A few minor type-setting errors appeared in the account by Bø rge Trolle of the activity of the Revolutionary Socialists during the occupation of Denmark (RH Vol.2 No 2). The statement on p.48 mentions an `atavistic' sector of the Danish bourgeoisie instead of an `activistic' sector. However the main error distorts the political significance in a more serious way, as it concerns the views of one of the key figures of Danish Trotskyism, so it should be corrected,
Describing the dispute between the supporters of Poul Moth and those of Georg Jungclas, the text states that the former "proposed that one should proclaim oneself as nationalists and that in the case of an occupation one should go into the street and `wave the flag'". Trolle's text said "anationalists" in the sense of "apolitical", or above national affiliation.
After the appearance of Vol.2 No 2. Sam Bornstein said to me that, knowing Moth, he found the description of his views difficult to accept. He also said that after the war Moth had complained to him, saying that Jungclas was distorting his views and trying to portray him as having fallen into a nationalist posture. I assured Sam that a missing `a' had caused some of the confusion but since then another account has emerged.
In Mod Strommen, by Steen Bille Larsen, referred to in Trolle's account, the same meeting on 8.4.1940 is described in almost the same words but instead of "wave the flag" it gives "go out with red flags" which puts a very different interpretation on events. As Trolle collaborated with Steen Bille, it would seem that Moth's group did not go over to nationalism and that the flag that they proposed to wave was indeed a red one. The account by Steen Bille continues and remarks that "in fact the Moth people did carry out their proposal, inasmuch as they distributed leaflets at Osterbro Barracks among other places, which called upon the soldiers to turn their weapons against the bourgeoisie" p.256.
I cannot comment on what Jungclas was alleged to have said about Moth, but nothing whatever points to his having succumbed to nationalism, if anything he appears to have gone way off in the other direction. His group seems to have been very internationalist, to the point of abstraction, a common feature in Trotskyism, which grouped round international questions and was often incapable of developing a policy for its own working class - experts on the class struggle everywhere else! That seems to be why Jungclas broke with him and, by winning over most of the Brandlerist youth around Metz, together with some of the younger syndicalists, he was able to advance.
Steen Bille's book shows how the Moth group emerged in the opposition in the Social Democratic youth over their party's refusal to join the CP in a United Front against Fascism. Many hundreds of youth were expelled for engaging in uniformed struggle leagues of a para-military type. Steen Bille says that they never won over a majority of the youth because they never developed policies for young workers, apprentices and so on.
Two of the group, Tage Lau and Age Kjelso, went to Spain and joined the POUM. Another interesting fact about Moth's group in Steen Bille's book is that they published a Trotskyist paper in Esperanto, as part of their intervention into the workers' Esperanto movement, a sure sign of their internationalism.
Trolle was therefore born into the movement. Hitler's take-over brought him into conflict with the Social Democrats and in 1933 he joined the Communist Youth where he quickly moved into leading positions of the Inner Copenhagen branch. At the time he knew nothing of Trotskyism but he supported a united front with the Social-Democratic Youth, the DsU. He was elected `President' (Chair) of the Inner Copenhagen branch in 1935 but had already been in contact with the Brandlerists and Georg Jungclas among others. When he cycled to Berlin in 1936 to contact Trotskyists and SAPists, he failed to find them as they had just gone underground after a Trotskyist group had been arrested in Hamburg. He did manage to contact some students and smuggle out some material from the KPD Prussian Landtag fraction.
When he got back the first Moscow trial had taken place. Both Arne Munck-Petersen and Thoger Thogersen defended it. As soon as Trolle began to express doubts about the `confessions' Aksel Larsen had him expelled. Thogersen later regretted his opinion and, before he died, Trolle discussed it with him, while Munck-Petersen vanished in the USSR and afterwards it emerged that he perished in a NKVD jail in 1940. Larsen, while publicly denying any knowledge of Munck-Petersen's fate, knew all the time and hesitantly and indirectly admitted as much to Trolle when they were working together in the Socialist People's Party.
After Trolle's expulsion he joined the Socialist Youth and came into closer contact with Trotskyist, Syndicalist and other oppositional circles. Through Jungclas, Marie Nielsen and Alfred Kruse, and with the help of books and pamphlets, he learned about the views of Trotsky and others. He first joined the Trotskyists in 1938. Before got the leadership of his branch he was expelled for Trotskyism after a copy of the Revolution Betrayed was found among his papers at a meeting! It was a member of the adult party (presumably keeping an eye on the Youth) who noticed it. It was in English and he had bought it in a second-hand bookshop though he had read it originally in German. After that he was free to work openly in the Trotskyist `Revolutionary Socialist' group.
