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Genealogy and the Resistance

Unfortunately, it is not easy to find out in which way a certain person may have taken part in the Resistance. In most cases it simply proves impossible.

During the occupation, very little was put on paper, for obvious reasons. Upon Liberation in 1945 individual resistance groups built up archives, including lists of members etc. But those archives were made for current ‘administrative’ purposes,not to document the groups' or individual members’ activities for posterity. Furthermore, there were no rules as to what should be done with such archives once the groups were demobilized. Some were handed over to Danish National Archives, some to The Museum of Danish Resistance 1940-1945 and some to regional or local archives. Many papers have gone lost when those who kept them died.

One place to start is the Resistance Database constructed by The Museum of Danish Resistance. The database is based upon the muster rolls drawn up upon Liberation and upon the most important part of what has been published on the Resistance. The interface is, alas, in Danish only.

As a general rule it is easier to find information on a person the worse he has fared.

Biographies on those members of the Resistance who were killed during the occupation can be found in 'Faldne i Danmarks Frihedskamp 1940-45' [Those who fell during Denmark’s Resistance 1940-45] (2. edition, 1990). The book is in Danish only. It contains references to further material.

Those who were deported to concentration camps outside Denmark are listed in 'Helvede har mange navne' [Hell has got many names] by Jørgen Barfod (2. edition, 1994). This book too is in Danish only. Many of those prisoners who survived have filled in questionnaires that are kept in The Museum of Danish Resistance.

No equivalent register exists regarding those imprisoned in Denmark - for instance in the Horserød Camp or the Frøslev Camp - and who avoided deportation. For some – but by for not all – information on time and place of their imprisonment can be found in application forms for membership to one of the associations formed by former prisoners after the War. These forms are kept by The Museum of Danish Resistance. They do not however contain information on resistance activities prior to imprisonment.

The Frøslev Camp Museum has reconstructed an index on former prisoners. Those inmates who formed part of the Resistance may be looked for online.

Information on activi­ties in which a certain person has taken part is normally only at hand if the person himself or one of his fellow resistance fighters has ventured to write an account after the war. Many have done so, either invited by historians or as a contribution to family history, and many have deposited a copy of their personal accounts in The Museum of Dan­ish Resistance to the benefit of general research. Whether the museum archives hold an account by a specific person can be researched through our inventories in the Internet. The interfaces are in Danish only.

But even more, former members of the Resistance have never put their experiences into writing, and in such cases, it is virtually impossible to find information.

When starting to research, one has to realize that up till 1943 the Resistance consisted of relatively few people. Recruitment on a larger scale did not take place until 1944 when the setting up of an underground army started. These so-called stand-by groups were not to go into action before the front had moved to Denmark, and fortunately, the Germans surrendered on May 5, 1945, before it came to any such fighting.

The stand-by groups were therefore employed by tasks such as guard duty, arresting collaborators etc. The term stand-by groups do not, however, imply that the groups did nothing but wait.

They were trained, in using weapons and sabotage equipment, and some of this training amounted to virtual acts of sabotage. If a family member has told about his participation in sabotage it, therefore, does not necessarily imply that he has been a member of one of the well-known sabotage-organizations (BOPA, Holger Danske). He might have been part of a standby group that was not content with merely waiting.