by lyle e davis
Denmark is a peaceful place. A beautiful country. Surrounded by the sea, the Danes have a great love for the ocean, sailing, exploration, recreation, and are known as a peaceful, hard-working folk. Denmark is the home of many fine farms . . . gentle rolling hills and flat meadows . . . unlike her neighbor, Norway, seldom do you see anything resembling a mountain in Denmark.
Being of Danish heritage, I went “home” to Denmark in 1988. I was struck not only by the beauty of the country but of its people. Beautiful women, handsome men, excellent food and drink, lovely homes . . . and a comfortable lifestyle. Much of the countryside resembled my native state of Minnesota. Indeed, there are many Danes who settled in Minnesota as the topography of the land reminded them of home.
I was also struck by the strong sense of nationalism. Almost every home had a Danish flag flying . . . every boat in the ocean, in the harbors, in the rivers . . . all flew the Danish flag. It felt good to know these people loved their country so deeply that they felt moved to display to one and all that national love.
That strong feeling of nationalism would give rise to a burning desire in a young 17 year-old boy to protect and defend his country . . . to the extent that he would not only become a skilled spy, saboteur, and solid member of the Resistance Movement . . but would also become a prisoner, subjected to torture and deprivation. He tolerated and endured because of his strong love of Denmark and her people.
That love for country was trampled upon on April 9th, 1940, when Germany suddenly invaded Denmark. The Danes were stunned and could not understand why this was happening.
In the beginning, the Germans attempted a friendly relationship with the Danes, however, during the next few years the Germans showed their true colors by increasing their demands for food to be exported to Germany, in addition to feeding 240,000 German soldiers in Denmark.
Frode Suhr remembers the day well:
It began in the early morning hours. My family and I lived in Aalborg, Denmark, at Kaerlundsvej 14. The noise from many airplanes got everybody out in the garden to watch more than fifty planes flying low, in formation, heading in a northerly direction. We found out they were on the way to attack airfields and other targets in Norway. Some of these planes landed shortly thereafter at Lindholm Airport.
Aalborg is a city that at the time had a population of roughly 60,000 people. It is located on the south side of Limfjorden which separates the peninsula Jylland from west to east. Just opposite Aalborg is the sister town of Noerre Sundby, and about 3 kilometers west is a village by the name of Lindholm. On the west side of Lindholm is a commercial airport.
The airport was, during the following years, expanded enormously and became the largest military airport in Europe. More than 200 farmers were relocated and their farms were taken over by the Germans.
Many additional buildings were erected to be used for hangars, repair depots, command posts, and other purposes.
The buildings were camouflaged to look like barns or storage facilities for grain and other farming uses. The landing strips were cleverly camouflaged. At the time, when the largest numbers of planes were stationed there, they had more than 150 planes of several types; the majority were “Stukas.” The airfield served as the home for the large number of planes attacking locations in Norway in the
beginning of the war. Later, they served also for protection of the submarines stationed along the piers in Aalborg, and for protection of the German ships traveling between Norway and northern Germany (See map below for orientation).
On the Danish west coast, a very large amount of bunkers and other light and heavy artillery positions were installed as the Germans believed the Allied forces would land on the Danish coast. In order to provide the labor needed for construction of the airport expansion, the Germans hired Danish workers at higher wages than typically offered in the industry. An incentive was deemed necessary as most people looked down on the laborers working for the Germans. This opened an opportunity for me to get into the airport as a surveyor, this story I will return to later.
It all began in late 1940 when I, along with my friends Vagn Pederson-Bach, and Thue Thuesen discussed what could be done to create problems for the Germans. We chose to do this as we were annoyed with the German takeover, especially given the Danish history with the Germans.
Building a Transmitter
The only thing I could think of was to build a portable receiver/transmitter. It had to be portable and with such an appearance that it did not arouse any suspicion while being transported. One challenge we encountered was raising money without telling what it was needed for. We knew an English family living in Aalborg. The man was born in England, but had been living in Denmark for many years. This man knew my friend, Haakon Lauritzen and spoke to him. Since Haakon knew me and verified that I was trustworthy, he gave me 500 Kroner. This was equivalent to $100 U.S. dollars at the time. The receiver/transmitter was designed and built on two aluminum chassis, which could be plugged together. The unit was equipped with two frequency bands, 20 and 80 meters. One day I had noticed a German patrol car, equipped with a radio/transmitter. As no one was in the immediate area I decided that I could make use of the headphone/microphone unit lying in the front seat. I figured that I would have a better use for it, so I unplugged it from the equipment and stuck it inside my jacket.
Frode Suhr, spy-in-training
In 1941 our plans began to take form. Haakon Lauritzen called and asked me to visit him. Haakon was a member of Interpol. Nobody, with the exception of the Chief of Police and two of his helpers knew that he was part of Interpol (International police), not even his wife. Nobody was ever in his office. His cover was a title of Chief of Detectives. We arranged weekly meetings at the headquarters of Interpol which was secretly located in an apartment on the 5th floor, on the south side of “Algade.” During these meetings I was trained in various aspects of the intelligence service, information which later came to good use.
I was given the code name: Kaj Joergensen to be used in written reports or when making telephone calls. At no time or under any conditions was I to mention the name Interpol or the name of anyone working with “Interpol.” I was told that only the chief of police and a few of the regular police force was involved in working with “Interpol,” and in due course I got to know a couple of them.
