JUTTING out between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is the country of Denmark, the smallest of the family of Scandinavian nations and the oldest kingdom. The largest part lies on a peninsula, the long north-reaching thumb of Jutland, which is attended by a swarm of 483 islands. The land is adorned with pleasant landscapes of fruitful fields and lush green meadows, cheerful woods, and quiet silvery lakes.
The nature of the people bespeaks the friendly countryside, which has no wild mountain crags, no desolate wilderness, no temperamental volcanoes, no violent rivers. No wonder the Danes are not easily provoked to great outbursts of emotion! Mostly skeptical, with a wait-and-see attitude, they are quite tolerant as well as thrifty. Nothing daunts the Danes!
This even-tempered disposition may help explain the dispassionate way religious changes have developed throughout the centuries. Shortly after the year 800 C.E., missionaries preaching the Catholic faith descended on the Vikings of heathen Denmark, and by the year 1000 C.E., most Danes had, at least formally, switched over to that religion from their brand of polytheism.
Lutheranism was introduced to Scandinavia about 500 years later when King Christian III, who had converted to the new faith, ruled that everyone else in his kingdom should convert too. Very few objected to this new State Church with obligatory membership. Generally, Catholic priests were allowed simply to stay on in their old parishes—but now served as Lutheran ministers. The common man hardly noticed any difference, and the change to the Lutheran religion did not make the Bible a book for all people.
Eventually, in 1849, the country received a democratic constitution and freedom of worship. The State Church was converted into a national church, still, however, with the king as head. Though membership was now voluntary, few resigned from the church, and even today, over 140 years later, 90 percent of the population belong to the national church.
During the mid-1800’s, several religious revivals swept the country. Influenced by a theologian and poet, N. F. S. Grundtvig, a number of people began to form their own congregations, though usually within the framework of the national church. These Grundtvigians had a liberal view of the Bible and were not overly concerned with Bible reading. However, they were concerned about public enlightenment and built folk high schools—schools where youths and adults could further their knowledge of history and literature.
An opposing revival soon developed in the form of the Inner Mission, initiated by a laity movement that sought to awaken church members to a “conscious, living, Christian faith.” Unlike the Grundtvigians, the Inner Mission strongly supported Bible reading but gave special emphasis to sin and the teaching of hellfire and strongly condemned dancing, alcohol, and card games as “worldliness.”
Interest in the Return of Christ
While religious interest was at its peak, atheism and evolution also penetrated Denmark. During this time of religious upheaval, some people began to see the difference between what the Bible taught and what the church said. Thus, a number of Bible readers became interested in prophecies regarding the return of Christ.
So when the Watch Tower Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, initially visited Europe, in 1891, Denmark was included in his tour. He reported: “Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and especially England, Ireland and Scotland are fields ready and waiting to be harvested. These fields seem to be crying out, Come over and help us! and we know of no more hopeful parts in which to thrust in the sickle and reap . . . There is a great need for a Swedish translation [of Millennial Dawn] and also a translation which would serve both the Danes and the Norwegians.”
The First Kingdom Publisher
A 25-year-old Danish-American, a shoemaker named Sophus Winter, arrived from the United States in 1894 and settled in Copenhagen, the capital. By that time Volume I of the Millennial Dawn series, written by Russell, and a few tracts had been translated. Toward the end of the year, Brother Winter could inform the Society’s headquarters office, then in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., that he had placed all the books he had brought with him.
Volume II of Millennial Dawn was issued in Dano-Norwegian in 1895, and from January 1897, Winter began publishing a monthly magazine called Tusindaars-Rigets Budbærer (Millennial Messenger). Interest was sparked, and in 1899 the Memorial of Christ’s death was attended by 15 persons in Copenhagen and 12 in the town of Odder.
Bible truth also found a foothold during the following year in the area around Fårevejle, a distant outpost with a train stop, in northwest Sjælland. Hans Peter Larsen, a religious man who first associated with the Inner Mission and later with the Baptists, learned the truth from Brother Winter and soon resigned from the Baptist Church. A small group of about ten persons began to hold meetings in a private home. For many years there was talk in that area of how he and a fellow believer preached the return of Christ by tacking notices on telephone poles. Their work was not unfruitful, for in 1902 a young woman named Albertine Hansen Nielsen was baptized in Sejerø Bight. She was an active Witness until her death in 1968, over 66 years later.
A New Fellow Publisher
Some of those early publishers spoke to friends and relatives. Others distributed tracts outside churches. A few were colporteurs (full-time preachers). Among them was Carl Lüttichau, who in the summer of 1899 traveled several weeks throughout Sjælland, placing book after book in several towns, including Roskilde and Holbæk.
Lüttichau had just returned from South Africa, where he had an accident and sustained a serious injury. Determined that if he survived, he would use his life in God’s service, he stuck to his promise and soon began working with Sophus Winter. Starting in 1900, they jointly published Zion’s Watch Tower under the Danish name Zions Vagt-Taarn.
However, Sophus Winter began drifting from the truth. He ceased publishing Zions Vagt-Taarn in the fall of 1901, and in the course of 1902-3, he fell into the darkness of false religion.
So in 1903, Carl Lüttichau took the lead. He had been born in Jutland at Vingegaard, which belonged to the estate of Tjele owned by his father, who had been minister of finance in the Danish government for some years. He completed school with top grades, graduated in philosophy, and went on to study at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, until he left for South Africa in 1896. With this background and his cultured manner, he was well liked and was qualified for the work that lay ahead.
The first major event that took place after he took charge of the work was the visit of Charles Taze Russell in April 1903. During this visit several meetings were held, the largest with an attendance of 200. In October, Carl took the initiative to publish the Watch Tower in Danish again, and from July 1904 it was issued regularly each month.
A Sign Painter Finds the Truth
In Copenhagen, meetings were attended by a group of five or six people, including two poor seamstresses. But the group was soon to become stronger.
Brønshøj, located in the north end of Copenhagen, was home to a Norwegian sign painter, John Reinseth. He and his wife, Augusta, earnestly tried to bring up their children according to the Word of God. John would often read the Bible to his family and tried to explain it so that even the children could understand. Although attending various religious meetings, they received no satisfaction. Then one evening they knelt down while the father prayed sincerely to God to open their eyes to the truth. The next morning a colporteur was standing on their doorstep with Volume I of Millennial Dawn! Who was this preacher? Anna Hansen, one of the two poor seamstresses.
Carl Lüttichau followed through and called on this family to teach them the Bible. After some long discussions, John began attending meetings at Ole Suhrs Gade, the Society’s Danish headquarters office. After every meeting he would rush home and tell his wife about the wonderful things he had heard. Although bedridden for several years, as soon as her strength came back, she eagerly hobbled on crutches to the meetings.
The family simply seized the truth. Every minute John could spare, he preached from door to door. Often he got up as early as 4:30 in the morning to prepare for the meetings. Later in the day, when he tired, he would settle into a comfortable chair for a nap, habitually holding his key ring loosely in his hand. When he dozed off and dropped the keys, he would wake up, aroused by his self-devised alarm clock. Refreshed, he was ready to get going again in service.
His wife, despite her frail health, desired to spread the truth around Hellebæk in northern Sjælland, where she was born. So she packed a large wicker trunk with books and shipped it by train to Elsinore. Since she could only carry just a couple of books in her handbag, she had a special belt sewn for her waist, with large, flat pockets. Thus equipped, with handbag in one hand, a cane in the other, and a number of books in the belt hidden by a loose-fitting coat, stouthearted Augusta would walk and preach from villa to villa along the northern coast. Before she died in 1925, her last words were: “There is so much to be done up there in northern Sjælland, and I wanted so much to do it.”
Three of their children also became zealous publishers of the good news, and their son Poul had the privilege of serving as branch overseer for a time.
The “Wednesday Brethren” in Ålborg
In 1910 a small group of people in Ålborg, in northern Jutland, had withdrawn from various churches because they found no spiritual food there. Each Wednesday they gathered in a private home to read and discuss the Bible on their own. Among them was a married couple, Peter and Johanne Jensen. Their son Arthur occasionally attended these meetings as well, although he was a freethinker.
When Anna Hansen—the seamstress who had visited the Reinseth family—came and offered Volume I of Millennial Dawn, Johanne Jensen obtained the book. Arthur read it with an insatiable hunger during the night. Nevertheless, he had to wait to satisfy his spiritual hunger further. Before he could pursue his interest, he had to travel to Copenhagen, but while there he was suddenly struck with typhoid fever. The resulting hospital stay gave him the time for spiritual feeding. He sent word to the office at Ole Suhrs Gade. He wanted every publication of the Society that was available. After he left the hospital, he attended all the meetings. But that did not satisfy his spiritual hunger either. After the meetings, he would often accompany Poul Reinseth to his home, and then Poul would accompany Arthur back to his lodging. Often they would spend a whole night walking back and forth between each other’s places, excitedly discussing the truth. They became friends for life.
Arthur then began a lively correspondence with his mother in Ålborg, and he rejoiced at the thought of telling the “Wednesday Brethren” of the Bible truths he had found. When he went to his parents’ home for Christmas, Poul joined him. There, Arthur was asked to conduct a Wednesday meeting, which evoked much discussion when he drew attention to the year 1914 as the end of the Gentile Times. Not all the “Wednesday Brethren” continued in Arthur’s discussion group. But a faithful core stuck to the truth, and a congregation was formed in Ålborg in 1912. A young woman in the group, Thyra Larsen, became a colporteur, and her two sisters, Johanne and Dagmar, were among those who remained as faithful supporters of the congregation.
A Visit From Brother Russell
Expectation had begun to grow among the Bible Students about what would happen when the Gentile Times ended. Would Armageddon follow immediately? Would the congregation be taken away before Armageddon? All of this occupied the minds of the brothers. They knew, of course, that the gospel of the Kingdom should first be preached to all nations as stated at Matthew 24:14, but this, they thought, might already have happened, since all nations were represented in America, where Russell’s sermons were printed in newspapers.
Despite these anxieties, the work grew and was stimulated by visits of brothers from world headquarters, located in the United States. On May 24, 1909, Brother Russell arrived in Copenhagen. About a hundred people heard him speak on the subject “The Covenants.” In the evening another audience of 600 listened intently to his talk “The Overthrow of Satan’s Empire.” Two years later his public discourse “The Judgment of the Great White Throne” was heard by 800 people.
Brother Russell’s next visit was in August 1912. For the first time, but not the last, the brothers rented the auditorium of the Odd Fellows Hall, which had 1,600 seats. But so many people came that last-minute arrangements had to be made for an extra meeting in a smaller hall of that same building. So the talk “Beyond the Grave” was given simultaneously in both places. Because both halls were packed out, several hundred disappointed individuals had to be turned away.
House-to-house preaching went forward with greater zeal. Louis Carlsson, from Copenhagen, relates concerning the year 1913: “The entire year was a year of tract distribution. Every Sunday morning at nine o’clock, John Reinseth would be standing on a street corner to give out territory to the friends who came out in service. We did not ring doorbells but put a tract in the letter slot in the door. I remember an instance in the Vesterbro section of Copenhagen. The front door of one flat had frosted glass; I could see the outline of a man inside. I put in a tract on the subject ‘Babylon’; it was picked up and shoved out again. So I inserted another tract, ‘What Do the Scriptures Say About Hell?’ I saw the man pick it up and look at it—and to my surprise, this one he kept!”
More people were gathered in, and new congregations were formed, so that by the spring of 1914, smaller congregations had been established in 12 towns, in addition to the Copenhagen Congregation.
World War Erupts
In the summer of 1914, Joseph F. Rutherford was back in Europe representing Brother Russell. A few days before the first world war began, he was traveling from Germany on his way to Britain. However, his love for the Danish brothers, whom he had already visited in 1910 and 1913, prompted him to make a detour to Copenhagen to attend the first two days of a convention that was to be held August 1-4. In his brief farewell speech that Sunday afternoon, Brother Rutherford encouraged the brothers to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God and have complete confidence in Him under all conditions in those troublesome times.
