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    Greenland During and Since the Second World War

    Encyclopedia Arctica 14: Greenland, Svalbard, Etc. Geography and General

    001      |      Vol_XIV-0040                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General

    (Max J. Dunbar)


            Greenland is a Danish colony and the largest island in the world. It is

    Denmark's last remaining overseas possession and one of which Denmark is justly

    proud. Danish policy in Greenland is aimed at developing the population and

    the country to a condition of final independence (which is, however, still a

    very long way in the future); and the significance of the occurrences during

    the second world war is that a vitally important and impressive step in this

    direction was made during those years. Isolation from the mother country caused

    the seeds sown long before, prepared through generations of almost imperceptible

    germination, to spring suddenly to view. In terms of biological time, Greenland

    traversed a longer period in five years than she had done in the preceding fifty.

            The most recent official announcement on the history, constitution, and

    economy of Greenland is the 1949 "Report on Greenland" to the United Nations

    (Greenland Administration 1949). Covering the wartime years are several publi–

    cations in Danish, including Gad's Grønland under Krigen (1945) and Vibe's Ene

    ligger Grønland
    (1946). Vinding's Grønland 1945 (1946) is a general statement

    for the popular market of present-day Greenland conditions. A new history of

    Greenland has recently been published by Gad (1946), and a short ecological

    study of the Greenland resources, people, and livelihood, including the wartime

    period, has been produced by Dunbar (1947). A statement of future possibilities

    and aspirations in Greenland is contained in Prime Minister Hedtoft's address

    to the Greenland Assembly ("Parliament" or "Landsraad") made in 1948 (Hedtoft

    002      |      Vol_XIV-0041                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During & Since World War II

    1949). Finally a rich source of contemporary material on the wartime life in

    Greenland is the semimonthly journal Grønlandsposten , written, edited, and

    printed in Greenland. Grønlandsposten first appeared in 1942, and has been

    continued since the war. It is from these sources, together with the writer's

    own wartime experience in Greenland, that the present article has been derived.

            Greenland lies between latitudes 59° 46′N. and 83° 39′N., and stretches

    over arctic and subarctic zones. The total area is calculated at 2,182,000

    square kilometers, of which 1,869,000 are covered by permanent inland ice, the

    last great icecap remaining in the north. The ice-free terrain in mountainous

    and deeply indented with the largest fjord system in the world; some of the

    fjords are over 1,000 meters in vertical depth. The coast line is liberally

    dotted with skerries and small islands. The land offers almost no possibility

    of cultivation of grain crops, but hay can be grown in the southwest and a small

    sheep-farming industry has been established there.

            Lime most Eskimo areas, the native economy is based very largely upon the

    resources of the sea. The traditional livelihood of the country is seal hunting,

    but the population has increased so rapidly, and the seal numbers have decreased

    so drastically owing to the damage done to the populations of migrant seals in

    Newfoundland, and also to certain recent hydrographic changes (see below), that

    the emphasis has perforce swung from seal hunting to fishing, which is now by

    far the most important industry in Greenland, to the native Greenlander.

            The development of the maritime fishery has been rapid, and has been made

    possible by spectacular changes in the hydrography of the Greenland waters in

    the past thirty to thirty-five years. These changes are part of a general warm–

    ing of the marine and atmospheric climates of the northern areas, involving a

    strengthening of the Gulf Stream and Atlantic Drift circulation and a retreat

    003      |      Vol_XIV-0042                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second World


    of the polar water and ice distribution (Jensen 1939, Dunbar 1946). In Green–

    land, the Irminger Current, a branch of the Atlantic Drift which turns westward

    at the level of Iceland and mixes with the East Greenland Polar Current around

    Cape Farewell, has increased in volume and apparently also in temperature, re–

    sulting in a very marked warming of the West Greenland Current. This effect be–

    gan to make itself felt about 1917, and was accompanied by associated changes in

    the marine fauna of West Greenland. In particular, Atlantic cod ( Gadus callarias )

    and Atlantic halibut ( Hippoglossus vulgaris ), especially the former, began to ap–

    pear in increasing numbers over the West Greenland banks and in the inshore fjord

    waters. The total production of salted fish from West Greenland has grown from

    28 metric tons in 1915-16, to 5,661 metric tons in 1947-48 (Greenland Administra–

    tion 1949). East Greenland produces no salt cod. The East Greenland waters are

    dominated by the cold polar current, and have a totally different fauna from most

    of the west coast. Southwest Greenland produces considerably more fish than does

    the northwest coast (the division, administratively, between the two being placed

    between the Holsteinsborg and Egedesminds districts).

            Greenland's most valuable single resource is the cryolite mine at Ivigtut,

    in the southwest. It is the only cryolite mine in the world, and its production

    commands a high price. The Danish Government holds 50% of the shares of the com–

    pany which now operates the mine, the "Cryolite Company øresund," formed in 1940.

    The cryolite minehas been producing commercially since 1856, and its output grew

    steadily up to the second world war. Exports rose sharply in the late 1930's, to

    56,455 tons in 1939. (Greenland Administration 1943). The demand for cryolite

    continued to increase during the first years of the war, and a peak of production

    was reached in 1942, when over 90,000 tons were shipped to Canada and the United

    States. The o utput has since fallen off considerably, and the market has steadied.

