Denmark – as I know all too well – suffered a Nazi invasion in 1940 and was occupied for the rest of the war.
That invasion impacted my mother directly. She’d volunteered for service in the ATS before the war, and was quite rightly placed in Intelligence. With her family trapped in Denmark, the Powers That Be decided she needed to be in a less sensitive post. Which was also one where she was, frustratingly, far less able to use her talents.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, the occupiers worked with a (relatively) light hand. They knew that the country could effectively become their dairy, and it didn’t pay to upset the Danes too much. Nonetheless, there was soon such a thing as a Danish Resistance – and though I have no details, I know members of my family were involved in that.
As part of their Atlantic Wall project – designed to turn the whole Atlantic coast of Europe into a fortress – the Germans began building a series of bunkers along Denmark’s west coast. One – named Tirpitz after the famous admiral – was intended to carry two massive long-range guns. Which were made, but never actually brought to site and assembled.
So what to do with this World War II relic in the 21st century?
The Danes – with a typical imaginative leap – have decided to turn it into a museum. A truly fabulous idea, executed with verve and vision. They’ve created their own ‘bunker’ – in this case a stunningly designed museum all but invisible under the dunes – and populated it with a series of exhibitions relating to the local area and its history.
An Ice Age ‘recreation’ examines who – and what – might have been found here just before the ice began to retreat, with models of mammoths, arctic foxes, cave bears and reindeer, and exhibits showing how our prehistoric ancestors lived in this challenging environment. A ‘4D’ display uses all four walls of another room to show the ever-changing conditions on what is now the west coast from the Ice Age to the present day. I was reminded, in particular, of the destructive sandstorms that once swept the area before the dunes were put to grass.
Another section looks at life under the German occupation. And one remarkable gallery focuses on a truly precious resource for which the area is famous – amber. It includes a scale model of the Sydney Opera House – created entirely in amber…
We had a hugely enjoyable visit, and an excellent meal, though I’ll confess I felt no compulsion to enter the original bunker. Huge thanks to Agnes and Freddy for introducing us to Tirpitz and a truly memorable experience.