Photo: Rebecca Peterson-Hall / Unspash

Why Danes Place Candle Lights in Their Windows on May 4th

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Tonight, in many windows, you’ll see lit candles. But why do Danes light candles in the evening on May 4th?

Denmark was occupied by Germany on April 9, 1940, an occupation that lasted for five years.

On Friday, May 4th, at 08:30 PM, the BBC broadcasted its usual program to Denmark, and journalist Johannes G. Sørensen read the day’s news. However, barely five minutes into the broadcast, he briefly disappeared, and when he returned, he announced that the German troops in Holland, Northwest Germany, and Denmark had surrendered. The message was repeated, and two proclamations from the Danish Freedom Council were read, followed by the playing of the Royal Anthem and the National Anthem.

Although the surrender was technically effective from the morning of May 5th, the liberation was celebrated with festivities in the streets. Many tore down blackout curtains and placed lit candles in their windows, a tradition that many Danes—both young and old—still uphold.

The occupation of Bornholm lasted a year longer

However, not all of Denmark was liberated that evening. On the island of Bornholm, which at that time was already behind Soviet lines, the residents also believed they had been liberated. However, the German commander on the island, Gerhard von Kamptz, did not surrender in an attempt to secure one of the last evacuation routes for German soldiers fleeing from Soviet troops. Neither British nor American soldiers were sent to the island—and the Danish government did not request it. On May 7th and 8th, Soviet aircraft bombed Nexø and Rønne in an attempt to force Gerhard von Kamptz to surrender. On May 9th, Soviet troops landed on Bornholm. The Soviet occupation lasted until April 5, 1946, which is the day Bornholmers themselves celebrate as Liberation Day.

Film from May 1945

The film below shows atmospheric scenes from Strøget and Rådhuspladsen in Copenhagen. English soldiers relaxing at Kastrup Airport. King Christian X’s drive to the Rigsdag on May 9th and Field Marshal Montgomery being received at Kastrup and driving through Copenhagen. Additionally, people being picked up for internment and Ryvang, where Danish resistance fighters were executed during the occupation, are shown. May 1945. Length 31:34.

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