Easter Crisis

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Event.png Easter Crisis (psychological operation) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
LocationDenmark,  Washington
PerpetratorsPovl Bang-Jensen, Henrik Kauffmann, HC Hansen, Josiah Marvel
Descriptiona Cold War psychological operation to create the mood for Danish NATO membership

The 1948 Easter Crisis was a psychological operation created to raise the fear that the Soviet Union or Soviet-aligned Danish Communists were planning an imminent invasion or coup d'état in Denmark. The perpetrators were the United States. CIA/State Department, in cooperation with certain sectors of the Danish establishment. The purpose was to create a public mood to bring Denmark into NATO, especially urgent after the Communists seizing power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948.


From 1945 until this crisis, Denmark had tried to remain neutral in the Cold War, buoyed by strong Communist Party election results. The tendency to want neutrality was especially noticeable in the Social Democratic Party. But in the election of 1947, the Communist Party had been reduced from 18 to 9 seats in the Folketing, removing them from participation in the parliamentary defense and security committee. It was now possible for military questions to be discussed and decided without any participation from the Communists.

The Creation of Fear

In January and February 1948, Danish dailies were full of persistent rumours of communist weapons smuggling rings, which gave rise to a query in Folketinget by Communist Party Leader Aksel Larsen. This prompted the Minister of Justice to request a police investigation. As a result, Chief of Police Troels Hoff informed the Minister that the police had not found evidence of smuggling, but nevertheless, Hoff asked "insistently" that no public mention was made of the police's methods in the investigation.

On March 10, the Danish Ambassador to the United States, Henrik Kauffman, stated that he would send a representant, Embassy Councilor Povl Bang-Jensen, to Denmark to inform the Danish government about the U.S. government views on international developments, including specifically Denmark's situation. Danish press reported that Kauffmann, "had learned from well-informed circles in Washington" that "Russia intended to make Denmark a vassal state before the end of the year." The following day, Stockholms Tidningen confirmed that the Danish government "had received a report from Washington on an impending Soviet pressure on Denmark." Leading political and military circles in the United States had - the newspaper claimed - "considered it their duty" to warn Denmark that the country was in the "danger zone."[1]

On March 16, 1948, on his arrival, Embassy Councilor Bang-Jensen met with Prime Minister Hedtoft. From a telegraphic report of a conversation that the American ambassador had on the evening of March 16, 1948 with Hedtoft, it appears that Bang-Jensen told Hedtoft that the United States was dissatisfied with Denmark's lack of initiative to join Western Europe and that forthcoming defense cooperation between France, the United Kingdom and the three Benelux countries in the Western Union.[2]

Next, the government demonstratively introduced "security measures to increase the nation's defense preparedness", which created nervousness in the population. It was announced that the country would be divided into military regions and that the demolition of bomb shelters would be halted, etc. But a sign that the government maybe did not take the allegations seriously, was that the police were involved quite late, and at different times in different police districts, with no direct instructions from the capital.

Prime Minister Hedtoft soon declared that "we do not want to remain neutral" and appealed to the Danes to "join the crusade against communism."[3]

After an abortive attempt to form a Scandinavian defence union with Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Denmark joined NATO in 1949.

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  1. New Times 1948, nr. 19, den 5. maj 1948: "How Members of the Western Bloc are Recruited".
  2. http://koldkrig-online.dk/wp-content/uploads/13-Marvel17marts1948.pdf
  3. Bent Jensen, Tryk og tilpasning. Sovjetunionen og Danmark siden 2. verdenskrig, page 149