German invasion of Denmark

German invasion of Denmark

German invasion of Denmark

Summary: After Britain and France declared war on Germany, although there was no large-scale ground operation taken, they were in a positive military buildup. Germany believed that grasping important mineral resources was very important. In order to conduct the war against Britain and France, Germany needed to ensure the supply of iron ore from Norway. The best way was the occupation and the establishment of a puppet regime in Norway. In order to occupy Norway, Denmark must be controlled. So the Germans decided to capture Denmark. Denmark had a military force, territorial size, population and resources that completely could not be compared with those of Germany. In comparison of all of these data, Denmark was in an absolutely disadvantage situation. So although the Danish government knew the threat of war approaching, it did not dare to carry out large-scale military preparations. It was afraid to give Germany a pretext to attack. On April 9, 1940, the Germans launched a surprise attack on Denmark and the occupation of Denmark was completed within six hours afterwards. Due to a slight loss of both sides, German control of the occupied territories of Denmark was comparatively not so strict and the Danish resistance movement was not as strong as those of other countries.

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The Invasion of Denmark by Germany was part of Operation Weserübung executed on April 9, 1940, when the Germans crossed the Danish border violating its neutrality. To avoid useless bloodshed, the Danish government surrendered almost immediately, and in return they respected their autonomy and allowed exhaust of the Jewish community. The German campaign against Denmark was the briefest of military history.

The German occupation became hostile when the Danes began to run sabotage work in the summer of 1942. This occupation ended on May 5, 1945, when Germany surrendered to the Allies.

Background Information

The successful policy of neutrality of Denmark during World War had encouraged the Danish government to keep during the Second. Not wanting to provoke the Germans, the Danish army was reduced from 30,000 to less than 15,000 troops.

The German decision to invade Denmark arose from the need to invade Norway, representing an excellent field to launch airstrikes to the UK and ensure the supply of iron from Sweden. Denmark occupied a strategic position, since from its airbases aircraft could take off to Norway. The German interest was focused on gaining control of the airfields at Aalborg in Jutland. This is achieved by extending the German air defense system and make more complex British bombers over northern Germany. However, it is known that until February 1940 the decision had not been taken. There were also parts of the current territory Danish before been Germans, although Hitler had no interest in claiming them. However, the capture of a German ship from the English in Norwegian waters brought Hitler to the conclusion that the UK would not respect the neutrality of Norway and decided to occupy it, and this in turn implied the necessary occupation of Denmark.

The invasion

Opposing armies

The day of the invasion Danish forces consisted of 14,500 soldiers, of whom 8,000 were recruits. They were divided into the Division Zeeland and Jutland Division, and in total there were eight regiments of infantry, two of cavalry and three regiments of artillery. Only 2,000 men were stationed in southern Jutland. Zeeland Division Landsverk had only two tanks purchased from Sweden who could do little against the German Panzers.

The German General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was in command of the 170th and 198th infantry divisions of the Wehrmacht: It was planned that the 198th Division would occupy Zealand and southern islands, and Copenhagen, while paratroopers would take Masnesø fortress and a nearby bridge. Meanwhile the 170th Panzer Division and two companies with 36 cars in total, would traverse from south to north east coast of Jutland. Other bodies would move in parallel along the north coast of Jutland to help the paratroopers who would be occupying aerodromes. In support, would advance about 70 Panzer, several battalions of machine guns, heavy artillery and anti-aircraft batteries, and three armored trains. The Luftwaffe fighter squadrons gave 10 and 10 bomber squadrons, totaling 527 units.

German Attack

At 4 am the German ambassador to Denmark, von Renthe-Fink, called the Danish Foreign Minister Munch and requested an urgent meeting. When they met twenty minutes after Munch was notified at that very moment German troops were entering their country. He said he had done this to “protect” to Denmark Anglo-French invasion and demanded that she offered no resistance and dialogue was opened to the German authorities, threatening that otherwise they bombard Copenhagen.

In effect, at 04:15 am, the German invasion had already begun. The paratroopers had taken its objectives, including the strength of Masnesø. At the same time it made landings on the islands of the country.

At 4:20 a.m. the German ship Hansestadt Danzig Copenhagen landed a battalion of the 308th Infantry Regiment of the Wehrmacht. Aided by surprise, the Germans took various parts of the city with little encounter resistance, focusing their efforts on capturing the Amalienborg Palace. But as they approached the residence of King Christian X, the Danes brought reinforcements to the building and clashes started between the garrison and German troops. The fight ended quickly with only a wounded Danish and Germans retreating, unwilling to offend the king. Inside the palace, are discussing the situation between ministers and military chiefs. Meanwhile, the German bombers had arrived in town and was circling over it, pressing the Danes to surrender. Finally everyone in the palace except Danish Supreme Commander General William Wain Prior, concluded that resistance was futile since 0600 sent a messenger to deliver the news to the German ambassador.

Meanwhile, at 05:25 the German Messerschmitt Bf 110 had reached the airfield Værløse, where was all Danish Air Force, which was not much. At that time the planes were warming up, so within minutes could neutralize all Danish Air Force.

When he gave the order to surrender, the Danish commander Bennike 4. Infantry Regiment stationed in Roskilde, believing that Sweden had also been attacked, he went with his troops to Helsingor to take the ferry and escape to Sweden to continue the fight there. In this way, an hour later arrived at Swedish soil, but when they realized the kind treatment they were receiving the Danish part of the Germans, many returned back to Denmark.

This initial friendliness of Germany to the Danish people can be explained based on the ideology of Nordic superiority, which ensured that the people of Norway, Sweden and Denmark were even “purer” race to the Germans, so the Third Reich sought unite their cause peacefully, rather than forcing them through violence.


The main consequence of this invasion was the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany, which lasted until May 1945, when the last German troops stationed in the country surrendered to the British armies without resistance significantly.

There was an initial friendliness of Germany to the Danish people during the early years of military occupation, which can be explained based on the ideology of Nordic superiority. Due to this situation Denmark was considered a “model protectorate” by Hitler, to the point that the Danish Parliament was allowed to continue working and remained at liberty to King Christian X, although the Nazis imposed press censorship and controlled every aspect of political life and economic life.

From 1943 the German occupiers imposed repressive measures against the Danes because of the emergence of the underground resistance by the progress of the war, which was unfavorable to the Nazi s that time, however, before the end of the occupation period the Third Reich was supposed to join the Danes to their cause peacefully, rather than forcing them through violence.


•Dildy, Douglas C. Denmark and Norway 1940: Hitler’s boldest operation: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84603-117-5

•Hooton, ER (2007). Luftwaffe at War; Gathering Storm 1933-39: Volume 1. London: Chervron / Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-903223-71-0

•Hooton, ER (2007). Luftwaffe at War, Blitzkrieg in the West: Volume 2. London: Chervron / Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6

•Lindeberg, Lars (1990) 9. april; De så det ske: Sesam. ISBN 87-7258-504-8

Battles of the Western Front (World War II)

Battles of Nazi Germany

History of Denmark

Battles of twentieth-century Denmark

Denmark in 1940

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