We could not trust the telephone, and I was indoctrinated into a code system. I learned to become a burglar, from how to break a window without making noise, to opening a so-called Yale lock, a padlock and a code lock on a safe, all with the proper tools. I learned how to take fingerprints, to protect them from being smeared, and how they were compared. I became proficient in knife throwing and had courses in handling almost any kind of hand guns and other arms, how to handle myself in a fight, and how to tie a person up.
In 1940 and 1941, the German occupation forces were told to play it “softly” with the Danish population and where possible to avoid confrontations and other problems. Obviously, The Germans considered Denmark as their kitchen which, in addition to feeding the quarter million German soldiers in Denmark, could provide enormous amounts of food to Germany. Events would show that this attitude gradually changed as the Germans, beginning late 1942, experienced more and more opposition to their presence, with sabotages becoming near daily events. The Danish government was divided, some wanted to play along with the Germans to have the smallest amount of troubles, others wanted to have the least possible cooperation with the Germans. In 1941 and most of 1942 there was no official sabotage of any kind.
Arms Shipments from England
The first trial drop of arms from England took place in November 1942. This information is from official English government sources. One of the books, printed after the war, describe how freedom fighters received supplies of arms and ammunition as early as 1941. This is not true! According to English air force records, a small trial shipment was dropped in October 1942 to test if the receiving part of a budding resistance would function. No real supply to the resistance took place before the early part of 1943.
Destroying German Instruments
The Germans shipped the German aircraft that had been shot down over Norway or otherwise damaged to Aalborg by ships. In Lindholm, on two sidetracks to the railroad, these damaged aircraft were being loaded for shipment to factories in Germany. The two rows, each with perhaps 30 flat cars, were standing there for quite a long time while being gradually filled with the damaged aircraft. Only two soldiers were guarding these trains. Each soldier was walking from either end of the train, until they met halfway down the column. Then they proceeded to walk back to the ends and again towards the middle of the column. With two tracks to guard, by only two soldiers on the outside, it was not too difficult to sneak up in the wagons. Vagn and I decided that we should sneak aboard these wagons at night to see what we could find there. We had in mind to get a machine gun; however that proved to be too difficult a task. Our main problem was noise that was inadvertently created or a flicker of light from our flashlights. We found that the aircraft had not been cleaned, and several had blood all over the seats, and in one of them we found a boot with a foot still in it. We also found a P-38 7.5 millimeter pistol and several signal pistols with quite a few signal flares remaining. They had a diameter of 25 millimeter and the charge in these flares is substantial enough to kill a person at close range. What was of more significance was that we were able to damage a large number of instruments. These were probably one of the major reasons the aircraft had to be returned to the factories in Germany, to be used for spare parts. It proved difficult to damage these instruments without creating noise. Breaking the glass was the major problem. I found a method that worked in muffling the sound, by using a toilet plunger; we wrapped the rubber part of the plunger with a heavy cloth and used a large screwdriver through the hole meant for the shaft of the plunger. By holding the plunger over an instrument, we could break the glass and grind the inside of the instrument with the screwdriver, making it non-repairable.
Surveyor at the
I applied for a job as a surveyor, for the Germans knowing of the expansion at Lindholm Airport. I was accepted on a trial basis. It became official a week later with an increase in pay after an officer had asked me some very simple mathematical questions. I had my Contax camera, which I carried in and out of the airport, hidden in the pocket of my pants. Luckily, I was able to do this as I had a special pass, which allowed me to drive in and out without being transported with other groups of workers, who were being sent from Aalborg by buses. I was worried about bringing a camera through checkpoints, but after having passes a few times without a camera, I discovered that the pass I had provided adequate protection against being searched.
There was a large map that showed present, as well as planned facilities, which was mounted on the chart facing away from the windows and covered by a roller curtain. The curtain had to cover the map, unless it was being worked on. The map was very detailed showing runways, hangars, repair facilities, supply depots, barracks, officer’s living quarters, officer’s mess halls, underground storage tanks for gasoline, power lines, power transformers, water pipes, and telephone cable junctions. It was my job, as a land surveyor to determine the elevation and measure precise distances between the various objects. All measurements were recorded on detailed drawings, and when approved entered on the main map. At various intervals, I took pictures of the layout. In addition, I took pictures of the landing strips being built before they were covered with grass, the inside of the large maintenance hangar, the partially completed underground storage tanks for fuel, anti aircraft gun locations, ammunitions storage depot, and U-boats in the harbor. Again, thankfully there was no check of my comings and goings, and I therefore stayed one night hidden in the back room of the barracks. During the night I managed to get into a drawer, where I knew there were several drawings about a proposed addition to the airfield, with a new hangar and additional runways. I photographed these, and found a listing with requisitions for four additional anti aircraft guns. I took nearly an entire roll of film. Our films were processed at night to avoid the possibility of our operations being discovered. Our pictures were picked up by a courier and delivered to the Danish Military Intelligence in Copenhagen for shipment to Sweden after having been evaluated. Later, when I and a courier were sentenced in the SS Court in Copenhagen, it was never disclosed where the pictures were developed and printed.
Contact with a Spy Working for Interpol
One day in 1942, Haakon Lauritzen asked me to take my bicycle and go to a side road on the east side of Hobrovej. This was just south of Aalborg. I followed his request. A German staff car appeared with a high ranking Luftwaffe officer driving it. He asked for my name and when I told him, he asked me to put on German mechanics overalls with attached rubber boots, and leave my bicycle hidden behind some bushes. We drove to Aalborg. The traffic over the bridge was moving very slowly, and all vehicles were being searched. When the soldiers noticed the German staff car, they saluted and made room in the traffic, allowing us to move through. We were again saluted by the guards at the entrance to the airfield. The officer drove directly to the large hangar, where three mechanics were hanging around. It was a Saturday, and the officer told them they could have the weekend off. I had my camera along, and when the mechanics left, I took a couple of pictures inside of the hangar. The officer made a phone call, informing some command post, that he was taking patrol. One reconnaissance plane was ready for take off, and we both got into the plane. I remembered it was a single engine plane with low, single wings. It had only a single seat, but there was just enough room behind the pilot’s seat to allow another person, although the space was very cramped.
