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Danish Resistance

 Number the Stars is likely one of the books that all 90’s kids read at some point in grade school. Maybe for class, maybe just because they saw it on the shelf at their local library of Barns ‘n Noble, or maybe their parents were trying to teach them about history. Either way, it was likely one of our first encounters with the Holocaust (though, to be fair, there were a number of amazing Holocaust stories for children, even back then). Number the Stars by Lois Lowry  (yes the author of The Giver) showed us what real fear and oppression looked like.


Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen lives in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She knows what a world is like with soldiers on every street corner. And she knows simple things about how to avoid detection, such as not running through the street. Nazi soldiers on every street corner is scary enough … but Nazi soldiers banging on the front door is much, much worse. See, it wasn’t until her parents took in her best friend, Ellen Rosen, that Annemarie realized just how scary Nazi soldiers could really be. But one night, they did come knocking, leaving the Johansen’s to pretend that Ellen wasn’t really Jewish, but another daughter. Then, the real danger began as the family has to risk everything to get Ellen’s family out of Nazi-occupied Denmark and into the safety of neutral Sweden.

Though Denmark was invaded by the Nazis on April 9, 1940, resistance in Denmark didn’t start until the summer of 1942, thanks to other Allied nations, namely Britain.

Initially, the Danish fought back in non-violent ways. Mostly, they published newspapers (both legal and illegal) and books, broadcasted Allied radio programs, “preparing for the prospect of armed combat and engaging in weapon smuggling for the possibility of active battle, relaying information about Nazi activities and positions to Allied contact via radio and bicycle, detonating explosives at major Nazi resource sites in Denmark, and numerous other ways” (Source).

In fact, journalism gave the Danish resisters the perfect platform. Remember, despite being under Nazi oppression, the Danes were allowed to publish their own newspapers. And, despite the Nazi restrictions, the Danes grew very creative in putting out otherwise restricted information. “Danish newspapers ran suggestive headlines and stories and juxtaposed articles in a way that subtly made fun of, or criticized Germany. Layout departments manipulated the organization of newspapers in every way possible, sometimes placing stories of Nazi victories at the bottom of the page or end of a section” (Source). In addition to the official newspapers, the Danish resistance published underground newspapers. These would contain the stories of Allied victory, not allowed in the national papers. They also covered resistance acts, supported resistance groups, and printed other stories or information not allowed in the national papers.

Radio personalities also got creative. Using their voices, they could hint at their German disapproval. For example, they read the Nazi reports or war reports of Nazi victory in flat, low, unenthusiastic voices. Additionally, “an employee of Denmarks Radio was able to transmit short messages to Britain through the national broadcasting network” (Source). Presumably, this was done through coded messages, such as was seen in the French Resistance.

[Below: Resistance members burning papers from Dagmarhus – Nazi headquarters during the occupation]


Then, of course, there was the ‘V’ campaign. Or better known as ‘V’ for Victory (today the symbol is often confused for peace, but the origins go back much further and carries a much different meaning.) ‘V’ for Victory officially started in Britain, but it boosted morale all across Europe and even found root in America. To prisoners, such as the Danish, it could also be a small way of resisting. “Danes painted V’s on posters and on building walls. V’s were also prominently included in letters and cards, and Danish newspapers emphasized V-words in articles, headlines, and advertisements. Radio announcers purposefully used words beginning with V in their programs as a way to [subtly] raise the hopes and spirits of listeners” (Source).

Much of this information was gathered by military intelligence, who had contacts within the SOE. This provided resistance groups, and thus citizens, with information about German army locations, political developments, and Danish fortifications. After the Nazis removed Danish military from Jutland, these acts were carried out by plainclothes and reserves.

