14 March, 2006

Starving German Refugees: Denmark’s Ugliest Legacy

Posted by alex in Denmark, Nazi era at 2:52 am | Permanent Link


A Legacy of Dead German Children

By Manfred Ertel

Thousands of German children — many of them toddlers fleeing the Soviet advance — died in Danish refugee camps at the end of World War II. A crusading doctor has set out to document their suffering and break long-standing beliefs about post-war Danish humanity.

When the Russians advanced to Berlin, thousands of German families fled in panic. Many thought they were lucky to board boats taking them and their children to safety in Denmark. How wrong they were. Their names were Heinrich, Helmut and Walter, Gudrun, Karin or Ingelore. Hundreds of them lie buried in the farthest corners of Copenhagen’s largest cemetery, Vestre Kirkegaard. Hardly any local m ourners ever see them.

Plain crosses or stone slabs bear their names and mark graves in which as many as twelve small corpses were hastily buried. Sometimes they are only partially identified, like “Kottmann Child 7.4.45” or “unknown refugee child,” written in now-weathered writing. The birth dates and death dates have been recorded for most of them, but the death registers contain few other details. Still, the silent numbers nonetheless hint at their tragic fates. Like what happened to Adelheid Wandke.

Out of danger, into suffering Little Adelheid, was not yet two when the Red Army began battling for Berlin and the US Armed Forces reached the Elbe River in Magdeburg. Adelheid was one of the lucky ones. She escaped just in time — boarded onto one of the last refugee boats crossing the Baltic Sea, headed for the seemingly peaceful country of Denmark. For her, the danger seemed to be over.

Unfortunately, Adelheid never saw the end of the war. She also never saw her second birthday. On April 21, 1945, Adelheid was dead. Eighteen-month-old Lissy Engel was no more fortunate: 46 days after the surrender of the Germans in Denmark, on May 5th, she, too, was dead. Adelheid, Lissy and the others are, according to a plaque on their graves, among the last German “victims of World War II.” There were many more and Copenhagen is not the only supposedly safe Danish city where they were laid to rest.

Some ten thousand German children under five died in Danish camps after liberation even though they — and their families, if they had any — seemed to be in safety. A story untold Kirsten Lylloff, 64, a Danish physician and historian, has just written the previously untold story of these unfortunate and forgotten children. She calls their deaths “the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in modern Denmark.” Joergen Poulsen, director of the Red Cross, speaks of a “dark chapter” in Danish history, a chapter “we will always have to be ashamed of.”

Lylloff’s courageous documentation does much to debunk Danish myths about the nation’s humanity during World War II. In documenting the suffering of what she calls the “tyske flygtningeborn,” she has opened debate on just how willing Danish doctors — and the local population — were to help German refugees. The answers, less positive than most Danes would like to believe, have created an emotional swelling in Denmark and have forced Danes — 60 years later — to come to terms with the truth about their past.

In the final weeks of the war, between February 11 and May 5, about 250,000 German refugees fled across the Baltic Sea to escape the sinking German Reich. Most were from East Prussia, Pomerania and the Baltic provinces and were fleeing the Soviet Army. And most were women, children or elderly. A third of the refugees were younger than 15 years old.

When they landed, they found themselves stranded in putative freedom and at the start of a new martyrdom. The refugees were interned in hundreds of camps from Copenhagen to Jutland, placed behind barbed wire and guarded by heavily armed overseers. The largest camp was located in Oksboll, on the west coast of Jutland, and had 37,000 detainees.

Children or enemies?

Nutrition was terrible, medical care was miserable. In 1945 alone, more than 13,000 people died, among them some 7,000 children under five. According to Lylloff’s research, more German refugees died in Danish camps, “than Danes did during the entire war.” Lylloff, a long-time senior physician and department head of immunology in Hilerod near Copenhagen, examined 6,200 death certificates and 6,500 grave stones. The result: A dissertation (“Children or enemies?”) and a crushing verdict on members of her own profession: “What kind of monsters masquerading as human beings were those Danish doctors of 1945?” she asks.

Lylloff discovered that the Danish Association of Doctors had decided in March 1945 that German refugees would not receive any medical care. That same month the Red Cross refused to take any action, according to the newspaper “Politiken,” because public sentiment was “against the Germans.” The result: 80% of the small children that landed on Denmark’s shores did not survive the following months. They either starved or were unable to fight infections due to extreme malnutrition. Detailed medical reports don’t exist. All that’s left are endless rows of sad grey grave stones.

Debate about Danish conduct Lylloff’s research is not disputed, but the reasons for what happened are being debated vehemently.

Was it Danish “hatred” of everything German as a reaction to the oppressive Nazi occupying forces, as Lylloff believes? Or was it an attempt to wipe away memories of their own collaboration? “We had enough to do, taking care of ourselves,” explains Arne Gammelgaard, a historian of the older generation, in order to excuse the negligent treatment. His view is shared by many.

There was, as pamphlets distributed in 1945 prove, also a widespread fear of a “new form of invasion” by the Germans. “As soon as the Germans were gone, they seemed to be back again, hundreds of thousands of them, but with different faces,” says Lylloff, trying to explain. It gave rise to “an orgy of hate against a whole people. And children had to pay the price.”


