The Liberation 1945: Crowd and Danish police with freedom fighter armband at Christiansborg Castle Square, May 1945

Oluf Wissing

Liberation of Denmark 1945

This year marks 76 years since Denmark was liberated from the darkness of the Nazi occupation. We have found material in the collections from the five cursed years and the early days of May 1945.

In many ways, Denmark's liberation was as strange as the occupation on 9 April, 1940 had been. At that time, Denmark was surprised by the German soldiers, and the fighting ended in a few hours. The liberation also came without any major blows on Danish soil. Montgomery received the surrender of the German forces on the Lüneburg Heath far to the south of the Danish border. Only 8,5 hours after the Germans had surrendered did the first Allied soldiers arrive.

The message of liberation on 4 May, 1945

It started as a regular broadcast from the BBC. One of those that thousands of Danes had gotten used to tuning into to get news during the war that had not been through the German censorship. Johannes G. Sørensen reads the news at the Danish newsdesk at the BBC's premises in London. But six minutes into the broadcast, while the microphone is off for a moment, colleague Flemming Barfoed tells Johannes G. Sørensen that the German troops in Denmark have finally surrendered. Sørensen turns on the microphone, and then comes the message that is familiar to many Danes: "At this moment it is announced that Montgomery has stated ..."

Listening to the BBC was forbidden, but it did not stop a wildly euphoric mood from spreading across the country. The people poured out into the streets, where they used the hated blackout curtains to build bonfires.

Now the dark years were over. Now summer and freedom came.

Befrielsen 1945: Menneskemængde med flag ved befrielsen

Ophav ukendt

Already during the evening of 4 May, Dannebrog was retrieved from hiding places and all over, the cities were dressed in red and white. This picture here is probably from 5 May.

In the collection of sound and music, we have different variants of the message of liberation. Some contain only the moments after Sørensen turned on the microphone again, while others have the entire news broadcast as it was broadcast on 4 May 1945 at 8:30 pm. We bring you the full broadcast. You can hear the liberating words approximately five minutes into the recording.

Newspapers under censorship

The Danes get news during the war from radio and newspapers. The media is under censorship, but virtually all households have a radio and subscribe to a daily newspaper. As the Germans tightened their grip on radio news broadcasts, and Radioavisen became entirely German in 1944, many switched to listening to the BBC and Swedish Radio. And that is the reason why so many people sat with their ears pressed to the radio when Johannes G. Sørensen could announce that Denmark was free again.

 

In addition to censorship, the newspapers are affected by paper shortages, advertising failure and a general loss of trustworthiness. As the Germans began to lose ground on the battlefields in 1943 and sabotage activity increased, resistance efforts also increased. Cooperation policy collapses on 29 August, 1943, and the Germans impose a state of military emergency. Illegal pamphlets are spreading. But the legal newspapers affiliated with the political parties - the Conservatives, the Left, the Radical Left and the Social Democrats - continue to be published. Some small parties also have their own newspapers, such as the Communists' Arbejderbladet, which is published until 22 June 1941, when the editorial staff is arrested and the publication is stopped. The Nazis publish The Fatherland 1939-45.

Several editions hit the streets on Liberation Day, depicting the jubilation scenes. On the front page of Demokraten on 5 May 1945, there is even completely fresh photos of freedom fighters in the city streets.

When the church bells chimed in a free Aarhus
The city this Morning was a sea of ​​festive
People. – The red-white Colours could be seen all over
The bells chimed Peace this Morning throughout a free Aarhus
The city's Inhabitants were up early, even as many had not been to Bed Last night. –
Despite the May Rain and the Hailstorm, Aarhus was from the Early Morning in Ecstasy.

Demokraten 5 May 1945

You can explore the newspapers that appeared in the days close to the liberation (in Danish). Experience the indescribable relief that washed over the country, but reading between the lines you can also see the dark side of those days. The joy of peace was intertwined with the anger of the five dark years.

From festivities to a perilous mood

The liberation was first and foremost a day of joy, but the day was also marked by the confrontation with snitches, traitors, Eastern Front volunteers, HIPOs, guardsmen and collaborator girls.

Befrielsen 1945: Frihedskæmpere afhører mistænkt

Svend Türck

People from the resistance interrogates suspect. 5 May, 1945.

For several days after 5 May, there was unrest in the streets of the major cities with shootings and vigilantism. It happened that even innocent people were given a humiliating ride in the beds of the resistance fighters' trucks. Seen through today's eyes, it can be difficult to understand why girls who happened to be in love with a German soldier should suffer such consequences.

Befrielsen 1945: Frihedskæmper bevogter ældre dame på ladet af lastvogn

Gregers Hansen

An arrested woman is taken on a truck along Store Kongensgade in Copenhagen, 11 May 1945. She is probably trying to hide her identity from the spectators and the photographer by covering her face with her hands.

Even though the leadership of the resistance movement, the so-called Freedom Council, tried to rein in the worst aspects of the mood at the time, the days of liberation were chaotic. It was difficult to completely curb false statements, attacks on the pro-German and personal confrontations under the guise of general unrest.

Befrielsen 1945: Mistænkte transporteres på ladet af lastbil

Ophav ukendt

Arrested people are taken by truck through Copenhagen. It was quite common for the resistance movement to use open carriages to transport the detainees.

We have many thousands of images from the occupation in our collections at Det Kgl. Bibliotek. There are photographs of everyday life with rationing and bomb shelters, and photographs from public events such as community singing and Christmas markets. There are pictures of parades in the streets, and of sabotage and schalburgtage and, of course, of liberation. Many have been taken by press photographers such as Holger Damgaard and Erik Petersen, both from Politiken, but there are also private recordings in between the pictures.

You can look at the photos from 1940-1945 or explore the photos that appear when you search besættelsen (eng: the occupation) in our Collection of Prints and Photographs.

Candlelight in the window

When the message of liberation had sounded on the evening of 4 May, 1945, the sheer relief of freedom washed through Denmark. People poured out into the streets, the blackout curtains were torn down, and the candles in the homes were lighted.

Hear senior researcher Caroline Nyvang talk about the tradition of putting candles in the window on 4 May, and why teddy bears and rainbows have appeared in our windows during the corona crisis. How do we use the windows when we as a society are under pressure?