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The Lady in the Harbor

The Lady in the Harbor

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The Lady in the Harbor

608 pagine
8 ore
Sep 27, 2012


This novel tells the story of a young Danish Naval lieutenant caught up in the turbulent times of the German occupation of Denmark in World War Two. As their peaceful nation is invaded, Danes at first adjust to the new order but ultimately respond in kind to the brutal treatment at the hands of their hated captors. The Danish lieutenant is an eyewitness to, and sometimes a participant in, the dangerous acts of defiance carried out by ordinary citizens and members of the outnumbered Danish military.

When the German occupiers begin the deportation of the Jewish population to death camps, the Danes undertake a truly remarkable strategy in an attempt to save their coutrymen. Almost alone in continental Europe in their resolve to stand against the repugnant Holocaust, the Danes risked it all in the name of human decency and moral courage.

A moving love story is entwinced with the gripping action and historical events of this fascinating and fast-paced novel.
Sep 27, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

The author, Flemming H. Smitsdorff, is a retired sales and marketing executive with over forty years of management experience with major U.S. and international corporations. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Smitsdorff served as a U.S. Naval officer in the Vietnam War. A naturalized citizen, he was born in Denmark and has travelled extensively throughout the world. Smitsdorff and his wife, Lynn, reside in southeestern Wisconsin.

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The Lady in the Harbor - Flemming H. Smitsdorff









This is a work of historical fiction. Although many of the more significant happenings are true and based on actual events, some of the timing, content and character involvement have been altered to better suit the story line and the direction I wanted this novel to take. My apologies to historians for any excessive license I may have taken in this regard.

Most of the characters are fictitious with the exception of several important and recognized personalities central to the events portrayed in the book. Again, my apologies to these individuals for my interpretation of their actions and the conversations that must certainly have taken place during this troubled time.

Danish involvement in the Second World War is generally considered secondary to the more publicized and epic events of that period. However, the courageous and unique manner in which the Danish people confronted adversity is indeed a story worth telling again. The book chronicles the lives of many ordinary people, dealing with extraordinary events, in what was arguably the most turbulent time of the twentieth century. History has shown us time and time again that periods of extreme conflict bring out the best and the worst in us. In this conflict, the people of Denmark could hardly have been better.

This being my very first attempt at bringing a novel to life, I do hope that it provides both reflection and enjoyment to those who read it. Mange Tak. Thank you.


When it is in our power to do—it is in our power not to do.





A chilling wind blew along the Langelinie Quay in Copenhagen harbor. It was December 31, 1939. Lieutenant Henning Larsen pulled up the collar of his dark blue greatcoat as protection against the cold breath of winter and continued his walk. It had been a stressful day for him at the Naval Command headquarters building and the fresh air, laced with the tangy smell of sea salt from the Baltic, felt very good.

Two enlisted sailors approached him on the walkway and rendered exceptionally crisp salutes. Henning returned the salutes and walked on with just the trace of a smile on his face. As a senior lieutenant in the Royal Danish Navy, his rank would not of itself elicit an extra measure of military bearing from subordinates—however, the gold braided epaulets adorning his greatcoat had been clearly seen by the two young sailors.

As adjutant to Admiral Victor Karlmann, the chief of the Navy, Henning was entitled to additional uniform adornments. If only there was added pay to go with the braid he often lamented!

Today, however, the prospect of a bigger paycheck was the last thing on his mind. On the eve of a new year, a new decade in fact, events in Europe were becoming increasingly alarming. Henning had seen the grave concern on the faces of Admiral Karlmann and his staff officers as the European situation was reviewed and analyzed. Germany was clearly on the march with the annexation of Austria and a blindingly swift invasion of Poland. The balance of power in Europe was changing rapidly. And now Britain and France had declared war on Germany due to treaty obligations.

Who’s next on Hitler’s list? had been the unanswered question in the latest series of staff meetings. Henning shook his head as if trying to shake off the thought that his country might already be in the sights of its powerful neighbor to the south.

He stopped in front of his destination, his favorite spot in the city . . . the life sized Little Mermaid statue situated on a large rock protruding from the harbor water. This beautiful, but simple little sculpture had become an icon for Denmark and a tribute to her most revered author—Hans Christian Andersen. Henning sat on a nearby bench and admired the weathered sheen of the bronze lady as she caught the fading rays of the mid-afternoon sun. Darkness would come early in these northern latitudes and would do nothing to improve his mood. The growing threat from the south was anything but an Andersen fairy tale!

