)
It is not true, when generations has been taken as a matter of fact that Danish companies were more or less forced to cooperate with the German military. It is true that the Stauning government called for cooperation. But it was not only the responsibility of the government that there was produced and sold goods and services to the Germans for an amount that would now be equivalent to 200 billion. Kroner. Individual business leaders took their own decisions, and therefore bore at least equal responsibility.
Only half of the contractors worked for the Germans
Likewise, it is a long-standing false notion that all contractors were, to a greater or lesser extent, so-called conscripts-companies that worked for the Germans. Like argument that the contractors were not able to say no.
This view needs to be revised just because only half of the contractors chose to work for the Germans. The other half declined. Some made it to moral reasons others for national reasons and the third reason was that some worked for the Allies. It could cause unpleasant sanctions.
The contractor industry was heavily influenced by moral considerations and discussions.
Some politely said no to the Germans without experiencing retaliation from them, the Germans were not really interested in getting on the edge with the Danes. It was different in France. Where Germans did not “dare” to use local firms for the first few years.
Deeply dependent on Germany
It was also a myth that Danish industry – companies had their employees forcibly conscripted if the companies did not cooperate with the Wehrmacht. The threat of forced conscription is a myth designed after the war . It was never real. Force was present, but it was primarily economic. If you did not want to trade, no raw materials were made available.
The moral and national played no part in the industry. The reality was that companies that were already export oriented and/or dependent on the supply of fuel and raw materials. They became deeply dependent on being able to trade with Germany. Some held back. Others went much further than was needed.
The red carpet in front of Axel Borg
In July 1941, the President of the Agricultural Council, Henrik Hauch, had put on his fine clothes. The red carpet was laid out in front of the headquarters at Axel Borg. There was important visit from Berlin. The guest was Herbert Backe. He was head of the food authority in the Third Reich and belonged to Hitler’s inner circle.
He had made a plan that 30 million Soviet citizens would lose their lives so that the inhabitants of the Third Reich could get enough to eat. In the Nuremberg Tribunal, Herbert Backe was sentenced to death.
But here in Copenhagen, Backe was greeted as a friend of Danish agriculture. It was no doubt that the deliveries of Danish cereals, pig and beef were a high priority in Berlin, and Denmark never abandoned it. In his memoirs, Henrik Hauch wrote: “our old friends from before the occupation”. Nothing suggested that Hauch had “Nazi” inclinations, but he was happy to do business with the regime.
In 1944 we exported 160,000 tonnes of pig and beef
In 1944 alone, after the government had resigned and the cooperation had formally ceased, Danish farmers sent 160,000 tonnes of pig and beef to Germany. At the same time, it succeeded in pushing the price up. The export price on butter doubled in the first half year of the occupation. The price of beef increased by 65% and farmers ‘ settlements on pork increased by 59%.
25% of Wermacht’s meat consumption
Before the Germans occupied Denmark, they had figured out that the country could make profits just for the export of agricultural goods. Perhaps there was also, therefore, that the NS top leader Backe several times during the occupation visited Denmark.
The Danish meat deliveries accounted for 20% of German civilian population consumption and 25% of the Wehrmacht’s consumption. While Europe was in ruins, Danish agriculture was financially strengthened out of the war.
From the summer of 1944, agriculture entered and financed the release of the illegal magazine ”Budstikken Gaar” (The bidding goes). It was to influence the formation of opinion.
And as we have written so many times. The little man was punished while most of big business escaped punishment.
Your silence is preferable
Wright, Thomsen and Kier had to give up, 6.9 million kroner or over 80 million converted at contemporary prices. But the vast majority of them escaped punishment. This was even more true for farmers, no one was convicted of a legal trade, no profits were confiscated. Everything was, according to the authorities, in order.
There are skeletons in the closet many places. Other places it is not. Some key business leaders, politicians and administrators had to die before the story could be written. For some, the story hurt. For Others, history could damage businesses financially. And it is not unknown that archives have been destroyed or have disappeared from various archives.
Danish Germany-workers were a term for about 100,000 Danes as under World War II (the occupation) traveled to Germany to get work. Especially at the beginning of the occupation, unemployment in Denmark was high, which made the work in Germany appealing-also because Germany’s “war luck” had not yet been reversed. Some were due to refusal to carry out their duties or protests transferred to forced labour or KZ-camps. After the war, Danish Germany-workers were from several sides condemned for working in Germany. As of 2006 it was made possible for the 4,000 remaining former Danish Germany-workers to seek the [German] Social Security Board for German pension.
Historically, Denmark had a large amount of interaction with Germany. In 1920 the country had regained possession of the northern part of Schleswig after losing the provinces during the Second Schleswig War in 1864. The Danish people were divided about what the best policy toward Germany might be. Few were ardent “Nazis”; some explored the economic possibilities of providing the German occupiers with supplies and goods; others eventually formed resistance groups towards the latter part of the war.
The majority of Danes, however, were unwillingly compliant towards the Germans.
Due to the relative ease of the occupation and copious amount of dairy products, Denmark earned the nickname the Cream Front (German: Sahnefront).
As a result of the cooperative attitude of the Danish authorities, German officials claimed that they would “respect Danish sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as neutrality.” The German authorities were inclined towards lenient terms with Denmark for several reasons: their only strong interest in Denmark, that of surplus agricultural products, would be supplied by price policy on food rather than by control and restriction (some German records indicate that the German administration had not fully realized this potential before the occupation took place, which can be doubted); there was serious concern that the Danish economy was so dependent upon trade with Britain that the occupation would create an economic collapse, and Danish officials capitalized on that fear to get early concessions for a reasonable form of cooperation; they also hoped to score propaganda points by making Denmark, in Hitler‘s words, “a model protectorate“; on top of these more practical goals, Nazi race ideology held that Danes were “fellow Nordic Aryans,” and could therefore to some extent be trusted to handle their domestic affairs.
These factors combined to allow Denmark a very favourable relationship with Germany. The government remained somewhat intact, and the parliament continued to function more or less as it had before. They were able to maintain much of their former control over domestic policy. The police and judicial system remained in Danish hands, and unlike most occupied countries, King Christian X remained in the country as Danish head of state. The German Reich was formally represented by a Reichsbevollmächtigter (‘Reich Plenipotentiary‘), i.e. a diplomat accredited to the Sovereign, a post awarded to Cecil von Renthe-Fink, the German ambassador, and then in November 1942 to the lawyer and SS general Werner Best.
Danish public opinion generally backed the new government, particularly after the fall of France in June 1940. There was a general feeling that the unpleasant reality of German occupation must be confronted in the most realistic way possible, given the international situation. Politicians realized that they would have to try hard to maintain Denmark’s privileged position by presenting a united front to the German authorities, so all of the mainstream democratic parties formed a new government together. Parliament and the government agreed to work closely together. Though the effect of this was close to the creation of a one-party state, it remained a representative government.
The Danish government was dominated by Social Democrats, including the pre-war prime minister Thorvald Stauning, who had been strongly opposed to the NS party. Stauning himself was deeply depressed by the prospects for Europe under German rule. Nonetheless, his party pursued a strategy of cooperation, hoping to maintain democracy and Danish control in Denmark for as long as possible. There were many issues that they had to work out with Germany in the months after the occupation. In an effort to keep the Germans satisfied, they compromised Danish democracy and society in several fundamental ways:
- Newspaper articles and news reports “which might jeopardize German-Danish relations” were outlawed, in violation of the Danish constitutional prohibition against censorship.
- On 22 June 1941 while Germany commenced its attack on the Soviet Union the German authorities in Denmark demanded that Danish communists should be arrested. The Danish government complied and using secret registers, the Danish police in the following days arrested 339 communists. Of these 246, including the three communist members of the Danish parliament, were imprisoned in the Horserød camp, in violation of the Danish constitution. On 22 August 1941, the Danish parliament (without its communist members) passed the Communist Law, outlawing the communist party and communist activities, in another violation of the Danish constitution. In 1943 about half of them were transferred to Stutthof concentration camp, where 22 of them died.
