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Nonviolent Resistance to the Nazis. 1.) Denmark 2.) Norway 3.) The Netherlands. Denmark. The Occupation: Invaded the 9 th April 1940 A simultaneous takeover of Denmark and Norway Military response was futile. The Terms: Given an ultimatum

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nonviolent resistance to the nazis

Nonviolent Resistance to the Nazis

1.) Denmark

2.) Norway

3.) The Netherlands

  • The Occupation:
  • Invaded the 9th April 1940
  • A simultaneous takeover of Denmark and Norway
  • Military response was futile.
  • The Terms:
  • Given an ultimatum
  • Denmark to be used as a base for German troops – would otherwise be left to largely look after her own affairs
  • The German government expected cooperation but would tolerate no resistance which would lead to unnecessary bloodshed.

German Intentions:

  • To secure Denmark as a stepping stone for the occupation of Norway
  • Claimed there was no hostile intent – Denmark’s territorial integrity and political independence were not at risk
  • Economic Benefits
  • Social benefits – Aryan Kinship
  • Deviated from usual treatment of occupied territories in order to ‘buy peace’ in Denmark
  • Berlin wanted to demonstrate German civility
  • The Danish Position
  • Had previously reduced armed forces
  • Had to surrender
  • As far as possible Danish authorities continued as usual – cooperating where necessary
  • Population urged to ‘act correctly’ towards German forces
  • Followed a policy of samarbejdspolitik – cooperation
  • A pragmatic accommodation in no way prompted by ideological sympathy

Early Signs of Resistance – Defensive

  • First act of resistance = Denmark’s ambassador to the US declares himself a ‘free’ Dane
  • Governmental resistance: drag out talks etc.
  • Resistance initially defensive and nonviolent – had the effect of galvanising national unity:
  • National songfests
  • Tributes to the King
  • German cultural events boycotted
  • ‘Freezing out’ the occupiers
  • Membership of organisations
  • The Danish press (although censored) began to print double-spaced – reading between the lines
  • Offensive
  • Collaboration with Great Britain
  • A Danish section of Britain’s SOE (Special Operations Executive) set up

Cooperation with Germany Increases:

  • A reshuffle of the government meant that Eric Scavenius became Foreign Officer in June 1940
  • Criticised by Danes and actions provoked demonstrations
  • 22nd June 1941 – German attacks USSR
  • Germans ask Danish leaders to round up all Communists
  • DKP declared illegal + 300 members arrested
  • November 1941 Denmark signs the Anti-Comintern Pact
  • Resistance Increases:
  • DKP moves underground
  • Mass demonstrations by Danes – early 1942 begin to challenge the Germans with physical force and sabotage
  • KOPA (communist partisans) – BOPA (middle-class partisans)
  • The sabotage activities did little damage but complicated policy of cooperation
  • Underground press flourishing
  • Resistance overtook cooperation as the theme of the occupation

Strategic Shift in Resistance

  • The Germans demanded greater press censorship and the introduction of the death penalty for resistance fighters – this was refused by the Danish authorities
  • The occupiers now faced a united popular front with growing resources and capabilities.
  • As it became more apparent that Germany was going to lose the war – Danes felt the need more and more to demonstrate to the Allies their opposition to the Nazis therefore the resistance was stepped up.
  • They became better equipped and more organised thanks to increased help from GB – vast increase in volume and effectiveness of sabotage
  • Workers encouraged to work slowly/badly
  • Wave of STRIKES began from summer of 1943
  • Odense ship-yard strike leads to ‘Autumn Insurrection’
  • Danish government given another ultimatum to declare a state of emergency – they refuse and the Cabinet resigns.

The Rescue of the Jews:

  • The German military takes over and introduces a State of Emergency (23rd August)
  • September 1943 – orders issues for the round-up and deportation of Danish Jews
  • Plans leaked – Jewish population warned via messenger service
  • By the time of the round-up only a few hundred Jews were left
  • Approximately 7000 were transferred by the Danish population to Sweden
  • Unofficial Danish authorities maintained contact with those imprisoned
  • Rescue of the Jews galvanised the country – pushed many Danes into forceful resistance

The Freedom Council:

  • Danish Freedom Council created September 1943 – coordinated resistance
  • A fighting organisation – created an efficient underground army
  • Underground militias formed – weapons smuggled in
  • Acts of sabotage increased dramatically + murder of informers
  • Frode Jakobsen – resistance should be accessible to all Danes – once the greater part of the population turns against occupying force – the cooperation they need to govern will no longer exist.
  • Council thus gave primacy to Nonviolent Action – violent resistance was only to be taken up by those with the means and the courage
  • Counter-Sabotage + Curfew:
  • Increasing counter-sabotage and Gestapo repression
  • Nighly curfew imposed (summer 1944) from 8pm-5am
  • Novel ways found by Danes to defy the curfew
  • Protests and rallying spread
  • The Germans introduced Martial Law but protests continued
  • Eventually Germans agreed to withdraw and end curfew as repression was making the Danes more militant

Assertion of Nonviolence:

  • The Freedom Council had witnessed the effectiveness of the people’s strike
  • From now on de-emphasised sabotage and military measures in favour of non-violent action
  • Developed a new method of using time restricted demonstrations.
  • In accordance with the new stress of the Council on nonviolence, the last and largest strike undertaken by the Danish people in September 1944 - in response to the arrest of the Danish police force - saw very little street fighting.
  • Liberation:
  • On Liberation in May 1945 the underground resistance had 45 000 members


  • Although the Danish resistance was unable to remove the Nazi occupiers, the Danes did in many respects suffer less both nationally and personally from the effects of the war than people in many other occupied countries
  • Solidarity meant they managed to resist without violently tearing apart their society
  • The Danes were effective in organising their resistance through:
  • Use of national symbols as rallying points
  • Functional leadership
  • A highly motivated and unified populace
  • Normalcy in Denmark was very important to the Germans – therefore methods of non-cooperation were ideally suited to deny them that
  • However the evolution of resistance largely determined by timing of Nazi defeat
  • Germany also fighting on many fronts – less concentration on Denmark
  • Nonviolence Vs Violence:
  • Never a primary focus of the Danish struggle
  • Complexity of the relationship between the two
  • Eventually the Freedom Council prioritised nonviolent methods
  • Nonviolent actions did achieve significant victories
  • Violence by the resistance did not seriously weaken the Germans but violence against the people had roused the nation to take massive nonviolent action.

‘The Danes proved that however dreadful the opponent faced by those using nonviolent action, if resistance is resilient and imaginative, military sanctions are not enough to stamp out a popular movement – and violent reprisals may only harden the opposition.’

‘If the Nazis, the cruellest killing machine in the Century’s history, could be kept off balance by Danish school-boys, amateur saboteurs and underground clergymen, what other regime could be thought invulnerable to nonviolent resistance?’

-Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall – A Force More Powerful – p. 231



Reasons for the Nazi Invasion:

Norway was invaded simultaneously with Denmark on April 9,1940.

Norway was of strategic importance to Germany due to her indented coast which would provide excellent bases for the war in the Atlantic.

Norwegian waters were being used for the transport of Swedish iron ore.

Germany feared Britain and France might occupy parts of Norway to stop the transport of the iron ore on which Germany depended – therefore they moved first.

Symbolic significance - the birthplace of the Nordic Aryan race.

Installation of a Puppet Government:

Vidkun Quisling headed this government and assumed

the title of Minister President.

One of his primary aims was to establish the Corporative

State on Mussolini’s model.

Teachers would form the first ‘corporation’.


The Teachers’ Revolt:

  • February 5, 1942 – Quisling decreed the creation of a new fascist Norwegian Teachers’ Union with compulsory membership.
  • Between 8-10 000 of the country’s 12 000 teachers refused to join.
  • This act was dangerous, but it was a matter of conscience. They said they could not assist in promoting a fascist education.
  • Schools were closed for a month but the teachers were resolute.
  • March 1942 – 1000 male teachers were arrested and sent to labour camps near Kirkenes (close to the Soviet Arctic Front).
  • Resentment towards the government was growing amongst parents and the Church.
  • The suffering of the teachers posed problems for the Quisling government
  • May 22, 1942 – Quisling cried: ‘You teachers have destroyed everything for me!’.
  • As Winter drew nearer and anger mounted, Quisling became fearful of alienating Norwegians further therefore he ordered their release.
  • Teachers had effectively blocked Quisling’s plan for a Corporate State.
  • Hitler ordered Quisling to abandon the whole project.