Just as he wondered if Torben, his younger brother, would be on time for their 3:00 meeting he noticed the familiar stride of a figure approaching about 50 meters down the quay. Although five years younger, Torben Larsen bore a striking resemblance to Henning. Their six foot frames, blond hair and Nordic facial features presented no doubt of their shared paternity. Henning glanced at his wristwatch and couldn’t help smiling as his brother drew closer.

It’s a miracle. You’re three minutes early, he called out. I thought you academic types were always late.

Hold your tongue, big brother. This is one academic who knows when to be on time. Did you bring the air transit documents? Torben asked as he gave his brother a warm handshake.

Henning responded, Good to see you, too! And yes. I’ve got them. They’ll get you a free ride to Stockholm on next week’s government courier flight. Just wear a suit and look official and no one will bother you. My contact at the foreign ministry was glad to help a cash strapped young scholar. The bottle of aquavit didn’t hurt either!

As Torben took the documents package and began studying the papers, Henning again felt a sense of pride in his chest. He would miss his brother, but the two year advanced engineering program he had been offered at the Swedish Technology Institute in Stockholm was a terrific opportunity and one Torben deserved.

Torben was a classic late bloomer having waited until the second year of middle school to turn around a long history of mediocre grades and academic interest. Neither Henning nor his parents had any idea of what had brought about the change. Torben claimed he didn’t either. But what a change it was. He quickly rose to the top of his class in mathematics and sciences. It was as if the sum total of information that he had only casually observed over the years had suddenly taken root and blossomed into knowledge.

Having excelled in the national examinations, Torben advanced into academic high school and finally the prestigious Royal Engineering University in Copenhagen. The doctoral program in Sweden would be the icing on a cake long in the making and would certainly guarantee a rewarding career. Yes, Henning was proud of his younger brother.

So, I assume you will see Mother and Father before you leave?

I’m taking the train up to Helsingor and I’ll spend a few days there, Torben answered. I should be able to get everything in order before the flight next week. Hey, I’m freezing my ass off and starting to feel about as cold as your mermaid looks over there! How about we find a nice little bodega and have a new year’s eve drink together? Your treat, of course. You look like you could use one.

Sorry, Torben, I can’t. I’ve got to get back to headquarters for a few more hours. And then Karen and I are going to celebrate the evening at the Tivoli Ballroom and bring in the new year in fine form

That’s alright, Henning. And give Karen my best. I’ll miss her and I still don’t understand what a knockout like her sees in you. Hopefully, she’ll come to her senses and realize how perfect I would be for her! I’ll let you run and I’ll call next week before I leave. Happy New Year and thanks again for the ticket. With that, Torben gave his brother a tap on the arm and headed down the walkway.

Henning sat for a few more minutes looking at the mermaid as the sun descended for the last time in 1939 over free and peaceful Denmark.

As the electric trolley rumbled down Vestergade toward the city square, Karen Henneberg had a few minutes to collect her thoughts. She had left work early and was heading home to her small apartment to prepare herself for tonight’s festive event. At least she hoped it would be festive. Henning had seemed so distant lately, she thought, so maybe a party and celebration was what he needed.

The day had gone by quickly. Karen worked for Dr. Valdemar Rosenberg, a former professor and now successful businessman, and his wife Sofie and tutored their two children in both the German and English languages. The family lived in a grand, three story house in one of the city’s finest neighborhoods. Karen enjoyed her surroundings in the stately home. She worked with the children in the afternoons after their school day as well as helping Mrs. Rosenberg manage the many affairs of the household. The position, a combination nanny—secretary—teacher—housekeeper-confidant, paid reasonably well and allowed her both independence and time to pursue her interests.

Karen had left her hometown on the west coast of Denmark fourteen months earlier. Two years of foreign language training in a regional technical college had been enough. She needed to stretch her legs and see for herself what a large city such as Copenhagen had to offer. An uncle, and friend of the Rosenbergs, had arranged employment for her and it had all worked out quite well.