    004      |      Vol_XIV-0043                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second World


            The importance of cryolite to the economy of Greenland is very great, the

    profit from the mine having for many years made good, more or less, the deficit

    of the rest of the colonial enterprises.

            The population of Greenland has grown from 6,046 in 1805 to 21,827 in 1947

    (Greenland Administration 1949). The 1947 figures for West Greenland were 20,405,

    and for East Greenland 1,422. The population is thus strongly concentrated on

    the west coast. West Greenland is divided, for purposes of administration, into

    "North Greenland" (from Thule south to, and including, the Egedesminde district),

    and "South Greenland" (from the Holsteinsborg district south to Cape Farewell).

    In the present article the terms "north" and "south" Greenland are used in this

    sense, referring, that is, to the west coast only. The third administrative

    division is "East Greenland," comprising the populated part of the east coast

    from Cape Farewell north to Scoresby Sound.

            The history of modern Greenland begins in 1721, when Hans Egede landed

    at the mouth of Godthaab Fjord. In 1728, Godthaab settlement was founded, also

    by Hans Egede. Colonization in East Greenland began in 1894 at Angmassalik,

    and in 1924 a new settlement was established in East Greenland, at Scoresby

    Sound. The Greenland trade was for some years in the 18th century maintained

    by private interests, but in 1774 the Danish Government took over the control

    and all economic operations have since been carried on by a state monopoly, at

    least up to the most recent postwar years (see below). Related to this monopoly

    trade, and also in the interests of the gradual development of the population,

    culturally and economically, Greenland was removed from free contact with the

    world outside. All visitors to the country were either Government officials, in

    the Greenland Service, or bona fide scientific investigators traveling with the

    permission of the Greenland Administration. The responsible administration of

    005      |      Vol_XIV-0044                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During & Since Second World


    the colony is in Copenhagen, acting through two Landsfogeder or Administrators

    resident in Greenland, one in south Greenland, at Godthaab, the other in north

    Greenland, at Godhavn.

            It is against this background of history, resources, and administration

    that the wartime events in Greenland must be understood.

            Denmark was invaded by the Germans in April 1940, and, on April 9, Green–

    land found itself suddenly cut off from its administration in Copenhagen and

    from its source of supplies. Fortunately, anticipating difficulty in supply–

    ing Greenland under wartime conditions, the Administration had seen to it that

    a double shipment of all necessary foodstuffs and materials was shipped to cer–

    tain districts the previous year, so that the necessity of establishing other

    sources of supply was not so immediate as it might have been. Nevertheless,

    the situation called for speedy action.

            The two Landsfogeder or Administrators, Axel Svane in south Greenland and

    Eske Brun in north Greenland, announced at once that all necessary steps to

    ensure the continued Greenland economy would be taken. On April 16 they an–

    nounced further that they had been in radio contact with the Danish Minister

    in Washington, Henrik de Kauffmann, and that negotiations to provide for the

    material needs of Greenland had been opened. As for the administration of the

    colony in isolation from Denmark, such a state of emergency as that of April 1940

    was allowed for in the 1925 Constitution of Greenland, in which paragraph 3 of

    Article 10 reads as follows:

            "The Administrators, as the representatives of the Danish Government

    in Greenland, are to be considered the responsible authority in the

    country and can in exceptional instances ( overordentlige tilfaelde )

    take such measures as the interests of the population may demand."

    006      |      Vol_XIV-0045                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During & Since Second World


            Telegraphic communication between Denmark and Greenland had not at that

    time been completely stopped, and the Greenland Administration was able itself

    to refer the Administrators in Greenland to the above Article 10. On April 23,

    Brun and Svane officially took over the administration of Greenland; for the

    first time since the medieval Norse republic in Greenland, Greenland was adminis–

    tered by a responsible government within the country itself.

            Meanwhile de Kauffmann had been busy in the United States. An "American

    Danish Greenland Commission" was set up on his initiative, designed to take care

    of the purchasing of supplies for Greenland, and the securing of North American

    markets for Greenland products. Denmark, the United States, and Canada were

    represented on this commission. From the Greenland side, the Landsraad of south

    Greenland met its fellow body from north Greenland (for the first time in history)

    at a joint meeting at Godthaab, to discuss necessary measures in Greenland. The

    joint meetings continued each year for the remainder of the war. The American

    Danish Greenland Commission was later dissolved, to be supplanted by the "Green–

    land Delegation" in New York. This body was formed when Eske Brun, in the spring

    of 1940, left for a visit to North America together with a selected body of

    Greenland experts in various fields (radio, cryolite mine, mechanical equipment,

    etc.). On June 3, 1940, the cryolite mine was placed under the authority of the

    administration at Godthaab. Greenland's whole trade was thus unified under one

    authority, with a permanent body in New York (Greenland Delegation) in charge

    of details of purchasing and marketing. The exchange rate was fized at five

    Danish (Greenland) kroner to the U.S. dollar. The administration was central–

    ized at Godthaab, so that the division of the west coast into two administrative

    portions was temporarily abolished. In the summer of 1941, Administrator Axel

    Svane left Greenland for New York, to take over the leadership of the Greenland

    007      |      Vol_XIV-0046                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

    World War

    Delegation, and Eske Brun remained at Godthaab as head of the Administration

    in Greenland, in which position he continued for the whole of the wartime emer–

    gency. A new post, that of Trade Inspector, was set up at Godthaab, with Axel

    Malmquist as its incumbent. Under Malmquist's leadership the production of

    Greenland, especially in the fishery, was considerably increased, and the normal

    life of Greenland was resumed with no serious shortages in the importation of

    supplies. Rationing of certain staple foods was introduced in 1943.