Around September 1943, a Danish underground government was formed, much to the relief of other Allied countries, who had been worrying that Denmark was collaborating with the Nazis. The Danish Freedom Council formed other, separate resistance groups into one large, Allied-recognized group. Under this title, they suggested to the RAF (Royal Air Force), that an important bombing location was the Gestapo headquarters at Shellhus, in the center of Copenhagen. Operation Carthage was the result. It was essentially a low-level raid. But more on that in a later post dedicated to the operation.

Also in 1943, the Resistance was able to save “all but 500 of Denmark’s Jewish population of 7,000-8,000 from being sent to the Nazi concentration camps by helping transport them to neutral Sweden, where they were offered asylum” (Source). They sought asylum from oppression, abuse, and, likely, death.

Strikes also played a huge role, though, they were mostly organized by the communists. They spread across 17 different towns, across factories, shops, and even offices. All closed down and the people rioted. In Copenhagen, no riots broke out, but they made sure that disturbances did spread across the town. The authorities, both political and union, tried their hardest to put a stop to both the strikes and the unrest in general. Hitler demanded that a state of emergency be enacted as well as the death penalty for sabotage. Of course, the Danish refused to cooperate.

As the German military continued to grow and grow in Denmark, the resistance numbers grew along with it. In fact, they numbered some 20,000 by the end of 1944 and then to an astonishing 50,000 by their liberation in ’45. The British and Swedish armed the resistance groups with handguns, and in the case of the British, with bombs. Additionally, the base of the Danish resistance moved to Stockholm because “they were far safer than in Denmark – but they could easily get back to their country. The sea route also allowed the Danish Resistance to get out of the country over 7,000 of Denmark’s 8,000 Jews” (Source).

At this point, they focused mainly on modes of transportation, such as trains and ships. They also targeted industries and factories. The attached some 1,500 trains and another 2,800 industries.

[Below: Jeanne d’Arc School on fire.]

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The Norwegian Resistance

The Norwegian resistance was successful, in part, because they had many advantages over the Germans – “a long coast line with vast amounts of the country uninhabited. Norway also had a long border with neutral Sweden which could be easily crossed. In such an environment, a focused resistance movement could do great harm to an occupying army” (Source).

Unfortunately, though, the Norwegians were divided in the fact that many did not want to commit the acts of treason and raids that led to more Nazi atrocities – as had taken place in other countries.


Germany invaded Norway in the early hours of April 9, 1940. However, the Norwegian government refused to capitulate, saying: “We will not submit voluntarily; the struggle is already underway” (Source). The entire government evacuated Oslo and, during an emergency session, gave full authority to King Haakon VII and his cabinet – this gave the king the authority to reject Germany’s ultimatum.

However, this did not stop German invasion. Thanks to WWI, the Norwegian military was “underfed and undertrained by the late 1930′s.” (Source). Germany was able to invade Southern Norway with very little initial resistance.

[Below: Coins with the H7 monogram were worn by Norwegian nationalists as jewelry during the occupation, and subsequently confiscated by German authorities]

Fichier:Norway 1 Krone 1940 obverse H7 monogram.jpg — Wikipédia



To aid the resistance, Sweden aided the Norwegians with equipment and training by setting up “a series of camps” camouflaged as police training camps, all along the border (Source). Some 7,000-8,000 men were trained through the camps.

Although Norway did not partake in many battles officially, their military still went to great lengths to subvert the Germany army whenever possible. For the most part, this consisted of more acts of sabotage. However, their military was up and running by the time they were liberated.

Many civilians practiced their own means of civil disobedience. For example, the first outbreak was started by Oslo University students who wore paperclips attached to their collars. This was a sign demonstrating resistance, solidarity, and unity.

Another means of civil disobedience was known as the Ice Front. Here, Norwegians refused to speak to Germans, pretending to not understand German. They also refused to sit next to a German on public transportation. This only lasted until the Germans made it illegal to stand on a bus if seats were available. 

XU (Unknown Undercover Agents): These agents collected maps and photos of German fortifications. They also had Nazi connections – “Several of their members were couriers for M15 agent Paul Rosabund, who had vital information regarding German nuclear research” (Source). An interesting fact: Two of the members were female.