  1. Similar posts:

  2. 03/17/06 Eco-Revolution in Denmark 32% similar
  3. 02/14/11 Remembering the Firebombing of Dresden, Germany, February 13-14, 1945 27% similar
  4. 12/16/07 Le Pen on Trial in France 21% similar
  5. 02/15/08 First France, Now Denmark 20% similar
  6. 09/15/13 Nazi Propaganda? What Nazi Propaganda? 18% similar
  7. 10 Responses to “Starving German Refugees: Denmark’s Ugliest Legacy”

    1. alex Says:

      What’s the difference between 10,000 German kids and Anne Frank?

      The 10,000 died behind barbed wire in a ‘liberated’ field. Anne Frank died in a hospital. A hospital run by Nazis.

    2. Jim Says:

      Now these Danes will reap what they have sown as the niggers they gleefully let in loot their treasury and plunder their women. I’ll bet some of the older ones are already wishing the old occupation army was back so they could safely walk the streets at night. What a difference a few decades makes.

    3. Ventrue Says:

      “The Danes” do not “reap what they have sown.” Whites born long after the war suffer because of mass immigration. They have never had any part in managing camps for German refugees, camps that existed sixty years ago. By what magic would any present-day Dane be responsible for those camps?

      The story is sad, yet tells us nothing that would somehow be specific for Danes. It only shows that Whites can be made to fight each other, which we all know. As an example of that, it is interesting.

    4. Gerry Frederics Says:

      The Danes of WW-2 were, for all intents and purposes, Germany´s allies. There are thousands who died proudly wearing the uniform of the SS fighting to the last bullet against the Soviet hordes. The German occupation of Danmark was a joke, it was so benign. No Dane ever suffered even a hair being turned on his head. The German ´occupation´ forces entered Danmark, frequently using the DANISH railroad system, totally unmolested. Danmark, throughout the war was an equal trading partner of Germany. The fellow who mentions Anne Frank is woefully ill informed, so much so as to be sickening in his ignorance. What the Danes committed after the war was worse than a crime, it was monstrous. Gerry Frederics

    5. alex Says:

      What apparently happened in Germany is the same, on a smaller scale, as what happened in Germany itself, under the watchful eye of the ‘liberation’ force. Starvation & exposure macht frei. It sounds better in its original English, hee-yuck yuck yuck.

      Point is the tacit media position is that every people is to be judged by its treatment of jews. Denmark = good when it saves jews from Hitler. Denmark = good when it starves young Germans. You’ll notice that you never heard this story before, yet you’ve heard about The Ship That Was Turned Away ten thousand times. It’s part of the yearly parade of imaginary horrors suffered by jews.

      Ten thousand others’ murders is not equal to a few hundred jews’ inconvenience. Remember, dear shabbes, and keep it holy: ONLY JEWS ARE HUMAN.

    6. Peter Says:

      This reminds me of an incident I had as a 7-year-old boy. My Mother and I paid a visit to my uncle in Copenhagen in mid 1945 from our home on the Danish island of Bornholm that was occupied by Russian troops at the time by the way. My uncle took me on his bicycle to his “kolonihavehus” (a small house in an equally small garden lot popular amongst city people) On the way we passed a long fence with people lined up behind it, staring out at us. It made a great impression on me, presumably because it reminded me of pictures I had seen in the newspaper from Auschwitz and other concentration camps. When asking my uncle about it he avoided to talk about it but I have since learned that the camp was called “Kløvermarken” and indeed things happened there which is not making me particularly proud to be a Dane.

      Townsville, Australia

    7. Derek Says:

      Danmark contained a far more pure white race than any german. Just because your beloved failure of an empire (nazi germany) suffered casualties at the hands of another, doesn’t discredit Danish superiority in race and breed. The only problem Danmark has now is the influx of mongrel races, including the wretched arabs. If you want to hate someone in Danmark, hate the mongrels, but leave my white viking brethren out of it.

    8. bz Says:

      “The German occupation of Danmark was a joke, it was so benign. No Dane ever suffered even a hair being turned on his head”

      “Benign occupation” – maybe so – if you can ever say that an involuntarily occupation is benign.
      Anyway; it was not as harsh as the german occupation of Poland or the other eastern european countries.

      “Equal trading partner” is an exaggeration, too. IF one country occupies another country, is it innately absurt to talk about an “equal relationship” in an ysense of the word
      Some danish companies did work for the germans, but many didn’t receive payments – and haven’t received them to this day!

      BUT: to say that no dane was hurt is an OBVIOUS LIE!! Soldiers were killed and maimed on the 9th of april 1940 and freedom fighters were killed and executed, especially from 1942 and onwards.

      And yes; maybe all germans were not treated stellar – but remember that we received and sheltered more than 250000 german refugees. That’s a pretty big burden on a 3.5 million people country, just emergin from a 5 year occupation – ESPECIALLY when said refugees were from the occupying nation.

    9. Sylvia Frank Says:

      My husband was six when he left East Prussia with mother and siblings. He was in one of the camps three years before he left at ten years old to the US. He still has night mares but doesn’t really remember a lot except they ate gruel. Would like to know more about the camps to help him. He is 71. Thank you.

    10. Herbert Krause Says:

      My husband was in Rom and Oxboel Danmark 1945 to 1948 He would be very interestedin hearing from anyone who was there at the same time. He is now 75 years old and we are doing his family history so if you would like to write or speak to him . Our e mail address is included.
      carolyn Krause