            The occupation of Denmark by the Germans, and their offensive in Norway,

    called forth a quick response from the United Kingdom, who immediately filled

    the "strategic vacuum" (Gad 1945) in the Faeroe Islands and in Iceland. Simil–

    arly, Greenland became an immediate matter of concern to both Canada and the

    United Kingdom, the two belligerent powers, and to the United States, still

    non-belligerent. From inside Greenland, during those shaky months of 1940, al–

    most anything was expected, and the whole picture was very obscure. To quote

    Gad: "We had no idea what might happen. We in Greenland awaited without anxiety

    the arrival of either the British or the Canadians, who could legally have under–

    taken the occupation of strategically important points on the island...... The

    worst we could expect from the German side was the destruction of the cryolite

    mine, which would have been catastrophic.... The danger from Germany appeared,

    as time went by, to become less and less, because Germany would not wish to pro–

    voke the U.S.A. to a declaration of war by undertaking action in an area which

    falls within the terms of the Monroe Doctrine."

            The Monroe Doctrine applied as well, it appeared, to any possible action

    by the United Kingdom, and also ( sic ) to any Canadian military action in Green–

    land. It fell to the United States, although not at war, to undertake the pro–

    tection of the Greenland shores, including the cryolite mine. Two things were

    008      |      Vol_XIV-0047                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

    World War

    recognized by all three powers, first the necessity of guaranteeing the sover–

    eignty of Denmark in Greenland, and second the great strategic importance of

    Greenland. The prewar flights over the Greenland icecap had not been forgotten.

    As a base for short-hop flights from North America to northwest Europe, and for

    the protection of the North Atlantic shipping lanes, Greenland was vitally im–

    portant. Hardly less important was the contribution which Greenland weather

    information could make to forecasting in Europe. The repeated (and successful)

    efforts of the Germans to establish meteorological stations in northeast Green–

    land were witness enough of this importance. Lastly to both Canada and the

    United States the importation of cryolite from Greenland in increasing quantities

    was essential for the defense industries, especially the manufacture of aircraft.

            From May 1940 the cutters and smaller craft of the U.S. Coast Guard were a

    common sight along the coasts of Greenland, and in the settlement harbors. Four–

    teen coast guardsmen were discharged at Ivigtut and immediately reorganized in–

    to a police guard for the mine — not a serious obstacle for an enemy demolition

    party with serious intentions. No such party, however, arrived.

            In order to facilitate negotiations in both military and civil affairs, the

    United States and Canada opened consulates in Greenland. On May 22, 1940, the

    Coast Guard Cutter Comanche arrived at Godthaab with the United States Consul

    and Vice Consul on board. On June 4, the Greenland ship Julius Thomsen reached

    Ivigtut, after an eventful voyage from Denmark during which she had been taken

    over by a British naval prize crew, carrying the Canadian Consul who had recent–

    ly relinquished, perforce, his post in Holland. The Canadian Vice Consul had

    already arrived on June 1, on board the Hudson's Bay Company vessel Nascopie ,

    chartered by the Canadian Government for a special voyage to Greenland to bring

    much-needed supplies. Both consulates were eventually built at Godthaab.

    009      |      Vol_XIV-0048                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Se [ ?] ond

    World War

            Quite apart from the usual consular functions concerned with trade, visas,

    and so on, both consulates were in some sense diplomatic offices, in that they

    were the only representation of the United States and Canada in Greenland, and

    since Greenland had to be looked upon for the time being as a self-governing

    country. The positions of the two consulates were not quite the same, for two

    reasons of different orders. After 1941, when U.S. military bases were estab–

    lished in Greenland, the work of the United States Consulate became more and

    more taken up with military affairs, and came to be a most important link be–

    tween the U.S. Army and Navy authorities in Greenland defense areas, and the

    Administration at Godthaab. The Canadian Consulate had no such military de–

    velopment to deal with, but on the other hand there was at that time no Danish

    Minister in Ottawa, so that the Canadian Consulate in Greenland was the only

    channel through which business and negotiations between Canada and Greenland

    could be carried on. The Danish Minister in Washington, on the other hand,

    was at all times available for discussion with the U.S. Government on Green–

    land matters. This difference in function became more apparent when, in Nov–

    ember 1941, the Greenland Delegation in New York became a division of the Dan–

    ish Consulate-General (thus directly under the Danish Minister) and the Danish

    Minister was recognized by the U.S. Department of State as the proper author–

    ity and channel for United States-Greenland business.

