In 1918 Iceland became independent but remained under the rule of the Danish king. At the end of the war a plebiscite showed a 75% pro-Danish majority and the North Slesvig was once again reunited with Denmark (Miller 224).
As World War I was coming close and Denmark remained neutral Jews started moving to the country. There are no exact statistics since many of these immigrants were wary of the authorities, but as many as twenty to thirty thousand Eastern European Jews may have entered Denmark during this period and approximately 3,000 stayed permanently, thus doubling the Jewish population (Hammerich in Kisch). More did not stay because the existing assimilated Jewish community wanted to pay their passage out; they believed their position in society was threatened and latent anti-Semitism would spread. The Jewish congregation even actively cooperated with authorities such as the police to expel unemployed or unwanted individuals from the country. Some Danish Jews attacked the immigrants for being mere draft dodgers and undesirables (Hammerich in Kisch).
The years right before the war showed great economic and political unrest. The Social Democrats and the Radicals united to form a coalition government headed by Social Democratic Thorvald Stauning, which lasted until 1940. Although the Communist party and the Justice party were founded in 1919, politics continued to center on the competition of Social Democrats and Radicals against Liberals and Conservatives.
When the world economic crisis arose in 1930, the krone was devalued, the government increasingly intervened in economic life and sought to stimulate domestic industry and employment (Miller 27).
Anti-Semitism was beginning to climb throughout Europe. In 1939 the Danish Nazis received about 2% and had three parliamentary members. The Danish government feared that helping German Jews would mean importing the "Jewish problem" to Denmark and feed anti-Semitic sentiments. While actively assisting Social-Democrats out of Germany, Jews were not considered political refugees and generally denied visas. Even close relations of Danish Jews could not enter and immigration officials returned any Jews they apprehended (Kisch).
After Germany's defeat in World War I, it resumed political existence as a republic. However, in 1928 the Nazi Party secured 12 seats in the Reichstag and 2.6% of the vote. After the Depression began, they increased their representation ninefold from 107 to 230 and became the strongest party. Hitler was named chancellor in 1933 and then president in 1934 (Fein 21). In 1938, the Nazi party instigated a pogrom and burned about 300 synagogues and interning 30,000 male Jews in concentration camps.
In her book, Accounting for Genocide Fein questions when did the "Final Solution" begin? She says the answer depends on which phase of the transformation from conception to execution of the plan to annihilate the European Jews is focused on. Of course, the day it crystallized in Hitler's mind cannot be proven. Scholars disagree whether this plan was latent from the beginning of his career or developed incrementally to respond to previous unsuccessful elimination plans. Regardless, the Final Solution did become a goal and would have continued into North and South America (Fein 26).
Fein stresses that the Jews, Gypsies and Armenians were murdered in order to fulfill the state's design for a new order and made this state a criminal instrument and denied their past national failures. Both Germany and the Ottoman Empire had suffered military defeats within the generation the new regime that authorized genocide came to power. The elite seeking to capture the state required a political formula as a justification of its rule that addressed the critical question of the nation's existence. "The right of a master race, the unique destiny of a chosen people, was such a formula" (Fein 30)
Fein summarizes the sequence of preconditions, intervening factors and causes that lead to genocide as follows:
The victims have previously been defined outside the universe of obligation of the dominant group (This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a third step.)
The rank of the state has been reduced by defeat in war and/or internal strife. (This is a predisposing condition toward a political or cultural crisis of national identity in which the third step becomes more likely to occur. The causes for such a decline are not predicted herein.)
An elite that adapts a new political formula to justify the nation's domination and/or expansion, idealizing the singular rights of the dominant group, rises to power. The means by which this elite captures power -- a coup, democratic election, infiltration through parliamentary processes, or foreign intervention -- are also not predicted herein. (Adoption of such a formula by a ruling elite is a necessary but not sufficient condition for premeditated genocide.)
The calculus of costs of exterminating the victim -- a group excluded from the circle circumscribed by the political formula -- changes as the perpetrators instigate or join a (temporarily) successful coalition at war against antagonists who have earlier protested and/or might conceivably be expected to protest persecution of the victim. This calculus changes for two reasons: the crime planned by the perpetrators becomes less visible and they no longer have to fear sanctions. The third and fourth conditions taken together constitute necessary and sufficient conditions or causes of premeditated genocide (Fein 9-10)
Once it began to dawn upon the Jewish population of Europe that the Germans had decided to murder them, the reaction was to flee, hide, have armed resistance (only those with weapons), seek employment crucial to the Germans and acceptance of death. "How did the Germans become a band of murderers," Bauer asks as well. Historians offer a range of responses. The functionalist school argues that the economic, political and social crises in Germany with the pre-existing social, especially bureaucratic traditions, pushed German society toward an authoritarian regime that was characterized by deep internal contradictions: a dictator who served as an arbiter of last resort between warring fiefdoms; a tendency toward uniformization and disorder of competing authorities and individuals seeking power. This led to impasses only resolvable by murder. "Racism and anti-Semitism were in the background, but they by themselves would not have led to the so-called Final Solution..." (Bauer 29).
The intentionalist school instead put the emphasis on the ideology-ridden dictatorship that expected a racist utopia and saw the Jews as a prime target for physical elimination. Bauer believes both of these approaches are "lacking in many respects..." (29). First, structures explain how not why something was done. Also, the intentionalists have a difficult time proving Hitler's intentions toward the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s, because he never committed to what he was going to do.
Bauer says "It may now be possible to provide an answer to a supplementary question: How did 'dehumanizing' the victim -- which actually meant that a "dehumanized" perpetrator -- void of any moral scruples -- tried to reduce the victim to his or her own level -- occur?" Or as Fein put it: "How was the victim removed from the 'universe of human obligation?" Some psychologists believe that it is a process of transference to a leader and who absolves others from moral responsibility by assuming the burden himself. Added to this equation is that during World War I European society was extremely brutal and that there were those who rebelled against Nazi policies against the handicapped and Bavarians (36).
Bauer concludes that it appears that the program went unopposed because anti-Jewish tendencies in the general population, ranging from mild discomfort about Jews to open but nonlethal anti-Semitism, prepared the way for extreme, murderous anti-Semitism and prevented effective resistance to the genocide by the Lumpenintellectuals. That is, moderate social ostracism of a targeted group, provided the intelligentisia identifies with the political elite and its regime, even without being ideologically persuaded that murder is justified (37).
How does this tie in with the Danish? On September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland and Denmark proclaimed its neutrality and took what steps it could to ensure its defenses. In 1940, German forces occupied Denmark. Neutrality appeared the only reasonable response to this threat. A Nazi movement among the German minority in South Jutland had become increasingly active. These were not huge numbers, but its ties with the German Nazis, demands for incorporation of South Jutland into the Third Reich, the actions of its uniformed militants, and the dominant position it gradually received within the German population of the border areas made it a disconcerting element.
The Danish government quickly concluded there was no option but to yield to a German ultimatum. Before Germany could take any action against Denmark's outlying territories, Henrik Kauffmann, the Danish ambassador in Washington, placed Greenland under U.S. protection, and the British occupied the Faroe Islands and Iceland (Miller 28).
Germany wanted Denmark to serve as a "model protectorate." The Danes could maintain their own civil government, constitution and administration with German control limited to foreign policy. The King's continued horseback rides through the city found support. At the same time, the government…