Pictures of German
I recall we flew in a westerly direction along Limfjorden at a relatively low altitude, perhaps 600 feet. We reached the coast in a matter of minutes as the distance is only about 30 kilometers (19 miles). When we reached the coast, we proceeded north, and now at a lower altitude, my guess is about 300 feet. I was told that I could take pictures openly, which I did. Some of the soldiers waved at us. It must have been a surprise to someone in the allied intelligence to get close-up photographs of German defense installations with soldiers waving at the photographer, pictures which obviously were taken from a German airplane. On this particular occasion, I took approximately 55 pictures.
Stealing German Handguns
In Aalborg, we had a favorite coffee and cake house called “Kristine.” The owner was friendly with the Germans, and the place was frequented by German soldiers, mostly officers. On the top of the stairway before entering the restaurant was a cloakroom, where the officers left their hats, and their gun belts. I succeeded twice in removing one of the guns left unattended there. The second time we attempted this, it nearly went wrong. After removing a Walther pistol, I went into the restaurant and placed the gun under our table secured with heavy thumbtacks and a couple of pieces of electrical insulating cloth tape. If anyone noticed a missing gun immediately after we left, there was a possibility that someone could have identified us. Shortly thereafter, while Thue remained at the table, I went across the landing at the top of the stairs to get into the other side of the restaurant, and to the washroom. There was some excitement when I passed the front area to return to the restaurant. One German officer asked me if I saw anyone leaving the restaurant. I said that I saw a man hurrying down the steps when I crossed the landing on the way to the washroom. Clearly this wasn’t the case, although it made the officer run down the steps after the supposed perpetrator. I returned to the table and a short while later we left the restaurant, unhurriedly.
Frode Suhr . . . beach recon?
a Church Tower
I managed to get the receiver/transmitter finished, and we were discussing how and from where to use the unit with the lowest possible risk. A relatively low power transmitter operating at these frequencies would require a suitable antenna. Various methods were contemplated to provide an acceptable antenna. These included; from a tall building, using a fishing rod with a copper line was one of my ideas and another was to use a metal clothes line, and ensure that it had the proper length, was oriented in the right direction, and had both ends of the line amply insulated from the ground. Thue Thuesen’s father was the school teacher in a small village by the name of Øster Hornum, located about 23 kilometers (15 miles) south of Aalborg.
Thue’s father was an active member of his church, and this gave way for the opportunity to “borrow” the keys to the church tower. One Saturday, we snuck into the church tower with my “doctor’s suitcase.” We opened the wooden cover for one of the openings, stuck the fishing pole out, and using the 80 meter frequency band began transmitting a message, which I am trying to remember. It read as follows:
“Three German submarines were located in the west end of the harbor in Aalborg. Two left this morning. A train with at least 40 cars loaded with light and heavy artillery had arrived the day before and the content was loaded into a large ship docked in Aalborg, presumably to be shipped to Norway. A permanent range of barracks able to house several hundreds of soldiers has been established between the trees located about 200 meters (600 feet) south from the Aalborg Exhibition tower.”
We used this church tower once more. This time, we sent a brief message about fake houses and barns that had been built on the airfield to hide aircraft, storage, and repair facilities. We also stated that two English bombers, which had been shot down over the airfield were being studied and repaired by the Germans.
When my wife, Doris and I visited Denmark in 1998, we went to Øster Hornum, and I introduced myself to a young priest. I told him that we had used the church tower during the war, and asked if he would open the tower, so I could get some pictures from inside. He willingly obliged, and we found that the wiring I had altered so many years ago was still intact 60 years after the war.
Aalborg Taarnet (Aalborg Tower)
The Exhibition Aalborg Tower
Vagn’s father was the president of a social club. The club was the owner of “Aalborg Taarnet,” this 56 meter (184 foot) tower was located on a hill top in the south end of Aalborg. The tower had a restaurant on top with seats for about 50 people. It was a tourist attraction. You could buy coffee or beer, cake and sandwiches there. We could see the west coast from the tower in clear weather. An elevator with room for six to eight people carried visitors up to the restaurant. At the base of the elevator, a locked steel gate prevented any unauthorized person from getting into the elevator. Just north of the tower, only about 200 meters (650 feet away), the Germans had established barracks for several hundred soldiers. One night Vagn “borrowed” the keys to the tower, from the desk drawer where his father kept a spare set. We went to the tower, opened the door to the elevator, started the power to the elevator, and rode up to the restaurant. The elevator was quite loud, and we were both concerned with being noticed by someone at the nearby camp. If caught, there would be no possible excuse for being there. The doctor’s suitcase would provide all the damaging evidence needed. Thankfully, nothing went wrong and we were able to transmit the following message:
“On the west side of Lindholm two large trains with 30 cars each are located on side rails. The wagons are filled with damaged German aircraft returned from Norway for delivery to Germany. The airport outside of Lindholm is being expanded with more than 10 new runways hidden by grass covers. We have now more than 4,000 German soldiers in and around Aalborg.”
