by Bo Lidegaard
$28.95 List Price
“This is not a novel,” says Poul Hannover, witness to this amazing story of the Holocaust. “No fancy trimmings.”
None are needed in Bo Lidegaard’s Countrymen. Lidegaard, the editor in chief of Danish newspaper Politiken, has pain-stakingly reconstructed an extraordinary story. And he tells it with the assurance of a journalist who knows he’s making literature.
Denmark had scarcely resisted the German invasion in April 1940, accepting Nazi occupation “under protest.” (The Germans preferred the term “under protection.”) For the next three years, the Danes were haunted by such questions as Why didn’t we put up a proper fight? and Was it right for politicians to have cooperated with the occupying power? As Lidegaard puts it, “There were no easy answers. . . . The war had amply demonstrated that even much larger countries could not stand against Germany.” So was it wrong for the Danes to have shunned the inevitably punishing outcome of armed resistance? Most Danes probably agreed with their prime minister, Thorvald Stauning, who recommended that they “play for time”—and “avoid . . . major disasters.”
As it turned out, the Danes seized the next opportunity to prove their courage. By the close of 1943, there were 150,000 German soldiers in Denmark, then a country of about 3.8 million people. But the war news by the summer of that year emboldened the Danes, and by August there were sporadic strikes and even sabotages of equipment and supplies intended for the Wehrmacht. Cooperation between the Danish and German governments came to an abrupt end, and martial law was imposed.