But now Brother Rutherford himself began to feel uneasy over the nearness of the war. It was necessary for him to get to England, but all regular boat connections from Esbjerg in Denmark to the British ports had already been cut off, and nobody knew what the next day would bring. He set sail on a fishing cutter to England—straight through the waters where, two years later, one of the greatest naval battles of World War I was fought, the Battle of Jutland.
Meanwhile, the convention continued back in Copenhagen. On the last day of the convention, the out-of-town delegates were encouraged to return to their homes immediately that night rather than wait till morning, for it was feared that train service and other public transportation would be stopped. No one could yet see how extensive the war would become. Denmark remained neutral, however, and no important limitations were put on the preaching work.
The “Photo-Drama of Creation”
The “Photo-Drama of Creation,” a motion picture and slide presentation, arrived in Denmark that autumn. The first showing was held in the Odd Fellows Hall in Copenhagen, and during 1915 it was shown over practically all the provinces, always in the best halls, which were filled to capacity for all showings. Dagmar Larsen from Ålborg, who later married Louis Carlsson from Copenhagen, recalled: “We got busy passing out invitations. We would get a stack of 500 at a time and use all our spare time on this work. My sister Johanne and I were asked to help with the showings as ‘deaconesses.’ We wore black dresses with white collars and a head covering of black velvet. . . . There were three showings a day and crowds beyond compare. The whole city was upside down because color film was a new invention—and the showing was free! The guests received cards on which they could write their names and addresses if they wanted more information, and two colporteurs remained in town for a while to care for those interested persons.”
A Determined Teacher
In 1915 another event aroused attention. During the previous year, the truth had reached the fishing village of Skagen, at the northern tip of the country. An art dealer and his wife had accepted the truth. A schoolteacher, Marie Due, was interested as well. Dagmar Larsen, who had just been baptized, arrived in Skagen as a child’s nurse. She met Marie Due and spoke a great deal with her about Biblical subjects.
That same fall Marie Due withdrew membership from the church and refused to teach any more classes on religion. Newspapers throughout the country carried this story. Finally, she was dismissed on a pension at the age of 45, and out she went in the full-time ministry, happy as can be, with the pension covering her expenses. She worked faithfully for many years in Denmark, Norway, and Finland. She was simply indomitable, a fine example of endurance right down to her death.
Brother Russell’s death in 1916 ushered in a difficult time, especially for the Copenhagen Congregation. Some sisters began teaching false ideas, even influencing some of the elders. During a meeting in 1917 at Ole Suhrs Gade, a sister suddenly stood up and said: ‘Come, now we are leaving!’ Sixteen members followed her out, about 25 percent of those in attendance—and they were never seen again. But their exit was a relief. The meetings could continue in peace.
Some of those individuals who fell away joined Paul S. L. Johnson, who left the truth in the United States about that time. They tried to lure others away through slander and through pamphlets they mailed. Like gangrene the apostasy spread to other congregations. It became a time for faithful endurance and resoluteness.
World War Followed by Renewed Activity
The July 1919 issue of the Danish Watch Tower announced that the long-awaited Finished Mystery (Volume VII of Studies in the Scriptures) would now be published in Dano-Norwegian. The brothers expected a great preaching campaign to start. To instruct the brothers on how to visit people, a colporteur course had already been conducted in Copenhagen. This was also the first time that noncolporteurs were encouraged to witness from door to door with books.
During the years that followed, a handful of untiring, steadfast colporteurs did a tremendous work by planting the Kingdom seed and cultivating new soil. Niels Ebbesen Dal was one zealous example. In 1918 this Danish-American returned to the land of his birth, the island of Mors in northern Jutland. In the United States, he had learned the truth through the book The Divine Plan of the Ages, which he had found in a hotel room. Upon his return to Denmark, he immediately began to do colporteur work and preach to his relatives and all others on Mors.
This caused quite a stir. The Dal family were prominent Grundtvigians and were highly respected on the island. But now this Dal came along and was preaching new ideas. His older brother Frode became interested at once, and also Frode’s son Kristian, a newly graduated schoolteacher. Kristian started as a colporteur in 1920 and was joined later by his brother Knud.
A New and Gripping Message
In the United States, the Watch Tower Society’s second president had already given his popular talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” Now it was Europe’s turn to hear it. On August 12, 1920, Joseph F. Rutherford and some of his fellow workers sailed to England, and while he continued down through part of Europe, the same talk was given in Denmark by A. H. Macmillan.
Brother Macmillan disembarked in Esbjerg on Thursday, October 21, 1920, and that same evening he spoke at the Palace Hotel. Next, the discourse was given in Odense. In Copenhagen the talk was to be given at the Odd Fellows Hall. An hour before the talk was scheduled to begin, people had already gathered outside the hall, and when the doors were flung open, it was filled in just a matter of minutes! Many with cheerful faces lost their smiles when they had to be turned away. The audience, though, was most attentive, and after the meeting about 300 copies of the Millions booklet were distributed.
Response to Macmillan’s Talk
Clearly, there was great interest in this “new” message. Brother Macmillan’s public meetings had attracted more than 5,000 listeners! Some of these became Bible Students and zealous publishers of God’s Word. Thus, sitting in the audience in Esbjerg, were a young couple, Johannes and Thora Dam, members of the Methodist Church. The husband was the church warden, so their living quarters were in the church building. After the talk, they ordered the Millions booklet, and some three months later, a colporteur called on them.
The colporteur stayed with them for some time to instruct them so that they could become well-grounded in their newfound faith. This, of course, did not please the Methodist minister. One day he met the colporteur outside the church and asked: “Who in the world gave you permission to fish in my fish baskets?” The brother quickly replied: “Who gave you permission to put the fish into baskets?”
Johannes Dam had found the true church! A total of 18 Methodists withdrew, and that is how the congregation in Esbjerg got started.
One of those who was turned away because of the crowd at Brother Macmillan’s “Millions” talk in Copenhagen was a young and ardent social democrat, a tobacco worker named Angelo Hansen. Although disappointed at not having heard the lecture, his interest in Bible truth had been aroused. A couple of months later, while unemployed, he went to check in at his labor union office. He met an unemployed colleague who, surprisingly, was a Bible Student. Alas for the church! Soon Angelo Hansen also became a Bible Student.
Rutherford’s Visit in 1922
In 1922, Brother Rutherford again attended a convention in Copenhagen. This time he gave the “Millions” talk in the Odd Fellows Hall—the same place where Brother Macmillan had given it a year and a half before.
What impression did the talk make? The daily newspaper Politiken wrote on its front page: “Judge Rutherford had success last night in the Concert Hall. Long before he began his talk, every single seat in the large hall was occupied, and new listeners came in droves. Several hundred were turned away. There was no more room.”
Among those baptized at this convention was a young man, Christian Rømer, who had come in contact with the Bible Students on his home island, Bornholm. Before World War I, his father had received a gift subscription to The Watch Tower, and one day in 1919, Christian, then 20 years old, found a copy. “What happened to me that day was so great an experience that words fail to express it,” he relates. “This was the truth I knew had to be in the Bible, and now I got it, now I had it.”
During the convention in Copenhagen, he attended a meeting for colporteurs. Here he met Kristian Dal—and his life course was set. He began serving as a colporteur in Bornholm, June 1922.
Increase in Copenhagen
In the winter of 1921/22, Angelo Hansen was, as usual, witnessing to the unemployed townspeople waiting outside their union check-in place. As he was holding the Millions booklet above his head and shouting “Millions now living will never die!” a young truth-seeking man came up to him. He was Christian Bangsholt. He read the booklet through in one night and began attending the meetings at Ole Suhrs Gade. What he heard there was so different from what he had previously heard from the Salvation Army, the Pentecostals, the Methodists, and all the other groups where he had looked for the truth in vain. He simply could not keep this news to himself.
A number of friends with whom he talked also began coming to meetings. Among them were Herløv and Betty Larsen. Herløv and Christian were boyhood friends and had spent much time playing their musical instruments together. Now they shared the melody of Bible truth with each other.
That same spring another young man, Hans Christian Johnsen, became interested in the Bible Students. An atheist, outrightly antireligious, he was absorbed in socialistic ideas. A poster with an invitation to the “Millions” talk caught his attention. On his way to the auditorium, he bought a newspaper so he would have something to read in case the talk was boring. He did use his newspaper—as writing paper, but his hands could not jot down the scriptures fast enough! Since the talk was logical and understandable, his atheism gave way to faith in God. That one talk became several, and in September his wife joined him. It was clear to both of them that the message of the Kingdom should be preached from house to house.
One day in 1925, Hans Christian was asked to call on a young man by the name of Einer Benggaard, who had read some of the Society’s books. Once contacted, Einer quickly grew in faith and joined in the witnessing work too.
That is how, in the 1920’s, a small nucleus of young, zealous publishers was formed—brothers and sisters who left their mark on the work. And much of the increase in Copenhagen down to this day can be traced back to the activities of those few loyal ones.
Pioneering in Jutland
Now began a more intensive work in the rural territories. In January 1924 three colporteurs, Knud and Kristian Dal and Christian Rømer, formed a “colporteur column” and were dispatched to Jutland with the town of Skive as their first station. Brother Lüttichau opened the campaign with a public talk in the largest hall of the town, followed by meetings in pubs and community halls throughout the entire area with talks by Kristian Dal. Newspaper advertisements and handbills announced the talks. After the discourse, the colporteurs would go through the territory, placing books and booklets.
In the spring of 1924, the trio arrived in Haderslev, South Jutland, a province that was once part of Germany but that was reunited with Denmark by popular vote in 1920. Young men from that area were conscripted to fight on the Western Front. Quite a number of them had left their faith in God buried in the French trenches.
Christian Rømer describes how it was to preach to these people: “It was a somewhat peculiar but interesting territory to work. Their political fight had made them approachable.”
One of those whom the colporteurs met on their first round through the territory was Anton Hansen, a clogmaker in Over Jerstal. He too lost his faith on the Western Front. Along with a couple of war comrades, he attended the lecture “What Do the Scriptures Say About Hell?” The following day he was visited by Knud Dal, and after a heated, three-hour-long discussion, he accepted The Harp of God. That book rekindled his faith so much that together with his wife, Kathrine, he became prominent in the preaching work in South Jutland.
Up until the fall of 1925, the three colporteurs in the “Dal column” used bicycles or trains for transportation, but now a brother made an automobile available to them. Christian Rømer traveled to Copenhagen to pick it up. “It was a big event! A delightful old tin lizzie, with folding top and all,” he fondly recalls. “And as the only one who had a license, I was the chauffeur. The car lasted a year. Then we traded it in for the elegance of the time, a 1923 Ford sedan—enclosed and warmer in the winter. Quite a posh vehicle!”
These colporteurs gradually worked through all of Jutland and Fyn, until March 1929, when the funds for this special activity were exhausted.
More Colporteurs Join in the Work
In the meantime Ella Krøyer, from Copenhagen, and Kristine Poulsen, a schoolteacher with a Grundtvigian background, had begun to preach through southern Sjælland. Here too the territory was untouched. The autumn of 1926 found the sisters witnessing around the town of Vordingborg. Sister Poulsen remembers: “It was in the sugar-beet season. There was no asphalt on the roads, and the traffic of sugar-beet wagons during the day along with the rain during the night made deep ruts in the muddy roads. At times we had to give up visiting a farm or a house because we just couldn’t get through on the road.”
One day the sisters spotted just what they needed to conquer the mud—high-top rubber boots! Each quickly bought a pair. But rubber boots were a novelty in those days, so they drew a lot of attention wherever the sisters walked. A trip to Copenhagen to rest up a bit brought their boots into the limelight. A sister in the branch office at Ole Suhrs Gade was so thrilled with their new footwear that she picked up the boots, which were standing in the entryway, and pranced around the office showing everyone how well-equipped the colporteurs were!
A third unit of colporteurs, Anna Petersen and Thora Svendsen, also covered the territory in Fyn and Jutland. Sister Petersen says: “We pioneers were usually sent to areas where there were no congregations. We would go to the general-store keeper and ask if he knew who in town had a room to let. Our kitchen consisted of a little kerosene stove and a couple of pots on an old table or a couple of crates we would get from the storekeeper.”
Sometimes the two sisters joined the “Dal column.” The result? Sister Petersen and Brother Rømer decided on a more permanent union. They married in 1933, and even though Sister Rømer is now confined to a nursing home, Brother Rømer is still in the full-time ministry.
Organized to Preach
In the meantime much had happened in Denmark. In 1922 the historical appeal to “Advertise the King and Kingdom” had been sounded at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A. Now, not only the colporteurs but all associated with the congregation were to preach regularly. As the news of this reached the shores of Denmark, the brothers began to see that they could all join in evangelizing. Calls for preachers were sounded through the Danish Watch Tower, but the work was not yet organized. Why? Prominent ones in the congregation—the elected elders—held back. Something had to be done.
In late May 1925, Brother Rutherford planned to attend a convention in Örebro, Sweden. Shortly before this, he and R. J. Martin were in Switzerland. To save time, they took a plane from Zurich to Copenhagen. However, there was concern about their safe arrival. As they flew over northern Germany and Denmark, a storm erupted and made their plane bob around like a cork in water. On landing in Copenhagen, they were greeted by more than a hundred cheering people, since no one had expected a plane to make it through that storm. They were now a half-hour automobile drive away from the harbor, where Brother Macmillan was waiting. He had persuaded the ship captain and the station master to have the ferry to Malmö wait for them. They all boarded the ferry, and on the following day, they reached the convention in Örebro.
On the last day of the convention, Brother Rutherford announced that a Northern European Office was to be established in Copenhagen, headed by a Scotsman, William Dey. The office would supervise the Society’s activities in Scandinavia and the Baltic States and “especially encourage and advance the public preaching of the Kingdom message.”
Brother Dey, a bachelor, had been a Bible Student since 1913. He was the right man for the job. He had left his position as tax director in London to oversee the Northern European Office. He was energetic, persevering, and driven by great love for the truth. He had good experience from serving in Britain, where congregation colporteur work had already been organized for several years. The brothers liked him, and soon he was known by the name Big Scotsman.
Brother Dey wasted no time in organizing the preaching work. Poul Reinseth was appointed service director for Copenhagen and supervised the witness work in the capital. The city was divided into six areas, each with a responsible area service leader. Book depots were set up in private homes so that it was no longer necessary for each publisher to trek to the branch office to get his literature supply. The witnessing work now took on a robust complexion.
A Convention With a Service Day
The 1925 convention was a high point in Danish theocratic history. The Danish edition of The Watch Tower announced: “Tuesday the first of September will be a special service day, and it is expected that all who are able will take part in the effort to spread the message by colporteuring with books in the Copenhagen area.” The day began with a talk by Poul Reinseth on the importance of preaching. Then the conventioners were scattered to the four winds—out in the house-to-house work with the books.
Afterward, the Danish Watch Tower carried this encouragement: “Since the convention, ardor and zeal in connection with spreading the message has spread to many classes [congregations], and we hope that this will mean a real expansion of the work.”
More Congregations Join in the Work
Brother Dey kept busy. In his first three and a half months as overseer, he logged 9,000 miles [14,000 km] in Scandinavia and the Baltic States, organizing the evangelizing work. Einer Benggaard relates a small episode from this activity: “In a congregation in northern Jutland, we had arranged a little assembly to help organize our brothers and sisters for the house-to-house work. Following a talk by Brother Dey, we received instructions on how we should do the work, what we should say to the people, and so forth. Territory and literature were assigned, and we went out the door, most with our hearts in our mouths! As Brother Dey and I walked down the main street, we saw two sisters standing in a gateway crying. We took them along with us, and soon there was sunshine in their eyes again!”
When that year was over, more than twice as many books had been placed as in the year before. The office stated in the report for the 1925 service year: “More and more of the friends are learning to see that not only public speakers and colporteurs are called to share in the work but in reality all who have completely dedicated their lives to the Lord.”
Traveling pilgrims, such as Johan Eneroth from Sweden and Theodor Simonsen from Norway, had encouraged increased preaching. Now, though, a permanent pilgrim was appointed, Christian Jensen from northern Sjælland. He had spent some years in the United States and had also been touring Denmark with the “Photo-Drama of Creation.”
The term “pilgrim” was later changed to “regional service director,” and more regional service directors were appointed. These included Christian Rømer, Kristian Dal, and Johannes Dam.
A “Proper” Bethel Home
Soon, books and booklets began flowing in from the Society’s factories in Magdeburg and Bern, and the storage space at Ole Suhrs Gade was far too small, with room for only a few hundred books, in two shipping crates standing on their sides, one on top of the other. A young brother, Simon Petersen (brother of colporteur Anna Petersen), was assigned to arrange a new and larger stockroom in the former meeting hall.
Several of the brothers and sisters who worked at the office and depot, which was in an old apartment building, had lodgings scattered around Copenhagen. Brother Dey thought that there ought to be a “proper” Bethel Home where all could live and eat together at the same place. So, up on the sixth floor, right under the rafters, small storage rooms were cleared out, the floors varnished, the walls papered, and the rooms furnished. When the job was completed, Einer Benggaard, Simon Petersen, and another brother each had a cozy, if somewhat primitive, bedroom.
A New High Point
The autumn of 1927 was the next high point. Another visit by Brother Rutherford prompted another convention, where 650 delegates from Scandinavia, Estonia, and Latvia listened with rapt attention to Brother Rutherford’s talk “Freedom for the Peoples.” The daily newspaper Politiken wrote:
“The doors into the Odd Fellows Hall were opened at 7:30, but within a quarter hour every seat was filled . . . and the doors were closed. During the following quarter hour, several hundred people crowded into the large tiled vestibule. They kept banging on the closed doors, and one man who had come a long way just to hear this talk offered 500 crowns [$100] for a seat. But all in vain. The crush of the crowd in the vestibule grew greater. Nearly a thousand people pressed forward to come in but to no avail.”
Campaigns and Conventions
In order to stimulate all to share in the witness work, worldwide campaigns were organized, generally of nine days each. The first Danish campaign featured the booklet Freedom for the Peoples, which was distributed to the public during March 1928. Another feature of activity was the small Sunday assemblies, later called service conventions.
The home of Holger Nielsen in Thorup Strand, a small fishing village in northern Jutland, close to the North Sea, provides a glimpse of a typical Sunday assembly. Brothers will arrive from Ålborg and the island of Mors and the villages in between. All tote their lunches as they preach along the way. In the meantime brothers at Thorup Strand are scurrying about, preparing to receive them. Brother Nielsen’s barn is emptied, swept, and decorated, and benches are fetched on a horse-drawn wagon from the community hall. It is noon by the time the brothers arrive; they share a meal, rest a bit, and then gather in the clean barn for a talk, which is followed by a baptism in the open sea. On this occasion, 19 are immersed. What a day!
The Bible Students in Denmark were completely reorganized from 1925 to 1930. For example, better arranged meetings began in 1928. The Watch Tower was already being studied regularly, and it was now recommended that immediately before the weekly Testimony Meeting, a Service Meeting be held in which suggestions from the Bulletin (later Our Kingdom Ministry) could be entertained. The following year the Society sent out an “organization plan.” Each congregation should have a service committee consisting of three brothers to oversee the preaching work, while the elected elders looked after the study meetings held in the congregation.
A transformation of this kind resulted in a sifting. Those who did not want to show their faith by works revealed this more and more and finally left the ranks of the Bible Students. For this reason the partakers at the Memorial dropped from 909 in 1927 to 605 in 1931.
The theocratic readjustments eventually proved to be too much for the branch overseer, Carl Lüttichau. He was at odds even with the Society’s sharp rejection of all false religion. Many brothers tried to help him see the value of the needed changes; even Brother Eneroth from Sweden personally tried but to no avail. Lüttichau forsook his position as the Society’s branch representative, and in January 1930, Poul Reinseth replaced him.
A New Instrument, Name, and Home
The Golden Age was published in Danish from January 1930 under the name of Ny Verden (New World). To give this new magazine as wide a circulation as possible, there were extensive house-to-house campaigns to increase its readership. It was also sold from magazine stands, and posters were set up showing the contents of the magazine. Subscriptions started to soar. In 1930, there were 5,825 people who received the magazine regularly, either by mail or from a publisher, and in 1943, in the middle of World War II, there were 25,921 regular readers!
Another encouragement to preach diligently was the adoption of the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. Following its adoption at the 1931 convention in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A., the resolution was presented in the local congregations for adoption. What was the response to this new name? Marie Due wrote from Norway: “With joy I accept the new name and rejoice to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Others wrote: “This has given us the opportunity to renew our decision to serve Jehovah faithfully until the end.”
The resolution, along with Brother Rutherford’s convention talk, was printed in the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World and was distributed in great numbers in March 1932. During the last week of the campaign, a push was made to visit personally all politicians, clergymen, government officials, and prominent businessmen with the booklet. Also, a copy was placed on the desk of each member in the Hall of Parliament. Even the king of Denmark, Christian X, received a copy.
The facilities that the Society had in Ole Suhrs Gade were getting cramped. So a large villa toward the outskirts of Copenhagen, at 56 Søndre Fasanvej in Valby, was purchased, and the Bethel family moved to the new property on October 18, 1932.
Though the Society had for years carried on its work under the name “Vagttaarnets Bibel- og Traktatselskab” (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society), it had never been necessary to form a legal association. Now an association was formed and registered on May 21, 1932. The property at Søndre Fasanvej served as the Society’s branch office, depot, and Bethel Home for the next 25 years.
Legal Right to Distribute Literature Established
During the early 1930’s, the authorities tried to misapply the Law of Commerce and the Law of Public Holidays to our preaching work from house to house with literature. If the authorities had succeeded with their plans, the witness work would have slowed to a crawl. Instead, in October 1932, the matter came to a head. Five Witnesses from Copenhagen went to Roskilde by car to preach. They had agreed to meet again at the main square where the car was parked, but when they met, one member of their group, August Lehmann, was missing. He had been arrested by the police.
Brother Lehmann was charged with violating the Law of Commerce by selling printed material without a colporteur’s license and outside the allowed shopping hours. The town court acquitted Brother Lehmann, as did the Superior Court on appeal. However, the prosecution appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which heard the case in October 1933. The Supreme Court ruled that the preaching activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses with books and magazines was not the same as business and therefore did not come under the Law of Commerce.
The Society then decided that each publisher should have an identification card with information that the publisher for the Society was an unpaid, voluntary worker who distributed books without any profit and that the right to preach without a colporteur’s license had been established by the Supreme Court. The problem solved, the preaching work continued with no further legal interference.
The “Great Crowd” Emerging
Up until now the Witnesses’ main attention had been on the ingathering of the chosen ones, the anointed Christians with a heavenly hope. But often during those years, brothers and sisters would visit the branch office, some quite unhappy, because they did not believe deep-down that they had the heavenly hope. So it seemed wrong for them to partake of the Memorial emblems. Such were then known as Jonadab friends, in harmony with the Bible account of Jehu and Jonadab in ancient Israel.—2 Ki. 10:15, 16.
In August 1935, two issues of The Watchtower in English explained that the “great crowd” of Revelation chapter 7 was an earthly class that was to be gathered before Armageddon. The brothers at the office were enthused. Since a national convention was to be held that same month in Copenhagen, they sent a telegram to Brother Rutherford asking for permission to present a talk based on these two articles. Brother Rutherford gave the green light to Brother Dey to deliver this epoch-making talk.
“It was an unforgettable hour,” relates Brother Benggaard. “I sat in the orchestra behind the speaker and could look out over the audience. What enthusiasm! Never have I seen such waves flow over an audience! The ‘great crowd’ had been brought down from heaven to earth—it was a terrific flash of light, and now all knew who the ‘great crowd’ were!”
Now the ingathering of the “Jonadab friends” truly began. Throughout the country, public meetings were held with the purpose of contacting all who might be a part of the great crowd.
The next step in making the preaching work more effective was the introduction of phonographs. Records with Brother Rutherford’s brief Bible sermons translated into Danish could now be heard sounding out from doorsteps. Soon publishers were seen in the territory carrying portable phonographs.
However, hauling a phonograph, even a portable one, on a bicycle was tricky. Sister Rømer remembers: “We had to walk our cycles not only up but sometimes down hills because they were so steep and the roads so rocky that the spring holding the phonograph in place would snap if we rolled quickly downhill.” This obstacle did not cool their zeal. They rose to the challenge by inventing and building one amazing device after the other in order to mount the phonograph on the bicycle safely. One brother recalls that of the 135 persons he has had the pleasure of helping into Jehovah’s worldwide preaching organization, about 40 came in as a result of the phonograph work.
Besides this, so-called phonograph meetings were held where talks could be heard booming from larger phonographs. Some brothers in Kalundborg rigged a sound system on an old car of Daniel Nielsen (son of Albertine, who had been baptized in Sejerø Bight back in 1902). When he sold the car, a small cart pulled by a bicycle was pressed into service. “Out we went on long trips,” relates Brother Nielsen, “out to the villages where we preached by means of the phonograph talks.”
Pioneers Establish Congregations
The 1930’s also saw a change in the nature of the colporteur work, now called pioneering. While pioneers in the 1920’s traveled from one area to another trying to cover as much territory as possible, they now stayed in one location in order to establish congregations. To find out how this was done, let us follow the Mortensens, Ejner and Else.
After selling their small farm, Ejner and Else set out in the full-time ministry in March 1934. No easy task, for these were depression years.
One of their first territories was the town of Sønderborg. In a rented hall, they arranged to have four public talks given by speakers sent out by the Society. Then the series continued with Brother Mortensen as speaker. This was his debut. Although quite nervous, he did well, and in time there were about 30 regular attenders at meetings. Later, phonograph talks were held, with subsequent questions and answers. After that, regular study meetings began with the Society’s books as study aids. A new congregation was in the making, and it became a reality in early 1936.
Toward summer the Mortensens were requested to move on to the town of Nyborg, and here they proceeded in the same way: First, public talks were given by brothers from the Society, then talks by Brother Mortensen, then phonograph talks, and finally Bible study meetings. By the end of August 1937, their work had again borne so much fruit that a congregation with about ten publishers was formed in Nyborg.
The Nazi Occupation
April 9, 1940, was a dark day for Denmark. Troops from Nazi Germany goose-stepped over the land. The brothers steeled themselves for the worst because everywhere else the Nazis had control, the Witnesses had been brutally persecuted. So it was deemed best to proceed with caution.
That same month there was supposed to be an extensive campaign with the booklet Refugees, but since this booklet contained a hard exposé of the Nazi regime, plans were changed. The brothers carried out a lightning distribution early one Sunday morning by putting the booklets through the letter slots of people’s homes. On April 28, some 350,000 booklets were distributed free throughout the country. It was expensive, but even Brother Dey realized that it was necessary to use this method.
Thankfully, persecution never came. For political reasons the occupation forces chose to keep Denmark as a “model protectorate” and allowed the Danes considerable personal liberty. By exercising caution, the brothers were able to continue their preaching activities.
William Dey Interned
As a result of the German occupation, William Dey, who was a British citizen, was put in an internment camp near the town of Vejle. Though the internees enjoyed humane treatment and limited freedom inside the camp, it was a test for this active man not to do his daily work. He was by no means idle, though. Unceasingly he witnessed to his fellow internees as well as to all the guards. Time after time he told them to take their stand for God’s Kingdom—so often, in fact, that they nicknamed him Take-Your-Stand Dey!
The assignment as branch overseer that Brother Dey had received after Poul Reinseth in 1934 was cared for by Albert West. He had been serving as branch overseer in Estonia for some years in the late 1920’s. Direct contact with the Society’s headquarters in the United States was cut off. The only possibility of communication was through Sweden, which was a neutral island in the stormy sea of war. The Northern European Office had ceased to function, and Brother Eneroth in Sweden now had the assignment of gathering information and reports from the northern countries and transmitting them to Brooklyn, U.S.A.
Spiritual Food Still Received
Denmark continued to receive the latest magazines and other literature published, but as political relations between the Danes and the Germans became more and more strained, theocratic strategy was called for. A young Danish sister worked as a nurse for a Spanish diplomat’s family in Copenhagen, and this diplomat was very willing to bring gift packages back to her from Sweden. Of course, he did not know what was in the parcels!
So there was never any lack of spiritual food. All through the war years, it was possible to publish and distribute The Watchtower and Consolation, as well as other literature. Even in late 1941, when the English edition of The Watchtower carried a series of articles explaining Daniel’s prophecy and pointed to Germany as the king of the north, the brothers still received the information. It was deemed inadvisable to print these articles in The Watchtower in Danish, so they were mimeographed, and circuit overseers would travel to the congregations and read them aloud to an audience consisting of only brothers and sisters who carried their identification cards. As can be imagined, meeting places were always packed out for these talks.
Opposition From Nazis as Well as Clergymen
While there was no noticeable opposition from the German occupational forces, the Danish Nazis seethed with hatred. Time after time they tried through their magazines to point the attention of the Germans toward the Witnesses.
Also, the clergy within the Danish national church were busy with their nefarious schemes. Their attacks in newspapers resulted in lively exchanges of letters fired across the editorial pages. The culmination came when a clergyman concluded a radio church service with a warning against the Witnesses, who, he said, did not believe in Jesus as the Savior or as the Son of God.
The radio station refused to broadcast a correction, so the Society decided to speak up the best way it could—preach. Preparations were made for the most extensive witness campaign ever. In record time a booklet was prepared with the title Will You Judge Between Us? Its contents clearly showed the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the clergy.
The grand campaign was dubbed “Jehovah’s Battle.” And truly a battle spirit prevailed among Jehovah’s people. Everyone pitched in, and on the appointed day, February 21, 1943, some 700,000 booklets were distributed free of charge. Cities and towns were inundated with booklets. Not even the smallest islands were overlooked. Booklets were mailed to all houses on some 62 smaller islands. More than two thirds of all homes in Denmark received a booklet at their doors. Immediately afterward, copies were sent to all clergymen, parish clerks, and leading church members.
The newspapers made any who had overlooked the Witnesses’ campaign aware of it. All over the country, the clergy were busy taking up the fight in newspapers, parish magazines, and from the pulpit. The Witnesses’ campaign had touched a raw nerve in the opposers. The Danish Nazis attacked viciously, claiming that the Witnesses were financed secretly by Jews. However, hundreds of persons wrote to the branch requesting additional information about our message.
The campaign lasted several months. Wherever there was a parish vicar who reproached Jehovah’s name and opposed His servants, the brothers would seek to arrange a public talk in his area and flood the parish with handbills. Activity was especially great on the island of Amager, where a public debate was held between Jehovah’s Witnesses and clergy from the Danish national church. Two brothers, Arthur Jensen and Herløv Larsen, spoke for the Witnesses. They were skilled speakers, with quick, logical minds.
One theologian summed it up quite well. He said in the paper Amager Bladet of April 15: “As a whole, the Witnesses’ arguments were by far the best, the clearest, and the most objective. As to the church, well, one could only sit there and feel ashamed in its behalf.” In time the attacks from the clergy withered away because the harder the clergy fought against the Witnesses, the stronger was the testimony given to their parishioners by the Witnesses, and that did not fit the clergy’s purpose at all.
Conventions During the War
During the war it was possible to hold several conventions. A memorable one was held in the Odd Fellows Hall in Copenhagen on August 28 and 29, 1943. The first day of the convention went off as planned. However, political conditions in Denmark had reached a breaking point as the occupation forces made greater and greater demands of the Danish government, and on Saturday, August 28—the same day the convention began in the Odd Fellows Hall—the government refused further cooperation.
Sunday morning the German forces went into action. The commander in chief of the Germans in Denmark declared martial law. The Danish army and navy were disarmed, several prominent citizens were arrested, and the government was dissolved. Assembling together was forbidden as was gathering in groups on the streets. That same morning the brothers met in private homes. The situation was discussed, and they took it for granted that the convention was now canceled.
But it so happened that one kind of meeting was not forbidden—church services. Notice was sent out quickly that they could meet in the afternoon at the Odd Fellows Hall for a “church service.” Brothers from Bethel were dispatched by taxi to different homes, and from there the word spread like a prairie fire among the brothers. In order not to draw undue attention to their work, the brothers arrived in twos or threes. They were led into the hall through a side entrance. Soon, 1,284 brothers and sisters were assembled.
“When we got into the hall,” one sister relates, “we could really see what the organization meant to us, since practically all the brothers were there. All had assembled on very short notice, and no one but Jehovah’s Witnesses could have accomplished that. Just to get away from the noisy, angry mobs in the streets and into the calm and peaceful atmosphere was wonderful. It was as though there was a door between the old world and the new.”
After the meeting, the brothers exited in small groups and were told to leave the area quickly. Everything went smoothly. And the whole thing was carried on right under the nose of the Germans! The headquarters of the German naval commander was located right across the street from the assembly site! On the sidewalk outside, behind heaps of sandbags, were German guards armed with machine guns.
The Bible School on Langeland
In 1943, rumors were flying that the Witnesses in the United States and Britain had their own Bible schools. Since the brothers in Denmark had no direct contact with world headquarters because of the war, they, in good faith, set in motion plans for a school. They bought a house in attractive surroundings at Lohals, on the island of Langeland. There, with a view of the sea, they established their very own Bible school. For school supervisor, Simon Petersen from Bethel was selected. Two other brothers were teachers. One of them, Filip Hoffmann, was also from Bethel.
Monday, June 5, 1944, the first class began school. Each course lasted two weeks. Instruction was from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, with such subjects as Bible teachings, organization, preaching activity, arithmetic, and Danish. The afternoons were open for the students’ choice. They were free to study, go swimming, or stroll through the school’s pleasant surroundings. Weekends were devoted to the field ministry.
Although the school lasted only one summer, total enrollment rose to about 450 brothers and sisters. Actually, the school resulted from a misunderstanding. True, schools were to be established but not in this way. The following year, the Course in Theocratic Ministry (now Theocratic Ministry School) was introduced in all congregations.
The End of the War
Toward the end of the war, shortages of most goods, such as paper, forced a reduction in magazine size. No paper, no literature. But the brothers succeeded for a while in getting The Watchtower and Consolation published in the usual quantity by gradually reducing the number of pages. However, even that effort was not enough. By April 1945 it became necessary to stop the obtaining of new subscriptions.
Nevertheless, the Danish congregations increased during those years, nearly doubling their number. From a peak of 1,373 publishers in 75 congregations in 1940, the figure rose to 2,620 Witnesses in 127 congregations in 1945.
Helping Former Concentration Camp Prisoners
On May 5, 1945, Denmark rejoiced. Liberation! That same day, a river barge packed with several hundred prisoners from the infamous concentration camp in Stutthof in what is today the northern part of Poland was stranded at the island of Møn. Among the prisoners were 15 of Jehovah’s Witnesses of five different nationalities. Within a few hours, their Danish brothers were on hand with food. Sadly, the relief arrived too late for a few. Disease and starvation had taken their toll; two Witnesses died soon after arrival. Clearly, the survivors had great need for kind attention. The branch took them under its wing.
They were housed in the Society’s building on Langeland. And under Brother and Sister Simon Petersen’s tender watchcare, the three brothers and ten sisters flourished physically, mentally, and spiritually. In time these refugees regained their strength and returned to their respective lands to resume the preaching work in their own languages—German, Polish, Russian, Latvian, and Lithuanian.
Visits From Headquarters
In the early summer of 1945, contact with the Society’s office in Brooklyn, New York, was reestablished. Later that year communication was further strengthened when Nathan H. Knorr, who had been the Society’s president since 1942, visited Copenhagen together with his secretary, Milton G. Henschel. This was quite an event, for a president of the Society had not visited Denmark since 1927.
During the visit, 13 brothers applied for missionary training at the new Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The following summer the first five of them left for the United States.
Two years later, on their world service tour in 1947, Brothers Knorr and Henschel again visited Denmark. This time Brother Knorr introduced something quite new to Denmark: street witnessing with magazines. Offering The Watchtower and Awake! to people on the streets had proved to be an effective preaching method in the United States. In Denmark too it was successful, especially during Friday rush hour.
Gilead Graduates Help Out
The return of Gilead-trained brothers to Denmark gave a big boost to the field ministry. The first two graduates, Johannes and Christian Rasmussen, came back to serve as servants to the brethren (today termed “circuit overseers”) from early 1947. Christian was later transferred to Sweden, where he still serves at Bethel.
