Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Aftermath of War, from a German soldier who helped the Resistance and postwar refugees


German Kurt Henke had lived part of his childhood in Norway. On February 16th 1945, 10 days after his arrival in Denmark, he started passing information to the local Danish resistance group, who called him “The Norwegian”. He succcesfully prevented the Gestapo in destroying a resistance weapons depot and workshop and arresting the resistance members.
Being able to speak German and Norwegian/Danish, he worked as an enterpreter between the Wehrmacht and the towns people.
Post-war he was allowed to stay in Denmark, and he worked for the Danish Brigade’s occupation forces in Germany. He married a German refugee woman in Denmark and settled in Germany, but he still visited Denmark to go fishing with his old friends.

Thanks to our Norwegian brothers who gave Kurt Henke a good upbringing!

Granted, Denmark was not the most dangerous “frontline”, but if he had been found passing warnings to the resistance, he would have have been a dead man.

Sabotaged railway that Kurt Henke was to protect (unknown date).

The following contains disturbing details about the German refugees that died in Denmark post-WWII:

German soldier who in 1945 was stationed in Skanderborg, where he helped the Danish resistance movement.

Kurt Henke was an interpreter for the German Security Police in Skanderborg and Århus. With his life in extreme danger he passed on the information he as an interpreter received, to the resistance movement via an intermediary and thereby saved several resistance fighters from arrest. Furthermore, he prevented the Gestapo from carrying out reprisals against Brigadir Nielsen’s mechanic’s workshop, Banegårdsvej 23 in Skanderborg, where the resistance movement had stored weapons.

Kurt Henke was born in 1914 in Berlin. In the years 1924 to 1939 he was in family care in Norway with several long stays, where he went to school in Tromsø.

I dec. In 1939, he was called up for service at Siemens, which manufactured parts for airplanes. In late 1943, he was drafted into the army and deployed to Poland.

Later he was transferred to Ers as a member of Und Ausbildungsbataillon O 292 (effort and training battalion) in Rostock. The letter O referred to that it consisted of people with ear disorders from deafness to total deafness in one ear.

On February 6, 1945, the battalion, which consisted of 550 men, was relocated to Skanderborg. The task was to secure the railway line Skanderborg – Hørning, Skanderborg – Hylke against sabotage.

The soldiers were accommodated at Skanderborg Kommuneskole, Hylke Forsamlingshus, Vrold Forsamlingshus, Forsamlingshotellet and Håndværkerforeningen.

When Kurt Henke spoke both German and Norwegian / Danish, he got the job as an interpreter in the dialogue between the armed forces and the population and the city management.

The “Norwegian”, as he was called, gradually developed a good relationship with many people in Skanderborg, and based on his pacifist attitude to life, he opposed the occupying power. He contacted the local Danish resistance movement as early as 16 February 1945, and he was associated with it until it was abolished on 15 July 1945.

At the capitulation (the term for Germany’s surrender), Kurt Henke was given permission to stay in the city at the request of the city leader of the resistance movement, Munch Carlsen, and the air defense chief. The Danish air defense chief offered him the place as an office assistant at the refugee camp “Sølund”, where he was to act as an intermediary between the air defense chief and the German refugees.

Later, Kurt Henke got a job as an interpreter at the Danish Brigade in Germany, where he worked until 1948.

Excerpts from Gefreiter Kurt Henke’s memoirs:

The strange thing was that after the capitulation, we had a whole lot of children here at Sølund who died. It was because of the milk. The doctor said to the mothers: “You must not give the children the milk”. They got a daily ration of half a liter, as far as I remember, and the mothers got a quarter of a liter. But the mothers were so crazy that they also gave the quarter liter to the child.

But the doctor said that the only way to save the children was that they did not get any fats, because they were not used to it. The nutrition they had received as Germany’s forces collapsed might have consisted of dry bread and perhaps some coffee substitute, but no fats. I myself was completely sick of the milk. I first started drinking milk again a few years ago. But then the refugees came. It was also a problem.

