Friday, April 09, 2010

70 years ago today...

...Germany invaded Denmark. They called it 'Operation Weserübung' and the official German explanation was Denmark needed protection from a British invasion. I bet the Nazi's must have laughed themselves silly over that one.

The Battle of Denmark as it became know was essentially a calk walk for the Wehrmacht. Having strived to be neutral ever since the appalling defeats of the 1860's, Denmark had an army but no significant military culture and had no political will to fight a war, not even to defend itself though the soldiers were willing enough. When the first German units crossed into Jutland, the Danish military was hamstrung by the government which did not wish to see any fighting. Whilst German troops parachuted over the front lines into Copenhagen and Ålborg, the only units protecting the border were small infantry groups with light machine guns and a few 20mm guns on motorbike sidecars. These small groups managed to knock out about 15 armoured cars and light tanks, but they had no military or political support, no armour of their own and were heavily out numbered and were soon defeated. The Danish air force was caught on the ground and largely annhilated by the Luftwaffe and the government capitulated as fast as it could. For the Germans, Denmark was merely a stepping stone to Norway.

The long term consequences of the invasion and quick surrender were many and varied. Denmark suffered under occupation but not nearly as much as other European countries and for the Germans, Denmark was considered the best place in all the occupied territories to be stationed. A significant factor of the occupation was that Denmark's Jews were not immedately rounded up and deported to the death camps which meant that most of the Jewish population managed to survive and get smuggled by a pipe line to Sweden which was still neutral by virtue of its greater size and military strength.

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