Adolf Hitler was a famously brutal dictator who demanded complete conformity from his colleagues and the population of Germany. Hitler’s pride took a knock, however, when a Danish King infuriated him with a blunt response to a letter. In 1942, midway through the Second World War, Hitler sent King Christian X of Denmark a telegram to say happy birthday. The royal sent back a seemingly benign but short response. He said: “Giving my best thanks, King Christian.”
Hitler saw this as a mark of disrespect and took drastic action to express his anger.
The outraged tyrant immediately recalled his ambassador from Copenhagen and expelled the Danish ambassador from Germany.
German pressure then resulted in the dismissal of the Danish government led by Vilhelm Buhl and its replacement with a new cabinet led by non-party member and veteran diplomat Erik Scavenius, whom the Germans expected to be more cooperative.
Discussing the occupation of Denmark in July on the podcast ‘We Have Ways of Making You Talk’, hosted by Al Murray, historian James Holland talks about the telegram row.
He said: “There’s a brilliant bit where Hitler sends a lengthy letter to Christian flattering him and wishing him all the best for his birthday, what a wonderful chap he is blah blah blah.
“Christian essentially writes ‘Cheers. Thanks.’.
“Hitler then goes absolutely ape**** because he has been sleighed by this, and I think it’s absolutely brilliant.”
While Denmark declared itself neutral during the war, the country later came under occupation for much of the conflict.
After a fall with his horse on 19 October 1942, King Christian was more or less an invalid for the rest of his reign.
His daily rides, the admiring stories spread by Danish-American circles and the Telegram controversy with Hitler had made him popular to the point of being a beloved national symbol.
Hitler also wanted admiration when he became leader in Germany and would create compelling but false myths about his life in order to try and win over his country.
READ MORE: Archaeologists find Hitler’s 3,300mph ‘superweapon’ buried in Kent
Mr Holland described another remarkable story of how many Danish Jews were saved during the holocaust.
He said: “It’s not until 1943 until Germany occupies Denmark and enforces military rule.
“The Germans then decide they are going to round up all the Danish Jews…there’s no plan beforehand in Denmark to do anything about the Jews.
“But the moment the Germans tell the Danes what they are going to do, this plan is leaked.
“All of a sudden, non-Jewish Danes decide to help the Jews. It’s a spontaneous thing…Sweden at its closest is three miles away, and it was essentially like asylum seekers in the Channel – they jump in their boats and escape, and 90 percent of them get away.”
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