Earlier in the year, she had met Henning. An unusually warm May afternoon had brought out many of the city’s residents eager for sunshine and assurances that summer might be on the way. Karen and her girlfriend Lisbeth were enjoying coffee in one of the many outdoor cafes along Stroeget, Copenhagen’s fabled walking street. She noticed the young man sitting alone reading a paper a few tables over. He was wearing some type of maritime uniform—Navy perhaps. Karen wasn’t sure but he certainly was an eyeful!

Several times he caught her glances and, a little embarrassed, she would quickly look away and resume her conversation with Lisbeth. A short time later, as she watched him settle his check and walk out towards the street, he suddenly turned and flashed a brilliant smile directly at her. Karen couldn’t help but smile back at this sudden and unexpected gesture. He was smiling at her, wasn’t he?

Ten minutes later, she and Lisbeth left the café, hugged and promised to see each other again soon. She set off down Stroeget towards home.

I thought you might like these, he said as he came up behind her and placed a colorful bouquet of flowers in her arms. Before you become alarmed or angry let me just say that I normally don’t meet girls like this. But I wanted to meet you. My name is Henning and I’ll be back here tomorrow at the same time. I hope you’ll come, too.

With that said, Henning turned and walked away. Karen watched him as he looked back and threw another one of those damn smiles at her.

Of all the nerve, she thought. And he could take that line of his and use it to catch fish! With his fancy uniform and good looks he must think I’m some sort of pushover, she mused. As Karen resumed her walk home it gave her some satisfaction knowing that the flowers were expensive this time of year and had cost him a lot. They would in any event brighten up the apartment.

The next day Karen was back at the café having coffee with Henning.

They never looked back. The next seven months were a blur of activity as they began to know each other with an energy neither thought they were capable of. They explored Copenhagen’s museums and castles, found cozy restaurants after the cinema or a concert, enjoyed the beautiful parks and took walks along the labyrinth of canals flowing through the city.

It was a wonderful time for them both and the charms of the city provided the perfect setting as their relationship deepened. Oh how she loved this new life of hers.

This would be their first new year’s eve together and Karen could only imagine that the next year would be even better than the last. Nothing could possibly change the happiness she and Henning had found and the future that she knew they could build together.

The trolley jerked to a standstill as Karen prepared to step off at her stop. She squeezed past two rather large women engaged in animated conversation, stepped down from the car and headed home.


T wo hours until midnight, declared Henning as he poured another glass of the crisp German Riesling for Karen and himself. Maybe it’s the wine but I’m really enjoying myself. And if you start looking any more gorgeous I just might have to forget that I’m an officer and a gentleman later tonight!

Thanks, since I think that was a compliment, she answered with a knowing smile that signaled a happy anticipation of the evening’s later possibilities. I’m enjoying it, too, and they really have dressed up the ballroom beautifully.

As Henning sipped the Riesling, he couldn’t help but consider the irony of enjoying German wine in light of the developing situation in Europe.

The ballroom was in the center of Tivoli, Copenhagen’s delightful summer park of gardens, restaurants, concert halls and amusement concessions. Although the park closed in the winter months, the ballroom had hosted gala new year’s parties since the turn of the century. Tonight, the ten-piece Willi Thorning Orchestra had serenaded the guests with a wide selection of popular European and American music. As the wine flowed, Karen and Henning had feasted on an assortment of salmon, shrimp and fresh seafood dishes. Karen had remarked that the fish was so good it must have come from the North Sea. Probably through the port of Esbjerg, her hometown, by the way.

Henning, I don’t want to say anything to spoil the evening, but you’ve been so moody lately. It’s like you’re always somewhere else. You’ve been your old self tonight which makes me happy. But there’s been something on your mind and I just think you should share it with me. I want to share . . .

I know. And I want to share with you, too. I just didn’t realize how well you can read me. I’m sorry, but you know that much of what I do at Naval Command is secret, but it’s no secret what the Germans have been systematically doing to their neighbors. And now Poland. Invaded and occupied in only three weeks! You read the papers and hear what people are talking about. Everyone’s worried that the same could happen to us.

Dr. Rosenberg says Denmark isn’t on Hitler’s target board, she offered. We’re a small country and what would the Germans want with us? Why just the other day he said that with Britain and France now entering the war, Germany will be too busy to even think about us.

Karen, listen to me. I hope he’s right but that could just be wishful thinking. There are lots of reasons we could be in their plans. I can’t go into them with you now, but, trust me they’re real!

