Heroes of World War II in Scandinavia

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As the storm clouds of World War II gathered, Hitler’s rise was especially worrying to Denmark because Germany had never formally agreed to the Schlesvig-Holstein border after World War I.

Accepting his surprising offer of a non-aggression pact, Denmark nevertheless joined Sweden and Norway in another declaration of neutrality.

Swedish soldiers during WWII
Swedish soldiers during WWII

The Resistance movement in Denmark and Norway was crucial in undermining the German campaign during World War II. Anders Lassen epitomized the 20,000-strong Danish Resistance. By the time he died aged 24, he had fought in France, Greece, the Balkans and Italy. His commanding officer said, “Anders caused more discomfort to the enemy over five years of war than any other man of his rank and age.”

Anders Lassen 1920-1945
Anders Lassen 1920-1945

On the night of 8th – 9th April 1945 eighteen men from the Special Boat Service set out across Lake Comacchio to attack heavily defended German positions. The assault was led by a Danish national, 24 year old Major Anders Lassen, already a legend within the British Special Forces, three times decorated with the Military Cross for his exploits during raiding parties on enemy occupied ships and positions.

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He was originally recruited by the Special Operations Executive after he arrived in Britain as a merchant seaman in 1940. They judged his independent character unsuitable for covert spying but well suited to raiding and patrolling. He began his career for the British with a raid on a Spanish ship in African waters – and then graduated to the Small Scale Raiding Force which made covert cross Channel raids on the Channel Islands and the French coast, before joining the new Special Boat Service in the Mediterranean in 1942.

Other heroes included the Norwegians who knocked out the heavy water plant at Rjukan.

Two museums, Frihedsmuseet, Copenhagen and Norges Hjemmefrontmuseum, Oslo, document the movement’s history.

Feature image (on top) Danish soldiers on April 9, 1940 (Wikipedia)

Heroes of World War II in Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg