Today started out with a light drizzle and stayed that way all day. We took the S train three stops and walked to the Frihedsmuseet - literally the Freedom Museum.
This Museum of the Danish Resistance is housed in a modern building between the Little Mermaid and the Amalienberg Palace, the home of the Queen. The exhibits include photos, objects and videos, with all of the captions and NyHaven harbor video in both Danish and English. This is one of the more objective museums of World War II we have seen. It shows both collaborators and resisters in the years 1940-45, although it leaves unanswered the effects of Denmark's capitulation on the Allied war effort.
In the spring of 1940, Germany's primary objective was the west cost of Norway, which provided ports for German ships and subs. They needed to go through Denmark to get to Norway. Denmark was a tenth the size of Germany, its army was less than a twentieth the size of Germany's, and it was not mobilized for war. Germany seemed to be the likely victor in the war. Many Danish citizens in southern Jutland were of German descent. So the Danish government negotiated an agreement which enabled them to maintain their government and a position of neutrality in the war while occupied by the German army.
The graphs of Danish participation in the anti-Nazi resistance show an exponential growth over the next five years: very little in 1941 (when in fact the Danes recruited troops to serve with the German army on the eastern front), then increasing more and more rapidly until, in the spring of 1945, there was an underground army of about 50,000.
When the Germans marched into Denmark, two-thirds of the Danish mariners were at sea. They never returned to Danish ports during the war, choosing instead to serve under the British flag in the North Atlantic. Back at home, however, conditions grew worse. Denmark fed much of Germany; their own rations were low. Freedom of speech, especially anything about Britain, was repressed. As the Resistance grew in strength, and strikes grew more frequent, Germany replaced the Danish police with German troops, thereby fueling more resistance. Sodden sentry
Danish leftists, some of whom had fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, were among the first to form resistance groups. So were the Boy Scouts. At the beginning resistance efforts were disconnected. Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) organized an espionage network, primarily focused on radio transmissions of intelligence reports. Eventually the SOE ran virtually the entire Danish Resistance.
The exhibits ranged over the entire spectrum of Danish resistance in the war years. There were ration cards and homemade weapons, a variety of makeshift printing equipment (they distributed materials through the mail) code materials and radio sets, sabotage equipment, and dozens of stories of individual resistance members, including many videotaped interviews. There are many photographs taken during the war years as well.
About 175,000 of Denmark's 200,000 Jews escaped to Sweden in 1943, with the help of many individual Danes as well as the more organized resistance groups. As a result, fewer than 5,000 Danish Jews were exterminated in the Nazis' Final Solution.
The government's decision to acquiesce in the Nazi occupation paid off in some respects. In contrast with Germany, Poland and Austria, the number of Danes sent to concentration camps was quite small, and those transported had certain privileges, such as visits from the International Red Cross. Even in the treatment of captured Resistance workers, the Nazis were generally careful to preserve the appearance of judicial procedures, i.e., first the trial and then the execution.
Although there were some Danish Nazis, they never represented a significant percentage of the population. Unlike Norway, where the Nazi Quisling was put into power by Hitler, Denmark retained its parliamentary monarchy throughout the war. King Christian X, who died in 1947, helped maintain the morale of the Danes. Herring restaurant
Leaving the Museum we entered the circular cobblestone drive in front of the Royal Palace, where the sentries, wrapped in their raincloaks and topped by sodden bearskin hats (don't tell Cuddles) walked their beats.
We have sampled smorrebord, which is not Smorgasbord but rather a special kind of sandwich. They are open-faced elegant-looking arrangements of meat--roast beef, salami, salmon, herring, or pate--and garnishes like onions, aspic, hard-boiled egg slices, lettuce, beets or carrots on a thin slice of (usually) dark bread. Besides being made by restaurants, smorrebords are also available in bakeries. We bought a selection one day and brought them back to the room where we could figure out how to actually eat them without making a big mess in public.
So today, instead of smorrebord, we had herring buffet for lunch. There were 10 different herring dishes to choose from on an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even the most enthusiastic herring lover is satisfied after about two plates full, but we certainly liked all of the different approaches, including two hot dishes. None of the dishes used cold sour cream, which is popular in the U.S.
The locals with shopping to do were undaunted by the rain, but the wind was kind of cold, and it wasn't too much fun just to walk through the streets, so we went straight back to the hotel. Still, it was past three when we wrote up the day's adventures.