I think you and the people you work with spend too much time worrying about things that don’t concern us here in Denmark. We should . . .

Look, we all need to be concerned about what’s been happening in Europe. I’m not trying to alarm you but there are things you don’t know about. Henning twirled the wine in his glass and decided to share with Karen what he had heard that afternoon.

I shouldn’t tell you this and you’ve got to keep this to yourself. The admiral told the staff today that the king’s brother, Prince Axel, is flying to Berlin in a few weeks for discussions with the German foreign ministry people. Minister von Ribbentrob is to be available and possibly Goering, too. He’s to present them with a request for assurances that Denmark’s neutrality will be honored and that they harbor no intentions of aggression against us. Those were his exact words.

Well that’ll settle it then. Karen remarked. Surely the prince will hear that there is no threat against us and then you and the rest of the handwringers at Naval Command can find something better to worry about. She reached over and took Henning’s hand and smiled. Come on, let’s enjoy the rest of the night.

Henning shook his head and forced a smile back at her. Alright, he said. Let’s dance and then we’ll have the champagne I ordered earlier. There’ll be no more talk of this tonight. I promise.

After the midnight celebrations, Henning hailed a cab for them. A light snow was falling over the city as the old car maneuvered around the town hall square towards Karen’s apartment district. As they passed Amalienborg, the royal palaces, Henning asked the driver to slow the car so they could take in the view of the four lighted buildings sparkling in the snowfall. A magical sight these rococo style palaces were. As always, Royal Guard soldiers stood at attention throughout the complex as the snow began to settle on their tall bearskin hats. The Guard had protected Danish regals for over 350 years and had persevered in weather much worse than this.

Karen pulled herself closer to Henning and kissed him on the cheek as the cab resumed its journey.

I assume you’ll be staying the night? Karen whispered.

I’d be a fool if I didn’t, came the answer as Henning felt a familiar stirring below his waist. It’s 1940 now and it’s up to us to start the year off in a proper manner!

Karen giggled and the cab sped on in the snowy night.


The formal conference room in Amalienborg Palace was heavy with tobacco smoke as the four occupants engaged in small talk while busying themselves with their papers and folders. Large oil portraits of various kings shared the walls with equally large paintings of generals leading armies in momentous battles from the past. A refreshment service had been arranged at a sideboard and the four men had brought cups of coffee and pastry back to their places at the polished oak table.

Thorvald Stauning, the aging Danish prime minister, puffed on his cigar and cleared his throat. I’m glad we’re meeting again, he announced. The prince needs the support from all of us considering the importance of his mission.

I do indeed, Minister, answered Prince Axel. Flying to Berlin tomorrow to meet with this pack of Nazis is unpleasant enough. But if we can at least get some assurances that they’ll leave us alone we will all breathe easier, I’m sure.

Stauning nodded. He was strongly opposed to a Europe under Nazism and abhorred the aggressiveness being undertaken by the Germans. Keeping Denmark out of the growing conflict was of the utmost importance.

The others, Admiral Karlmann and Foreign Minister Henrik Munch, also nodded their heads and offered encouragement to the prince.

A door suddenly opened and in stepped Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland. The king, elegantly dressed in a dark gray wool suit, quickly made his way to the table as the occupants immediately stood to receive his handshakes.

Good morning, gentlemen, and please be seated, he offered.

The five men knew each other well and were comfortable in each other’s presence despite the often dissimilar agendas of politicians, diplomats, the military and the royal family.

As king, Christian was held in high affection by his people. The Danish monarchy had ruled the country since the year 900. The first king, Gorm the Old, reigned for over fifty years during the Viking era and began the lineage that had ruled the oldest continuous kingdom in the world. Christian was the forty-eighth monarch in a lineage that was now highly ceremonial and shared responsibility with an elected government. Nonetheless, the king was always consulted and involved in matters of major national importance.

Well, Axel, is your bag packed? he joked. The others appreciated the light moment and laughed. The elderly king did have a sense of humor despite his sometimes stern, fatherly appearance.

I leave in the morning on one of our military transport planes. Hopefully, our trigger-happy Nazi neighbors won’t shoot! the prince replied only half in jest. As you suggested, Christian, I will travel alone with only the airplane crew with me.

Henrik Munch shifted in his chair and suddenly directed a question to the king.