            The United States-Greenland Defense Agreement was signed by Cordell Hull

    and Henrik de Kauffmann on April 9, 1941. Such an agreement was a foregone

    conclusion from the time of the invasion of Denmark one year before. In July

    1940, at the Havana Conference, the United States had undertaken to defend the

    Western Hemisphere against all outside invasion, or threat to alter the sover–

    eignty of any part of it. The safety of Greenland was a matter of grave con-

    010      |      Vol_XIV-0049                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since second

    World War

    cern to the Western Hemisphere in general, and demanded considerably greater

    military action than had hitherto been taken. The ten articles of the treaty

    assured the continued sovereignty of a free Denmark over Greenland; gave the

    United States the right to build such bases and other installations as might

    be necessary for the defense of Greenland, for the use of all American nations,

    but stipulated that the defense areas were still Danish territory; and estab–

    lished that the treaty should remain in force until it was agreed that the danger

    for the peace and safety of the American continent was over.

            The news of the signing of this treaty was received with mixed feelings

    in Greenland. It was a decisive breakdown of the traditional policy of the

    "closed shore," and it was contrary to the spirit of neutrality so strong in

    Scandinavia. But it was accepted as inevitable; and, indeed, the impact of the

    military forces of a foreign nation upon the lives and economy of the native

    Greenlanders was very much less than had been expected. The effect of direct

    contact was limited almost entirely to a sharp increase in the price of native

    handicrafts and souvenirs, and certain unimportant sociological difficulties in

    some of the settlements of the southwest. In 1943 the defense areas and all

    military outposts were declared out of bounds to the Greenlanders, by the God–

    thaab Administration, and except for official purposes no army or navy personnel

    were allowed to visit the settlements.

            Three air fields were constructed, two on the west coast and one on the

    east, to be followed by a small emergency landing strip a few miles south of

    Godthaab. There were various smaller stations, for weather reporting and for

    the guarding of approaches to air fields; an army camp an [ ?] a naval fuelling

    station were built close to the cryolite mine at Ivigtut. During flying opera–

    tions over the icecap and along the rugged coasts of Greenland there were many

    011      |      Vol_XIV-0050                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

    World War

    casualties, and new techniques were evolved for search and rescue. At sea,

    several ships were lost by enemy action, including the transport Dorechester ,

    sunk by torpedo off southwest Greenland in the early part of 1943, carrying

    military personnel and men from the Ivigtut mine. One Greenland vessel, the

    Hans Egede was lost without trace on a voyage to the United States in February

    1942. Another of the Greenland Administration ships, the Gortrud Rask , was

    lost aground on the coast of Nova Scotia, but not by enemy action.

            A unique organization in wartime Greenland was the Northeast Greenland

    Sledge Patrol, made up of Danish and Norwegian residents and expedition members

    in that area, and a small number of native Greenlanders from the Scoresby Sound

    settlement; altogether, at maximum strength, about 15 white men (most of them

    Danes) and 4 Greenlanders. The numbers varied from year to year. The Patrol

    was first formed in 1941, by the Greenland Administration, at the request of

    the U.S. military command, to operate in the far northeast, north of Scoresby

    Sound, and to report any enemy landings, weather stations, or suspicious find–

    ings to the Greenland Base Command. This miniature army, sledge-mounted, was

    the only group to engage the enemy actively on Greenland territory. In March

    and April 1943 a German weather station was discovered on Sabine Island. The

    Danish station at Eskimonaes was attacked at night by the German party, and the

    small garrison was forced to retire. Another party of 3 Danes ran into the same

    German party on the way south to base; one was killed and the other two taken

    prisoner. One of them, Marius Jensen, managed to turn the tables on the enemy

    and took the German commander, a naval lieut e nant, south to Scoresby Sound. The

    remainder of the German party were later taken prisoner by American forces. For

    this skillful piece of work Marius Jensen was decorated by both Canada and the

    United States.

    012      |      Vol_XIV-0051                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

    World War

            Interesting and specialized though the military operations in Greenland

    were, they had little or no effect upon the Greenlanders or upon the Danish

    population. The mere fact of isolation, however, and of government from with–

    in, had a very marked effect upon the course of the history of the colonial de–

    velopment. The imported supplies came first very largely from the United States,

    but later came in increasing proportion from Canada; in 1942 most of the needed

    commodities came from Canada. The arrival of these goods from foreign parts was

    no doubt a stimulus in itself, and started an awareness of the world beyond the

    limits of Greenland and Denmark, which hitherto had formed the horizon of vision

    of the average Greenlander.

            The establishment of a responsible administration in Greenland was something

    quite new for the Greenlanders. They looked upon the Godthaab administration,

    rightly, as the trustees of the administration in Copenhagen, and as the highest

    authority so long as Denmark was cut off from traffic with Greenland. There was

    no reason for them to suppose, at first, that this would involve any change in

    the mode of operation of the settlements, or any deviation from the slow-moving

    development and life of the country. As the war years went by, however, it be–

    came clear to the Greenlanders that things were not quite as they had been, and

    that the tempo of life in Greenland had been raised considerably. By the end of

    the war most of them were in no doubt about the advantages of the tighter wartime

    organization and the greater efficiency which the exigencies of war had pressed

    upon them.

