By Peter Wivel, Europe Correspondent, Brussels.
The decision to occupy Denmark was taken at a meeting in Berlin on December 17, 1939 – three and a half months after World War II broke out and almost four months before German troops invaded the country on April 9, 1940. A series of personal meetings between Norway’s Fascist politician Vidkun Quisling and Adolf Hitler led to the decision.
Quisling was adamant that Hitler should deny Britain access to the northern Norwegian town of Narvik, and thus be able to control a Norway rich in raw materials. Quisling himself planned to lead a political coup and open Norway up for German naval bases.
The Quisling-Hitler meetings were arranged by Alfred Rosenberg, the German Nazi party’s chief ideologue and one of Hitler’s closest personal advisers. For the first time ever, Rosenberg’s diary was made public this week by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. As the first newspaper, Politiken is able to publish central parts of the diaries for its readers.
In the diaries, Rosenberg says that Quisling also handed Hitler a memorandum in which he made it clear that the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland – all of which were part of the Danish realm at the time – were of extreme strategic importance for Germany, and that Denmark should be part of the northern German offensive that Quisling was demanding.
Hitler objected on several occasions, saying that his wish was for the Nordic countries to remain neutral. His objections, however, did not convince his guest. Rosenberg’s diary describes the exchange as follows:
Hitler: “State Counsellor Quisling. In asking me for help, you must be aware that England will declare war on you.”
Quisling: “Yes, I know and expect it to affect Norwegian trade for a time,” the diary says, adding that Quisling went on to say: “Chancellor. Do I understand that you are willing to help us?” - whereupon Hitler replied:”Yes, I am”.
Quisling understood the repercussions of his request. There was no greater supporter of his mission than Rosenberg, who was represented at the meetings by his right hand man Hans-Wilhelm Schmidt. Rosenberg was unable to take part in the meetings as he had sprained his foot. He did, however, host Quisling at his Berlin home after the meetings.
Rosenberg the ideologue dreamt of creating a Germanic racial community between the German and Nordic peoples. “I feel that there is a destiny here,” Rosenberg writes following Quisling’s meeting with Hitler.
“We shook hands and planned to see each other again when the operation was successful and Quisling is Norway’s prime minister,” he adds in his diary.
A pure racist
Alfred Rosenberg was a key person in the invasions of Denmark and Norway. Since Hitler’s takeover in 1933, he had been in charge of the Nazi Party’s Foreign Policy Office and had been given special responsibility for Scandinavia.
A racist through and through, Rosenberg felt a special affinity with the Nordic countries and considered us to be closely related to the German people. He told Hitler that he hoped “the Scandinavians will soon clean themselves of the democratic mire and emerge as a core people of the old Germanic type”.
On February 19, 1940 Rosenberg writes that Hitler’s wish for Nordic neutrality has failed. On April 9, 1940, when Germany occupied Denmark and began its war against Norway, he writes:
“Today is a great day in German history. Denmark and Norway are occupied. I congratulate the Führer on an event that I have also been instrumental in preparing”; to which Hitler replies: “Just as Bismarck’s Reich appeared in 1866, the Great German Reich will be the result of today”. Rosenberg believed that the occupation of Norway would decide the war, as it pointed to Great Britain like a gun barrel.
The Rosenberg diaries from 1936 to 1944 were referred to, with parts of them read aloud, during the 1945-1946 Nuremberg War Crime Trials against senior members of the Nazi regime, including Rosenberg.
But this is the first time that the complete work has been published and made available for study. Equally, the account of Quisling’s meetings with Hitler have not previously been available according to History Professor Hans Frederik Dahl, the author of the international standard work on Vidkun Quisling.
The invasion of Denmark and Norway come as a great relief to Rosenberg, who a year previously had experienced the darkest day of his life. On August 24, 1939 Hitler and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin signed a non-aggression pact. The pact between Nazism and Communism marked the preface to World War II.
“That embrace is more than just embarrassing,” Rosenberg says, summoning up all of his courage in his diary. “I have a feeling that in some way this Moscow pact will take its revenge on National Socialism.”
Rosenberg grew up as part of the German minority in Russia. He hated the Russians, he hated Catholics and in particular he hated Jews. Anti-Semitism was imbued in him from an early age in the nationalist circles of St. Petersburg prior to the 1917 revolution, an upbringing that marked the German autodidact’s view of the world. Russia had been stunned by violent pogroms against the Jews.