Filip Hoffmann was the next Gilead graduate who returned to Denmark. In addition to instruction at Gilead, he received special training at the office and factory in Brooklyn. Thus, his return sparked a change in procedures at the Denmark branch office. Later, Brother Hoffmann was assigned to Germany to serve in its branch office.
Albert and Margaret West came back to Denmark from Gilead in January 1949. Brother West was assigned as branch overseer, relieving Brother Dey, who was now 69 years old. Brother Dey continued his work in the office until the fall of 1950, when he returned to Britain to serve faithfully as a pioneer till his death in 1963.
Growth—Numerical and Spiritual
During the years that followed, the spiritual outlook of the brothers widened out. They could see themselves more and more as part of an international society under common oversight. The large international conventions in New York City in the 1950’s, which had delegates from Denmark, contributed to this. They saw with their own eyes the headquarters office and printery of Jehovah’s Witnesses and heard with their own ears some of the members of the headquarters staff give talks. All of this gave them a fine spiritual foundation that they could share with others back home.
The number of publishers kept climbing, so when preparations were under way for the convention in 1954, it was obvious that a convention hall used several times previously—K.B. Hallen—was no longer adequate. The brothers then rented the largest hall in Denmark, the Forum, near the center of Copenhagen. This was a sensation. As Johannes Rasmussen, then district overseer, put it: “We could gather 8,000 people in the K.B. hall, and it would be nothing. But if 5,000 came to the Forum, that is news.”
Preparations were made for the largest convention in Denmark to date. There was room for 7,000 inside the Forum, and a number of tents were set up to make room for an overflow of several thousand more. Still, conditions were crowded all four days of the convention. The brothers rejoiced over the attendance, and their enthusiasm knew no bounds when on August 8, Sunday afternoon, 12,097 attended the public talk!
A New Branch Overseer
The following day, an American brother, Richard E. Abrahamson, arrived to assume responsibility for the work in Denmark. He became the fifth branch overseer within a few years. Brother West had fallen seriously ill in the summer of 1951 and left his responsibility to Aage Hau, who had been trained at Gilead. A year later, the responsibility was passed to a Canadian, Norman Harper. After a couple of years, the Harpers decided to return to Canada because of an increase in their family.
Brother Abrahamson came from the district work in England. With his wife, Julia, he graduated from Gilead in 1953 and had earlier served for a number of years at the Brooklyn headquarters. He was 31 years old when he became branch overseer, and he was to oversee the work for more than 26 years.
Preaching in the Faeroe Islands
In May of that same year, 1954, two special pioneers were sent to the Faeroe Islands, a small group of islands in the North Atlantic between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. They were not the first publishers on the islands, however. As far back as the summer of 1935, two pioneer sisters had traveled there. During their three-month stay, they managed to distribute a large number of books and booklets. The clergy, though, succeeded in getting the pioneers expelled. From 1948 some preaching had again been done on the islands, but various kinds of hardships limited the work.
Now the two special pioneers, Svend Aage Nielsen and Edmund Onstad, were to get the work better organized. They soon found an apartment in the main town, Thorshavn, on Strømø, the largest of the Faeroe Islands, where they arranged a room as a Kingdom Hall. After preaching throughout the town, they next targeted the smaller settlements.
As a whole, the Faeroe Islanders reflect the severe nature of the islands—being a little reserved, hesitant, and somewhat distrustful of strangers—so it took time and patience for the pioneers to get close to them. The pioneers often were faced with closed doors. It was only after they would “disappear” from the territory for a while and then begin preaching again that it was possible to make contact, since the people then thought the “danger” was gone. Fear of man was great. Literature placed was often returned; sometimes it was even waiting for the pioneers at the post office in Thorshavn when they returned to the town.
Another problem was the impossibility of finding lodgings in the villages. This meant more sailing because only one-day trips from Thorshavn to the villages were possible. And only Brother Nielsen had a good stomach for the sea. But a solution was found. A brother from Denmark who had joined them in the pioneer ministry had a tailor shop, and by pooling their resources and efforts, they managed to make a tent. Thus, toting knapsacks, sleeping bags, preaching bags, and a tent, they could hike over the hills from village to village and not have to worry about finding shelter for the night.
The Troubles at Klaksvík
Later that year Brother Nielsen moved to the town of Klaksvík. Coincidentally, just as he arrived, a long-lasting conflict reached a climax. The local people refused to accept the Danish authorities’ choice of chief physician at the town’s hospital. Violence erupted! In the evening iron chains were thrown over electric lines so that all lights in the town went out. And woe to any Dane who ventured outside alone after dark!
But how could Brother Nielsen go from door to door when the whole town was like an angry beehive? He relates: “I got an idea my first day out, an idea I have not used before or since. I simply carried my Bible openly in my hand from the time I walked out my door until I returned home. This way I always got into long discussions with people, although they still did not dare to invite me in. . . . One housewife said, ‘Do you know what people are saying? That no one can harm you because you carry a Bible in your hand all the time.’”
More Pioneers Enter the Field
In the summer of 1957, Anders Andersen was sent to the Faeroe Islands, where he served as a special pioneer in the Klaksvík territory. He also made regular visits to the small, newly established congregation at Thorshavn and to Brother Onstad, who was preaching on the southern island of Suderø.
The following year a married couple arrived, Svend and Ruth Molbech. Now the sisters also could have good support in the field, and the local women who showed interest could be better served. It was awkward for single brothers to make regular return visits on women, especially when their husbands were away on long fishing trips.
Witnessing With the Society’s Films
The Society’s films, The New World Society in Action and The Happiness of the New World Society, stirred up interest in the good news in the small settlements. These films demonstrated that the Witnesses were not a local sect but a worldwide brotherhood.
At Vestmanna on Strømø, the cinema was booked. Adults and children, more than 80 in all, filled the room long before the showing. Waiting time was never a problem for the Faeroese; no rigid time schedule for them. Only when a fishing boat returned would all of them suddenly storm the harbor. This happened during the showing of one of the Society’s films. Right in the middle of the show, the sound of a steam whistle penetrated the air, proclaiming the return of fathers, sons, and brothers from the sea. In a moment the meeting was entirely broken up; everybody rushed to the windows to see what ship had arrived. And then, out they all went! The hall emptied in seconds; only the keeper of the cinema and a few old persons stayed to see the rest of the film.
A Faeroese Takes His Stand
While Brother Andersen was witnessing in the northern islands, he met a Faeroese man, John Mikkelsen, who showed interest. However, with his Faeroese take-your-time nature, John did not change overnight. Two special pioneer sisters followed up on the interest, and with their kind efforts, John’s wife, Sonja, became interested too and joined in the Bible study. In time both husband and wife took their stand for the truth, and John eventually became the first Faeroese to be appointed as an elder.
By and by, the lone pioneers received help from families who moved in from Denmark to serve where the need was greater. This had a good effect, since many people in the territory had the idea that our faith was only for missionaries, not for “normal” people. But they respected families who lived and worked in their midst. The first newcomer family was Anker and Dora Nygaard and their four children. They arrived in 1959 and made a fine contribution to the increase in the Faeroe Islands.
It took eight to ten years of patient, hard work in the Faeroese territory by the first wave of special pioneers to break the soil, so to speak. They had borne the brunt of opposition from religious leaders and spearheaded the search for sincere ones. Now it was deemed advisable to let these soil-breakers return to less isolated areas in Denmark and have other pioneers continue their work.
To Greenland—The Land of Ice and Snow
In the mid-1950’s, the time had also come to introduce the good news to the land of ice and snow, Greenland, a vast island with a cold climate and an ice cap up to two miles thick [3 km]. For many years Greenland had the status of a colony of Denmark, and the only religions allowed to operate there were the Moravian Brethren, who withdrew in the year 1900, and the Danish national church. But the adoption of a new Danish Constitution in 1953 paved the way for Witnesses to be assigned there.
In January 1955 two special pioneers, Kristen Lauritsen and Arne Hjelm, arrived by boat in the capital, Godthåb (Nuuk). The task that awaited them was enormous. With the capital as starting point, they worked their way along a thousand miles [1,600 km] of the western coast, where most of the then 25,000 inhabitants lived, scattered in 200 towns, villages, and settlements.
They began with the main town. Many willingly listened at first. Then the reaction changed. What had happened? The dean of Greenland (the ranking clergyman of the country) had printed a pamphlet against the Witnesses and distributed it among the Greenlanders. He sought to arouse strong feelings against the work of the Witnesses in hopes of smothering it right from the start.
Up and Down Along the Coast
The brothers continued preaching unperturbed. After celebrating the Memorial, they started preparations for a long summer preaching tour. By late April the first coastal boat arrived for its continuing trip northward. The pioneers bought a tent and hopped on board.
The trip took them to towns like Holsteinsborg, Egedesminde, Jakobshavn, the coal-mining town Qutdligssat, Uummannaq, and Upernavik, the northernmost point of their journey, more than 600 miles [1,000 km] from the starting point. Everywhere, they spread the good news, placing a few Greenlandic tracts at a time.
Their next long preaching tour took them to Julianehåb, over 300 miles [500 km] south of Godthåb. The weather was milder there, and everything appeared greener and friendlier. Following a trip to Narsaq, Nanortalik, and Sydprøven, the brothers returned to Godthåb; and so they had completed those long preaching trips in their first summer in Greenland. The whole western coast had received a witness concerning Jehovah’s purposes.
These early trips certainly added to the life experience of the brothers. Though they preferred to sleep in a warm bed, they found that tenting has a charm of its own. However, one disadvantage of tenting involved the Greenlandic sledge dogs, used by the Greenlanders from Holsteinsborg northward. The dogs would run back and forth under the tent cords, and they would bite through the cords. The brothers quickly learned that they should never keep food in their tent unless it was well protected; otherwise the dogs would break in and eat it all. Therefore, they would usually put food supplies on the roof of a shed or hang them up in a bag on a pole out of reach of snapping jaws. But in Uummannaq this did not work. The dogs jumped up and bit a hole in their food bag—and out tumbled their supplies, including sausages, cheese, butter, and other good things, which the dogs quickly devoured.
Sometimes the brothers encountered clergy opposition, but on the whole their experience was that Greenlanders were kind, approachable, and hospitable. Often, many would come to them in the evenings to ask questions. Undoubtedly, much could be done in that territory. But little did the brothers know how many years of patient work had to be expended before an increase could be seen.
More Help for Greenland
A fine help in illustrating the work of the Witnesses was the film The New World Society in Action. During the winter it was shown three times in Godthåb, always to a full house. Then in 1957 came the film The Happiness of the New World Society, with Greenlandic comments recorded on a tape that was played with the film. Years later, when explaining the religious situation in Greenland, the dean of Greenland said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most aggressive. They are rushing up and down the coast showing this film about the glories of the Millennium. And these colorful pictures do make an impression.”
In 1958 the pioneer force doubled to four in number. And one more arrived the following spring. How did this happen? Brother Lauritsen, on his travel to the international convention in New York City, met an English pioneer sister, Joan Bramham. The rest is history. She became his wife and coworker. She accomplished the amazing feat of learning both Danish and Greenlandic. Now Brother and Sister Lauritsen took care of the southern part of the Greenland territory, while the other special pioneers continued in the central and northern parts.
In Denmark—Progress and Sifting
The progress in Denmark continued so that April 1955 saw 9,207 publishers distributing the booklet Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is “the Light of the World”? The next big event was the summer convention. Nearly 6,000 Danes traveled to Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, to attend the “Triumphant Kingdom” Assembly—the first time the majority of the Danish brothers went to an international convention. The program and association with so many Norwegian and Swedish brothers as well as delegates from other countries gave them the needed spiritual boost to intensify their efforts in their ministry.
But not all shared their joy. Some publishers displayed discontent with all the new directions from world headquarters. Other disgruntled ones did not approve of so much emphasis by The Watchtower on Christian living, clean morals, and on disfellowshipping unrepentant wrongdoers. Thus, there was a falling away by some. Materialism and fear of man engulfed others. The majority remained faithful, however, and the organization was internally strengthened.