Your Majesty, I must again ask that I or a senior member of the foreign ministry accompany Prince Axel. Foreign policy is under the jurisdiction of my ministry and we should be involved in any diplomatic overtures.

Munch, we’ve already been over this, answered the king patiently. I want this somewhat out of normal channels. A personal emissary from me, and a member of the royal family, my brother no less, signals our deepest concern. I think they will be more inclined to discuss and perhaps moderate their intentions without the formality of official government involvement.

Very well, Majesty. As you wish. Their embassy confirmed yesterday that the meeting will be with Reichsmarschall Goering. Minister von Ribbentrob will be out of the country. It’s probably just as well considering your strategy. Besides, Goering is currently the unofficial number two man in the regime. He’s a buffoon of sorts, but he certainly speaks for Hitler.

Admiral Karlmann spoke. I agree with the logic of our approach, but I still don’t like the appearance of us fawning for details of our fate or negotiating with the damn high and mighty Germans!

A silence quickly settled over the room. No one liked the inference that the nation’s leadership might be prostrating itself.

Leaning over so that his long gray beard actually blanketed the table in front of him, Prime Minister Stauning broke the silence.

Spoken as a true military man, Admiral. But I see no choice here regardless of appearances. If we can keep ourselves out of this bloody mess spreading over Europe, we must do so. If we don’t try then shame on us!

"We must try, the king added. Trying to spare the country from the misery these Nazis are unleashing on Europe is not dishonorable. In fact, our people expect our best efforts to keep them safe."

There’s another even more practical consideration, offered Prince Axel. We’re a country of only four and a half million people. There are over seventy million Germans. What choice do we have other than talking? They conquered Poland, ten times our size, in weeks. Crushed its military, leveled Warsaw—well, you’ve all seen the newsreels. We don’t want this to happen here, that’s for certain.

Stauning continued the prince’s thoughts. Our military would be no match against the German army. We all know this. Prince Axel must determine their intentions and, if hostile, begin discussions on ways to avoid an invasion. We’ve all agreed that surplus agricultural products can be guaranteed to the Germans as trade. God knows their war machine will need more than they can grow themselves.

And naval privileges in western Jutland, added Foreign Minister Munch. They asked for this last year and we, of course, refused them. But our situation is different now. Granting port privileges to a few German ships in their effort to keep an eye on the British is a minor intrusion for us.

The room went silent again as the men considered the consequences of these obvious concessions.

King Christian spoke firmly.

Gentlemen. I know that each of you is troubled having to offer anything to the Nazis under any circumstance. Nonetheless, it’s what we have to bargain with if it comes to that. Trading food and providing port services hardly amounts to a formal alliance with the devil. Any other country would likely do the same. So, as your monarch, that is what I feel we must do. Are we in complete agreement?


I agree, Majesty.

Yes. I agree also.


Very well then. Axel, you understand the parameters that we have established and our strategy. Your German is excellent so the talks with Goering will not be filtered with translation. Listen to him. Hear what he says as well as what he doesn’t say. Lay the groundwork that we are willing to provide a level of cooperation if necessary. We’ll meet as soon as you return.

I’ll do my best, Christian. You know I will.

The king nodded, stood and left the room. The plan was set in motion with everyone hoping for a favorable outcome.


Lisbeth Andersen, Karen’s best friend, was busy preparing lunch in her apartment kitchen. Assorted open-faced sandwiches had been meticulously created and rested colorfully on a large serving platter as Lisbeth added more garnish and toppings. She knew that Otto enjoyed this unique Danish style of sandwich art as he called it. He would be arriving shortly so she hurriedly set the table and removed two green bottles of Tuborg beer from the small icebox.

The two of them had been seeing each other for four months in a relationship that had recently become intimate and appeared to be heading towards a more permanent status. At least she hoped so. Otto Kranz was a communications specialist at the German embassy. Although he was a loyal German citizen, Otto’s mother had been born in the Schleswig province . . . a border region that had alternately been under both Danish and German control. There was definitely some Danish blood in Otto’s veins and he was pleased with the posting in Copenhagen.

Lisbeth heard a rap on the door and the rattle of a key opening the lock. Otto closed the door behind him and walked towards her grinning like a schoolboy.

I have good news, Lissi. But first—a kiss is in order.

After a quick embrace, Otto spoke first.

