Our sixth book, “A Flame is Burning,” (Der brænder en Ild) was first published illegally in 1944, by the underground publisher Folk og Frihed (Folk and Freedom). At that time, only one of the seventeen contributors was named. Hans Kirk, for his poem “Western Prison” (Vestre Fængsel). Hans Kirk had been arrested earlier, and sent to Horserød, but he had escaped and was out of the country when this book was first published. Naming the other authors could have led to their arrest, and possibly to their death.
Early in the morning of April 9th, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Denmark. There was a non-aggression treaty between the two countries, which Germany simply ignored. They claimed, of course, that they were simply protecting Denmark from Great Britain.
There was little organized resistance to the invasion, and Denmark was not prepared or able to stop the German army, air force, and navy. There was some sporadic resistance from the beginning, and some Danes refused, from the start, to accept the foreign occupiers. But the Danish government essentially capitulated on the first day, and tried to establish a form of collaboration. The argument was that it was better to accept reality, than to be bombed and destroyed by a vastly superior military force. That argument is still being debated today.
But slowly a resistance movement did grow. One major turning point was the collapse of the Danish government, and the declaration of martial law by the Germans, on 29th August, 1943. It was a day that Kaj Munk called “A proud day for Denmark.”
This collection of prose and poetry provides a unique insight into the mood of occupied Denmark. It not only criticizes the lack of resistance to the Nazi occupation, but also encourages the Danes to stand in solidarity against the occupiers.
The story by Martin A. Hansen, “A dialogue on killing and responsibility,” illustrates the deep divide in Danish society during that time with respect to the killing of snitches. The Danish noun “et drab” is normally interpreted as “a kill,” though it can be interpreted as “Murder” in some contexts. But it is generally accepted that killing in self defense is not murder. If someone breaks into your house, and you kill them in self defense, then it will not be interpreted as murder. That was the dilemma for many Danes. Had the Germans broken into their home, and was any means of self-defense justified?