Two Prostitutes Helped in the War Effort
We usually had two U-boats (submarines) in the west end of the harbor in Aalborg. They were docked there because the pier was low in the area, roughly about six feet from the surface of the water. Due to this, they were not interfering with larger boats anchored in the main portion of the harbor. One night one of the U-boats was anchored at the extreme west end, where it was very isolated. There was no traffic, no lights, and no one within calling distance. This was the opportunity we had been looking for. Interpol had arranged that two of the local prostitutes would walk along the pier, pretending to be drunk and singing. To make this even more believable, the women carried each a bottle of Danish Schnapps. There were two guards at the boat. They wanted the women to come on board, they refused, but after some giggling suggested the guards join them in a nearby warehouse, which had an entrance facing away from the boat. We had told the women to get the guards drunk, and if possible, delay them from returning to the boat for more than one hour. As soon as the guards had disappeared we drove up with a wagon from a local bakery. Two of us boarded the U-boat with the necessary tools required to dismantle the batteries. These were of the nickel-cadmium type, developed by the Germans just before the war. Five 1.2 volt cells were housed within a wooden frame where each cell was suspended by four porcelain inserts. Each wooden frame had five cells, giving it a capacity of 6 volt.These 6 volt batteries were very heavy, about 80 pounds. It was hard work, dismantling the batteries and carrying them up the steep gang plank. I accidentally dropped one of the batteries on the way up the ladder, and it made a loud noise as it fell into the water. Nobody appeared to have noticed the noise. By the time we finished, an hour had passed and we had filled the wagon with, I believe 8-9 batteries. Once we completed our mission, we took off on our bicycles which were hidden near the pier and went away in opposite directions. I cannot personally verify what happened to the two guards. Someone said they got shot, which was most likely. I know that the women left town to avoid being identified from the soldier’s description.
The Type of U-Boat We
Later research indicated that the U-Boat we sabotaged was one of the so-called “Einbaume,” a coastal U-Boat of a 254 ton size. It had a length of 40.9 meters (130 feet) and a range of 2,500 km (1,600 miles) on the surface at a speed of 13 knots (24 km/h). Submerged the range was 55 km (35 miles) at a speed of 4 knots (7 km/h). The diesel engine was rated at 700 hp, and the electric motor 270 kw. It had three torpedo tubes and carried 5 torpedoes or 18 mines. It was very maneuverable and had a fast diving speed. The maximum diving depth was said to be 150 meters (500 feet). When the war started Germany had only 56 of these small U-boats. It had a crew of 22. This information is from German files. Batteries were in short supply at that time, and the U-boat remained at the pier for a long time thereafter. The batteries proved to be of an excellent quality. We donated four of these batteries to a repair shop on Borgergade in Aalborg. When we visited Denmark more than 40 years later they were still functioning perfectly.
Above, a WWII German submarine, similar to those moored at Aalborg, Denmark. Frode Suhr’s efforts was instrumental in keeping a number of these UBoats inoperable
Arrested by Danish Police in Aalborg
Early in 1943, I was arrested for espionage by two members of the Danish police. They said it was to prevent the Germans from arresting me. I was placed in “Kong Hans Gades Prison” located in Aalborg. This was a small prison with room for perhaps, 12 to 16 prisoners, who were mostly local drunks. A short time after my arrest, the Germans found out about my case and demanded that I should be transported to the large prison, called “Vestre Faengsel” in Copenhagen. This prison had been completely taken over by the Germans. It had room for maybe 100 to 120 prisoners. Here the rules are printed on the inside of the doors both in German and Danish, and were quite strict.
Verbal Attacks of
The cells were only about 5 x 16 feet; there was a bed, a small table, a chair, small sink, and a commode. A window was located close to the ceiling, and was opposite the door. According to the Germans rules, you should, when you heard someone approaching, get up and stand to attention under the window. I blatantly ignored these rules and got away with it for a short time, until one day a short, pudgy man, with a fat belly appeared on some kind of an inspection or perhaps because he wanted to look at me? He yelled to me in German, “Did I not understand the orders?” I spoke almost perfect German, including quite a few swear words. I used these to tell him what my opinion was of the Germans, that they did not belong in Denmark, was not welcome here and also added a few unfavorable words about his person. His face got very red, and he walked out. The man I had verbally attacked turned out to be the commanding officer for the German prison system in Denmark. They took me down to a rather unpleasant cell in the basement. There were no lights, no heat, and no windows. The bed was made of straw, and there was a small table, a wooden chair without a back, a sink, and a commode. It was cold down there, and the food consisted of a few slices of bread twice a day, without butter or anything else, and I drank water from the sink. I was not told how long I was to be there, and I chose not to ask. Days went by, the normal one or two half hours of fresh air in the prison were not allowed down here, and I speculated that perhaps I would be down there for an entire week. Thirteen long days went by. I spent my time thinking about, ways to “put a stick in the wheel of the German bicycle.” Basically, I thought of what I could do to hamper the Germans in any way possible. On the thirteenth day, I was taken out to the “star yard,” as it was called. The prisoners are released from their cells and, with a spacing of about 10 feet, marched out to the garden where these star shaped enclosures were located. Beyond these, there was a flower garden, and in the pre-war days this was maintained by the prisoners. Between each of the 20 individual areas (or wedges) was a high wall. In the center was a control tower for the guards, who were always equipped with machine pistols. The entrance was through a gate in the outside, which had iron bars every 8 inches or so over the full eight feet in width. The inside width was about 3 feet, and the length of the enclosure was perhaps 20 to 24 feet. After the usual half hour, I expected to return to the cell, but the guard did not open the gate. During this second half hour, I noticed the commandant standing out in the garden. I ignored his presence, and continued walking. After a few times of walking back and forth in my space, I noticed the commandant had approached the gate, and stood looking at me with his hands behind his back.
