Eyewitness

March 24, 2000

In May 1940, 55 British citizens were deported from Denmark to German detention camps near Nuremberg, where they remained throughout the war.

The Danish government consented to the deportation of the mainly anti-Nazi Britons - a senior civil servant declared in a secret document that the British had "taken their standpoint" and had to "face the consquences".

But the British Foreign Office took a similarly pragmatic view, stating in an internal document: "While the unfortunate effect on British subjects in Germany cannot be overlooked, we are not prepared to repatriate persons interned at the outbreak of war."

Germany offered repatriation but the Foreign Office failed to respond because it might lead to the exchange of German

prisoners in Britain.

The actions of the Danish government and the occupying power are revealed in a series of articles in the newspaper Weekendavisen. Historian Steen Andersen, of the Museum of Danish Resistance in Copenhagen, said: "The

Danish government chose to cooperate with the Nazis in areas where they faced no

political consequences. They had made the assumption that the Germans would win the war."

Terry Charman, a historian at the Imperial War Museum in London, said the camps were governed by the 1929 Geneva convention and were unlike the concentration camps typified by Auschwitz. "Detainees had communications with their home countries and the protecting power. The United States, and, later, the Swiss monitored conditions in the camps."

After the war the deportees lodged legal claims against the Danish government. But with

little support from the Foreign Office, they were unsuccessful.

Danish officials tried to hide evidence about the cooperation with the Nazis and argued that they had acted in good faith.

Mr Charman agrees that the Danes had probably expected the detainees to be repatriated. "There were many complaints after the war, particularly from the Far East, where many US citizens were repatriated from Singapore, but the Foreign Office firmly set its face against such a policy."

Matias Seidelin

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