How did the Danish Film Industry Cope with WWII?

the old gold

In the newly published book Danish Film Under Nazism, Lars-Martin Sorensen describes how parts of the Danish Film Industry did business with the occupation – and got away with it. He also describes how people often choose the most flattering story rather than the most truthful. DFI has been the host institution under the author’s three year long research work. Read more here or below:

“We tend to prefer the version of history that puts you and your country in a positive light rather than with the diversity., It is not very heroic, but then it is a very human,” says Lars-Martin Sorensen. “It’s a mechanism that functions both at individual and collective level: If we deprecate painful defeat and remember the nice things that we can better keep ourselves out. Films tells the often stories with heroes and villains and rather one-dimensional characters in general. The real people are, so to say written out of the narrative. Such is not really, and the image of the occupation, as my book signing, is so muddy that you recognize the people in it. “

Lars-Martin Sorensen, film historian and research director and executive editor of film magazine Kosmorama.Now he is also the author of the 500 page book “Danish film during the Nazi era”, which was released on May 5, exactly 69 years after the liberation of Denmark.

The book reveals Lars-Martin Sorensen, how parts of the Danish film industry did business with the Nazi occupiers. A mainstay of his research are documents of an action against the German Chamber of Commerce in Copenhagen in April 1945. Here stole Danish resistance fighters over half a million documents, which you can read about the Danes, who collaborated with the occupying power – and how they did it. The war on its last legs, and the purpose of the document theft was to obtain evidence that could be used for prosecution. It was, however, not many sentences out of, but now war papers thus gained new life in the form of Lars-Martin Sorensen’s book.

Not until now has a film historian researching the documents, and this is also the author managed to provide resistance group’s own filming of the action.

Was there anything that you dug up that particularly surprised you?

“Yes, it surprised me that Nordisk Film servants German Nazis in order to please the occupying power. And that same company boss two weeks after the occupation was in Berlin and negotiated to have a monopoly on distribution rights for German films in Scandinavia.’m Amazed, it does not arrive until now. ”

The Nazi-friendly part of the Danish film industry escaped largely unpunished after the war. What is the explanation for that?

“Rather than” Nazi-friendly “I will call them” business oriented. “Film producer Henning Karmark joined the Nazi party, but the majority of his colleagues were not Nazis, but unscrupulous business men. It is no coincidence that the longest chapter in my book called “The occupation as a business opportunity.” Society’s key players definitely had an eye for that Nazism was something you could make money on. After the liberation rapidly led to an atmosphere of the past was the past and now had to be on., it had the several reasons. One of them was that half of Danish industry were behind bars if you wanted to punish all those who had profited by the occupation. ”

Just as Denmark had to gear up again …

“Exactly., It would have had major economic consequences. Business Concern won again. Judicial system went smoothly across the sins of the past, as did many members of the film industry. Example, as already in 1946 a remarkable collaboration between the highly compromised Karmark and film producer Preben Philipsen, which had been declared as non-Aryans of rival Gold Niels Dahl. ”

“The grain is in danger” is a well-known Danish documentary criticizing the occupation forces through a cunning weevil-allegory. Are there also examples to the contrary, that Danish films that express Nazi tanks goods?

“Yes. O’Fredericks Alice ‘” The burning question “from 1943 is a defense of eugenics, which is good enough was not a Nazi invention, but as you know, was part of their thinking.” The burning question “was inspired by a successful German propaganda films, and was made at a time when O’Fredericks dreamed of a career in Germany. “affair Birte” by the same director expresses contempt for the legal system and sympathy for vigilantism, which fits into the Nazi “We would rather act than talk ‘mentality. ”

The book describes Lars-Martin Sorensen also how “Old Gold” and other postwar extremely popular Morten Koch-screen versions had Nazi tinge. Some of the film’s main strength was also just Henning Karmark and Alice O’Fredericks.

“It is important to remember that Nazism – and Fascism in general – operates with some catchy symbols and ideas that can be easily extended to Germans, Japanese, Italians … and Danes and all sorts of other peoples. Fact that a movie like” The old gold “every success a few years after liberation is only controversial if you assume that the Danes are vaccinated against feeling fascination with quasi-Nazi intellectual baggage. We want to believe, but it’s not true. the many Danes who saw “The red horse” or “Old Gold” did not perceive themselves as Nazis. They just sat and relaxed with a movie that featured the ground and blood meaning and praised the good, innocent old days – which was a central element of the Nazi propaganda. ”

What is the Danish favorite story about “the five fucking years” – and what does it say about us as people?  

“We remember any resistance movement valiant fight against superior forces. However, since historians have, for example, found out that jernbanesabotørerne not delayed Nazi weapons and troop much. It was otherwise considered Danish resistance struggle finest moment, and therefore it was the start of a view of the resistance movement as someone who had a great symbolic importance for the Danish population’s personal narrative rather than a decisive military importance. ”

“Overall, this represents a textbook example of a conflict point of view for some years planed down to a consensus view, so you end up with a total, but not truthful tale of occupation. We like to see ourselves as good and the Nazis as evil. And we can usefully compare ourselves with the “sweep” neutral Swedes. However, if we compare ourselves with the Norwegians, who made great sacrifices in a determined struggle against the occupation and the government and royal family went into exile, we take care suddenly less well spent. Therefore, we are not so like the comparison. It is also linked to that we understand ourselves as a product of our history. If your grandfather was the collaborationist, it does nothing for your identity today. It’s really weird, for you are not at all responsible for your grandfather’s actions. However, as a Dane, you are part of a community, and therefore feels a certain extent, that you are responsible for what your country men undertook several generations back. ”

There are not many eyewitnesses back from the years of occupation.How did you get the information in addition to the ones you got, thanks to the action in April 1945?

“Primarily from written and cinematic sources., The German legation in Dagmarhus was admittedly very diligent with somber in the days before liberation, and also went some documents lost in the bombing. Luckily used often tracing paper during the occupation, so there was typically sent a copy somewhere, which escaped the flames. It was a big puzzle, but with thoroughness let it be done to obtain the information. ”

The book also included QR codes to movies, which the reader can scan and thereby gain access to the filming mentioned. What is the role of the dissemination of the past and the history of film?

“It is quite natural to use QR codes when it comes to communicating movies – then release both author and reader for long, descriptive passages, the latter can instantly get mental sight. And more importantly: It creates transparency. Reader do not stand on his head in a movie file for days to find out about it, he Lars-Martin Sorensen writes, now also is true. ”

What impact do you hope your book will get? Is it among other things, meant as a discussion paper?

“My intention is to unravel a tangle, rather than to judge. I hope that the book will cause the reader to ask,” What would I do? “Imagine that you have a business, and Nazi stands at your door and would like to do business with you. Are you willing to do – or you refuse to open for him? If you choose the latter, you may dismiss your 35 employees. the time, in other words a mixed minefield that one might maneuver, as well might now be – and often had to choose between undesirable alternatives. ”

“Danish film under Nazism” was released on 5 May by publisher Lindhardt Ringhofen. The book is the result of an independent three-year research project, funded by the Velux Foundation. DFI has been the host institution Lars-Martin Sorensen’s three year long work, and DFI’s film archivist Michael Braae has assisted with the work.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.