            The far-reaching changes in Greenland during the second world war were thus

    the result, not of the presence of foreign troops or the building of military

    installations and air fields, but of the fact of the war itself, the isolation

    from Denmark, and the performance of the interim administration at Godthaab. They

    may be listed as follows:

    013      |      Vol_XIV-0052                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

    World War

    • 1. The Administration was able to make decisions without referring to

      Copenhagen. In the old days, the broad Atlantic functioned as a brake upon

      the course of events in Greenland. Communication for purpose of administra–

      tion was normally by sea, so that action on business might take several months.

      Such a leisurely system was apt to increase the disregard for time which life

      in Greenland fosters in the first place. Under wartime conditions, action on

      incoming requests, representations, and suggestions, could be taken within one

      day or one week, instead of the former one month or one year.
    • 2. In spite of the necessarily tight organization of the wartime admin–

      istration, at a time when decisions had to be made quickly, there was generally

      a greater democracy in Greenland during the war than was possible under the

      normal "government-from-a-distance." Suggestions from the Danish and Greenlandic

      sections of the population were usually sure of a hearing, which does not seem

      to have been the rule before.
    • 3. This resulted in two important psychological generations: a greater

      sense of individual responsibility and pride in performance, qualities which

      were apt to be somewhat deadened under the normal system; and a feeling of team–

      work, of playing a part in the development of the country, and of helping to

      maintain the Danish reputation in, and undisputed right to, the colony of Green–

    • 4. There was a growing awareness among the Greenlanders (the Danes were

      of course aware of it already) that Greenland was of great strategic interest

      to the world powers, and a realization that what was happening might well happen

      again in the future. The war demonstrated to the Greenlanders, whether by hear–

      say or at first hand, the extent of the resources of one of those powers (the

      United States), and the changes which could be produced in a very short time in

      014      |      Vol_XIV-0053                                                                                                                  
      EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

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      their country by mechanized effort. Nothing like the new air fields and camps

      in Greenland had been dreamed of by the native population.
    • 5. There followed a realization that the increasing difficulties of main–

      taining the closed shore of Greenland, which could be foreseen from present

      developments, were going to demand a new attitude on the part of the Greenlanders

      toward the world outside; and it became clear to them that their education was

      as yet inadequate for the formation of this new attitude. Discussions on educa–

      tion between Greenlanders, and between Greenlanders and Danes became more and

      more common during the war years, and opinions were expressed on desirable future

      policies on education which were seldom if ever heard before the war. Languages,

      science, and technology were the subjects most frequently mentioned as in need

      of expansion in the schools.
    • 6. Various technical changes were made. The old seal-oil house lamps,

      which were prescribed by law before 1939, disappeared, to be replaced by bright

      kerosene lamps, and later, in several settlements, by electrification. Techni–

      cal advances of this kind, however, were due to come anyway, war or no war. But

      their arrival was hastened by the new conditions.
    • 7. A new and more efficient method of importing and distributing supplies

      was introduced, made necessary by the scarcity and high cost of shipping. This

      involved the establishment of certain of the settlements as "transit" ports, at

      which supplies were landed from the ocean-going freighters, to be dis trib uted

      to other settlements by Greenland's own fleet of coastal schooners and motorboats.

      This was a considerable departure from the old system in which each settlement

      ( Koloni ) was visited each season by most of the Administration's larger vessels.

      It made more of a unit of the Greenland trade; it was clearly less expensive; and

      it put a greater onus on the coastal schooners, thus boosting the importance of

      015      |      Vol_XIV-0054                                                                                                                  
      EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

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      those excellent and most suitable vessels. The part played by the schooner and

      motorboat fleet during the war is one of the most arresting single facets of

      Greenland's wartime history.
    • 8. Most important of all, as the advantages of the wartime organization

      became clear to the Greenlanders, there crystallized out of it a determination

      that the substance of these innovations should not disappear when the administra–

      tion of the country returned to Copenhagen. In short, there emerged during the

      second world war a wave of national feeling and solidarity which marked a turn–

      ing point in Greenland's career. This was not incompatible with the feeling of

      an even greater closeness to Denmark, which probably increased somewhat during

      these years.

            There is little more to be said here about events in Greenland from 1940

    to 1945; there is little more that can be said without going into much greater

    detail than space allows. Many Danish children went to school in the United

    States and Canada, where under normal conditions they would have gone home to

    Denmark. There was no lack of supplies and no material hardship. The cost of

    importing the supplies increased, so that the Administration, following its

    established policy of keeping prices in Greenland down, no doubt suffered larger

    deficits in this respect than were normal. On the other hand, the export trade

    boomed, and the prices received for cryolite, salted fish, animal oils, etc., went

    up to unprecedented levels. The cod fishery was stimulated to continued increase

    in volume, and in fact the most valuable cargoto leave the Greenland shores was

    not a cryolite cargo from Ivigtut, but a cargo of some 2,300 tons of salt cod

    taken by a Portuguese ship in 1944, at well over $200 per ton.