We’ll have to hurry lunch. I have less than an hour. Ahhh. I see we’re eating works of art today, he observed.

Sit, Otto, and tell me the news. She opened and poured the bottles after passing the platter of food.

"It was announced this morning that my section chief is being transferred to Prague. Guess who is replacing him? It’s me! I’ll get a promotion and be in charge of the entire communications section and with a fine adjustment in salary, too, I think."

Otto, that’s wonderful. Lisbeth leaned over and kissed him again. Raise your glass. We must have a toast to seal your good fortune.


"No, Prost."

They both laughed.

We should have our own language, Lissi. In fact, we should have our own country. We could call it Germark. Or Denmany.

You could be king, Otto.

Well, I’d better start out being a good section chief first. Then we’ll see.

They talked and laughed while enjoying their lunch. Lisbeth’s white cat, Snowball, made a sudden appearance, weaved through Otto’s legs and returned to the bedroom.

Otto speculated, After that strenuous workout, she must be exhausted.

After plans for the evening were made, Otto squeezed her hand, winked and hurried out the door.

Lisbeth couldn’t stop smiling as she cleared the table. She was happy for Otto and more convinced then ever that they had a very special relationship. Her only concern was the dark political cloud forming over them. While most of her countrymen were historically suspicious of Germans, it had grown to outright dislike in the past year. And now, with this war business getting worse, she knew people would become even less tolerant of anyone dating a German.

While not exactly hiding their relationship, Lisbeth and Otto had been discreet in their activities. They generally went to out of the way restaurants and dance clubs where they would be less likely to be seen by friends or acquaintances. Lately, they spent much of their time together at Lisbeth’s apartment where only a nosy neighbor, the elderly Mrs. Madsen, seemed to notice their comings and goings. Only her mother, Karen and Henning were aware of the growing romance as Lisbeth had been cautious in sharing her personal life with others.

She shook her head and sighed loudly. Lisbeth believed that it was only a matter of time before these troubles would blow over and then she and Otto could resume a more open relationship.

It will happen, she said staring down at the dishes in the sink. We just have to be a little more patient with the world.


The black Mercedes-Benz staff car sped away from the military airfield on its way to the center of Berlin. Sitting in the backseat, Prince Axel had just lighted a cigarette and exhaled a comforting stream of smoke. The driver and the army officer who had welcomed him at the airfield sat rigidly in the front seat staring straight ahead. Very little was spoken. How efficient thought Axel.

His flight from Copenhagen had been uneventful. While looking down at the wintry German countryside from the plane, Axel had reflected on how normal and peaceful everything seemed below. How misleading this view was considering the events of the past few years. A new Reich had been formed—and one stronger and more dangerous than anything Europe had ever seen. My God how he wished Hitler’s appetite would be sated soon with the blood and territory from lands other than to the north.

Captain. What is the itinerary? Are we going directly to the Reichsministry? asked Axel.

We are, your Highness. After your meetings we have secured a suite for you at the Hotel Adlon on Unter den Linden. It should be very comfortable. I believe that the Reichsmarschall has arranged a dinner there this evening as well.

Yes, I know the Adlon well. That will be fine.

The Adlon was indeed Berlin’s premier hotel. Situated a mere block from the Brandenburg Gate, the elegant hotel was at the very center of Berlin’s social and political scene. The Reichstag and even Hitler’s chancellery were within sight of the hotel.

As the car drew closer to the city, Axel noticed the abundance of posters, banners and flags adorning many of the buildings and hanging from the lamp posts along the streets. The image of Adolf Hitler was everywhere as were banners exhorting the wonders of National Socialism. Red and black swastika flags were too numerous to count.

Quite a transformation, thought Axel. His last visit to Berlin had been three years earlier during a vacation focused on the museums and architectural marvels of the beautiful city. Berlin now wore an obscene coat of overdone nationalism and propaganda. It was disconcerting.

Axel extinguished his cigarette as the car pulled into the arrival court of the Reichsministry. A sea of swastika flags fluttered as he was escorted up the steps of the gray monolithic building. The military guards sprang to attention and clicked the heels of their jackboots as Axel passed. Quite impressive he thought. But then, the Germans had always been good at this sort of thing.