He was trained as an accountant/bookkeeper but was sacked from the engineering firm Sadolin & Holmblad, probably for saying too much in the canteen. He found out later that an engineer, who had "put Director Sadolin's daughter in the family way", had fingered him. After that he only got temporary jobs and soon after the German occupation he found himself unemployed.
With the help of the Danish government the Germans were forcing the unemployed to work in Germany by threatening to stop their dole if they refused. However the Trade Unions, which were still allowed to function, put pressure on the government to create `emergency work creation schemes' and on one of these at the Geodetic Institute (surveying) he got work for two years. Though it had become a civilian enterprise since the German occupation, a number of army officers still worked there. As he became a map-maker it meant that he had access to military areas for which the Germans had to have maps. After a while he became aware that the maps were going, via Sweden, to Britain as some of his fellow employees were working for the illegal Danish military intelligence services. His group (presumably the Revolutionary Socialists) had some secrets from a couple of Social Democratic MPs and were thus able to exchange information with people dealing with Danish military circles and to get some idea of the political tensions and conflicts within the Danish military. Thus he could operate as a sort of unofficial double agent.
When the Germans disarmed the Danish army there was an extension of this technical collaboration. A split now existed within the military as some wanted to join the resistance while others, after passively awaiting the German capitulation, only wanted to build groups which would prevent a Communist take-over. An officer from the first group was even liquidated by those from the second! Once weapons started arriving from Sweden the second tendency tried to ensure - with success in the main - that they, rather than the active resistance, held them. Their little political group tried to change this but with limited success and it had become a real problem by the time that they were arrested. The Geodetic Institute people were also involved in evacuating the Jews where Trolle acted as a sort of middleman. An old warehouse on Gronlands Handelsplads in Christianshavn belonging to the Institute was used as a refuge and they were sailed out under the noses of the Germans. Weapons were loaded on the return trips.
Christian IV (1588-1648) had invited the original Jews to Denmark to help repair its economy and, like the Huguenots, they received asylum and religious freedom but only in 1849 in the `June Constitution' did the Jews get full citizenship. After that they became fully integrated into Danish society, some becoming doctors, bankers, merchants, lawyers and in general part of the bourgeoisie, while others became part of the proletariat. Though Denmark was not free of anti-semitism it tended to be of a ironic-mocking character and not very aggressive.
The Jews of Adelgade and Borgergade were different from the others. Adelgade and Borgergade were the part of the city inhabited by the middle classes when Christian IV decided to extend Copenhagen and neither two great fires, nor the British bombardment of 1807, affected this part that became the oldest portion of the city. As the city grew, the fine old houses in the Adelgade area were parcelled up into apartments, and it became a slum for the poor, lumpen-proletariat and prostitutes. After the 1905 revolution in Russia, Eastern Jews stated moving into Copenhagen. They were not welcomed by their co-religionists who feared a growth of anti-semitism. Thus the immigrants found themselves congregating in this area as tailors, shoemakers, pawn-brokers and small traders. Their links with the Jewish synagogue and organisations were rather sporadic and not always very orthodox.
In Trolle's words
"When the German naval attache Durkwitz got wind of the plan to round up the Jews he warned the Danes, and HC Hansen, later a Social Democratic Prime Minister, in turn warned the Jewish congregations. But they `forgot' the Jews of Adelgade-Borgergade and it was on our initiative that we started to get the Jews out of the area. At times we had to use quite authoritarian methods as many were totally ignorant of what to expect - though we managed to get them all out more or less. The area was not really a ghetto, but a place where the poor lived, so we saw our action as having something of a class character".Trolle forgot to mention in his article in Revolutionary History no.2 Vol.2 that the first leaflet, signed `Arbejderen' and produced and distributed just after the German attack on the USSR, informed the workers that the Germans had arrested two Norwegian Trade unionists from Oslo, Johan Strand Johansen and Henry Kristiansen together with their wives. (Kristiansen died in Oranienburg in 1942 but Johansen survived. Trolle does not know the circumstances of the death of their wives). At that time most Danish trade Unionists were simply striving to adapt to the situation. "It concerns keeping the organisation intact" they used to say. The chairman of the DsF (Danish TUC) Laurits Hansen even joined the Scavenius government as the Labour Minister though it was surely on the orders of the Social Democrats. After the war he was made a scapegoat to cover their own treacherous policies. Considering the conditions, the leaflet was produced in great quantity and had a big impact. On that day Trolle was in the canteen on Copenhagen's Free Port to talk to a shop steward and, he says, it was the only thing the workers were talking about. They got the same reports of its impact from B&W, Atlas, the railway workshops and all the other places.
