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Shine a light for Denmark´s Liberation

Photograph: iStock / The Museum of Danish Resistance 1940-1945

Text: Josephine Wan

Have you ever wondered why most families have candles glowing in the window on the evening of 4th May every year? It is more than just hygge.

End of German occupation

It was 4th May 1945, and Danes celebrated after hearing a message on the radio heralding the liberation of Demark from German occupation. This meant that they no longer had to use heavy black curtains to keep the light from escaping their houses. People flocked into the streets, waving the Danish flag (Dannebrog) and burned their black curtains, and many lit candles in their windows that same evening.

During the occupation, it was forbidden to have light streaming through the windows after dark, as the Germans were trying to stop the British from using this for navigation. Streetlights were also subdued, and stones on the roads were painted white. Some also painted the backs of their bikes white to be seen on the dimly lit roads.

Liberation Day

On the 5th of May 1945, the Germans surrendered officially at 8 am. From that day on, every year, the Danish flag (Dannebrog) is raised on official buildings (from 8 am, it is raised at half-mast until noon on 9th April) to mark the beginning of the German occupation. Many Danish families also raise the flags at their houses as a sign of respect.

The occupation

9th April 1940, Germany occupied Denmark. The Danish government and King functioned relatively normal in a de facto protectorate until 29th August 1943, when Germany placed Denmark under direct military occupation.

Resistance groups

Several resistance groups were established during the occupation. Resistance fighters were ordinary people who fought against the Germans and for the freedom of Denmark. Some worked on illegal publications as the Germans censured everything during that time. They produced and distributed illegal material exposing goings-on in Christiansborg (Danish parliament) and news from the frontline. Other groups worked on sabotaging factories that Germans had a vested interest in and freeing Danes captured by the Germans.

Remember (husk): join the Danish community by marking Liberation Day and light a candle that shines bright on this historic day.

A couple of the sabotage groups were relatively well-known. One of them was BOPA (Borgerlige Partisaner), who had their own factory producing machine guns and imported explosive from Berlin. Another group Hvidstengruppen was active around Hvidsten Kro between Mariager and Randers between March 1943 - March 1944.


Hvidstengruppen was established by the owner of Hvidsten Kro, Maruis Fiil. They gathered weapons thrown out of planes with parachutes by Danish resistance members. They then distributed the weapons to activists who carried out missions all over Jutland. Unfortunately, the group was apprehended by Gestapo (the secret German police), and eight of their members were prosecuted. That made a significant impression on the people of Denmark.

A movie called This Life, which was based on the activities of Hvidstengruppen, was released in 2012. It received positive reviews, and 250,000 people flocked to see it in the first two weeks of opening at the box office.

Hvidsten Kro

Hvidsten Kro has been in existence for more than 200 years. The fifth generation of the family now owns it, and it is a preserved property. The Kro was made famous by the Hvidstengruppen and activities that were carried out during the war. The owner of Hvidsten Kro, Marius Fiil, his son and his son-in-law were among those eight Hvidstengruppen members that were prosecuted.

Many people visit Hvidsten Kro because of its history. If you have not been there before, maybe you can plan a visit this summer, as most of us will probably stay in Denmark again this year.

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