Once inside, Axel was taken up a wide flight of stairs. The five-story building was designed in the cold, overstated style favored by the Nazis. Huge, angular columns stood like sentries against large slabs of marble wall. Tall windows provided ample light and showcased the massive rooms and twelve-foot high doors installed throughout the building. All of the doors wore eagle crests and coats of arms beautifully carved into the wood. And, of course, blood-red swastika flags hung from the high ceilings as reminders that this building was in the nucleus of the Third Reich.

As if I needed to be reminded of where I am, Axel muttered to himself.

Finally, he was ushered into an opulent suite of offices obviously reserved for a most senior official of the German regime. Standing next to a large desk in the center of the office stood Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.

Prince Axel. Welcome to Berlin, Goering said as he extended his hand in a warm handshake while directing Axel to a seating area in the corner of the office.

Axel took stock of his host as they were seating themselves. Goering’s large frame was attired in one of his signature customized uniforms—this one featured a light blue, double breasted tunic with silver buttons and insignias. The matching riding pants and black boots completed the image of a man intent on being the center of attention. And, such was Goering’s reputation. He very much enjoyed his position of power and privilege atop the Nazi hierarchy.

"Herr Reichsmarschall. A pleasure to meet you. My brother, the king, and our government extend their best wishes to you. On their behalf, I thank you for receiving me and welcome the opportunity to discuss a number of areas of concern."

Goering nodded. Of course, Your Highness. The pleasure is mine and I can assure you that I will be pleased to have a frank and open discussion with you.

The attendants served coffee and left the office through a side door leaving the two men to themselves. For the next forty minutes a stream of polite conversation helped break the ice when, at last, Axel decided it was time to press on.

Well then, he opened. "Let me get to the point of my visit. The annexations and invasions of neighboring countries by Germany has hardly gone without notice. It is troubling. My government has concern over the status of Denmark in light of what appears to be your continuing trend of expansion into sovereign territories. I know this sounds blunt, Herr Reichsmarschall, but we need to hear of your intentions."

A look of irritation drew over Goering’s face as he considered his answer.

"Our intensions, Prince Axel? Our intentions? Well let me be blunt. It is not my intention to review in detail the plans of the German government as we pursue our national interests in Europe."

Axel bristled at the discourteous response. If your ‘national interests’ include my country it very clearly needs to be discussed.

I can tell you this, Prince Axel. The Fuhrer sets our policy and he has given no indication that a need exists to alter our relationship with our Danish neighbors. No indication at all. And if I may be so candid, with our oncoming entanglement with the British and the French, there are much larger wurst on the platter.

Goering continued with an explanation of the necessity of annexing Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia. There were provocations and the need to unite German-speaking people. And there was the matter of the insane borders established after the World War which stranded innocent Germans in neighboring countries. In Poland, ethnic Germans were in danger of being persecuted by the Poles. What else could the Fuhrer do but intervene?

Axel had heard all this before but listened patiently as his host continued laying on the thinly veiled propaganda. Not for a minute did he buy into any of it. He needed to get his agenda back in focus.

"Herr Reichsmarschall. Let me ask you this. My government might be agreeable to selling unrestricted amounts of food to Germany. We might also entertain providing naval refueling rights in Jutland and, perhaps, also in our colonies in the Faeroes and Iceland. Perhaps even Greenland. I want to be very clear on this. These would be acts of neighborly cooperation—not alliance."

Yes. I understand. And in return for this ‘cooperation’?

A guarantee of non-aggression and complete recognition of Denmark’s neutrality.

An interesting proposal, Prince Axel. I can certainly discuss it with the Fuhrer. But let me assure you that we Germans are not looking for war in Europe. We have restored ethnic boundaries which were historically ours. The British and French will be the aggressors. Not us. And as far as Denmark is concerned, we have always considered you Danish as our little brothers.

Axel bristled again. What an ass this man is. Restoring boundaries. Little brothers, indeed. But I will hold my tongue just in case our proposal might be taken seriously, he thought. No sense provoking the man.

Goering smiled and refilled their coffee cups.

Let me say that you have brought a proposal that may be of interest to us. I will fly it up the flagpole, so to speak, and in the meantime relations between our countries will remain the same. It’s quite simple really. Do not look at us as a threat to your neutrality. Why, we actually share the same Nordic blood so tell your people that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Goering’s smile had an unintended effect on Axel. He’s putting me off, he thought.

