Fredericia - occupied and liberated in World War II (1940-1945)
Already from the 9th of April 1940 Fredericia was influenced by the Occupation among other things because of the town´s central position as an important junction for the railroad traffic in Denmark. This – together with the fact that Fredericia´s harbor later became a place of disembarkment of German troops to the Eastern Front – meant that a great number of troops - during the whole timespan of the Occupation – were transported through Fredericia. Later - in the light of the many military train transports – followed a number of resistance actions and sabotage.
It`s not possible to put an exact date for when the resistance movement started in Fredericia but already at an early point the underground cell in Fredericia was the strongest and best organized in Southern Jutland. In the first years of the war the sabotage was mainly concentrated on cutting telephone wires and arson of German depots and enterprises which worked for the Wehrmacht. In addition gradually “Liberate Denmark” groups were formed who printed and distributed an illegal newsletter with the same title. In Fredericia the newsletters were printed at the School for the Deaf just 300 meters from the Garrison where the German soldiers resided.
In 1943 the underground resistance work became better and better organized. From droppings of arms at different places in Jutland arms and explosives were transported to Fredericia and then started the railroad sabotage in which rails and materiel were destroyed. The consequence of this was delay of German transports.
It was dangerous to be a member of a resistance cell. If you were caught in possession of arms or were hiding explosives, illegal newspapers or letters about sabotage you got arrested and sent to the Stables at Koldinghus (the Castle in Kolding) where Gestapo had their headquarters. Here they were interrogated and in many cases also tortured. Many of the arrested resistance fighters were sent further on to The Concentration Camp in Frøslev (very close to the Danish-German border) or to the prisons in Copenhagen from where they were sent to German concentration camps. In December 1943 two informers revealed a number of prominent resistance men in Fredericia and they were arrested. From this point the resistance groups were more careful andwatchful.
The resistance cells in Fredericia managed to make successful sabotage several times even though many planned actions were called off or outplayed by the Germans. But the sabotage didn´t go unpunished. The Germans didn´t have any scapegoats, though, but the Schalburg Unit (named after the leader of The Free Unit Denmark von Schalburg who died in action at Demyansk in June 1942 on the East Front) who were the Danes in German service made retaliation actions at several places in the town. Among others this hit The Hotel of the Valiant Soldier, Resting ´s Hardware Store in Denmark Street and Fredericia Theatre which was blown up as late as in Mach 1945.
In March 1945 ten resistance fighters from the Taulov- and Fredericia cells were arrested. They were transferred to Copenhagen where nine of them were executed on the 19th of April – only 15 days before the Message of the German Capitulation was announced. These executions were the last to be carried out in Ryvangen during the Occupation.
Apart from the rationing of a number of goods everyday life was also very much affected for families with children. The Germans occupied the primary schools which they used for barracks and hospitals. Under pressure of the fact that the newly built and presently empty Grammar School should be used for such purposes the teachers and their students hastily moved all inventory already on the 10th of April 1040.
Because the schools lacked proper buildings education took place only a few hours a day on for example the library, in snuggeries of shops, in the private living rooms of the teachers or more or less suited rooms. Through the newspapers you had to ensure where the different classes had to meet the following day.
In Fredericia there were more than 2000 occupying soldiers who – apart from the confiscated schools – resided at the barracks and in other public buildings. In the countryside the occupational forces often resided in community houses. At some places the High Command of the Germans demanded that German soldiers stayed over in barns and annexes if necessary.
At the Voss factory situated between Sjællandsgade and Vester Voldgade (West Rampard Street) the workers in 1943 wanted to sack ten German girls and five members of the Nazi Party. The management refused and then the workers went on strike. When some of the German girls went home from work they were caught and sheared bald. German marine soldiers came to their assist and fired their pistols in the air. Subsequently the girls with the aid of the marine soldiers labelled those Danes who they wanted punished. This created strong turmoil with fights and broken windows.
At the Hannerup Pavillon the HIPOs had their residence. HIPO means helping police force and was a police force of Danish volunteers. The force was created by the occupying forces following the internment of the proper Danish police force in September 1944. Approximately 100 HIPOs came to Fredericia in February 1945 and their job was – among other things – to guard the railway lines and the railroad stations to prevent railroad sabotage. They also patrolled the streets of the town and controlled identification cards. Often the HIPOs were much more brutal and behaved much worse than the German soldiers and therefore they incurred much more hate by the general population.
When Allied aircraft crossed Denmark an air alarm was sounded and then you had only three minutes to go seek hide. Everywhere in Denmark bomb shelters were constructed and also emergency bunkers which basically were holes dug into the ground and strengthened with concrete. In Fredericia these were placed at Axeltorv and at Bulow´s Square. At Nørre Voldgade (Northern Rampard Street) you can still see several bunkers – among others the one which today is the Bunker Museum Bunkermuseet. Also the Prince´s Gate was walled in and used as a bomb shelter. There were about one hundred air alarms in Fredericia during WW II.
In the evening on the 4th of May 1945 wild cheering burst out because of the message of Liberation. After 5 years with curfew after 9 PM people took to the streets and celebrated. In Bjerggade people gathered end went arm in arm down the street singing the Liberation Song. Many tore down the much hated blackout blinds/curtains and burned them in the middle of the street. The Valiant Soldier who had been plastered in fearing schalburtage was also “liberated”.
Next morning there was fierce activity all over town. The Resistance Movement was busy and rose to the occasion as a sort of appropriate authority since the Danish Police Force was arrested and interned by the Germans in September 1944. Most of the police men had either gone hiding or were sent to concentration camps. In Fredericia freedom fighters paraded in front of their new headquarter, Hotel Victoria in Vendersgade. On the same day they started to catch sneaks and collaborators. This had two purposes partly to ensure that persons who had a too close a contact with the Germans were punished and partly to prevent citizens from taking the law in their own hands.
About 130 people were taken into protective custody. They were interrogated at Hotel Victoria after which some could go home while others were interned in a wooden shed called “High Gamme” (Højengamme) situated next to the white water tower on the rampard. The Command of the Resistance Movement feared an open confrontation with the HIPOs at the Liberation but in Fredericia they surrendered without fight.
Apart from the 2000 German soldiers and 3100 wounded there were also about 3300 refugees. Most of them soon left the town after the Liberation and the major part of them were transferred to the camp at Oksbøll in the West of Jutland. Even though the citizens of the town were happy about at long last to get rid of the Germans many felt sorry for those who now had to go back to Germany. Large parts of Germany lay in ruins so really nobody knew what they came back to.