Sunday, August 01, 2010

Touring Copenhagen - Resistance Museum

I arrived in Copenhagen Friday afternoon from Tartu, via Riga (which was a little nerve-wracking, because I had left one piece of luggage in the luggage storage room in the airport, and I had to figure out how to get it on as hand luggage without paying an enormous sum of money to Air Baltic, which allows only one piece of checked luggage - but I did get it on without having to pay). I was pretty tired, so I didn't go anywhere once I got here, but I went out yesterday morning. The first challenge was figuring out how to buy a metro ticket at the closest stop - there were directions in English, but they weren't very clear. With the help of several patient Danish people, I bought the ticket and headed for my first destination, the harbor, where I was going to take a harbor tour.

It was really a beautiful day - not too hot, with a nice breeze, and it was great to be out on the water. We sailed into the harbor and on several canals (I hadn't realized before this that Copenhagen has canals), passing lots of other tourist boats doing the same thing.

People relaxing at the water's edge, with the Amalieborg castles behind them.
When we got back, I was hungry and had lunch in an Italian restaurant (of which Copenhagen appears to have an abundance). I then walked over to the Museum of the Danish Resistance (during WWII), which turned out to be quite an affecting museum. It covered the whole period from the German invasion in April 1940 to the liberation in May 1945, including the rescue of the Danish Jews from Nazi deportation. The story is really quite amazing. Almost all were ferried to Sweden by the Danish resistance; only about 450 were captured and sent to Terezin, and of those, about 400 survived.

The museum was divided into several sections, starting with a general introduction to Nazism. While some of the exhibits were photographs or facsimiles, many were authentic artifacts of the time period. One of the first items that I saw, to my shock, was the label below from a canister of Zyklon B, which had been found by a Dane in the hold of a sunken German ship.

The next part of the museum was devoted to the first stage of the Nazi occupation of Denmark – accommodation to the wishes of the occupiers. Germany occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940, and the Danish government quickly capitulated. The Germans ruled Denmark through a Danish government coalition, so that full Nazi policies were not implemented (for example anti-Jewish legislation). This included Denmark furnishing Germany with many of its food needs during the war, as well as favorable trade agreements for Germany. The next item illustrates this trade.

These are toy figures of Hitler and Mussolini, purchased in a Copenhagen store in 1943. It had somehow never occurred to me that little figurines of fascist dictators were made – presumably for children to play with!

This is one of the German ENIGMA code machines, which was used by the German Navy in Esbjerg, Denmark.

  The Communist Party was not outlawed in Denmark until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. At that point, the Germans told the Danish government to intern the leaders of the Danish communists, which they did. In November 1942 about 250 were sent to the Horseroed camp, which was run by the Danish police, not by the Nazi Gestapo (later on it was taken over by the Nazis).

A drawing from the internment camp by one of the inmates, Knudaage Larsen.

The next part of the museum was devoted to various types of Danish resistance to German rule in the early years of the occupation. An underground press flourished with newspapers produced by various factions of the Danish resistance. The picture above is of the printing press used to print a newspaper called “Frit Danmark,” which was a collaboration between Communists and Conservatives.

The Danish resistance was in close communication with the British by various methods, including illegal telegraph machines. The picture below shows a reconstruction of a room with equipment used by a telegraphist.

The Jews of Denmark were untouched by German persecution until the Danish government resigned in the summer of 1943, in the face of German decrees that they could not accept. This meant that Denmark was now under direct German rule, and they quickly organized for the arrest of the entire Danish Jewish community on October 1-2 (Rosh Hashanah). The Danish underground found out about the German decree, and through quick action, managed to save almost the entire community by ferrying them to Sweden.

On the right is a model of one of the boats used to ferry Jews to Sweden.

About 500 Jews, however, did not manage to get away – they were captured and sent to Terezin. Most of them survived the war without being deported to Auschwitz because of pressure exerted by the Danish government and aid sent by the Danish Red Cross.

(I visited Terezin in the summer of 2005 when I visited Prague - I wrote about it here).

This is a revolting German propaganda poster [from 1942] about Jews being forced to wear the yellow star. The text reads:
The cat cannot change his spots!

The leading English newspaper "Daily Mail" reported:

"The participation of Jews in breaking British wartime economic legislation has caused Judaism and Jewish names to be ostracized in England, said the Chief Rabbi Dr. J. Hertz in a London synagogue."

With these accusations, the rabbi certainly wanted to warn his racial comrades to greater caution in their dark black marketing business, so that the English people would not recognize whose lice are in the fur. His efforts, however, are likely to be in vain. So are the Jews. First they chase the people into war, and while the soldiers of those nations fight and bleed, they make business out of the war, pushing and cheating and filling their filthy pockets at the expense of their host peoples. In Germany the blame was pinned on them. We have separated them from the German national community and they are marked with a yellow Star of David.

Everyone knows: Whoever wears this sign is an enemy of our people.
A jacket belonging to one of the Danish Jews imprisoned in Terezin. 481 Danish Jews were imprisoned in Terezin, of which 51 died there. The rest were sent to Sweden at the end of the war.

When I came out of the museum I was feeling sad at the fate of some of the resistance fighters (who were captured and executed by the Nazis), and sat for a little while thinking and looking out over a stream. I then walked towards what turned out to be a fort, but on the way encountered a statue erected after the war, dedicated to those who had fallen in the war. (It's below).

Our fallen
in Danish and allied war service
Raised by the Danish people

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