Respect From a
When I reached the gate he brought his hands out with a bunch of flowers which he thrusted at me and said, “You are the only person who dared to speak to me the way you did.” I threw the flowers outside the gate, and said to my self, “You have done it again.” I expected to be returned to that dark hole in the basement since I was kept out for a third period of an hour, but I was returned to a normal cell.
Sentenced to be Executed in Two Weeks
I came up for the “SS” Court in Copenhagen. The trial lasted only one day, and I was sentenced to come before a firing squad two weeks later. The general for all of the occupying forces in Denmark was located in a town in Jylland called Aarhus. My father tried to see him, to no avail, and then my mother tried. She managed to secure a meeting with the general, which I found out later was none too fond of the “SS,” like most of the old army. My mother persuaded the general to have my case retried, and made him promise to be present at the new trial. He kept his promise, had the case retried and he was present at the new trial where the sentenced was changed to 6 years of hard labor in Germany.
Sent to Germany
I was sent under guard to a prison in a small town in Northern Mecklenburg. In the first small camp, we had to build a “potato flour” (translation: explosives for ammunition) factory. The work was very hard. We had to carry bricks and mortar on our shoulders up a wooden ladder, first to the second, and then to the third floor. The food was plentiful, about a gallon of thin soup each day, but it had very minimal nourishment. It was made from turnips, with perhaps one potato for every six men. In addition we got each morning and evening two slices of dark rye, with perhaps an ounce of “ersatz butter” (artificial butter). The bread, we found out later, was made with more than 50% sawdust, and heaven knows what the ersatz butter was made with, it tasted oily. In all the time I spent in the German camps, we did not see any milk, butter, cheese, eggs, meat, or any other desirable food. To put it bluntly, the food we were given was not fit for human consumption.
In 1944, one of the labor camps I was in was called “Gross Babelin.” It was also located in Mecklenburg (I believe). We had about 160 prisoners in this camp, with the same mix of nationalities as in previous camps. We were made to walk several kilometers out to work in the early morning on a winding road, along farmers fields to a forest, where we had to cut trees down. The trees had to be stripped for branches and carried through a swampy area to a sidetrack for the railroad. It took six to ten men to carry one of the trees. The workday was long, about 12 hours, and we were so exhausted walking back to the camp at the end of the day, that some of us were literally sleep walking. It was winter, and very cold. We had only thin clothes, and no blankets. We had only straw in the bunks.
Killed for Stealing a Potato
One day, five new prisoners arrived, one of them a Norwegian, about 65 years old. He had a large farm in Norway, and one day when the Germans had damaged part of his cornfield with their tanks during maneuvers, he knocked down the officer commanding the German troops unconscious. He was sent to the camp for this reason. On the way to the forest where we cut trees, we passed a farmer’s potato field. When the column walked along the curving road, there were some areas where the guards could not see us. A few of us would jump out of line, and pull the top of a plant, grabbing two or three potatoes, putting them in our pockets, and jumping back into the column. This was strictly forbidden. One day the Norwegian darted out, the guard saw him and shot him. The guard said that he was trying to escape, which was not the case. The man was simply hungry, as we all were.
Ammunition Train Destroyed Next to Camp
The main railroad was close to the rear of the camp, and trains with soldiers, tanks, other equipment and ammunition passed through frequently. One night an ammunition train was bombed as it was passing the camp. The explosions were terrific. The rear wall of the barrack blew in on us, but fortunately, no one was seriously injured. As the front grew closer, the artillery noise grew louder. The camp commander asked me one day to remain back instead of going to the forest. I was invited into his office, had a cup of erzats coffee (burned corn) and a cigarette, and was asked for my honest opinion about what I thought would happen when the allied forces reached the camp. I pointed out the window to the large tree in the yard and told him that he likely would be hanged from one of the large branches. He turned white in the face, and the next morning there was some commotion among the guards as he apparently had left the camp with his girlfriend and so had the Guard who had shot the Norwegian.
A Swedish Ultimatum to the Germans
In the next, much larger camp I was transferred to, we received a visit from the Swedish Crown Prince, Bernadotte and his team. He arrived with a cortege of about 50 hand picked Swedish soldiers. I have never seen such a bunch of 6’4” or more, blond soldiers, all equipped with Husquarna machine pistols, all looking like they would like to use them. The Swedish government had given the Germans an ultimatum demanding that all prisoners in the north’s end of Germany should be moved to Sweden to be out of harms way. Refusing this, Sweden would be prepared to enter the war with 500,000 soldiers. Prince Folke Bernadotte spoke German fluently, and he had successful discussions with Heinrich Himmler. He told the commandant to stand to attention when he spoke to him. Some of the cars with this group were loaded with supplies of cheese, sausages, cigarettes, and other items intended for distribution to the prisoners. The camp commandant said this could not be allowed. Prince Bernadotte doubted anyone would attempt to stop his soldiers from distributing the goods. No one did. The supplies were handed out to prisoners in the immediate area, although unfortunately there was not enough for everyone to get a share.
