Karen Blixens Plads 8, 2300 København S, 12, Building: 12-4-25
Project: The Politics of Family Secrecy
Sub-project: The German Occupation of Denmark
The German Occupation of Denmark intersected with family life and the formation of the Danish welfare state in multiple ways. There is an extensive body of research on Denmark and the role of Danish actors, either as collaborators or as members of the resistance, during this time. However, a focus on practices of family secrecy develops different perspectives on how the Occupation and its aftermath shaped families’ everyday life as well as interactions with the state. After the war, popular contempt and legal persecution did not just punish high-level collaborators. They also impacted people who had any kind of personal or institutional affiliation with German occupiers. This often forced families to respond to the public exposure of one of their members.
In my project, I focus on multiple case studies to analyze how different experiences could become a family secret related to the German Occupation: for example, secrecy around NSU (Nationalsocialistiske Ungdom) membership for young Danes or the difficult situation of Danish mothers who had children with German soldiers. These Danish German children born of war faced then a particular intersection of family and state secret throughout post-war Denmark as well, because both mothers and state archives tended to conceal the identities of German fathers, often well into the 1990s. Finally, I will turn to a meta-perspective about how children’s and grandchildren’s genealogical research into hidden family occupation histories relates to post-war national narratives. Which experiences became a family secret during the Occupation and did these stigmata change over time? When and how was this knowledge transferred to next generations? And how does family secrecy about the Occupation differ, support or challenge practices of post-war state secrecy? To answer these questions, I draw on historical newspapers, national archives, published testimonies by children born of war as well as qualitative interviews.