Denmark wages a nonviolent total resistance campaign against the Nazi occupation of 1940.
Germany occupied Denmark in 1940 under the pretext of protecting it from the Allies. The novel pretends Denmark seriously prepared for a campaign of strategic nonviolent resistance. The story unfolds as a deadly chess game between the brutal occupiers demanding food and weapons for the war effort vs the people power of the Danes who are determined to make the occupation as expensive and unproductive as possible for the Germans.
The Germans quickly get very nasty but the Danes have prepared well and win some initial victories. The Danes are initially aided in that the Nazis don't understand a nonviolent campaign and are thus caught by surprise.
The Nazi war machine overruns all of Europe, with Britain alone desperately still fighting. Hitler, in his megalomania, betrays Stalin and attacks Russia. Eventually Hitler and Japan are fighting essentially the entire world and Denmark tries to survive while giants slug it out all around them.
When General Kurt Himer finally entered the square in front of the palace, his entire convoy came to a dead stop. The palace steps and the wide porch leading to the palace entrance were clear of people except for a dozen Royal Guards and a few religious leaders in full robes. Everywhere else there were hordes of people. The half of the square nearest the palace was absolutely jammed with people, thousands of people. And more were arriving in a steady stream. Everywhere he looked there were people -- on balconies, at windows facing the square, on flat roofs overlooking the square. All of them silent, waiting, watching. It was eerie and un-nerving. So many people and no noise, not even the murmur of conversations. And then, incongruously, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony started. There was a platform beside the entrance to the palace and a band on the platform was playing Beethoven! None of this made any sense to General Himer. Were these Danes all crazy? Didn’t they realize they had just been conquered? They were too craven to put up a fight; they should have been cowering in their basements – instead they were right here, standing there and looking at him. He didn’t understand it!
Himer took several long seconds to think about the situation. He had only fifty soldiers with him – but the civilians in the square were just standing there and his entire army was at his back. It wouldn’t do to show fear in front of these civilians. He rolled his window down and ordered his squad leader to clear a path, but not to use violence. Ten soldiers jumped out of the lead truck and formed a V-shaped phalanx in front of it. As they moved up to the crowd, it slowly opened up until there was -- barely -- room enough to drive through. The convoy inched across the square and stopped in front of the palace. To his relief, Himer saw that the steps were still clear – and the Royal Guards still stood at attention in front of the entrance. Standing slightly to the left of them were 10 or 12 clergymen, each wearing the robes of his particular office.
At Himer’s command, his aide jumped out, climbed the stairs and called out in German “I am Aide to General Kurt Himer, Chief of Staff of the German army. Who’s in charge here?”
Colonel Jensen, a middle aged man with a chest full of decorations replied, in Danish, “You are in Denmark illegally and I must insist that you leave immediately or you will be arrested.”
The aide colored and answered, in Danish, “We give the orders here. Who is in charge?”
“You have no authority here. Leave now.”
“I can have you shot! Answer me.”
“Shooting me will change nothing. You are here illegally.”
Stymied, the aide paused and finally spun on his heel and returned to the car. “Herr General, the Danish pig refuses to even answer my questions. May I have him shot as an object lesson?”
Instead of answering, General Himer motioned for the aide to open the door and he climbed out himself. It was obvious that the obstinate Danish officer was in charge. General Himer would show him the folly of defying a German field officer. He took his sweet time climbing the stairs, with his Aide almost bumping into him from behind and his ornate swagger stick tapping his knee in rhythm with his steps. He strolled over to stand in front of the Danish officer and then spent perhaps 20 seconds simply staring at him. The tap – tap – tap of the swagger stick against his knee seemed to gain in volume. The insolent fellow stared right back, never averting his eyes, until Himer finally said, very softly, in German,” I will see your King now.”
Jensen continued staring at him and otherwise made no reply. Finally, Himer raised his swagger stick like a sword until it was right in front of Jensen’s face and repeated himself a little louder, ‘I will see your King now.” After a lengthy delay, Jensen said, in Danish, “We don’t understand German. You are here illegally and must leave right away.”
Himer knew instantly that the fellow was lying, that he was probably fluent in German and it infuriated him. Mastering himself with an effort he lowered the swagger stick and spoke in Danish, “I will see your King now.”
Jensen looked at Himer as if he had crawled out from under a rock and said, “Who are you? Do you have an appointment?”
Himer grated out, “I am General Kurt Himer, Chief of Staff of the German army and I will have cooperation. Take me to see the King now.”
Jensen again stared at him for several long seconds before replying, “Are you the head of an occupying army? Are you violating the non-aggression pact? Are you admitting to being here illegally?”
This was too much for Himer. With a snarl of frustration, he yanked out his pistol and held it to Jensen’s forehead. “You will take me to your king, NOW! Or you die and someone else takes me!”
The Bishop of Copenhagen spoke up, “General Himer!”
Himer, still with the pistol at Jensen’s forehead, looked over at the Bishop but said nothing.
The Bishop continued, “General, Colonel Jensen is merely doing his job, merely following orders. As a good Christian officer, I know you can appreciate another officer following orders in a situation of great difficulty.”
Himer spoke, “This officer is directly interfering with the Fuhrer’s orders and, if he continues to resist I will personally execute him for treason.”
Jensen paled and sweat popped out on his forehead but he didn’t move. Himer could smell the fear on him and enjoyed the sensation.
Jenson said, “General, perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are a great many cameras focused on us right now. Do you really want the entire world to see you murdering me?”
Still holding the pistol to Jensen’s forehead, General Himer carefully looked around. It seemed everyone in that immense mob had a camera –and all of them were pointed at him. Then he looked up and saw movie cameras on balconies and in the windows around the square. Just to his right was a large movie camera with a telephoto lens and a crew that looked like a professional news team. For a moment Himer was frozen with indecision. This Danish swine had neatly closed a trap on him, had made a fool of him. He couldn’t kill him in front of a sea of cameras. And backing down now made him appear weak. He resolved to have him killed -- slowly! -- at the earliest opportunity. Himer put the pistol away.
General Himer started over, in Danish, trying to sound reasonable. “ Now, look. I’m here at the head of an army. We have occupied the entire country. Like it or not, I am now in charge. The King will have to see me.”
Jensen considered that before replying “You may be in charge of your army, but we do not grant you any authority over Denmark or any of its citizens or any of its land.”
General Himer, supreme commander of a huge army, turned beet red at this insolence and promised himself this man would pay and pay until he begged for death! He snapped, “Regardless. I will see the King if I have to tear the palace down.”
Jensen asked, very mildly, “Would you like me to get you an appointment?”
Himer snarled “I will see him now!”
Jensen replied, “The King is not in at the moment. Would you like me to check his calendar?”
Himer’s mouth gaped open in utter disbelief. Another trap! If he insisted on going in, he would be made to wait interminably. If he allowed them to make an appointment he lost face by seeming to be a petitioner to the king. Either way he lost.