wwii: the danish american experience
When Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940, almost half a million Danishborn and second-generation Danish Americans were living in the USA. They quickly organized to work to support Denmark’s freedom and reputation. Danes in America and Danish Americans engaged in many different activities – from high-level diplomacy and writing press releases to raising funds for war bonds, making care packages for sailors, and sewing clothes to send to Denmark. Danish Americans were also active in the armed forces and the Merchant Marine. When Nazi German soldiers crossed the borders into Denmark to occupy the country in the early morning hours of April 9, 1940, many people far away from Denmark were affected. In the United States, the fate of this small European country likely felt particularly important to Danish Americans. The census of 1940 lists approximately 138,000 Danish-born people living in the United States and 306,000 secondgeneration Danish Americans – people whose mother, father or both had been born in Denmark. The editorial staff of The Danish Pioneer sums up the events in Denmark and captures the feelings of its readers with a framed notice on the front page in the first issue of this Danishlanguage U.S. newspaper following the occupation of Denmark: To the Readers of the Pioneer Very unexpected, our innocent old mother country has become tangled up in the clash of the European great powers. The night between Monday and Tuesday, a German army has occupied the country. Following orders, the Danish military did not attempt to fight them – which would probably have been hopeless – and Germany had prior to the invasion guaranteed that the country’s independence would be respected. ... We are of course aware that many Danish minds over here are now full of worry about the calamity which has struck our mother country – and especially among the ones who have parents, siblings and other close family in Denmark, and we shall as always attempt to get our readers as quick and reliable news as possible.1 ...
By Catrine Kyster Giery
01. Flag Framed fifteen-star flag representing members of the Clear Lake, Iowa, Danish Lodges who served in the armed forces during WWII. 2010020001
This publication is a benefit of membership in the Museum of Danish America.