Kaj Munk - Biography

Biography

He was born Kaj Harald Leininger Petersen on the island of Lolland, Denmark, and raised by a family named Munk after the death of his parents. From 1924, he was the vicar of Vedersø in Western Jutland. The dramas of Munk were mostly performed and made public during the 1930s, although many were written in the 1920s. Much of his work is a contribution to the "philosophy-on-life debate" (religion - Marxism - Darwinism) which marked much of Danish cultural life during this period.

On one occasion, in the early 1930s, in a comment that came back to haunt him in later years, Munk expressed admiration for Hitler (for uniting Germans) and wished that the same kind of unifying figure could be found for Danes. However, Munk's attitude towards Hitler (and Mussolini) turned to outspoken disgust, as he witnessed Hitler's persecution of the German Jewish community, and Mussolini's conduct of the war in Ethiopia. In 1938 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published on its front page an open letter to Benito Mussolini written by Kaj Munk criticising the persecutions against Jews.

Early on, Munk was a strong opponent of the German Occupation of Denmark (1940–1945), although he continually opposed the idea of democracy as such, preferring the idea of a "Nordic dictator" who should unite the Nordic countries and keep them neutral during periods of international crisis. His plays Han sidder ved Smeltediglen ("He sits by the melting pot") and Niels Ebbesen were direct attacks on Nazism. The latter, centering on the figure of Niels Ebbesen, a medieval Danish squire considered a national hero for having assassinated an earlier German occupier of Denmark, Count Gerhard III, was a contemporary analogue to World War II-era Denmark.

He was arrested and subsequently assassinated by the Gestapo on the night of 4 January 1944 at Hørbylunde, near Silkeborg. His body was found in a roadside ditch the next morning. His death motivated the Danes, who until then had resigned themselves to German occupation, to rise against their foreign oppressors.

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