Conventions Moving Outdoors
After many years in which assemblies were held in schoolrooms and concert and sports halls, it was now necessary to move outdoors to accommodate the many conventioners. So, in 1956, the Århus Stadium, in a beautiful, parklike setting, was rented. A campsite was used by almost 3,000 brothers and sisters—a form of convention accommodations that is still enjoyed.
The public talk was heard by over 10,000. Yet, for many, the high point of the convention was the adoption of a resolution addressed to the Soviet premier Nikolay A. Bulganin, protesting the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in what was then the Soviet Union. The main points of this resolution were printed in 28 newspapers—not bad coverage for a country as small as Denmark.
Overcoming Legal Hindrances to Preaching
A few months later, a legal case involving the evangelizing work reached a climax. The Ministry of Commerce had been claiming that the activities of the Watch Tower Society were really commercial because such involved having magazines and books produced and then distributed to the public by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The house-to-house preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses would thus come under the restrictions of the laws of commerce, including the strictly enforced shop-closing hours. In order to affirm the noncommercial nature of the preaching activity, the matter was pursued to the Supreme Court. The ruling went against the Witnesses.
As a result, a separate commercial publishing and printing corporation was set up, and it cared for supplying magazines and other Bible literature to the congregations to use in their noncommercial Bible educational work. The Danish Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society retained its noncommercial status and continued to direct the spiritual activities of the Witnesses, including their house-to-house ministry, which continued unchanged.
Some years later the government then challenged the right of individual Witnesses to distribute magazines from house to house without a license and outside the shopping hours. Again, the Supreme Court ruled against the Witnesses. However, the brothers have affirmed the noncommercial nature of their work by distributing Bible literature without charge to all those who wish to read it, and they supported all such activity by their own contributions.
A New Branch—With a Printery
The Bethel Home at Søndre Fasanvej was getting far too small, so plans were made to construct a new branch building. It seemed practical for the branch to do all the printing of The Watchtower and Awake! so as to avoid the disadvantages of rising wages and of strikes among secular printers. (In 1947 such a strike had stopped the printing of the magazines for three months.)
Hence, a suitable piece of land was found in a pleasant, forested area in the suburb of Virum, and when Brother Knorr visited Denmark to inspect the building work in late 1956, the pouring of concrete was well under way—although all the construction volunteers were having their coffee break just as Brother Knorr arrived at the site!
A mild winter and much volunteer help contributed to the completion of the concrete work by February 1957, and on August 31 the new branch building was ready for dedication. The 24 members of the Bethel family had already been living there for a month, and they were now printing the October 1 and 8 issues of the Danish Watchtower and Awake!—the first issues that were not printed by a secular printery. From then on, Awake! was printed semimonthly like The Watchtower, and both magazines were given a more handy size, while the number of pages was increased from 16 to 24.
Hosts for an International Convention
In 1961, for the first time, the Danish brothers served as hosts for an international convention. A large soccer stadium was rented, the Copenhagen Idrætspark—the setting of many national soccer matches. Following extensive preparations, the getting of countless permits from authorities, the obtaining of over 15,000 private accommodations and 800 hotel beds, and the arranging of a campsite with room for over 5,000, everything was finally ready to receive the many guests from over 30 countries.
At the last moment, a serious problem popped up: The Danish Directorate of Aviation refused a landing permit for 27 planes from the United States with 2,691 conventioners aboard. Some hectic hours followed, and only after a personal plea to the prime minister, who was on vacation, was the landing permit given and telegraphed to the airline in the United States—just a couple of hours before the first plane was due to take off for Copenhagen.
That convention was an overwhelming experience. Though delegates were of many nationalities and races, they demonstrated the convention theme “United Worshipers.” The program was held simultaneously in five languages, so that the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and English-speaking brothers could follow it in their own language. Sunday afternoon the stadium was packed with people. The crowd spilled over to a nearby park, where several thousand heard the public talk over loudspeakers. Brother Knorr’s simple and powerful message reached 33,513.
Comments from leading clergymen betrayed some worry. They admitted: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy.” “This sect is witnessing—that is undeniable.” “The self-sacrifice of these people is phenomenal.” They had to ask: “Are we busy?” “What are we witnesses about and for?” “Have our hearts become cold and doubting?” Such public statements showed that a tremendous witness had been given in connection with the convention.
The Largest Convention Ever in Scandinavia
In 1969 the Danish brothers again had the privilege of being hosts for an international convention, the “Peace on Earth” convention, which proved to be the largest ever in Scandinavia. In many ways it was held along the same lines as the one in 1961, only larger in every way. And what a joy it was to hear that 42,073 had attended Brother Knorr’s public talk!
Danish newspapers devoted more than 3,150 column-inches [8,000 col.-cm] to the convention. One of Copenhagen’s largest dailies, Berlingske Tidende, carried an editorial: “True mass rallies are rare here in Denmark . . . So it is quite natural that the international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Copenhagen this week aroused much attention. . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses are a challenge to the national church. . . . One might wish that the church would work but half as zealously to spread information on what Christianity is as the Witnesses do on highways and byways to propagate their millennial dreams.”
Pictures as Teaching Aids
Bible dramas are a thrilling and instructive high point at district conventions. In Denmark, since the early 1970’s, an unusual element has been connected with these preparations. Many of the dramas are photographed for slide showings. Why is this?
To begin with, it was done so that dramas could be shown at conventions in the Faeroe Islands and Greenland. There, not enough brothers could be found to stage all the dramas, so the dramas had to be presented in sound only. Then a brother who had been a manager of a film company got an idea. Why not show slides of the action of the drama synchronized with the sound track?
An experiment was done, and the results were good. Since then the quality has steadily improved. In order to create a natural setting, props are used that are more extensive than those used at a district convention. In some cases large stage sets are built—a marketplace in Babylon, a house in Rome, a city gate in Jerusalem—all out of wood and polystyrene. The result is very convincing and makes the drama come alive when shown in the form of slides. These slide sets are now used not only in the Faeroe Islands and Greenland but also in numerous other lands where it is not practical to present the dramas live.
A Stronger Foothold in the Faeroe Islands
By the late 1960’s, the truth was gaining a stronger foothold in the Faeroe Islands. The families who had moved there from Denmark gave good support in the field and helped strengthen the congregations. In some places they cooperated with a local congregation in building a house that included a Kingdom Hall. In October 1967 at Thorshavn, the Kingdom Hall in the home of Rasmus Nygaard was dedicated. The following year, a similar hall was put into use in Klaksvík. This further confirmed the local people’s impression: The Witnesses were there to stay.
It also impressed the people that more Faeroese families were accepting the truth. When, for instance, Anna Nolsøe learned the truth in Copenhagen in 1961, she returned to her native Faeroe Islands to preach, and soon 3 of her 13 siblings were baptized. Since then the truth has spread in her family like rings expanding in water, so that there were Witnesses from three generations. Similar stories could be told of other families.
The “Big” Assembly in Thorshavn
The first district convention in Thorshavn was planned for 1971. The house of Rasmus Nygaard became the convention headquarters and was teeming with activity. And for the first time, publishers were seen on the streets of Thorshavn wearing sandwich boards, a sight that stirred up quite some attention.
It was a wonderful convention, with 461 for the public talk. The convention became a turning point for several publishers from Denmark who now decided to move there to serve where the need was greater.
Progress in Greenland
In Greenland the handful of pioneers continued steadily in the preaching work, aided by families who had moved from Denmark since 1961. Much preaching was done, and the Greenlanders listened kindly, but tangible results were few. One big problem was the language. Some Greenlanders spoke a little Danish but not enough for deep, spiritual discussions. And though the publishers were toiling with the Greenlandic language, they rarely learned it well enough to be able to teach the Bible. Often they had to make do with brief phrases learned by heart as an introduction and then read Scriptures to a householder. For a period, testimony cards and tape-recorded sermons were used.
There was an evident need for more publications to explain the truth in the Greenlandic language. But who could translate? Up till then, secular translators had been used—not a very satisfactory solution. During a visit in 1965, Jørgen Larsen from the branch office encouraged Sister Lauritsen to work toward being a Greenlandic translator. She accepted the challenge. A booklet and some tracts were the first results, and then from January 1973, The Watchtower was issued in a monthly 16-page edition bearing the Greenlandic name Napasuliaq Alapernaarsuiffik. That was a giant step forward. Now it was much easier to give a thorough witness in the local language. That same year, the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was issued, another fine help in the Bible-study work.
Also, the publishers in Godthåb needed more suitable meeting facilities. But the town suffered housing problems of its own; thus it would be next to impossible to obtain a Kingdom Hall. However, not far from the center of the town, a brother had bought a small wooden cabin on a rock overlooking the fjord of Godthåb. So, in 1970, with financial support from Danish congregations and professional construction help from special pioneers, it was possible to build an extension to the house, which included a Kingdom Hall and apartments for two pioneer couples.
More pioneers were assigned, and during the following few years, publishers and families settled in several towns along the coast. By 1973-74 there were already small groups or congregations in eight towns. Finally, in 1973, a woman took her stand for the truth and was the first Greenlander to be baptized in Greenland. In 1976 another Greenlandic sister joined the group. But when would a real harvest begin to come in?
The First Danish Assembly Hall
Meanwhile, Denmark too had a problem locating suitable facilities for circuit assemblies. In other countries the brothers had started building tailor-made Assembly Halls. Might that be a solution for Denmark too?
A group of elders from Fyn and Jutland investigated the possibilities. The response among the brothers was so favorable that the decision was made to build an Assembly Hall to serve the circuits west of the Great Belt. About five acres [2 ha] of forested land outside the town of Silkeborg was purchased. Excavation started on March 18, 1978, and one year minus a day later, a large, H-shaped, red-brick building was ready for dedication, with an auditorium for 900 and dining facilities for 300, as well as other necessary facilities.
A New Branch Office
In the meantime another theocratic building project was planned. Conditions at the branch office at Virum were cramped. Larger facilities were sorely needed.
Suitable land was found in the town of Holbæk, less than 45 miles [72 km] west of Copenhagen. It was about 14 acres [6 ha] of hilly terrain, with a beautiful view of Holbæk Fjord. Plans were drawn, and applications were filed. But when a friendly official at the surveyor’s office learned that this complex, with a floor space of some 150,000 square feet [14,000 sq m], was to be built by the Witnesses themselves, he strongly suggested that this not be attempted.
“But nothing is impossible for Jehovah,” comments Filip Hoffmann, coordinator of the project. “The construction family set out, numbering 200 on an average, and they had good support from volunteers during weekends. Not even the coldest winter of the century, with temperatures of 14 to minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit [-10° to -20° C.] for weeks, could stop them. After only a hundred weeks, the buildings were ready for dedication on May 21, 1983.”
The Family Moves Into Its New Home
The Bethel family moved into the new home in August 1982. One couple who did not move with them were Richard and Julia Abrahamson. For years Brother Abrahamson had taken the lead in the work in Denmark and been an inspiration to many; both he and his wife had won a place in the hearts of the Danish Witnesses. However, in late 1980, they were assigned to the Society’s world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. So the Danish Bethel family said a sad good-bye to them in early January 1981.
The office of coordinator of the Branch Committee was assigned to Jørgen Larsen, whose experience in the full-time ministry goes back to 1951 and includes training at Gilead twice, graduating in 1959 and 1965. Together with his wife, Anna, he had spent a number of years as a traveling overseer and then served at Bethel in the Service Department and in the Translation Department.
Dedication of Branch Complex
A couple of days before the dedication, outside suppliers and government officials were invited to a special reception. During a tour of the buildings, they commended the brothers for the choice of materials, the fine craftsmanship, and the finish—a standard they had known from their young days but never saw anymore. When the well-meaning official from the surveyor’s office was reminded of his initial apprehension, he smiled and said: “You see, at that time I didn’t know the kind of organization you people have.”
The 700 brothers and sisters invited to the dedication not only admired the attractive buildings but were impressed by the sheer size of the complex. As Christian Rømer said: “I am overwhelmed to see these buildings when I think of all the effort they represent.” All agreed with Daniel Sydlik of the Governing Body when he pointed out in his dedication discourse that sacrifices to Jehovah cost us something. This building project had cost both money and effort, but these sacrifices were given with happiness because they help advance Jehovah’s work.
