More feared and hated than even the Gestapo
Even today, almost 70 years after the end of World War II, the worst thing you can possibly call a Danish cop is Hipo. Mind you, that is not Hippo as in hippopotamus, but Hipo as in Hilfspolizei.
Though the Hipo Corps only existed for less than nine months during the end of World War II, their reputation of fierce and often random violence endure to this day. Known to attack and even kill innocent civilians walking the streets in broad daylight, they soon became more feared and hated than even the Gestapo. Being a member of the Hipo Corps instantly placed you on the death lists of the Danish Resistance fighting the Nazi-German occupation with sabotage.
The Hipos wore black Nazi uniforms and patrolled the Danish capitol of Copenhagen in black, gasoline-fueled cars (at this point of the war, the shortage of gasoline was so severe that only emergency vehicles had access to it). Since the resistance was known to ambush and kill the Hipo patrols, the doors were removed from the Hipo patrol cars, allowing the Hipo officers to flee the cars and return fire faster. Several patrols had—prior to this—been gunned down by the resistance while trapped inside their own patrol cars.
The Hipos were hated, all right.
However, besides their frequent use of torture and random violence against anybody who was unlucky enough to draw their attention, the Hipos were hated because they were Danes.
Of course it is never a popular choice to serve an occupying force—not today in Afghanistan or anywhere else—but this was Nazi-Germany at a time in the war where most people must have realized that Hitler was going to lose. In Denmark, during these last months of the war, the fight between the resistance, and especially the Danes serving the Nazis, only intensified, turning the once peaceful Denmark into a fierce and bloody place on the verge of civil war.
Today, the Gestapo is remembered for their reign of terror, torture and death and are regarded one of the most evil and revolting police forces ever. However, there were in fact rules and regulations for the use of violence and torture that the German officers in the Gestapo had to comply with. On the other hand, the Danes serving the Nazis didn’t care about these rules. The Danes in both the Gestapo and the Hipo would torture and kill far more freely than their German colleagues.
Even though Nazi-Germany invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, the Danish police force continued as the main police force in the country until September 19, 1944. On this day, the Germans terminated the Danish police, deporting 2,000 Danish police officers to the concentration camps in Germany.
The Gestapo itself didn’t have an office in Denmark until sometime during the summer of 1943. Up to then, the German occupation of Denmark had been the most gentle of all the German occupations, allowing most of the Danes to go on with their lives as before. The German soldiers even nicknamed Denmark ‘The Whipped Cream Frontier’ due to the softness of the occupation. However, the sabotage by the resistance, the public strikes along with various city riots had put an end to this.
The Hipo was formed to replace the Danish police force in late 1944 in a hopeless attempt to bring some law and order back to the streets, aiming to secure production of goods for The Third Reich.
At a time when crime ruled the streets of Copenhagen and the resistance was well organized and pulling off major attacks on factories serving the Germans—and Nazi-Germany losing the war as well—it might be difficult to figure why anybody would want to join the Hipo Corps. They must have known the time was short and that there would be an aftermath once Denmark was liberated.
But of course, the men who did join the Hipo weren’t driven by a death wish—and stupidity can only count for at few of them. Most of the Hipo officers came from another Danish Nazi Corps—The Schalburg Corps—which was consisting of veterans from the Frikorps Danmark—a part of the Waffen-SS consisting of Danish volunteers. More than 2,000 Danes fell in battle on the Eastern Frontier during World War II; among them the leader of Frikorps Danmark, Christian Frederik von Schalburg, hence the name The Schalburg Corps.
Most of the members of The Schalburg Corps were already on the death lists of the resistance since they were known to carry out retaliation killings and counter-sabotage (nicknamed Schalburgtage by the public). The Nazis would kill a Dane, often at random, for every Nazi or German killed by the resistance, and they would destroy something dear to the Danes for every factory the resistance sabotaged. Among the places Schalburgtaged was the Tivoli, the Tuborg brewery, the Bang & Olufsen factory, along with newspapers, cinemas, city halls, express trains, and trams full of people.
These men were Nazis, feared and hated long before they joined the Hipo. They had next to nothing to lose, and be sure to know that they hated and feared the resistance like no one else. They had only a little time left to settle the score, little time to strike the resistance hard before the war was over.
And so they intended to do.
Read Steen Langstrup’s World War 2 Crime Noir Novel The Informer.