Flame and Citron: Heroes of the Danish Resistance

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Flame and Citron

Two men, codenamed Flame and Citron, played an important part in the Danish Resistance during the Second World War and were the subject of a 2008 film.

On 9 April, 1940, German forces launched a surprise attack on their neighbour, neutral Denmark. In what was seen as a humiliating lack of strength, the unprepared Danes gave in without a fight, agreeing to assurances that the Germans only wanted to ‘protect’ their interests and that they could continue functioning as a democracy. The Danish government, led by Prime Minister Stauning, reluctantly agreed to German terms, with the realisation that Denmark did not have the power to fight the German war machine.

Denmark thus became a Nazi-occupied state and remained so until the end of the war. Life, however, at least at first, continued normally for most Danes. In 1940, the Germans seemed an unstoppable force and were occupied with their takeover of Europe. Denmark was seen as a small takings and was easy to hold. In addition, there were cultural ties between the two nations that meant that the Nazis did not apply the same brutal force as they did with the other countries they occupied. Danes, to their minds, were blond, blue eyed members of the Aryan nation. More importantly, Denmark did not have any resources needed by the Germans; Norway did and Denmark was seen as a way into Norway.

Most resistance to the Germans, early on, was symbolic and non-violent. Danes rallied around their king, Christian X, who continued his daily horse ride around Copenhagen as a sign of defiance against the occupation. Danes professed their patriotism by wearing royal emblems and singing patriotic songs. But, as the years dragged on, more potent forms of resistance to the occupation began to take place.

Flame and Citron – Members of the Danish Resistance, ‘Holger Danske’

By 1943, several resistance movements had cropped up around Denmark, one of which was the infamous ‘Holger Danske’ group. The movement was named for a legendary Danish Viking who is said to sleep until Denmark is in danger, at which time he will awaken and fight for his homeland.

Two extraordinary men joined the Holger Danske resistance movement. They were Bent Faurschou-Hviid, code name ‘Flammen’ or ‘the Flame’ for his bright red hair and Jørgen Haagen Schmidt, codenamed ‘Citronen’ or ‘the Lemon’ due to his job at the Citröen factory (and his subsequent blowing up of said factory). Both men were motivated by their hatred of the Germans and the occupation.

Flammen was the son of a hotel owner in Asserbo. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was trained to be a hotel manager, even spending some time in Germany being educated as a chef. He gave up this promising career to become a resistance fighter. At the tender age of 23, he was already renowned for his cool and collected approach to ‘liquidation’ missions and was rumoured to have carried out up to 22 executions.

The Danish Resistance movement differed from other resistance movements, in that it targeted Danish collaborators rather than the Germans themselves. Killing German soldiers was seen as too dangerous, resulting in extreme reprisals against entire towns. Flammen was well prepared for his work as an executioner. He had trained with firearms from an early age and had spent time in the military before the war. He was the most hated of the Danish resistance fighters, commanding a large price on his head by the Germans.

Citron, on the other hand, was known as a man with a restless nature who never settled fully into any one line of work. Eager for adventure, he joined the Holger Danske movement while employed at the Citröen car factory near Copenhagen. He made sure one of his first actions was against the factory, destroying six German cars and a tank in a daring act of sabotage.

Flame and Citron were often paired up for the missions, as both men tended to be loners who liked to go their own way. Together, they were a formidable force.

On 19 September, 1944, Flame and Citron prepared for a mission, disguising themselves as Danish policemen. Unfortunately, however, this was the same day that the Germans arrested all members of the Danish police force. Flame and Citron were rounded up with the rest, but managed to pull off a daring escape. Citron was shot and wounded while attempting escape. On his way to hospital in an ambulance, he managed to kill his jailer and get away to a safe house at Jægersborg Allé. Flame, meanwhile, slipped away during the confusion and escaped to Jutland, leaving his weapons with Citron.

Holed up at the safe house, Citron was recovering from his wounds when the Gestapo discovered his hiding place. On 15 October, they arrived to arrest or kill him. Citron, with his cache of weapons, amazingly held off the German forces for several hours, killing 11 enemy troops before being killed himself.

Flame, meanwhile, was at a friend’s house where he often stayed. On 18 October, 1944, the Germans came for him. As he was unarmed, he took a cyanide pill and committed suicide before they were able to arrest him.

Flame and Citron, the Movie

The story of Flame and Citron was made into a film in 2008, written and directed by Ole Christian Madsen. Thure Lindhardt portrays Flame in the film, while Mads Mikkelsen plays Citron. Flammen and Citronen is the most expensive Danish film ever made, with a budget of around $10 million. While the film is only loosely based the part they played in the Danish resistance, focussing on intrigue and a doomed romance as well as their heroic actions, it shows them as determined, young patriots who were willing to risk everything to make a stand against the German occupiers.

Both Flame and Citron were posthumously awarded medals for their bravery and monuments were built in their memory. With a film portraying their heroic actions, their memory continues to live on.

Source:

  1. Lindegaard, Bo, A Short History of Denmark in the 20th Century, Gyldendal, 2009