Eyewitness

December 10, 1999

Since the end of the second world war, Denmark has portrayed itself as a small kingdom that stood up to the Germans.

But a new generation of historians is shedding light on Denmark's less than glorious past. It seems that Danish politicians, business tycoons and farmers may have prolonged the war by flooding Germany with farm products in order to secure relative peace, harmony and profit at home.

Documents discovered by Joachim Lund, a historian at the University of Copenhagen, reveal that the German leadership was overwhelmed by the eagerness with which the Danes cultivated the relationship. Danish exports amounted to 10-15 per cent of total German food demand, including up to 90 per cent of its fish. "We already knew that the proportion of Danish exports to Germany was significant but the figures have never been analysed. Rather than imposing their own administration and confiscating goods, which is exactly what Germany did in other occupied territories, the method used in Denmark proved to be a much more efficient way of utilising another country's economy," Mr Lund said.

Nazi occupation of Denmark was relatively peaceful, and politicians were strongly inclined towards the politics of cooperation. Britain, her erstwhile primary trading partner, severed trade links in April 1940 and exports were quickly diverted to Germany, in line with Hitler's plans for a new European order. In turn, Germany undertook to supply coal, petrol and fertilisers. The trade guaranteed a profitable income for Danes who dealt with Germany but, by the end of the war, it was Danish taxpayers who had to foot the bill.

The research suggests that Hitler's war machine benefited greatly from Danish trade.

Surprisingly, the Allies did

little to stop Danish farm products flooding into the Third Reich. Phil Giltner, a historian at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said:

"The British wanted to stop Danish exports, but lacked the means. The Americans were rather indifferent to the issue and didn't give any support to the British effort."

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