GREETINGS from Denmark, where I have spent the best part of a week being kindly hosted by the legendary TV presenter Peter Ingemann and his wife, Trine. My reason for visiting was to celebrate the launch of a fantastic new series presented by Peter about
Since it's on private land, I don't think it's a good look for a government to be telling you what you can say on it. It's always sad when people die in conflict. And knowing how idiotic young men can be and the choices they make, it is worth having a visible reminder--cautionary--that some of them died for awful causes.
Will the programme be shown in the UK (link goes to, I believe, a Danish TV broadcaster)?
I've been to Jutland back in 2018 but to the Sea War Museum on the coast. I travelled around some of the towns in Jutland, but never heard about this. But equally found that a lot of people in the Uk hadn't heard of the Sea War Museum in the UK. The Danes are a proud nation. When it comes to Nazi memorials in other countries, my thoughts are mixed as we will never know if these soliders, sailors, pilots, etc were forced/threatened or if they decided to go into battle swept up /brainwashed with the whole Nazi idiology. When at the Danish Sea War Museum in Jutland, there are clusters of figures on the beach, just near by to the museum. Each cluster of figures represents a ship - British and German. This is of course in reference to WWI battle of Jutland, but it shows and interesting memorial to different nationalities in a peaceful location and done in a respectable way. This obviously could not be done for other battles and wars without creating another one! It was an interesting an emotional experience walking around a memorial on the beach facing the North Sea with memorials to German ships that inflicted so much death and destruction on British ships, but also memorials to British ships who sunk German ships and cause death and pain also. The museum does also have WWII info, but at the time I was focussed on the Battle of Jutland. But the whole experience of standing back at looking at memorials to different nationalities in the same location is something that i've never experienced before. Sorry, i couldnt contribute much to the WWII aspect, but Jutland is a fascinating place to explore.
As James writes below...it's complicated. I am coming round to the view that all memorialisation is multilayered, as modern "cancel culture" has shown us only too well.
But history is built on debate & to help debate to flourish we need such memorials. They force us to consider things which perhaps we might like to pass over, or even forget. If you remove the statues do you remove the events? Hardly. If such statues force us to look again at the events of past decades or centuries, they are serving a purpose. The purpose is to ask the question "what would I have done?"
Others here have been far more articulate than I shall be, but I have two thoughts and I am going to burden you with them:
Every soldier/victim of war is a mother’s son or daughter. I think that implicit in every monument to the fallen, regardless of how noble or heinous their actions, is an acknowledgement that their deaths inflicted great hurt and sorrow upon their loved ones. That deserves acknowledgment.
But, and there is always a but…
You cannot memorialise the suffering of their families without glorifying their dead. These Danish men opted to serve the Nazis. They made a decision, perhaps encouraged by a government keen to suck up to the Germans, and it killed them. They don’t deserve a big stone, nor the cross and the solemnity that comes with it. The stone should go.
To avoid the possibility of whitewashing their actions out of history, it should be replaced by an informative plaque, maybe even cast iron in the style of those indestructible 1950s National Trust signs, that simply says, ‘Between 1940 and 1945 4000 Danish men died fighting for the Nazis’. No cross, no big stone, no Last Post, no golden sunset.
The sign, entitled Mindelunden, contains much weasely language. They claim to be apolitical, but in it they skirt round exactly what they are commemorating. ‘The association's sole purpose is to set up and maintain a memorial site for the fallen Danish citizens during the Second World War who took part on the German side and for the victims of the inhumane punishment and persecution after the end of the war…’ I’m assuming, without evidence, that 'the inhumane punishment and persecution' was of collaborators. The cross itself was designed by a Frikorps Danmark commander, which is about as political as it could get. They are memorialising themselves.
PS I'm not as angry as I sound. Bad night.
This is a good and thoughtful piece of writing, not least because there's an attempt to understand why people in the past did what they did, rather than simply pass judgement on them. I have mixed feelings about this stone, too - I can see why it would be hugely offensive to many, but also why decent people might e.g. want to see this facet of their own experience, or their own family experience, commemorated. And you're right that the stone, which is fairly low key, draws attention to a set of moral complexities to which those who lived in the UK or US were, thankfully, never asked to confront directly. On balance, I think I'd keep it, if only for the reasons you set out very eloquently in the two last paragraphs above.
As the historian Richard Holmes we (the UK) weren’t occupied and thus faced a different challenge, that of staying the course. We did not face the significant challenges of occupation, to collaborate/ cooperate, so we need to be careful when we comment. Having said all of that, without a doubt that memorial should be removed. The entire Wehrmacht fought for the victory of a regime who perpetrated the Holocaust; Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, the SS, and if you were from an occupied nation that should not be commemorated in any form. Mind you the howling gale blowing me off Mount Pious is the war grave at Cannockchase, the solitary German flyer buried near me with headstone clearly provided by the CWGC, and the VDK to whom I’ve made a couple of donations. This is complicated.