Osvald Group: These agents performed some 110+ sabotage missions, “storing” explosives around the country. They also provided support for the NKVD, though, becoming a military group. Through this, 35 members were killed. Below are some important dates:

July 20, 1941: Their first railway sabotage mission.

February 2, 1942: Blew up the Oslo Central Station.

August 21, 1942: Attacked Statspolitiet’s Office.

April 20, 1943: Sabotaged an employment office in Oslo.

October 25: 1944: Assassinated a policeman in Stapo.

November 9, 1944: Robbed a bank (Laksevag Sparebank)

Heavy Water Sabotage: Allied sabotage “to prevent the German nuclear energy project from acquiring heavy water (deuterium oxide)” (Source). Operations-Codenamed Grouse, Freshman, and Gunnerisde were used to completely render the Vemork Hydroelectric Plant  inoperable as of 1943.

Operation Grouse consisted of dropping a team of 4 SOE trained agents into the wilderness on October 19, 1942. From there, they were expected to ski to their location. However, they were dropped off at the wrong point and got off course several times, meaning they reached their location much later than expected. However, their mission was still successful.

This operation was followed by Operation Freshman, which was, unfortunately, unsuccessful. On November 19, 1942, “two Airspeed Horsa gliders, towed by Handley Page Halifax bombers, each glider carrying two pilots and 15 Royal Engineers of the 9th Field Company, 1st British Airborne Division, took off from RAF Skitten  near Wick in Caithness” (Source). Thanks of poor weather conditions, one of the two Halifax tugs crashed into a mountain, killing all seven of those aboard. Its glider was able to take off, but its crash claimed several more lives. The other Halifax, however, was unable to even locate its landing zone, “owing to the failure of the link between the Eureka (ground) and Rebecca (aircraft) beacons” (Source). Deciding to give up and head home, though, only proved more treacherous, and the second Halifax came down not far from the first flight, killing several more.

This was followed by Operation Gunnerside. On February 16, 1943, another six agents were dropped by a “Halifax bomber of 138 Squadron from RAF Tampsford” (Source). Their drop was mercifully successful and they met up with the team from Grouse a few days later. The next part of their plan was to take place between February 27th and 28th. However, their job was made more difficult thanks to the mines, floodlights, and additional guards placed around the plant by Germans after the failed Freshman attempt. 

Agents of the combined Grouse and Gunnerside operations were to infiltrate the plant and place “explosive charges on the heavy water electrolysis chambers, and [attach] a fuse allowing sufficient time for their escape” (Source). They left a Thompson submachine gun, hoping to show this was a British SOE mission and not a Norwegian effort, afraid of backlash from the Germans.

Their mission was successful. Over 500 kg of heavy water was destroyed.

Acts of Resistance: Destroying ships & supplies (such as the Bismarck); Distributing illegal newspapers; Killing Nazi collaborators & officials; Smuggling people in and out of Norway; Destroying Norsk Hydro’s plant and stockpile of heavy water; and numerous other acts of sabotage.

[Below: The Vemork plant blowing up.]

Article 1 (July 2018): The Catcher was a Spy : Repco Inc

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The Three Kings: Czechoslovakian Resistance


Hitler had marched into Czechoslovakia (or Slovakia) in March of 1939. In defiance of the Munich Agreement. Shortly thereafter, “a Czech representative council had been established in London” (Source). In early 1940, they made contact with the Czechoslovakian resistance. At that time, all of the various resistance groups morphed into one large group: The Central Leadership of Resistance at Home (UVOD). However, Communist resistance groups refused to join forces with non-communist groups, mostly because of the Nazi-Soviet Pack (aka the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact).