    016      |      Vol_XIV-0055                                                                                                                  
    EA-Greenland-Spitsbergen, General. Dunbar: Greenland During and Since Second

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    Postwar Developments

            The Greenland Assembly ( Landsraad ) lost little time, as soon as the

    German army withdrew from Denmark, in giving expression to the changes which

    had taken place in the outlook and awareness of the Greenlanders during the

    war. At the 1945 meeting, the following resolution was passed:

            "During the war the people of Greenland have learned the great sig–

    nificance of having a central leadership in Greenland itself, and it

    is therefore proposed that Greenland be administered from within the

    country, that the two administrators' offices be unified to include

    the whole of Greenland, and that the office be endowed with greater

    authority than that given it by the present constitution.

            "It is desired that experts should be attached to the administra–

    tor's office for the purpose of looking after the various branches of

    administration. Greenland's highest officials should be endowed with

    limited authority of allocation (of material, etc.) and right of dis–

    position, embracing all Greenland activities.

            "It is suggested that the present division of the country be dis–

    carded and that one Assembly, with greater authority, should be estab–

    lished for the whole country.

            "There is an overwhelming opinion in favour of maintaining the

    transit ports, with a special view towards making possible thereby the

    long-needed coastal traffic for the advantage of the people of the


            "An early alteration of the present constitution of the Greenland

    Administration is considered to be demanded in the highest degree, and

    amongst other things it is considered unreasonable that there should be

    different regulations for the Danish and Greenlandic elements in the

    same country." ( Grønlandsposten 1945).

            This bold if slightly confused statement aroused considerable interest in

    the Danish press. One result of the general articulate attitude was the elec–

    tion of a group of leading Greenlanders to be sent to Denmark to discuss the

    Greenland problems with the Administration in Copenhagen, and with other Govern–

    ment representatives. This delegation left Greenland in November 1945. The list

    of matters for discussion was very complete and included all the internal matters

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    touched upon in this article. It was not easy, at the time, to judge from

    the press and other published reports just how the delegation was received;

    but the general impression in Greenland was that the discussions were largely

    a gesture on the part of the Administration, and that they were not intended

    to be taken too seriously.

            However that may be, there is no doubt that the indications of policy pub–

    lished in Greenland in the spring of 1946 were not favorable to the permanent

    incorporation of the wartime changes. This impression was confirmed when the

    final report of the conference was published ( Grønlandsposten 1946). The pro–

    posal for a central, responsible administration within Greenland was turned down,

    and the real issue at stake was evaded by handling this point as though synonymous

    with the question of whether there should be one Administrator (as during th war)

    or two (as before) in Greenland. The double administratorship was brought in

    again. The question was, however, left open to the extent of a recommendation

    that the present regulations governing the Greenland Landsraad and the administra–

    torship should be brought up again for revision before the end of 1950. The Gov–

    ernment trade monopoly was to be retained, likewise the policy of the closed shore.

    (In an article in Grønlandsposten , Brun defended the monopoly as a means of buffer–

    ing the colony against cycles of slump and boom which could do great harm if the

    Greenland trade were in the hands of private companies (Brun 1946).

            Plans for the expansion of the fishery were approved, also the sheep farming

    and the coal mining. No great changes were proposed in the educational field, al–

    though the use of Danish as the language of instruction (a point which was strongly

    advocated by the Greenlanders) was approved in general, and "where circumstances

    allowed it." The biggest improvements were proposed for the medical service, in–

    cluding the recommendation of the appointment of three more doctors (making about

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    fifteen in all) and three more nurses; there were to be two dentists instead of

    one. Two new hospitals were recommended on the east coast, and three more hos–

    pitals were to be equipped with X-ray, making eight hospitals in all so equipped.

            The decisions of the conference were seriously criticized as being largely

    ineffective, and because they showed no promise of encouraging initiative and

    self-reliance on the part of the Greenlanders; the old paternalism had been re–

    newed. These criticisms referred in particular to the educational and economic

    fields, and to the fundamental point of the retention of all responsible govern–

    ment in Copenhagen.

            This conference, however, was by no means the end of the story. Criticism

    continued, both in Greenland and in the Danish press, and there seems to have

    been a suggestion that the delegation of Greenlanders had been talked out of many

    of the points which they had gone to Denmark to insist upon. The matter came to

    a head at two meetings of the Greenland Society in Copenhagen in 1947. "It is

    interesting to note that the opening speeches of both meetings were made by Green–

    landers who most ably expressed the views of their countrymen. It speaks very well

    for the 200 years of Danish administration of Greenland that the demands of the

    Greenlanders, as voiced by these men, included nothing more revolutionary than a

    strong demand to have the seat of the Greenland Administration removed from Copen–

    hagen to Greenland where it should be directly responsible to a Danish Government

    Department." (Porsild 1948). The Greenlanders also recommended at this meeting

    that the monopoly should be ended, and that private Danish and Greenlandic enter–

    prise should be allowed to operate in Greenland; and they included in their recom–

    mendations all the rest of the points which the Landsraad had recommended in 1945

    (see above). Clearly they had changed their minds back again to the original since

    the report of the 1945-46 conference.

