Spring 1945, the war is coming to an end, borders in Eastern Europe are determined anew. Russia wants a bigger buffer between Germany, Poland is annexed, well about half of it. Poland annexed a part of Germany; it comes down to Poland moving its borders, about the half the size of the country, to the west. German civilians are forced out, killed, raped and robbed from their homes. Unknown to the masses but it is the biggest exodus in modern times, 12 million Germans had to seek a new home, a new place to live. Besides Poland they came from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union for the largest part, but most countries in Europe participated in sending German civilians away from their lands.
Oksbol refugee camp
Operation Hannibal helped refugees to flee, they were transported from Poland by sea to Denmark and divided over a hundred refugees camps. 250.000 refugees ended up in Danmark. The largest concentration was situated near the town Oksbøl, 20 kilometres north of Esbjerg. Over 35.000 Germans in this camp made Oksbøl the 5th largest city of Denmark out of the blue. Most of the civillians were old people, woman and children. Contact with the Danish was not allowed, and it was forbidden to learn the Danish language.
The site today
Only a few remains are left today like the former lazaret on the camp, set up in 1941 by the Wehrmacht during the occupation of Demark. Denmark fell in German hands on in April 1940 during operation Weserübung. Before the Germans took over the place it was a Danish military base, set up in 1929.
There are remnants, foundations or markers of buildings, church, casino, and there is the fire control bunker, the fire post.
There were about 200 barracks left behind from the Wehrmacht period for 15.000 men and there were 80 horse stables. For the over 35000 refugees the camp had to be extended to house the other 20.000 civilians. A school was set up next to an administration building, a senior citizens house, a prison and a cemetery. Kinder garden, grammar school and high school, kitchens and a cinema, it was a town on its own. When you reached the age of 14 you had to work in the camp. Close to the former lazaret / hospital is a cemetery were a great number of German refugees are buried together with German Soldiers.
After the last refugees left the camp in 1949 the lazaret was re-used by the Danish army again. The camp was stripped down and materials sold. When the army left the compound the lazaret was turned over into youth hospital but it was closed and abandoned on our arrival. We found information on a museum to come, in 2019 and today there is a museum about the camp.
We had a chat with a guy next to the hospital who served in the Danish army in the 70s at this location. He told us that there were investigations on the high Child death in the camp after the war. There was too little medical support for the refugees which resulted in a high death rate amongst the youngest in the camp. in 1945 alone 13.000 people died, 7.000 of them were children. It is said that most of the deceased had curable diseases.
The lazaret/ hospital/ youth hostel is transformed into a museum named Flugt – Refugee Musuem Danmark. There are flyers in different languages next to the building with a walking route into the woods where you will pass locations of the former refugee camp. The most are leftovers from the former buildings. Our visit was in 2019, check out the website and museum for up to date info.
Set you navigation on Oksbol Varde because there is more than one Oksbol in Denmark.