It was a fucking job, it was, because I was the one who had to requisition schools, youth centers and everything around here in the city, receive refugees at the train station. There was a whole train, probably from Copenhagen, with a couple of hundred refugees. And then I say to the general “Where should I send them, all those people”? And then he said: “Henke, difficulties are too much to overcome!” (Difficulties exist to be overcome). “Well, what should I do?” “Yes,” he said, “make a big pit, throw everything in there!” (“Yes,” he said, “dig a big hole and throw them all in there!”).

It was also a kind of solution. But then I got hold of the different schools, but it was difficult. We used the gym at the private school down here. We got bunk beds, I dont know where we picked them up. There were three beds on top of each other, and it had to be taken into account, an old lady could not be put in the upper bed. It was nonsense. I was actually a nanny for all of them. I organized a library and some musical instruments.

They got sick in the head if they just had to sit at school and “pick their nose” all day! With the money I got from the German Consulate in Aarhus, I drove around to different cities and bought coffins.

Because we had a whole lot of dead here at school, children, and out on Sølund later. No matter what size! I had to be happy with every single coffin I could get until the mayor said: “Now you have to stop buying coffins, because we also need someone ourselves”. So we had to save on the coffins.

So we did it in the way that I put the corpses in the coffin – there were many children – and then we drove them to Aarhus. Then we put the coffins in place, and the family – mostly the mother and maybe siblings were there – but then they were not buried after the ceremony while the relatives were there. We said they would be buried later.

The reason was that when the family was gone, we opened the coffin, you see, and just poured them into the ground, for we were going to use the box for someone else. Eventually we had to bury them in cement bags and that sort of thing. There was a mother who lost two children in 24 hours.

I only had a single coffin that was too small. The parents were going to Aarhus. We had to transport the children out to the morgue in the cots on a trailer. But because of the rough roads the bottom fell out of the beds and the children lay there crosswise. There was lots of old coke dust in the barn where the children lived and the kids were full of it.

They looked absolutely awful. I could not allow the parents to look at the children, I was so startled. I had to unplug the car, and then I said to the driver, “Drive! The parents must not get out of the carriage ”. And he gave it gas and drove away, and I stood alone with that cart. Then I had to clean the kids, and what was I supposed to do? I had to take a water hose and rinse them off, clean it out of their eyes. It looked so ugly you understand.

And then it is also a different feeling if you see an adult human being lying there as dead than you see a child. It’s so cruel. The last one I buried, it went pretty solemnly until I was about to wrap the little one. I do not remember if it was a girl or a boy, but ….. he was at least 20 cm taller than the coffin. So the only option was to pull his legs up so high he could be there. It was the last one I buried.

But then I have also experienced some fun things at Sølund. We also had a wedding. One day a woman came and said: “Tell me, Henke, is it possible that we can get married here in Skanderborg?” I did not know. I went to the mayor and said, “Is it possible for German refugees to get married here?” “Yes, why not?” He said. The groom was a hairdresser. “Did they have papers?” “Yes,” they had. And then they got married here at City Hall. The mayor is coming, he was a nice guy, he was gracious, he was a human being. Strict on the one hand, absolutely sovereign and strict, but he was a human being. Then he gets into his car after they had been married and returned with a large layer cake.

And then you can say: A layer cake, it’s nothing! But then one must understand that people who have not seen layer cake for 5-6 years, whipped cream, a cake that tastes great. At home, (in rationed wartime Germany) they were given 20 grams of butter or margarine. Here they get a whole layer cake! It is like the dear God coming from heaven. And the people of the resistance movement – they were completely unique.

They made sure that the soldiers from the occupying forces (German soldiers imprisoned in Denmark or left behind when Germany surrendered) got their food every day from Skanderborg – all the way down to the border! We drove two trucks with bread and sausage and horse ham. Of course it was not first quality, that is clear, but they got food at least. We picked up people who had bad legs and could not walk anymore, and drove them to the next station … It was strange conditions, but that was it …, why should we shoot at each other? It’s no use. Why should we be unfriends? The ordinary German soldier would be a thousand times better off at home as a prewar civilian than a day in Skanderborg. It is true. You can not blame the ordinary soldier …

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