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Introduction: The Nordic Countries and the German Question after 1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 October 2006

Det Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet, Njalsgade 80, 2300 København S, Denmark.


This article introduces Scandinavia (or the Norden, as the region is sometimes called) and describes the position of the five Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, during the Cold War. The Cold War created a new political situation in the Nordic region, and to some degree divided the Nordic countries between East and West and also on the German question. The introduction analyses how the Nordic countries dealt with Germany – that is with the two German states, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, and also describes the role of the Soviet Union and how it tried to influence the Nordic stance on the German question.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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1 On Scandinavian–German relations after 1945 see the collection of articles edited by Bohn, Robert, Elvert, Jürgen and Lammers, Karl Christian, Deutsch-skandinavische Beziehungen nach 1945 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000).

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2 On the status of the GDR see Friis, Thomas Wegener and Linderoth, Andreas, eds., DDR & Norden. Østtysk- nordiske relationer 1949–1989 (Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2005); Pfeil, Ulrich, ed., Die DDR und der Westen. Transnationale Beziehungen 1949–1989 (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 2001). On the West German reaction see Levsen, Dirk, Eine schwierige Partnerschaft. Die Bundesrepublik-Norwegen 1949–1956 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1993); Gray, William Glenn, Germany's Cold War. The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany 1949–1969 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); and on the ‘German question’ see Loth, Wilfried, ed., Die deutsche Frage in der Nachkriegszeit (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1994).

3 Cf. Pfeil, Die DDR. On the Cold War see Westad, Odd Arne, ed., Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory (London: Frank Cass, 2000).

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4 See the entry ‘Norden’, in Den Store Danske Encyklopædi (Copenhagen: Gyldendal 1999), Vol. 14, 240–1.

5 The Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands joined the Nordic Council in 1970, Greenland in 1984.

6 A situation sometimes referred to as ‘Finlandisation’ or, with reference to Denmark and Nazi Germany, ‘Denmarkisation’: cf. Mouritzen, Hans, Finlandization: Towards A General Theory of Adaptive Politics (Aldershot: Avebury, 1988).

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7 Cf. Graml, Hermann, Die Alliierten und die Teilung Deutschlands 1941–1949 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988); Benz, Wolfgang, ed., Deutschland unter alliierter Besatzung 1945–1949/55. Ein Handbuch (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999).

8 Cf. Graml, Die Alliierten; Loth, Die deutsche Frage.

9 Iceland became an independent state in 1944, but will not be dealt with explicitly here.

10 Cf. Frandsen, Steen Bo, Dänemark – der kleine Nachbar im Norden. Aspekte der deutsch- dänischen Beziehungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994).

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11 Hence the title of Troeks Fink's study of Danish foreign policy since 1864, Deutschland als Problem Dänemarks. Die geschichtlichen Voraussetzungen der dänischen Aussenpolitik (Flensburg: Christian Wolff Verlag, 1968).

12 Cf. Nissen, Henrik S., ed., Scandinavia During the Second World War (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1983).

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13 Sweden remained neutral until the end of the war, while Finland, a former ally of Germany, made peace with the Allies in 1946.

14 Quoted from Lammers, Karl Christian, ‘Hvad skal vi gøre ved tyskerne bagefter?’ Det dansk- tyske forhold efter 1945 (Copenhagen: Schønberg, 2005), 124.

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15 Cf. Sverdrup, Jacob, Inn i storpolitikken 1940–1949, Norsk Udenrigspolitiks Historie (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1996), vol. 4, 201–2; Olesen, Thorsten Borring and Villaume, Poul, I blokopdelingens tegn 1945–1972, Dansk Udenrigspolitiks Historie (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005), vol. 5, 21–2.

16 Lammers, ‘Hvad skal vi gøre’, 124.

17 On the role of the Soviet Union see Eriksen, Knut E. and Pharo, Helge, Kald Krig og internasjonalisering 1945–1965. Norsk Udenrigspolitiks historie (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1997), vol. 5, 193–4; Jensen, Bent, Bjørnen og haren. Sovjetunionen og Danmark 1945–1961 (Odense: Odense Universitetsforlag, 1999); Danmark under den kolde krig. Den sikkerhedspolitiske situation 1945–1991 (Copenhagen: Dansk Institut for Internationale Studier, 2005), vols. 1 and 2.

18 Among the Danes, for example, there was a fear that the development which had started with the ECSC could mean a ‘short cut’ to a West-German-run ‘Fourth Reich’, although, of course, other political considerations also played a role. See Lammers, ‘Hvad skal vi gøre’, 95, and Olesen and Villaume, I blokopdelingens tegn, 254.