Denmark has conducted a policy of neutrality ever since 1815, but on the other hand, it has been susceptible to German influence that had been coming from its neighbor to the south. Its Pacifistic politics have also affected the Government’s and the small Danish People’s (3.85 million people in 1939) approach to the issue of the Military, something that has of course left its mark on the Country’s Military capability.
It based itself on an extremely small Army that numbered approximately 14,000 persons, 8,000 of whom being enlisted just two months before its occupation, in April, 1940. The Navy included only two Vessels and about 3,000 people, and relied primarily on coastal defense dispositions in the Copenhagen area. The Air-Force, which was divided between the Army (Ground Forces) and the Navy, numbered only about 50 Airplanes, most of them obsolete.
Beyond the Danish Forces’ inability to contend with the German Army, no tangible steps to withstand it were taken even when the intelligence information reaching the Danish Authorities had warned about the impending attack. And indeed, the German Offensive, which began at dawn on 9 April, took them by surprise and ended quickly and with almost no resistance from the Danish side. The Danish Merchant Marine, which numbered approximately 230 Vessels and 6,000 Crew Members, joined the Allies’ Commercial Fleets, for the most part, and operated alongside them in running the convoys in the Atlantic Ocean. About 60% of it was hit by the German Fleet. Two Mine-Sweepers that were being operated by Danish Crews sailed in the framework of the Royal Navy, and around 1,000 additional Danes, who had fled their Country, served in the U.S. Armed Forces, in the RAF and in the SOE.
The intensification of German pressure on the Danish population, in an attempt to harness it to the war effort alongside Germany, and its defeats in the course of the year 1942 (Stalingrad, El Alamein) created a feeling in the population, which developed and got increasingly stronger, that Germany will lose the war in the end. This gave birth to the beginnings of internal resistance, which was expressed through strikes at first, and thereafter, with the assistance of the SOE, through acts of sabotage by Underground elements that started to operate against the German presence in the Country. In August, 1943, the Government quit and the Germans took the administrative control over the Country into their hands.
The Danish Resistance Movement started to grow as early as 1941. On 16 September 1943, the “Freedom Council” was established, which began to organize orderly underground activities. Among the Resistance Groups that were created, there was also a Group formed by the Communists. The activity on the ground intensified, and towards the Invasion of Normandy railroad tracks in the Jutland Peninsula were sabotaged in order to prevent the transfer of Forces on them from Norway to the Theatre of Battle. The Resistance also engaged in publishing of an extensive Underground Press, and the Council dealt with gathering Intelligence that contributed greatly in the subject of the V-1 Rockets. Overall, not more than 800 people operated in it.
Towards a possible Allied invasion of the Continent, a Danish Brigade was organized and trained in Sweden; it numbered about 5,000 persons, who had been recruited from among refugees residing there. A number of Jews, who had been smuggled earlier into Sweden, also volunteered to the Brigade and in early May, 1945, they returned to Denmark, donning uniforms. Some of them even reached Eretz Israel and participated in the War of Independence.
The Resistance grew larger too and in May, 1945, it numbered approximately 40,000 people, who included, among others, former members of the Military and the Police. With the German surrender, on 4 May, it took control of the Government.
One of the famous Missions conducted by the Danish Resistance was the evacuation of the Jewish population living in the Country. In an organized operation, the entire population, numbering 7,000 human-beings, was transferred to Sweden during a single night. Of those, 472 were caught and sent to the Theresienstat Camp, and 52 of them died.