Spiritual Needs Filled
The new branch complex had enough space to fulfill a long-standing desire for more translators so that new projects could be launched. The Danish Watchtower and Awake! were increased in number of pages from 24 to 32; the Yearbook began to be published in Danish; and translation of Aid to Bible Understanding was initiated.
Two publications have made history in Denmark. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, released in April 1985, and the Comprehensive Concordance, issued in 1988 and compiled with the help of computer equipment. This was the first time a group outside the Danish national church had issued a translation of the whole Bible and the first time ever that such a comprehensive Bible concordance had been printed in Danish.
In the meantime the extra space in the new facility has made it possible to work on the extensive Watch Tower Publications Index 1930-1985. This valuable tool for Bible students was released at the conventions in 1991. At these conventions another first was seen—a new book was issued simultaneously in the three languages used under the oversight of the Denmark branch. The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived was released in Danish, Faeroese, and Greenlandic.
The installation of a new sound studio allows for the recording of good-quality sound tapes. All of the Christian Greek Scriptures and about half of the Hebrew Scriptures have been recorded so far; and for the benefit of those with weak eyesight or reading difficulties, articles from The Watchtower are recorded and mailed to 350 subscribers twice a month.
Another step forward was the switch to computerized phototypesetting and modern offset printing. Arne S. Nielsen, factory overseer, comments: “This was both a challenge and a blessing. It meant that practically all equipment in the printery had to be changed and that everyone had to learn the use of new equipment and to follow new work procedures.” A sheetfed rotary press is kept humming, printing magazines in Danish, Icelandic, and Greenlandic. And when the Danish magazines began to be printed in four colors, another printing press was added on the factory floor.
With the branch building project completed, the next major project could begin. The brothers in the eastern part of the country bought an empty factory building near the village of Herlufmagle, about 30 miles [50 km] south of the Bethel in Holbæk. The property included a four-wing farm building, a two-story villa, a large workshop, and a spacious blacksmith shop—a chaos of buildings. However, the architects and many willing hands succeeded in making it a harmonious whole, now an Assembly Hall serving the islands of Sjælland, Møn, Lolland, and Falster. Since its dedication on April 26, 1986, almost all congregations in Denmark can attend circuit assemblies in their own Assembly Halls.
Quickly Built Kingdom Halls
Next came another exciting chapter in the history of Danish theocratic building activity. Something unheard of was introduced: quickly built Kingdom Halls.
The first Kingdom Hall built by brothers was completed in 1949. And in 1968, the congregations in one area formed a pool, a regional Kingdom Hall association, with the object of helping all congregations in the region to finance the construction of a Kingdom Hall. (Compare 2 Corinthians 8:14.) The idea spread to the whole country, so that almost all congregations had the opportunity to build or buy their own hall.
However, by the mid-1980’s some of the older Kingdom Halls were inadequate; many were just too small. So as a way to remedy the problem, the quickly built method, used in other countries, was suggested. Some had their doubts. Could this method be adapted to the Danish building tradition, which included load-bearing outer walls of bricks? And could the strict requirements of the Danish housing authorities be met?
In 1986, architects and engineers sat down and managed to devise a workable approach. The local congregation does all preparatory work, followed by three days of intense labor by 200 craftsmen. Spirits ran high when, in September 1986, the first quickly built Kingdom Hall was successfully erected.
Since then, the authorities have not ceased to marvel at this quick method. Presently, 36 quickly built Kingdom Halls have been put up in Denmark, and more are planned. It was a special thrill for the building crews to travel to Jakobshavn in Greenland during August 1991 to build one of the world’s northernmost Kingdom Halls.
A New Kingdom Hall in Thorshavn
The Faeroe Islands were not overlooked. Because of the increase in publishers in Thorshavn, a new meeting place was needed, quite a large project for the local brothers. But after the 1983 convention, between 10 and 15 publishers moved from Denmark to the islands. Several brought with them the good experience gleaned from the Bethel building project in Holbæk.
The project started in February 1984 with a lot of drilling and dynamiting, for the structure was literally built on rock. The basement was of concrete, and the rest of the building of wood, while the roof was of turf—an ancient Faeroe tradition now popular again. It was no quickly built Kingdom Hall, but it nevertheless attracted much attention. At its dedication on June 10, 1985, television mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses on a news program for the first time, a local elder was interviewed on a radio program, and most papers carried articles and pictures of the new hall.
New Publications in Faeroese
The Faeroese brothers had been doing well with publications in Danish, since most Faeroese read and speak Danish. Yet, the need for literature in the vernacular began to be felt. Peturbjørg Nygaard, daughter of Anna Nolsøe, was given the task of translating, and in the mid-1980’s several of the Society’s books and booklets were released in Faeroese. A fine witness was given when people in the territory saw attractive literature in their own language. And it was a joy to the congregations when, in 1989, the songbook was released in Faeroese. Now heartfelt praises could literally be sung to Jehovah in still another language.
In recent years many in the Faeroe Islands have been baptized, both new ones from the territory and young ones who grew up in the congregations. What the early publishers in the Faeroe Islands could only imagine in 1948 is now a reality. Jehovah has blessed the endurance shown by scores of brothers and sisters over the years, so that now a regular witness to Jehovah and his Kingdom of peace by Jesus Christ is given throughout these small Atlantic islands too.
Finally—A Harvest in Greenland!
After some 30 years of patient planting and watering of Kingdom seed, the fields in Greenland were at last getting ripe for harvest. In 1983 a group of young Greenlanders in Godthåb began to study and attend meetings. They progressed well. Would this prove to be the long-awaited breakthrough? At first they were shy and reserved, since they were in a Danish congregation and understood only part of what was spoken; but their courage grew, and their love for Jehovah and for the truth increased. Kristen and Helena Mortensen, special pioneers in Godthåb, relate a typical experience:
“One of them was Sonja, a young girl who had been studying for about a year, but irregularly, because she was constantly on the go from one party to another. After a while she moved in with a man, which at least meant that the study could become regular. Now it dawned on her what the truth was all about. She stopped smoking, quit drinking and wild partying, and resigned from the church. Viggo, whom she was living with, was very reticent, and the publishers had trouble in really reaching him. Sonja related to him what she was learning, and slowly his interest grew too. At first, he was too shy to attend a regular meeting at the Kingdom Hall. So a private showing of a slide presentation with Greenlandic text was arranged. In fact, he saw the series several times. By and by, he agreed to join the study, and now that he felt more comfortable at the Kingdom Hall, he began attending meetings as well.”
The couple finally got married, dedicated their lives to Jehovah, and were baptized. Later, they took up the full-time ministry, and now Viggo Christensen serves as the first Greenlandic elder.
Such new proclaimers of the Kingdom were eager to speak to their friends about all the good things they had learned. They invited others to their home Bible study, and several of their friends became interested in the truth and began attending meetings. Thus, the congregation formed a theocratic environment that replaced former bad associates with good ones and where newly interested ones could lend one another support. Since then, the Godthåb Congregation has grown steadily.
Increase in Jakobshavn
Something similar happened at Jakobshavn, about 200 miles [300 km] north of the Arctic Circle. In the winter of 1985/86, a special pioneer couple, Bo and Helen Christiansen, began holding Greenlandic meetings there. In the space of one year, about 50 individuals came to the Kingdom Hall—most of them just once, but a small, faithful core came regularly.
Things really got growing when the truth took root in one small family and spread from there. Right from the start, Sara understood that this was the truth; her husband and three children showed curiosity at first. Later, however, Niels, the husband, witnessed to his sister, Naja, in a nearby village. Naja’s husband was away on a fishing trawler, so she moved to Jakobshavn to stay with Niels and Sara and began attending meetings with them.
In the meantime, Naja’s husband, Thele, stuck on his trawler, was reading his “New Testament.” He had heard that his wife was studying the Bible, and being a religious man, he was determined to prove the teachings of the Witnesses wrong. He also threatened her with divorce; in fact, the separation papers had already been mailed. When he signed off his boat, he went straight to his wife and brought her back to their own village. But after a long discussion, he realized that he just did not know enough of the Bible to refute the things she told him.
Resolutely, both traveled back to Jakobshavn and moved in with Niels and Sara. Thele called the special pioneers, asking them to come and teach him the Bible. He admitted that he had been on the wrong track. He began attending meetings, stopped smoking, and resigned from the church. A week later he asked if he could become a publisher! He faithfully attended meetings and came to the convention held in Godthåb two months later. On the journey home, he asked: “May I now become a publisher?” He could. In the summer of 1990, he and Naja were baptized, along with Niels. About a year later, Naja joined the regular pioneer ranks. “So far nine have been baptized,” rejoices Brother Christiansen. “It is fantastic to see what happens when Jehovah calls sincere people.”
Prospects in Northern Greenland
“Another privilege we have had for three consecutive years,” continues Brother Christiansen, “is to go on preaching tours to the northern isolated territories of Uummannaq and Upernavik. This is the land of sealers, with scenery of incredible beauty. In the small outposts, living conditions are very different from the towns, where modern development is rushing ahead, but out here there is also plenty of evidence to show that everybody needs the Kingdom. People are friendly, many listen, and the Society’s newest publications have wide circulation. Clearly, there are sincere ones just waiting to be gathered in.”
In the summer of 1990, five relatively new publishers from Jakobshavn went on a two-week preaching tour of the surrounding settlements and outposts. This was the first time those locations received a witness from native Greenlandic publishers. The five traveled a distance of 1,250 miles [2,000 km] in three small speedboats. Even tiny outposts where boats do not normally dock and where no one has preached before heard the good news. The publishers reached as far as Kullorsuaq—called the Devil’s Thumb—near 75 degrees north latitude.
North of the Devil’s Thumb begins the ice-covered coasts, and the next 200 miles [300 km] are completely desolate. Farther north of that are inhabited places that are still practically virgin territory. In January 1989, however, a sister from Godthåb spent a couple of weeks doing secular work in Greenland’s northernmost town, Thule. She seized the opportunity to preach to the people of the town. Since then, a young girl from Thule, who began to study while at school in Godthåb, has returned to Thule and continues her Bible study by tape recordings. Despite opposition, she has begun telling others what she is learning. So, even there, a “most distant part of the earth” a Kingdom witness is given.—Acts 1:8.
Problems Over Blood Issue
Practically all Greenlanders who have accepted the truth have been young people. Thus, the problems they have had to overcome are not connected with religious doctrines but rather with immorality, alcohol abuse, and opposition from friends and relatives. It has taken great courage on their part to preach in the villages where everybody knows everybody else. Another challenge to new ones has been the proper Scriptural view of blood. Many in Greenland enjoy the local food: meat from seals, whales, birds, and other game. However, the Scriptural problem for the Witness is that the game meat has usually not been properly bled. Very few of the Greenlandic brothers are able to get properly bled food, so for long periods they are willing to do without.
The case of Ane, from Jakobshavn, serves to illustrate this. In the spring of 1990, Ane was hospitalized with an extrauterine pregnancy. It was an emergency! She and her husband, both newly baptized, were suddenly thrown into a controversy about the use of blood in medicine. They explained to the doctor that their Christian view of ‘abstaining from blood’ included not accepting blood transfusions. (Acts 15:29) The doctor agreed to operate without blood. Ane, however, did not expect to survive the operation. As she was being wheeled into the operating room, though of good courage, she promised her husband: “We’ll meet in the new world.” Happily, the operation was successful, and they embraced the very next day. But Ane, now hungry, had to face the blood issue from a new angle. The hospital served only Greenlandic food, meat not properly bled, so in order to eat, she had to wait for her husband to bring food from their home.
Filling the Spiritual Need
All along the coast of Greenland, people have great respect for the Bible. That is why My Book of Bible Stories, published in the Greenlandic tongue, has found its way into many homes. In several towns from 20 to 30 percent of the homes have the book, and in many outposts at least half of the homes do.
Because of the vast distances and high travel costs, it is not possible to gather all congregations for circuit assemblies and special assembly days. These arrangements are carried out in the local congregations, where they gather to listen to tapes or video recordings from assemblies that were already held in Denmark. But once a year, for the annual district convention, the publishers from all along the coast meet together. For many new ones, this is a rare opportunity to associate at one time with many fellow believers; and to the pioneers in the little congregations, it is a cherished reunion with other full-time ministers.