The two men spent another hour with Goering questioning various elements of the proposal and reviewing political events in Europe.

Enough, he finally said. I have arranged a little dinner for us tonight at the Adlon. Perhaps you would like to return to the hotel now and I will join you later.

As the staff car left the ministry Axel looked again at the menacing swastika flags snapping in the cold Berlin wind. I’m not optimistic, he thought. Little brothers are easily handled.


The steam-heated air in the Great Synagogue of Copenhagen warmed Karen as she listened to the reading of the Kaddish.

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed . . . recited the rabbi in a pious monotone.

The synagogue, the largest of the three congregations in the city, had provided religious sanctum to many of Copenhagen’s Jews for well over a hundred years. Chief Rabbi Jacobsen was regarded as the unofficial leader of all Danish Jews due to the size and prominence of this congregation.

Karen had joined the Rosenbergs for Shabbat and its liturgy of morning prayers. She sat wedged between Mrs. Rosenberg and their oldest daughter, Mari. Little Lynsse had joined the younger children in a special seating area. Dr. Rosenberg sat across the aisle with the other men. Although the synagogue was reform, the congregation had continued the orthodox tradition of separating men and women during services.

She had noticed how the building was again filled to capacity. Danish Jews, and Christians for that matter, were not particularly known for stellar attendance at religious services. Henning had often joked about how regularly he attended church—regularly on Christmas Eve and again regularly on Easter Sunday! But for many months attendance levels at the synagogue had grown substantially. Most of the congregants had either relatives or friends in other parts of Europe and could no longer ignore the reports of mistreatment of Jews in Germany and occupied territories. Their uneasiness seemingly needed the comfort and sanctuary of the synagogue.

Rabbi Jacobsen concluded the service and people began to gather their belongings and coats.

Mari. Please get Lynsse and come out front, said Karen as she followed Sofie Rosenberg up the aisle.

When the girls and Dr. Rosenberg joined them, they began the four block walk home along tree-lined Heibergsgade. The girls ran ahead needing to stretch after the long Shabbat. Their blonde hair flowing in the light wind.

Things are getting worse to the south, Valdemar. Sofie said softly. Mrs. Heiden told me she heard from her daughter in Vienna. You remember Elsa the painter? Well, she said that Austrian Jews are being treated barbarically. Some are being evicted from their homes and are losing their jobs. The Nazis are telling people to boycott Jewish businesses. Elsa is trying to get back to Denmark but travel for Jews is now being restricted.

Dr. Rosenberg nodded. It’s the same in Czechoslovakia and now Poland. I heard similar stories this morning. And some of the accounts coming out of Germany itself are absolutely appalling.

Why are they doing this? Karen asked angrily. Haven’t they got enough going on with their invasions and fighting without bothering Jews? They disgust me. Thank goodness we live here.

That’s the point, Karen, answered Dr. Rosenberg. "That’s exactly the point. Jews are safe here in Denmark. There isn’t the prejudice we find in the rest of Europe. Why, you’re seeing a Christian man and no one cares or thinks anything of it. We’re as Danish as everyone else so don’t worry. I’ve said before that the Germans will be very busy with their misdirected adventures and will leave us alone."

I pray you’re right, Valdemar, said Sofie sadly as she watched the girls happily running ahead of them.

The Rosenberg’s marriage had been been comfortable enough for both of them and Sofie loved her husband as a good provider for her and the children. But the passion had been fading ever since Valdemar left his teaching position at the university and had purchased a manufacturing company. It seemed to her that his energy was focused on running the business and making money. There was little time left for the family these days and she sometimes felt she had to compete for his attention.

To Valdemar’s credit, it had been a wonderful opportunity and the metal stamping business was thriving. His minority partner handled sales while Valdemar concentrated on the operational aspects of the company. They had found new markets and customers. New equipment had been installed which broadened the company’s production versatility. From ash trays to bottle caps, from coal shovels to cafeteria trays, the employees could produce a seemingly endless variety of products for their customers.

Sofie knew all this and was grateful for the financial security all this provided. She even felt a level of guilt for her quiet self-pity. I should scold myself, she thought. I have my family and we are fortunate to live safely in a country that accepts Jews as equal citizens.

I pray you’re right, Valdemar, she said again.


S o tell us, Axel. Did anything of significance come up during your dinner after the meeting?

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