The RS group was hunted down by Criminal Commissioner Christiansen from Hamburg, an expert in "Trotskyist issues". Jungclas was the first target and then the AO group. Christiansen was killed when the RAF bombed the Gestapo HQ in Shell House and the evidence that he had collected was supposedly destroyed. But when Trolle was arrested in 1946 he was confronted by information which appeared to come from Gestapo files. (Kai Moltke also claims in Fire ar i fangedragt that, during the Cold War, files on himself emerged that had supposedly been destroyed. Note by MJ.)
Jungclas was helped by a merchant Bernard Bogghild (who was named by Trotsky as a `friend' during his researches into the Moscow Trial charges.) Ellen Horup gave monetary help as did Ester and Mogens Boserup. Knud Ellegaard was also involved. He was a shop steward from the wagon drivers during the war. Later he became President of the Union. As motor cars started to operate again the Union became part of the transport section of the general Labourer's Union of which section he was vice-President and had to get a SD card to operate. Since he was extremely talented he went on to become President of the Transport section and then of the whole Union. (The equivalent of the British T & G.) He never voted Social Democrat and maintained links with left-wing groups until he died. His views never changed and he gave financial support to Petersen's book on Danish revolutionaries. Both Carl Heinrich Petersen and Bø rge Trolle had regular meetings with him and he participated as a panellist in Socialistic Debating Forum which was a Trotskyist and Left-Socialist educational forum.
In contrast, Philip Scheidemann, who died in 1939, had no problems and on Trolle's evidence the latter declared himself to "be happy about" being in the company of Horst Pflug-Hartung who had fled the Weimar Republic after murdering Karl Leibknecht. Pflug-Hartung was working for German Intelligence by 1933 and keeping an eye on the exiles while the Danish Police co-operated with him through go-betweens. His downfall came through his old arch-enemy Ernst Wollweber in connection with the affair of the sabotaged Spanish trawlers. He was arrested in 1938 but was only sentenced to a year and a half in prison and was released after a few months owing to German government pressure. He became one of the leading German Intelligence chiefs in Denmark.
At least four German Trotskyists arrived in Denmark. Dr Rudi Singer, his wife and little son, arrived from Hamburg. He got a residence and work permit as the paint and varnish firm Dyrup, then just starting up and now very large, offered him employment - at half pay - if he would train their engineers. He took part in the exiled Trotskyist group as `Rolf'. He was well schooled in Marxist theory and the history of the movement and wrote for both Danish and foreign publications. They lived legally in Denmark until the beginning of 1943 when German immigrants were called up for the German army. As a Jew he would not have been allowed to serve in the Wehrmacht and would probably have ended in Auschwitz. He went underground and his comrades got him, his wife and child to Sweden.
Kurt Meyer, known as `Peter' was also economically secure because of his mother's part ownership of her late husband's firm: De Rode Polsevogne (The Red Hot-Dog Wagons). Gretchen Meyer married a Dane and became Mrs Larsen but though Trolle visited her from 1935-6 on, he never met `Mr Larsen'. Her wash-cellar was turned into a hostel for refugees. She employed Kurt who lived with Gerda Lau, who was married pro-forma to Tage Lau, a Danish Trotskyist. This was quite usual as such German girls could thus get and keep Danish citizenship even when they divorced at the first opportunity. Like Rolf, `Peter', who was also Jewish, was called up but in his case the Danish police arrested him and put him in Vestre prison which was still under Danish control. His comrades smuggled in a letter telling him to fake acute appendicitis. He succeeded in getting himself sent to a Danish Hospital and as most Danish doctors supported the resistance he was soon taken to Sweden.
One of the last to arrive was Martin Horz, `Thomas', who had managed to work underground as a Trotskyist in Germany but eventually had to flee. Trolle met him soon after he arrived some time in 1938. He lived with a German girl, Ilse, who was also married pro-forma to a Dane but Trolle cannot remember her name. He got to Sweden in 1940. Hans Richter, (KPO) who also used the name Thomas, tried to get to Sweden when he was called up but was caught by the Danish police and handed over to the Gestapo who sent him to Hamburg. His companion was desperately worried fearing he would be shot as a deserter or sent to the Eastern front in a punishment battalion. Four or five months later he knocked on her door wearing German uniform! After his basic training he had been sent to Denmark as he spoke the language. And the Germans used to speak contemptuously of `Die Dumme Danen'!! His comrades burnt his uniform and swiftly got him to Sweden where he still lives. Jungclas was the best known Trotskyist and when the Germans invaded he went into hiding but, after a week when it seemed that nothing would happen to him, he emerged and lived legally from then on but never stayed at his stated address. After the attack on the USSR he went underground and lived illegally until his arrest in May 1944.