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            From then on matters moved swiftly and with a more distinguishable pattern.

    In 1948, private fishing vessels from Denmark were allowed to operate in the in–

    shore waters of West Greenland, provided they would agree to take young Green–

    landers on board as pupils. The long-standing Government trade monopoly was thus

    officially ended, at least experimentally and pending definite legislation; this

    was obviously an omen of things to come.

            In the summer of 1948 the Danish Prime Minister, Hans Hedtoft, together

    with the Director of the Greenland Administration, Knud Oldendow, and the Vice–

    Director, Eske Brun (a post he assumed in 1948), visited Greenland and were pres–

    ent at the joint sessions of the Landsraad of south and north Greenland, at God–

    thaab, with Brun as chairman. The Prime Minister's address at this meeting was

    a statement full of significance for the future of Greenland. On the question

    of the lifting of the trade monopoly, Mr. Hedtoft pointed out that the 1945-46

    conference had left the matter open; that the resources of Greenland should be

    developed by all means possible in the interests of the Greenlanders; and that

    in all probability the time had now come to expand these means to include the

    operations of private Danish interests. He pointed out also that the Greenlandic

    women had now been given the right to vote for their representatives in the Lands–

    raad (in 1948), and that "the Greenland men now had the new and great task of

    enlightening and leading the women in political matters" (Hedtoft 1949). He

    asked for the opinion of the Landsraad on certain points, including the question

    of monopoly, the matter of Danish and Greenlandic law, and the all-important

    question of the location of the responsible government of Greenland and the pre–

    cise relationship of Greenland and Denmark within the common community.

            The Landsraad replied, through Pastor Gerhard Egede of Frederikshaab, that

    it approved of the endinf of Government trade monopoly, and that this should be

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    effected by the permission of private Danish firms to operate in Greenland

    under the control of the Danish Government. The Landsraad did not think that

    Danish law was appropriate, as yet, for the Greenlanders in the present stage

    of development, but steps should be taken to even out the present diff erences

    between the civil rights of Danes and Greenlanders in Greenland. It did not

    consider that the time was yet ripe for the representation of Greenland by a

    Greenland member in the Danish Parliament, but that there should be Greenlandic

    representation in the Parliamentary Committee on Greenland. Finally, it recom–

    mended that a Commission should be set up in order to work out all the present

    Greenland problems.

            The Commission, under the chairmanship of H. H. Koch, of the Ministry of

    Social Affairs, was formed in the fall of 1948, and after a climax of what ap–

    pear to have been ill-informed protests about the personnel and the proposed

    work of the Commission ( Grønlandsposten 1949a), the Commission settled down to

    its work and peace settled over Greenland once more.

            At the end of 1948, Enud Oldendow resi ng gn ed after many years as Director of

    the Greenland Administration, to be succeeded by Eske Brun. It was a happy and

    a foregone conclusion that Brun should take the post of Director, for it was his

    activity and energy above that of any other one man that had brought about the

    striking advances in Greenland since 1940. In the summer of 1949 the newly formed

    Commission, or part of it, arrived in Greenland on a fact-finding tour on board

    the Administration's new ship Umanak , and the Chairman, H. H. Koch, reported on

    the progress made. It was proposed to unite the two administratorships, and to

    form a central administration in Greenland with considerably greater authority

    than the administrators had had before. Many of the advances already discussed

    were accepted, and the Commission appeared to be well on the way to an alteration

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    of the Greenland constitution as demanded by the Landsraad (Koch 1949).

            During these somewhat turbulent postwar years in Greenland's usually placid

    history, the normal life and economy of the country have been developing. Dr.

    Poul Hensen, in charge of fisheries research in Greenland, using his new research

    vessel Adolf Jensen , found new trawling grounds for shrimps in the southwest,

    and a new shrimp cannery was built. Other canneries are planned. A very im–

    portant development concerning the fishery is the plan, at present in the study

    stage, to concentrate the population into larger settlements (Greenland Adminis–

    tration 1949), and to eliminate if possible some or most of the outlying hunting

    and trading posts. The present scattered condition of the population is one of the

    greatest handicaps under which the administration operates, for it greatly

    increases the cost of processing and t ansporting the fish. The plans to con–

    centrate the population, if realized, will simplify also the problems of general

    transportation, medical care, and education throughout the country.

            Final figures of the 1949 catch in the cod fishery is not yet available to

    the writer, but it is quite clear that the season has not been normal. The winter

    of 1948-49 was exceptionally severe, and in the early spring the West Greenland

    Current appears to have been unusually cold; codfish were reported to be found

    dead in large numbers. In the course of the summer of 1949 the cod catch in the

    southwest (Sukkertoppen and south) was good, but in the Holsteinsborg district

    the season, at least in its first half, was a failure. Dr. Hansen is quoted in

    Grønlandsposten (1949b) as describing the depressing situation in the Holsteins–

    borg district, always one of the most important fishing areas in Greenland. In

    1948, a little over 1,000 tons of fresh cod were bought by the fishing stations

    in that district, whereas up to the beginning of July, in 1949, only 500 kilograms

    were received, as against 500 tons at the same date in 1948. A similar situation

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    is reported from the shrimp fishermen of the same district. Trawling in 1949

    produced almost no shrimp at all.