Reprisals and Terror Acts in Denmark
In late 1943, the conditions in Denmark accelerated drastically with many people being shot by the Germans. An entire family, a father, two sons, and a daughter were shot for having picked up arms and ammunitions dropped by parachutes from an English aircraft and storing these items on their farm, which for several years had been a very famous inn. Thankfully, the mother was spared, although her family was shot right in front of her. Quite a few people managed to escape to Sweden via some specially built fishing boats. These looked like an ordinary fishing boat with a large fish tank in the center. The difference being that about 3 feet below the water line, the width of the tank was drastically reduced to allow for a hidden compartment on both sides of the tank. It was cramped quarters, yet sufficient for perhaps three or four people to hide on either side. You could actually stick a rod in the tank to see that the tank had the full depth and did not contain anything but fish. The main purpose for building these boats were to smuggle Jews to Sweden to avoid their capture and being sent to camps in Germany. Many Jews escaped in this manner. There was not a single case where the Germans found out what was going on. The Danish fishing boats in Kattegat, the area between the east coast of Jylland and the west coast of Sweden, were frequently boarded by German Patrol boats and inspected for contraband. They were allowed to fish in that ocean as it was the main source to get fish for Denmark. When the Germans came on board, they were often greeted by a “friendly” Danish Captain offering them a cup of coffee and a glass of schnapps, which was seldom refused.
The Shell House Bombing.
After some collaborators with the Germans, we called them “Quislings,” had been shot by members of the underground in the summer of 1943, other executions and arrests took place. Many of the people caught were sent to Copenhagen and kept prisoners in a building called “Shell House.” The lower floors housed the SS Headquarters and the “SS” Intelligence. The Germans located the prisoners on the top floor as a protection against being bombed. The hope was to avoid harming any prisoners in the process. Several top members of the underground movement, which had expanded substantially since late 1943, were being tortured in the “Shell” house. It was feared that the Germans could get sufficient information from these prisoners to unravel the total resistance movement. Information about this situation had been sent to England and precautions had been taken to prevent this happening and if possible also to free these prisoners.
21 Mosquito aircrafts accompanied by American Mustang planes had been trained to bomb a building by flying just a few feet over the rooftops, and releasing a bomb in such a manner, with split second accuracy, that it would target the bottom floor killing the Germans. The attack took place on 21 March 1943 and was successful, about 200 “SS” and German sympathizers were killed and most of the prisoners were freed.
A General Country wide Strike Declared June 1
The Sabotage in Denmark had increased during 1943 to such a degree that the country was now called by the Germans, enemy territory.
Friday, June 1, a general country wide strike was declared. The Germans were furious. The next day was even more dramatic. Dr. Best, a high ranking German, said “the population will get a taste of the German whip and will suffer by lack of food and water.”
All private cars, even ambulances and doctors’ vehicles, were prohibited on the street. They shut off water and power for Copenhagen, and people had to get water from the large lakes in town. 3,000 German troops were called into Copenhagen and all exits from Copenhagen were closed. The Germans changed their mind, and initiated efforts to get compromises. They could not get any supplies from local sources for their own troops, and anyone risking supplying them was likely to get a visit from the Danish resistance people.
The Danish Government Dissolved
The Danish government was dissolved on August 29 in 1943, 12 Danish soldiers and 12 civilians from various parts of the country were killed at that time. The same day, many politicians felt that the supplies of food will be used up and would create a hardship, particularly for people with small means. The resistance movement erected barricades on the street. Immediately, the sabotage increased drastically by the resistance and was reciprocated by both Germans and German terror groups. The popular “Aalborg Stiftstidense,” a large newspaper, was bombed and major part of the building totally destroyed by such a terror group. The German police arrested all politicians, University professors, newspaper editors and government officials. On 19th September 1943 the sirens warned about air attacks and simultaneously the Germans “SS” troops were trying to bridge the barricades outside the government buildings in the inner city. The barricades were erected by police and resistance people. Five German soldiers were killed and three times that amount were wounded. Police personnel throughout the country were arrested. Many escaped but about 2,000 were captured, and during the night transferred onboard ships, going direct to Germany. At this point in time, I was in a concentration camp in Germany and therefore did not find out about these events until after the war ended on May 5th, 1945.
The fact that I was arrested early in 1943 likely saved my life. At that time, before any heavy sabotage took place, the Germans were trying to appear semi-friendly to the Danish population. Had I been arrested a year later, it was inconceivable that my death sentence could have been changed to hard labor. In February of 1945 I was transported to the German Concentration Camp, Neuengammen. The Germans had agreed to allow the people in the concentration camps to be transported to Sweden, where they would remain for the duration of the war. Shortly after his visit there, we were transported in railway cars across the Danish border to a camp called Frøslev.
After we crossed the border into Denmark, the train was surrounded by Danish people welcoming us home, throwing sausages, bread, butter, cigarettes, and drinks into the cars. All of us were starved. I recall eating a whole pound of butter and a sausage.
In 1943 my weight was about 145-150 lbs. Shortly after my escape, 23 months later, I weighed around 97 lbs. This was following two weeks of eating healthy, balanced meals. I do not recall how long of a period I was in Frøslev, although I believe it was only about ten days. Froeslev had 2,800 prisoners.
In the beginning of April we were transported under German guards by railroad towards Copenhagen. From Copenhagen we were to be shipped by boats to Sweden. A few kilometers outside of Copenhagen, I jumped off of the train and rolled down an embankment. One of the guards noticed me jumping from the train and began shooting at me. Apart from a bullet grazing my left arm, and another ripping the bottom of my coat, I was not hurt. The train did not stop. A short distance from the railroad tracks was a row of houses. A man shouted at me to come to his house. When the man and his family saw that I was not in a very presentable state, they gave me a new shirt, a tie, a pair of pants, a hat, and cleaned the shoes I had been wearing. They gave me a briefcase with some newspapers, a magazine, bus tickets and some money and I walked out of the house.