There were many other exiled socialists. Gunther Hopfe, earlier one of the most powerful figures in the Hamburg KPD, lived in Copenhagen. He was part of the KPO but never took any part in the Trotskyist group. He was half-blind by then but the German exiles, together with some Danish comrades of whom Trolle was one, had various discussions on tactics and the analysis of the situation with him and his faithful companion Alfred Lowenthal, `Egon', who had originally come from the Schwartze Front - the Strasserite left-wing of the Nazi Party. Gunther and Egon concentrated on their contacts with Germany and did not want to involve themselves in Danish affairs. They both panicked on the German occupation and that evening they stole a rowing boat and began rowing to Sweden. The weather was calm but that winter had been hard and there were still ice-floes in the waters of the Sound. (When the German troop ships sailed up to Langelinie in Copenhagen they had used an icebreaker to lead the way). Gunther Hopfe was feeble and almost blind. They never reached Sweden and nobody has ever discovered what happened to them. They must have drowned for if they had been picked up by the Germans there would be some record of their fate. It was tragic as they could have been hidden for the duration of the war or until they could have got to safety to Sweden but in face of certain death people do not act rationally. There are indications that others may have tried the same method of escape but this is something that may emerge from the Copenhagen Seminar.
Another tragic case was that of Fritz Schreiter (KPO). On the 9th April 1940 he took the last ordinary ferry from Elsinore to Halsingborg in Sweden. Apparently he had been expelled from Sweden in 1933 so the Swedish Police arrested him, together with his wife and child who had not been expelled, and sent them back to Denmark. The Danish police handed them over to the Gestapo. Following the attentat on Hitler in 1944 Schreiter was executed. His wife and child were sent to a KZ camp. This is an interesting example of Swedish `neutrality' which presumably arose from fear of a German attack but from fear of this to sending people back to the Gestapo is a big step.
Max Kohler from SAP also arrived. He as one of the eight leading `rightists' expelled from the KPD on 21.12.1928 by the Politburo for refusing to agree to give up their opposition to ultra-leftism. The others were Jakob Walcher, Paul Frolich, August Enderle, Albert Schreiner, Hans Tittel, Alfred Schmidt and Karl Rehbein. Some were Brandlerites while others had been part of the Centre but broke with Ernst Meyer, Ewert, Eisler and the others because they agreed to condemn `rightism' when the danger was from ultra-leftism. (See Rosa Levine Meyer Inside German Communism). The KPO was set up soon after when Brandler and Thalheimer returned from their enforced stay in Moscow. Kohler had been in jail in Berlin, but once released he fled to Paris where the SAP had its HQ in exile. He was later sent to Prague, where the SAP planned to move its leadership and where he had already moved his wife in 1933. Perhaps the SAP planned to move its leadership to Oslo - on account of Willy Brandt presumably - and Max may have intended to follow. Certainly the whole SAP archives were moved to the Norwegian capital and have recently been found in Sweden. Because of developments in Scandinavia the plans were never realised and Max stayed underground in Denmark during the whole of the occupation. After the war, as long as he was in Denmark, he took part in attempts to unite the left and get it functioning again. Thus he was an active participant in the Smallegade Conference in 1947, where he unsuccessfully attempted to unite the fragments and strongly supported Trolle against the Paul Moth wing and the Vedel-Petersen/John Andersson wing. He had set up a little carpenter's workshop in Holsteinsgade - a street of Copenhagen - but when he received his compensation from the German government he moved to Berlin with his family. Trolle used to visit him and Willy Brandt too sometimes while it seemed as if Max could more or less drop into Brandt's office unannounced when the latter was Mayor. Trolle briefly met Brandt in Copenhagen on his way to Norway and after the war had a few discussions with him. The last time Trolle rang up Max Kohler was just before Christmas 1975. The latter was ill but he came to the phone when his wife told him it was Trolle. Trolle told him that he would come to Berlin to interview him. Kohler agreed but said he was going away for Christmas and they arranged to meet in January but he died a few days after the phone call.