The Struggle of the Church:

  • The Quisling government began to increasingly interfere in matters of religion.
  • In the official Church prayer, the section on Parliament and King was cut out.
  • However, when the prayer was read out the clergy paused for a long time at the spot where it had been. The congregation understood.
  • The Church managed to publish and disseminate a letter criticising the escalating violence in Norway: ‘The Church is not interfering in worldly matters when she warns the authorities to be obedient to God, the highest authority’.
  • No arrests were made because the Government wanted to avoid causing anger and further alienation.
  • Congregations boycotted the 20 Churches which joined the Nazi inspired Christian Union Movement.
  • Due to the continual attacks on the Church, the Bishops resigned from office.
  • Immediately after the ‘Foundation of the Church’ was drawn up. It was read out on Easter Sunday from the pulpit(1942) – the congregation were asked to stand if they agreed – nearly all rose in unity and at the same moment the pastors resigned.

Individual Acts of Resistance:

  • Wearing a paperclip – “we stick together”.
  • Wearing a red carnation on the King’s birthday.
  • Refusing to turn in their radios and secretly listening to foreign news broadcasts.


  • Signalled to resistance groups that they had the support of the people.
  • They served as a kind of warning to collaborators.
  • They soured the atmosphere for the occupying power.
  • This activity served to upset the usually problem free existence the Germans enjoyed in Norway from time to time.

The Netherlands

  • Reasons for the Nazi Invasion:
  • May 10, 1940 - Germans invade the Netherlands despite a proclamation of neutrality.
  • Draw away attention from operations in the Ardennes.
  • Lure British and French forces deeper into Belgium.
  • Pre-empt a British invasion in North Holland.
  • The Dutch were seen as Germanic brothers.
  • Economic exploitation.
  • Extermination of over 100,000 Dutch Jews and Gypsies.
  • Dutch Resistance:
  • Tradition of neutrality and little experience with resistance.
  • Resistance was an act of patriotism and most took part.
  • On the first day of invasion groups of students and workers promulgated defiance with a group called, Geuzen Action proclaiming, ‘it would fight for Dutch liberty and would never be a part of Germany’.

Individual Acts of Resistance:

  • June 29, 1940 - The Dutch filled their vases with white carnations to mark the King’s birthday.
  • Hallo’ became and acronym fro ‘Hang alle landverraders op’!
  • The ‘V’ sign replaced the handshake and was painted on walls.
  • Citizens wore coins bearing the Queen’s portrait.
  • People helped persecuted families hide e.g. the Franks.
  • Teachers, Doctors, Artists and Farmers:
  • Schoolteachers refused to submit their names for approval by the Germans.
  • Dutch doctors displayed solidarity with 75% refusing to join the Artzekammer and follow Nazi medical guidelines.
  • The Medisch Contact helped hide doctors that came under attack from the Nazis.
  • Artists refused to join the Nazi Kulturkammer even though this meant no pay.
  • 160,000 farmers withheld payments from the Nazis and 1,000s refused to report for Arbeitdienst, an occupation corps devoted to reclaiming the land.

Other Acts of Resistance:

  • In repsonse to the dismissal of Jews from public office, students at the University of Leiden held a large demonstration and sang the national anthem.
  • Communist leaders also organised a general strike - 300,000 out of 800,000 took part.
  • Landelijke Organisatie, made up of 150,000, and the National Support Fund, established by a group of bankers who had fled to England, poured money into sabotage squads that damaged Dutch rail lines, stalled weapons transport, and raided German supply convoys.
  • They helped find safe places for the 100,000 Dutch men who had escaped forced labour in Germany.
  • The undergound press thrived with around sixty papers.
  • Het Parool still exists today.
  • April 23, 1943 - The Germans announced that all freed Dutch soldiers would be recaptured and sent to labour camps. This would affect over 300,000 men. In response, workers in Hengelo walked off their jobs. The strike spread throughout the country.

The Last Major Act of Resistance - September 1944:

  • Dutch railway workers went on strike to obstruct the transport of Jews to concentration camps in the East and the movement of German troops back home to the Fatherland.
  • Limitations of Resistance:
  • The Germans limited it from the start by dragooning a half million Dutch workers for service in the German war effort.
  • Overall it lacked systematic guidance.
  • Consequently, Dutch resistance never had clear national goals, and a strategic effort to challenge German control never emerged.
  • It was not until later in the war that De Kern (The Core) tried to coordinate a national effort.
  • Conclusion:
  • The resistance still prevented Holland from being turned into a Nazi satellite state.
  • Resistance diverted energy and resources away from the war effort.
  • Resistance forced the Germans to mount rearguard offensive operations.

Overall Conclusion:

  • Although nonviolent resistance did not secure victory for Denmark, Norway or The Netherlands, it did provide obstacles to the Germans and made the task of occupation more complicated.
  • It allowed people to asset their right to govern their own lives which strengthened public morale.
  • It also helped to protect the populations from some of the worst effects of Occupation.