- Following Germany’s assault on the Soviet Union, Denmark joined the Anti-Comintern Pact, together with the fellow Nordic state of Finland. As a result, many communists were found among the first members of the Danish resistance movement.
- Industrial production and trade was, partly due to geopolitical reality and economic necessity, redirected toward Germany. An overriding concern was a German fear of creating a burden if the Danish economy collapsed as it did after World War I. This sensitivity to Denmark’s heavy reliance on foreign trade informed the German decision before the occupation to allow the Danes passage through their blockade. Denmark had traditionally been a major trading partner of both Britain and Germany. Many government officials saw expanded trade with Germany as vital to maintaining social order in Denmark. Increased unemployment and poverty was feared to lead to more of open revolt within the country, since Danes tended to blame all negative developments on the Germans. It was feared that any revolt would result in a crackdown by the German authorities.
- The Danish army was largely demobilized, although some units remained until August 1943. The army was allowed to maintain 2,200 men, as well as 1,100 auxiliary troops. Much of the fleet remained in port, but in Danish hands. In at least two towns, the army created secret weapons caches on 10 April 1940. On 23 April 1940, members of the Danish military intelligence established contacts with their British counterparts through the British diplomatic mission in Stockholm, and began dispatching intelligence reports to them by Autumn 1940. This traffic became regular and continued until the Germans dissolved the Danish army in 1943. Following the liberation of Denmark, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery described the intelligence gathered in Denmark as “second to none”.
In return for these concessions, the Danish cabinet rejected German demands for legislation discriminating against Denmark’s Jewish minority. Demands to introduce the death penalty were likewise rebuffed, and so were German demands to allow German military courts jurisdiction over Danish citizens. Denmark also rejected demands for the transfer of Danish army units to German military use.
Stauning remained prime minister until his death in 1942, as head of a coalition cabinet encompassing all major political parties (the exceptions being the tiny NS party, and the Communist Party, which was outlawed in 1941 as discussed). Vilhelm Buhl replaced him briefly, only to be replaced by foreign minister Erik Scavenius, who had been the main link to the German authorities throughout the war. Scavenius was a diplomat, not an elected politician, and had an elitist approach to government. He was afraid that emotional public opinion would destabilize his attempts to build a compromise between Danish sovereignty and the realities of German occupation. Scavenius felt strongly that he was Denmark’s most ardent defender. After the war there was much recrimination over his stance, particularly from members of the active resistance, who felt that he had hindered the cause of resistance and threatened Denmark’s national honour. He felt that these people were vain, seeking to build their own reputations or political careers through emotionalism.
The Danish authorities were able to use their more cooperative stance to win important concessions for the country. They continually refused to enter a customs and currency union with Germany. Danes were concerned both about the negative economic effects of the German proposals, as well as the political ones. German officials did not want to risk their special relationship with Denmark by forcing an agreement on them, as they had done in other countries. The Danish government was also able to stall negotiations over the return of South Jutland to Germany, ban “closed-rank uniformed marches” that would have made nationalist German or Danish “Nazi” agitation more possible, keep National Socialists out of the government, and hold a relatively free election, with decidedly anti-“Nazi” results, in the middle of the war. Danish military officials also had access to sensitive German information, which they delivered to the Allies under government cover. The economic consequences of the occupation were also mitigated by German-Danish cooperation. Inflation rose sharply in the first year of the war, as the German Army spent a large amount of German military currency in Denmark, most importantly on military installations and troop deployments. Due to the Occupation, the National Bank of Denmark was compelled to exchange German currency for Danish notes, effectively granting the Germans a gigantic unsecured loan with only vague promises that the money would eventually be paid, something which never happened. The Danish government was later able to renegotiate the Germans’ arbitrary exchange rate between the German military currency and the Danish krone to reduce this problem.
Denmark in WWII
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