It was May 1st, 1945. Finally there was a sense that this time it would be true, the war was coming to an end. I could listen to the Danish radio without hearing “Lillie Marlene” being played before the news. Today, fifty years later whenever I hear this song it brings me right back to the five hellish years we had been living in, the anger rises in me all over again. It was a favorite Nazi song.
Hitler committed suicide the 30th of April 1945, in his bunker in Berlin. After this the German military fell apart but it wasn’t until the fourth of May that the surrender documents were signed. The signing took place at the British General Montgomery’s headquarters in Lueneburg and that meant Holland and Denmark were free. When this was announced over the Danish radio, it was a dream come true—we could hardly believe it!
But it was true and the day we had waited for for so long was finally here. The curfew was over and we could tear down the ugly black shades which had covered our windows every moment from sundown to sunrise.
All day long, on the 4th of May 1945 friends and family stopped by. We listened to the radio constantly. Our biggest question was, how would it end? Two hundred thousand German troops occupied our small country and about 2-3,000 Danish Nazis had been helping them along. How were we going to get rid of them?
Would the prison doors just open to let the freedom fighters walk out? How would they be able to get back to their homes in different parts of Denmark? What about all the people who had been forced to leave the country and who were in Sweden, our only close neutral ally. Who was going to lead the liberation?
Question after question was raised but nobody knew any answers and we could only guess what the final outcome would be.
Then at 8:30 p.m. on May 4th, 1945, every church bell in the country was rung, whistles from factories all over the country, such as the shipyard in Elsinore blew. The radio played “the Freedom song” and the Danish national anthem. The King, Christian X spoke to his subjects. It was euphoria without any comparison. I don’t think in my entire life I have ever felt more uplifted, hopeful and excited.
When reality set in we wondered what would happen now? Aksel was still in prison in Copenhagen and knowing the Nazis and how they operated, they might just be desperate enough to kill the prisoners at random before surrendering, especially now when they had nothing to lose. Just as these horrible thoughts were going through my head the phone rang, and hoping it would be Aksel or at least someone with good news, I picked it up.
It was our friend Berning, the lawyer, a member of the resistance who as a true friend I had been able to count on at all times. “Grethe, I’ve no doubt that you have heard the good news? Needless to say, we have an enormous task ahead as you well can imagine. That’s why I’m calling you, I would like to stop by within the hour to tell you what has been decided at a meeting I just attended.”
That was just what I needed, answers to some of the many questions I had.