See, like all European occupied countries (whether occupied by Hitler or Stalin, it didn’t matter) the Czechoslovakians were treated cruelly. Collaborators helped the Nazis keep everyone under control. Additionally, many thousands of Germans were deported to Germany to work as forced laborers (aka slaves). Back in Czechoslovakia, the people were forced to ration food and salaries, and weren’t given nearly what they needed of either.

Then, in September of 1941, Hitler sent Reinhard Heydrich to Prague. Within weeks, some 5,000 people were rounded up – all those that were thought to be involved with the Resistance. Unfortunately for Heydrich, this only seemed to spur on the Resistance. Acts of sabotage grew exponentially. These included bomb attacks, setting fires, as well as publishing and distributing pamphlets. One of their favorite acts was “reporting news to the government-in-exile” (Source).

The UVOD would receive intelligence (information) from their contact, Agent Paul Thümmeland, who cooperated with both postal workers and railway employees. Another good source of information was actually Czech policemen (unlike in France, clearly), who were always ready and willing to act as translators for the Germans! This, of course, supplied them with vital intel.

Of course, all of this resistance work drove Heydrich crazy.

[Below: Bombing of Prague]



One of the major components of the Resistance was “The Three Kings” codenamed as such by, of all people, the Nazis (the Prague Gestapo, to be exact) . . . mostly because they wanted to, well, do away with them. The Three Kings, established in 1939, was compromised of only three members. That’s right. Three. Josef Mašín, Václav Morávek, and Josef Balabán.

They were best known for setting off two different bomb assassinations in Berlin. The first was “aimed at the German Ministry of Airship and Police Headquarters,” the second aimed at Heinrich Himmler (Source). The first was successful, the second . . . not so much. See, Himmler’s train arrived . . . at the wrong station!

In the first bombing, Mašín’s brother-in-law (pretending to be a German collaborator) was the one to place a suitcase of explosives in the headquarters and then another at the Ministry of Air Travel.

They were also responsible for bomb attacks in Leipzig and Munich, though these acts weren’t nearly as well known. They also successfully bombed a transport of German soldiers “by adding an explosive to coal on the locomotive’s tender” (Private).

Then, in May of 1942, another resistance movement took place: Operation Anthropoid. Operation Anthropoid was mission to assassinate Heydrich. This time around, the British sent out two trained Czech agents. On the whole, the UVOD was not exactly supportive. Not that they didn’t want to get rid of Heydrich, I’m sure they did. But, what they feared was the consequences of taking out such a high ranking Nazi officer.

Turned out, they had every reason to be fearful of the consequences. As a result of the assassination, “as the village of Lidice and Lezaky were destroyed along with their inhabitants, thousands of hostages were shot and many more sent to concentration camps” (Source). Additionally, the UVOD suffered greatly. As a result, they were forced to operate in separate units again. Furthermore, the base in London informed them that they could only act on the “defensive.” AKA: Intelligence.

Now, the Czechs were very good at intelligence, but they wanted something more efficient, specifically those loyal to Stalin, of all people. So, they decided to join up with the Red Army or the Russian resistance fighters. Eventually, the Germans did retreat. But then, the Red Army began to assert itself in Czechoslovakia, and they dominated all of the key resistance posts. I’d be willing to bet that the Czechs regretted that collaboration.

Meanwhile, the seven Czechs were forced to hide in the nearby Parachutists Church. Actually, they hid in the crypt of the church.

In the early morning hours of July 18, 1942, 700 SS members stormed the church and began shooting. They’d been tipped off by a fellow parachutist, Karel Čurda, who collaborated with the Gestapo for one million Reichsmarks. The Seven Czechs and Slavs were able to hold out for hours. But then, the Nazis flooded the basement with fire hoses.

Instead of facing capture, the seven men took their lives. “Some shot themselves, others took cyanide” (Source).

This act is still important to Czechs today because it shows that they never gave in to Nazi occupation, they fought, and were willing to give their lives, if only to see their country free again.

[Below: Parachutist Church crypt]



Up Next:

Denmark in WWII

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