In February 1990 the congregations in Greenland received a shock. Sister Joan Lauritsen, only 51 years old, died from a sudden heart attack. For many years she had been a strong support of the translation of the Society’s publications into Greenlandic. Her husband, Kristen, suffered a great personal loss, and so did the congregations in that land of ice and cold.
Brother Lauritsen continued his service in Greenland for about a year after his wife’s death; then he had to return to Denmark for health reasons. Looking back on his many years of missionary service, he says: “When, 35 years ago, we began preaching the good news of the Kingdom in Greenland, it was truly the day of small beginnings. Now we see a constant flow of especially young Greenlanders who study and take their stand for the truth. I am indeed grateful to Jehovah that he not only used us to introduce the work in this country but also gave us the strength to continue until the harvest began to come in.”
Brother Christiansen moved from Jakobshavn to Godthåb to continue the translation work. With good assistance from Greenlandic helpers, it was possible not only to continue issuing The Watchtower but also to translate the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, and since July 1992, Awake! began to be published as a quarterly issue, with the name Iteritsi! The Greenlandic brothers and sisters are grateful that Jehovah’s organization gives such high priority to spiritual food, even in territories where the population is small.
The Foreign-Language Field in Denmark
For the last 20 to 25 years, the Danish territory has undergone changes. Because of world conditions, many people from other countries have moved in, and problems such as discrimination and hatred of foreigners also moved in, although the Danes used to feel that they were above such things.
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, the immigrants have presented a thrilling challenge, both languagewise and religiously. In order to advance the work among immigrants, a small English-language congregation was formed in Copenhagen in 1975. Interested ones of all races and nationalities came flocking to the meetings, began to study, and took hold of the truth. Some of those new ones have moved to other countries to preach there, but many have stayed and today belong to a strong and multifaceted congregation with about 25 nationalities represented—clear evidence that the truth unites people.
Since January 1989, Copenhagen has also had a small but very active Yugoslavian congregation. A former actress who moved to Denmark, disappointed by injustices in her home country, is now an auxiliary pioneer. A Macedonian student came to Denmark to earn money for his studies but found spiritual wealth instead and is now serving Jehovah back in his native country. A young Gypsy family for whom theft and smuggling were formerly just everyday matters is now generously advocating spiritual values. Yes, many foreigners who have sought political freedom or material wealth in Denmark have found true freedom and true riches through the Word of God and the Christian congregation.
Preaching to Deaf Ones
For many years a small group of deaf publishers in Copenhagen have zealously preached to other deaf ones in the metropolitan area. In 1980 they determined that all the country’s 4,000 deaf persons should have a witness about the truth in their own language—sign language.
This was possible with the aid of hearing publishers who learned sign language. A team of brothers from the deaf group visited certain congregations to explain their need. As a result of this initiative, even more hearing publishers learned sign language, and now almost all deaf ones in the country receive regular calls. The result? Twenty-four deaf publishers in six congregations. The group in Copenhagen, being the largest, has two ministerial servants and an elder who are deaf. Regular meetings are held in sign language, and two of the brothers give talks that are interpreted into spoken Danish.
Blood and Medical Care
In otherwise tolerant Denmark, Jehovah’s Witnesses have had a long and difficult fight to get physicians and authorities to respect their stand on blood. For many years doctors and hospitals used directives that were given way back in 1956 when discussions took place between lawyers, doctors, and a Lutheran clergyman from the Danish national church. No wonder doctors felt that they had a right to force blood upon a patient against his will!
In 1975 things came to a head when a hospital in Copenhagen wanted to force a blood transfusion on a three-year-old boy against his parents’ wishes. Thankfully, the parents found a cooperative doctor who gave the boy good medical attention consisting of nonblood treatment. After a couple of weeks, the boy was home again, and he is fit and healthy to this day.
Sadly, during this time the boy’s parents and other Witnesses were subjected to a veritable persecution campaign in the media. Even bomb threats and incidents of outright violence occurred. However, the case gave an opportunity to address the medical profession directly. Brother Jørgen Larsen wrote an article, “Blood Transfusion—Religious Faith and Medical Ethics,” that was printed in Ugeskrift for Læger (Danish Medical Weekly) of July 19, 1976. This was the first major step in the right direction.
The next big step was when Denmark’s grand old man of legal and ethical principles, Dr. Alf Ross, wrote a comprehensive article in the Ugeskrift for Læger of March 26, 1979. This was epoch-making news because it was the first time in Denmark that a legal expert spoke up, attacked the official attitude, and defended the right of adult Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse blood transfusion at all times, including life-threatening situations. However, matters were still not legally clear.
The matter of ethics kept coming to the fore. In 1982, physicians in Denmark were informed by the medical authorities about the principle of informed consent, and in 1985 a new textbook was issued with a fine review of the ethical challenge presented by the Witnesses’ refusal of blood transfusion. Then, in September 1989, the Danish Medical Society adopted a changed Ethical Code for Physicians. A new paragraph in the publication concerning information and consent states that “a patient has the right of full information on diagnosis, prognosis and possible treatments, etc., and the right to decide on the basis of such information whether he or she will accept or refuse a specific treatment.”
Ethically, the problem is now clarified, but legally there is still some doubt as to whether the patient’s autonomy ranks above the physician’s obligation to provide help. Legislators are aware of the ambiguity, and at the end of 1989, a law was proposed that would make it a punishable crime to treat a patient against his will. The law was adopted on May 8, 1992, and became effective five months later on October 1. Still, there remains a need to give brothers and sisters qualified help, and the arrangement involving Hospital Liaison Committees, introduced in January 1991, has already been of great benefit.
Convention Grounds for the Whole Country
With the branch office completed, and with two Assembly Halls to care for circuit assemblies, the question came up: Why not build a district convention complex for the whole country? Why not use property near the Assembly Hall at Silkeborg for such a facility, since it is close to the country’s geographic center?
The project was put to the Governing Body, who approved it. The municipality of Silkeborg assigned a plot of land of almost 40 acres [16 ha], including a large, protected area of great natural beauty less than a mile [about a kilometer] from the Assembly Hall. Excavation started on July 1, 1990. And some job it was! For the first three months an average of 1,500 tons of soil was moved every day—a hundred fully loaded trucks! But a brother with experience in soil work reassured everyone: “I have been moving soil for 30 years, and the earth is still round.”
The actual auditorium is a partly covered amphitheater in which no one will be sitting more than 230 feet [70 m] from the speaker. It has room for 3,500, and in the nearby Assembly Hall, an additional 900 can follow the program via closed-circuit television. The site has ideal sound conditions, good parking and first aid facilities, a literature counter, and rest rooms. The grounds include a camping area where about a thousand brothers and sisters can sleep in trailers or tents.
On June 1, 1991, came the dedication. Lloyd Barry of the Governing Body delivered a most faith-strengthening and encouraging dedication discourse. About 4,000 brothers and sisters attended the program at the convention site, and 700 followed it via telephone in the Assembly Hall at Herlufmagle. The following week, all congregations showed a 75-minute video program summarizing the event. During that summer the new convention grounds were a wonderful setting for five “Lovers of Freedom” District Conventions.
During the 100 years that have passed since Brother Russell first visited Denmark, society has undergone great changes. While technical progress has produced material prosperity and transformed the country into one of the richest in the world, the religious interest has dropped to just about zero.
Unavoidably, these factors have affected the Kingdom work. There have been times of increase, but also periods of stagnation, and times when materialism, apathy, and other factors made the number of publishers decline. Thus, it is all the more gratifying to see that a great number over the years have become conscious of their spiritual need, have dedicated themselves to Jehovah, and have been serving him faithfully. There is now a peak of 16,407 Kingdom publishers in Denmark, a ratio of 1 to 315 compared to the population. Many publishers have moved to serve in other lands where the need is greater—primarily to countries like Norway and Sweden but also to the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, and through Gilead to more faraway places.
Despite strong pressure from the world, the spirit among the publishers is healthy. Within the last ten years, the number of pioneers has gone up steeply, from 584 to 1,315. The Memorial attendance reached 24,960 this past year. Each year about 500 new ones are baptized. So even though people in all parts of Denmark have seen Witnesses at their doorstep, there is still much work to be done. True, as they say, nothing daunts the Danes. Nevertheless, regardless of the religious apathy, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Denmark are determined to endure and fully accomplish the work with which they have been entrusted by the King, Jesus Christ: the preaching of the Kingdom good news!—2 Tim. 4:5; Heb. 10:36.
[Charts on page 147]
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Average Pioneer Chart
1950 1960 1970 1980 1992
Peak Publisher Chart
1950 1960 1970 1980 1992
[Maps on page 66]
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Official Language: Danish
Major Religion: Lutheran
Branch Office: Holbæk
[Map/Pictures on page 108, 109]
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[Pictures on page 72]
John Reinseth learned the truth in 1907. As a publisher, he was untiring. His wife, Augusta, in spite of poor health, also preached zealously
[Picture on page 74]
Thyra Larsen from Ålborg served as a colporteur in 1915
[Picture on page 75]
Schoolyard in Ole Suhrs Gade, Copenhagen, 1909. Brother Russell is in the middle of the second row; on his right is the branch overseer, Carl Lüttichau
[Picture on page 79]
Marie Due was dismissed as schoolteacher when she became a Bible Student in 1915
[Picture on page 81]
Handbill announcing Brother Macmillan’s talk. His meetings in 1920 attracted more than 5,000 listeners
[Picture on page 82]
Brother Rutherford departing from Copenhagen’s Central Station in 1922
[Picture on page 87]
In the 1920’s colporteurs preached with unflagging zeal. Kristian Dal, left, Christian Rømer, far right, with Anna Petersen, Søren Lauridsen, and Thora Svendsen
[Picture on page 88]
Brother Dey and Brother Rutherford at Kastrup Airport in 1927
[Picture on page 89]
William Dey, overseer of the Northern European Office, and Albert West, branch overseer in Estonia until 1930, when he became Dey’s secretary
[Picture on page 95]
Branch office from 1932 to 1957, in Valby
[Picture on page 97]
A witnessing group with phonographs mounted on bicycles
[Pictures on page 104]
In 1944 this building on Langeland served as a Bible school
Filip Hoffmann, upper left, teacher at the Bible school, and Simon Petersen, front center, the school supervisor, with his wife, Else, at front left
[Pictures on page 108, 109]
John and Sonja Mikkelsen in typical Faeroese dress, with their son Absalom. John was the first Faeroese to be appointed as an elder
Svend and Ruth Molbech, special pioneers on a boat heading for Klaksvík in 1958
[Picture on page 110]
Richard and Julia Abrahamson, who served in Denmark for more than 26 years, are currently assigned to headquarters staff in Brooklyn
[Pictures on page 111]
Svend Aage Nielsen and Edmund Onstad hiked over the hills on the Faeroe Islands. To be sure to have shelter for the night, they pitched a tent they had sewed
[Picture on page 115]
Since 1955, people in the towns and the countryside of Greenland have been hearing the good news
[Pictures on page 116, 117]
Marie Tausen, left, was the first Greenlander baptized in Greenland, in 1973. Three years later she was followed by Debora Brandt, who is wearing the typical Greenlandic festive dress. Above is a village near Uummannaq, northern Greenland
[Picture on page 123]
Branch office from 1957 to 1982, in Virum
[Pictures on page 125]
Much work is done to produce props for slide dramas. This set for a marketplace in Babylon was made for the 1991 drama about the life of Ezra
[Pictures on page 131]
The convention grounds in Silkeborg include a partly covered amphitheater that has room for 3,500, and the nearby Assembly Hall can seat 900 more
[Picture on page 132]
The largest convention ever in Scandinavia was held in Copenhagen in 1969
[Picture on page 133]
New branch office in Holbæk. Daniel Sydlik of the Governing Body spoke at the dedication in 1982
[Picture on page 134]
Kingdom Hall in Thorshavn—with a turf roof
[Picture on page 142]
The Branch Committee. From left, Erik Jørgensen, Henning Thusgaard, Jørgen Larsen, Arne S. Nielsen, and Orla Rand Nielsen