The Stalinists and their Role
Conditions in the DKP during the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact were quite grotesque. In mid-summer 1939 the Soviet trade unions had issued a call to the `Workers of the World' to "Organise proletarian sanctions against the aggressive states of Germany, Italy and Japan! Refuse to transport munitions for them! Organise strikes in factories producing munitions for the aggressors!" Fate had it that Arbejderbladet got the resolution so late that in succeeded in printing it on the 23rd August 1939. The same issue printed a defence of the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact on the same front page while the leading article passionately defended the export of goods from the USSR to Germany!! No wonder that party members were somewhat disoriented.
Trolle quotes from an article in the daily Politiken, 8.10.39, concerning a celebration at the Soviet Embassy in Berlin where an interview was given to their correspondent by Goring where the Field Marshall was celebrating the twenty-second anniversary of the Russian Revolution and consequently saluted the Red Flag. "Whoever", said Goring "would have forecast this development in 1933 would surely have been regarded as mad." Trolle points out that Trotsky made such a forecast in 1938. Another grotesque aspect of the situation was seen in Die Welt no. 6 in 1940 where Walter Ulbricht, by now Stalin's faithful henchman, encouraged people to inform. "The KPD will", he wrote, "hand over all enemies of the pact to the Gestapo". He then enumerated such enemies as the SPD, the Catholic leaders and the Thyssen clique. He went on to denounce Hilferding's attack on the Pact thus, "The British plan (ie to whip up Germany against the USSR) will fail because of the deep friendship between the German and Soviet people is rooted in the working class. So it is not just the Communist but also many Social-Democratic workers and National Socialist employees who see their task as not permitting the breaking of the Pact under any circumstances."
While the Wehrmacht and the Red Army held joint victory parades at Brest-Litovsk and thereby - as Stalin expressed it erased the shame of the Brest peace of 1918 - the honorary colonel in the Red Army, Ernst Thalmann, endured house arrest in Berlin for, though released from prison as a result of the Pact, he was not free to move about. The Pact achieved the freedom of number of prominent political prisoners, the most noted being Matyas Rakosi, the later bloody dictator of Hungary. On the other hand, as Grete Buber's book shows, a good number of German exiles were handed over to the Nazis by Stalin. For years the Comintern had agitated to "Free Thalmann!" But Thalmann and his Hamburg group had dared to utter some mild criticism of the CI `social-fascist' line in the autumn-winter of 1932 and had given a little hesitant support to the more consistent critique of the Remmele-Neumann tendency. Therefore the honorary colonel of the Red Army and member of the ECCI praesidium was left in the hands of the Gestapo to die - together with Breitscheid - in Buchenwald in 1943. So Hitler united them in death! During the occupation the day after Trotsky's murder, the DKP daily Arbejderbladet, which was still legal, printed the massive headline `ENDELIG!!' (At Last!!) and continued their anti-Trotskyist witch-hunting even after the attack on the USSR. Their illegal paper, Land og Folk, n.17, 3.7.42., under the headline, "Hitler's Assistant Executioners in Denmark" spoke as follows, "Director Bolgan, a one-time Trotskyist, ... has now followed Aage Jorgensen into Fritz Clausen's Brigade" ... there follows a list of, among others, many Social-Democrats. "Significantly enough a number of them are earlier Trotskyists or semi-Trotskyists. That sort end up openly admitting themselves Nazis." Aage Jorgensen was a founder of the DKP who later developed pro-Nazi views, Fritz Clausen was the leader of the Danish Nazis while Bolgan was never a Trotskyist but a Social Democrat! The next issue of the same paper 1.8.42, says "The infamous Trotskyist Metz associates with a notorious Gestapo spy by the name of Baldur Petersen who says that Metz is also in the pay of the Gestapo. It sounds probable. Anyway since the 22nd June last year Metz has unfolded an energetic activity creating hatred for the Soviet Union." Metz was a Brandlerite and during the war he stayed in the countryside and was politically inactive. The following issue after that, Land og Folk 22.8.42, under the headline "Indignant Trotskyists" it states, "Some of the small Trotskyist groups in Copenhagen have been insulted by our exposure of the earlier Trotskyist and present Gestapo agent Otto Pihl. In fact he was not a Trotskyist only a Munzenbergist. Good God yes, it is one of the many types of the same Fifth Column". The accusations against Pihl were later found to be false.
That same autumn Trolle's duplicator was stolen. After the war a drunken Stalinist in a pub proudly admitted to him that his own group had done it. Trolle thinks that they did it on their own local initiative not on the orders of the leadership.