Trying to Catch Me
Apparently some official from the train had warned the Germans that a prisoner had escaped which was the reason that the street was blocked off so fast after I had jumped the train. Soldiers were searching the homes one by one, now only a few homes away. The man had told me to turn left when walking out as there was a bus stop a short distance away. I didn’t want the soldiers searching the homes to believe I was in any hurry to get to the bus stop, thereby drawing any unnecessary attention to myself. Therefore, I walked out and took a right turn instead. If anyone asked, I had planned to say that I was going to visit a friend. I walked over to them, and asked politely in German what was the matter. I was told that it was none of my business and to get lost. I walked to the end of the road where two jeeps were stationed. I asked the officer there what the matter was and added that the feldwebel (soldier) up the road had not been very polite. I was again told to get lost, which I gladly did.
Called Ole Bjørn Kraft to Get Address to Go to
I took a bus into Copenhagen. Here I called Ole Bjorn Kraft’s home, said I was Kaj Jorgensen, and after a short while was told to go to a store on Vesterbro Gade. I was sent to the office of the Danish Military Intelligence which was hidden in an apartment in the center of town. I was given some money and told to go to an address not far away. I was to say that I was Kaj Jorgensen and came from Hansen. I was also given an armband proving that I was an officer in the underground movement. The armband I still have today.
It was kind of an odd feeling to be free with nobody yelling at you, and with enough good food and drink to enjoy. I still had the sight of German soldiers all around, and most of them appeared more civilized than the ones I had experienced in the past many months. I stayed in that apartment with a man and woman for two days. One the second day, I was walking back to the apartment when the wife met me on the second floor telling me that they had SS soldiers in the apartment. Her husband was arrested, and she heard the commotion on her walk up the stairs and managed to get away. We walked back to the Danish military intelligence office and they dispatched two of their staff to take care of the situation. They assured the woman that they would look after her husband.
From there I relocated to a large villa on the outskirts of Copenhagen. It was owned by a rather wealthy Russian woman in her late twenties or early thirties. I stayed in her home for some days.
About three weeks later, the Germans capitulated except for SS troops in Copenhagen joined by some of the “Danish” Quislings. They had barricaded themselves in some houses along one of the lakes running through the city. Eight of us were on the roof of a house on the opposite side of the lake which is located through the center of Copenhagen. I was the only officer present from the Danish Military, and had a position behind a chimney. We had heavy fire from the SS, from the opposite side of one of the lakes at a distance of about 300 yards. We returned fire at a rapid rate. One of the men was hit in the chest, he yelled, but we were unable to help him down. Shortly thereafter, some trained Falck people (A free Danish rescue mission) with a stretcher arrived, but by the time they carried him down, he was dead. I believe we hit several of the “SS” as several ambulances appeared after they had surrendered.
Back to Aalborg
The time thereafter was relatively uneventful. We rounded up several of the “Danish” collaborators and some of them were shot. A few days later I went by train back to Aalborg. Here we had a very large number of German soldiers and some SS under guard. Until this, a lot of Germans were shipped back to Germany under guard, and I was in a charge of watching about 500 of them around the clock, with the aid of around 10 men. Some English troops arrived. They decided that all German supplies from a large depot should be destroyed. They burned about 150 fighter planes on the airport and nearly one thousand nice large woolen blankets. We thought this was very stupid with so many freezing people in Europe. We really did not like the behavior of these English troops. They acted like they were in control on all matters. Many Germans walked back to Germany.
Meeting my Family
I can recall seeing my mother and father for the first time after the war. It was three weeks after the war had ended. Due to my involvement with the underground movement, and the armband I wore, I was able to ride public transportation at no charge. My mother was crying, as we saw one another for the first time in 23 months, and my father did his best to refrain from showing how touched he truly was, although I knew better.
Mother was Worried
In 1943 several incidents happened to scare my mother. One evening my parents and my sister, then 17 years old, were walking home after a visit to friends where my parents played bridge. My sister walked ahead of my parents. Two German soldiers from the opposite side of the street walked across the street, one on each side of my sister and started to get fresh with her. My father was a very strong man. He stepped quickly up to my sister, gripped them both and bashed their heads so hard together that he knocked both of them unconscious. Mother was worried that someone had noticed and would have reported my father, no one did. One day the same year, my father was meeting some friends in his favorite club in the center of Aalborg. He expressed some very unfavorable comments about the Germans. A person, who everybody believed was friendly to the Germans, was listening to my father. He was sitting alone at a table drinking a beer. He got up and proceeded to leave the wine cellar without having finished his beer. My dad noticed, knocked on his glass to get everyone’s attention. He said, you probably have noticed that Mikkelsen is leaving? You know that we can not trust him, so in the case that Gestapo arrests me you know what to do about Nikkelsen. A chorus of “YES” sounded in the room, the fellow sat down apparently rather shaken, and no one arrested my dad.
Throughout my time in the camps, I had pneumonia, dysentery, lice, and a throat infection, which still gives me problems today. The inhumane experiences witnessed returned to my memory, and have been the cause for nightmares for many years.