            Weather information is one of Greenland's most important exports, of in–

    terest to many countries, in peace as well as in war. The meteorological sta–

    tions in Greenland, which were greatly multiplied during the war by the United

    States Army, were taken over by Denmark for the most part, and have since been

    again increased in number (Brun 1949). A list of the meteorological stations

    at present operating is given by Elbo (1949), who writes: "Practically all the

    weather stations are now manned by Danes and Greenlanders, although in 1948 in

    a few cases there were still some Americans left for purposes of training Danes.

    The last Americans will leave (the weather stations) when Grønlands Styrelse has

    sufficient trained men at its disposal."

            Certain other developments should be mentioned here. In the geological field,

    a useful deposit of lead was discovered in King Oscar Fjord in northeast Greenland

    ( Grønlandsposton 1948). The Danish Greenland Naval Command, established in 1945

    at Godthaab, has been expanded since its establishment and is occupied in survey

    and patrol activities. The military air bases are being maintained approximately

    as before, at least for the time being by the United States; the Greenland Defense

    Agreement is still in effect. The United States Government has maintained its

    Consulate at Godthaab, but the Canadian Consulate was closed in June 1946. One

    development resulting from the existence of the air fields built during the war

    is the establishment of passenger and mail air traffic between Denmark and Green–

    land, something which by all accounts and impressions still seemed a very long

    way in the future in 1939.

            Only one important point remains to be made. Unless very considerable min–

    eral wealth can be found, it is upon the behavior of the Irminger Current (see above)

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    that the future of Greenland really hangs. The cold snap in 1949 may be only

    a short temporary regression in the warming process, or in the maintenance of

    the present warm period; such a setback was recorded also in 1937-38. But in

    any event, all the planning of the last few years, all the development of the

    Greenland colony since its beginnings, will progress or regress with the West

    Greenland Current. If the warm period continues, there is nothing to stop the

    growth of Greenland and the development of the Greenlanders as planned; but if

    the Irminger Current fails, the resources of Greenland will be most seriously

    reduced, and the ingenuity of the scientists and administrators concerned with

    Greenland affairs will be sorely taxed to avoid disaster. The record of Den–

    mark in Greenland hitherto, however, has been impressive enough to make the

    observer believe that even should such an amergency arise, it will be met with

    the same courage and the same success as were so effective in the difficult years

    of the second world war.

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    Brun, E. "Vort Monopol i Grønland." Grønlandsposten , 5 (5), pp. 106–

    109. 1946.

    ----. "The Greenlander of Today." Arctic , 2 (1), pp. 3-12. 1949.

    Dunbar, M. J. "The State of the West Greenland Current Up to 1944." J. Fish .

    Res. Bd. Can ., VI (7), pp. 460-471. 1946.

    ----. "Greenland - An Experiment in Human Ecology." Commerce Journal

    (Toronto Univ.), Mar. 1947. pp. 69-109.

    Elbo, J. G. "Meteorological Stations in Greenland." Polar Record , 5

    (37, 38), pp. 309-310. 1949.

    Gad, F. Grønland under Krigen . Copenhagen, G. E. C. Gads Forlag, 56

    pp. 1945.

    ----. "Grønlands Historie." Det Grønlandske Selskabs Skrifter ,

    XIV, 270 pp. 1946.

    Greenland Administration, 1943. Beretn. vedr. Gronl. Styrelse , Nr. 5, 1943.

    ----. "Report on Greenland." (to the United Nations). 82 pp.

    mimeographed. 1949.

    Grønlandsposten "Krav fra det grønlandske Landsraad." Grønlandsposten , 4 (17)

    pp. 227. 1945.

    ----. "Betaenkning afgivet den 12 Juni 1946, etc." Ibid . 5 (6),

    pp. 119-144. 1946.

    ----. "Det østgrønlandske Blyfund 1948." Ibid . 7 (18), pp. 212–

    215. 1948.

    ----. "Grønlandskommission en Kendsgerning." Ibid . 8 (1), pp. 5-7.


    ----. "Hvor bliver torsken af?" Ibid . 8 (15), pp. 183-184. 1949b.

    Hedtoft, H. "Grønlands Fremtid." Det Grønlandake Selskabs Aarskrift , 1949,

    pp. 7-40.

    Jensen, A. S. "Concerning a Change in Climate..., etc." Kgl. Danske Vidensk .

    Selsk.. Biol. Meddel ., 14 (8), pp. 1-75. 1939.

    Koch, H. H. "Det Gronlandske Folk skal have del i Kulturens goder." Grøn–

    , 8 (13), pp. 154-159. 1949.

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    Porsild, A. E. "Greenland at the Crossroads." Arctic , 1 (1), pp. 53-57.


    Vibe, C. Ene ligger Grønland . H. Hagerup, 235 pp. Copenhagen, 1946.

    Vinding, O. Grønland 1945 . Gyldendal, 148 pp. Copenhagen, 1946.


    M. J. Dunbar

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