Never ever forget

These red huts may look pretty and cosy, but I can assure you that during the latter half of WWII this place was far from cosy.

This is Frøslevlejren, the Frøslev Camp, right by the border between Denmark and Germany. The camp was built in 1944 after the Germans had started deporting Danish prisoners to German camps. The Danish government somehow made a deal with the Germans that Danes should be sent to this camp in Denmark and not to Germany. Amazingly, the Germans largely kept their agreement; of some 12,000 internees who passed through the camp, “only” 1,600 were actually sent to camps in Germany and most of those survived!

This is the central watch tower. It is now used as a museum.

This is a model of the camp as it was during the war. Notice the two huts which are fenced in at the top right. Those were for the female prisoners. For some reason I’d never really realised that there would have been women there. But of course there would. Women were part of the illegal activities against the German occupation too.

This is another building which is part of the museum at the camp. Other buildings are used for various purposes: exhibitions on UN and Danish civil defence activities. A large chunk of the buildings is also used for a school which I think is quite wonderful.

I was naturally drawn to this embroidered table cloth with names of some of the women internees. It is beautiful in its own right but when you consider the circumstances (where did they get the fabric and thread from?), not to mention the fact that this sort of thing was illegal, it is even more impressive.

Another thing which is quite impressive: somehow the internees managed to build no less than two very illegal radios so they could keep track on the war and the advancement of the Allied forces. And incredibly, the Germans never found these radios!

I was quite moved by this hand drawn chess board in one of the rooms. And there were many other examples of the internees having to come up with their own entertainment..

Another example of illegal crafting: a pincushion.

Towards the end of the war, many Danish (and Norwegian) internees in Germany were brought back from Germany on these white buses from Sweden. A Swedish count (or something like that), Bernadotte, was behind this operation. He also visited the Frøslev camp and the prisoners whistled “Du gamla, du fria”, the Swedish national anthem (I think).

This is a photos of the camp after the Germans capitulated. You can tell that it looks quite different from today!

Now, the reason why I really wanted to show this place to Tony is that my farfar (paternal grandfather) was one of the prisoners there. It’s not quite clear exactly why he was there. He has written a memoir and it suggests that he may have spied on the Germans or in some way was involved with more ‘hands-on’ illegal actions against them. I hope he was – I’d be really proud of that!

My grandfather was almost sent to Germany one day, but then someone realised that they were two people with almost the same name and even from the same town! My grandfather’s last name was Envoldsen and the other man’s was Enevoldsen, but apart from that the names are identical, even the middle name, what are the odds of that?! But their birthdays were different and so it was the other man who was sent to Germany. He did survive, though.

I visited the camp many years ago with my family, but I think now I’m older I can really appreciate what the people in the camp went through, although what I can imagine probably doesn’t even come near to what it was actually like.

What I do know, is that it is really important to keep the memory of that horrible part of history alive and not forget what happened then. Because I think that might easily happen – it is so long ago now and there are fewer and fewer people around who lived through it.

It must never be forgotten or trivialised.


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