The Danish war casualties were as follows: (This list is not complete). Over 850 members of the Resistance were killed during the war, roughly 900 Danish civilians killed during civil disturbances, 39 Danish soldiers killed during the invasion, 12 Danish soldiers people were killed on August 29, 1943, when the Germans declared Denmark an enemy territory and dissolved the Danish Government, 360 Danes died in concentration camps. Additionally, 51 Danish Jews died in the Theresienstadt Camp, 1850 Danish sailors died, mostly falling victim to submarines, and 100 Danish soldiers died as part of the Allied Forces.
Eventually, partly by the help of Haakon Lauritzen, who had become the Chief of Interpol in Jylland, The chief of police in Aalborg and Aarhus and by one of the people in the Danish Military Intelligence, plus the Danish minister, Ole Bjørn Kraft, it was “discovered” what Vagn Pedersen-Bach, and I had done.
The initial problem was that no one, except for Interpol and a couple of people in the military intelligence, knew what we had been doing independently, prior to the later action of the underground, which really did not exist until after I became a prisoner of the Germans. No one in the Danish Government knew that I had been a prisoner in German Concentration camps before several years after the war had ended. Neither Interpol, nor the military intelligence was allowed to disclose the names of people who had been working with them, or the work these people did until many years had elapsed.
When the Danish government found out officially what we had done during the war, this resulted in Vagn and I receiving a monthly grant for the remainder of our lives. In addition, I receive an annual honorary gift, which is paid out quarterly. Not living in Denmark, I would normally not be entitled to receive the free medication and medical services all Danish receive. However, in my case, that ruling was dispensed with, so all my costs for medication anywhere in the world are being paid for by the Danish government.
Secret entrance to Christian IV Wine Cellar - which the Germans never found
Visiting USA After the War
In 1945, I was anxious to get to the United States, where I arrived on the first passenger ship, Drotningholm from Sweden. My purpose for the trip to the United States was to study the electronics industry. I got a job in the “International Detrola Radio Corporation,” a company with about 2,300 employees. After the war you could not buy any kind of radios. There was a shortage since none were produced during the war. Herman became a friend of mine, and when Detrola contracted a small company in Oglesby, Illinois to produce 10,000 radios within three months, I was elected. I had to teach the 165 employers how to do that. This company had been producing electrical heaters and no one knew anything about radios. Everybody worked overtime, and some had to get baby sitters to be able to put in the number of hours required. The duration for this job had been extended by nearly two weeks, but the number 10,000 radio was delivered one day before the deadline. I received a healthy raise in pay, my third, during the time I worked for Detrola.
Jumping ahead 50 years to May 5, 1995, there was a huge celebration in memory of the German capitulation in Denmark. The most prominent of these took place in Aalborg. Both my wife, Doris, and I were invited as honorary guests. I became a member of the famous “Christian the Fourth Society,” which has headquarters in the 400 year old “Christian IV Wine Cellar” in the center0 of Aalborg.
When I was called up to get my gold pin, the foreman said that of course we knew that the membership was predominantly male. However, they had previously made an exception for the Danish Queen, Margaret Thatcher from England, and another woman, an opera singer (whose name I have since forgotten). On this occasion they decided to make an exception for Doris Suhr, and Doris was therefore also presented with a gold “Christian IV” pin.
All the “Christian IV” members and some special guests, including several from England, a total of about 150 people, were invited to a special dinner. The dinner was paid for by the mayor’s office, and no expense was spared. When we arrived there, a large number of soldiers were lighting 4,000 live candles placed in the park around the restaurant. It was a very impressive sight. It was meant to be one candle for each Danish victim of the war, but I believe they ran out of candles. We were served sandwiches of all kinds, you had a choice of beer or wine. After the dinner the mayor had arranged for buses to drive us to the center of the bridge (between Aalborg and Norre Sundby) from which we could watch a large fireworks display.
The 60 years celebration of the German capitulation in Denmark was celebrated in Aalborg. The Mayors office had placed advertising in the newspapers and on television to locate the people that were in the underground movement during the occupation. The mayor wanted to make sure that he located everybody involved. My sister happened to be watching the broadcast and called to let us know of the Mayor’s invitation. The party was attended by 102 people plus the staff from the Mayors office. The city was decorated with thousands of flags strung across the streets, and all buses and cars were carrying flags. I was asked to make a speech about some of the events which took place during the war. As a guest of honor, I was asked to share some of the escapades I became involved with during the war. I spoke for about 30 minutes. I selected three episodes, transmitting from the Aalborg tower with the radio transmitter I had built, damaging German instruments in planes stored on railroad cars in Lindholm and “borrowing” German officer’s handguns from the wardrobe in the “Kristine’s” restaurant.
Frode Suhr today - who lives in Vista with his wife, Doris
When I got back to California I found that my bank had received a check for U.S.$1,000, as a special memory for what I did 60 years earlier.
Following 8½ months in the hospital, and three operations, I now have incurable colon cancer. It’s important to me to share my story with others, especially my family, who have requested that I put something like this together for quite some time. I am continuing to try to locate someone to publish my exciting story, as I feel it should be told, and also could help to generate some income for wife of 55 years, Doris.
Epilogue: We were pleased to learn from Frode Suhr that the Danish government still sends him his annual pension, even though he moved to Canada, and then the United States.
Further, the Danish government, recognizing its heroes, has agreed to pay for all of his prescriptions over the past 60 years and pays for his doctor bills in the US now that he is no longer covered by Canada’s national health plan.
Given Mr. Suhr’s present state of health (he has terminal colon cancer) he and his wife are both comforted in knowing they have not been forgotten and will be provided for.
We think this is an admirable action for a government to take. We also think Frode Suhr was, and is, an admirable man. He served his nation well.