To help their country, he must silence his voice—and she must find hers.
When the Germans march into Denmark, Baron Henrik Ahlefeldt exchanges his nobility for anonymity, assuming a new identity so he can secretly row messages for the Danish Resistance across the waters to Sweden. American physicist Dr. Else Jensen refuses to leave Copenhagen and abandon her research—her life’s dream—and makes a dangerous decision to print resistance newspapers.
As Else hears rumors of the movement’s legendary Havmand—the merman—she also becomes intrigued by the mysterious and silent shipyard worker living in the same boardinghouse. Henrik makes every effort to conceal his noble upbringing, but he is torn between the façade he must maintain and the woman he is beginning to fall in love with.
When the Occupation cracks down on the Danes, these two passionate people will discover if there is more power in speech . . . or in silence.
*Starred Review!* “Sundin shines in her newest novel . . . The Sound of Light is an awe-inspiring story set within the beauty, language, and culture of Denmark . . . Sundin’s craft is inimitable, and her literary finesse radiates from every page.”
*Starred Review!* “Sundin’s prose reveals the deepest emotions of the human heart. Full of gorgeous imagery and metaphor, this novel demonstrates that one person doing the right thing might just save a nation.”
“Sundin grounds this suspenseful tale in rich historical detail, weaving throughout probing questions of faith as characters struggle to behave in moral, godly ways, especially when it entails risking one’s life for a stranger. The author’s fans will find all the intrigue and depth they expect.”
“This is one of the most thoughtful, yet dramatic, novels set in WW2-occupied territory. This story will appeal to both those who are familiar with Sundin’s wartime romance novels and to those who appreciate immersing themselves in an exciting, true-to-life tale . . . a unique and engaging read.”
The story of Denmark in World War II is remarkable and often surprising. When the Germans invaded on April 9, 1940, the tiny country fell in a matter of hours. The Germans made Denmark a “model protectorate.” Conditions were excellent, with freedoms unseen in other occupied nations and with more food than even in Germany.
As in all occupied countries, reactions ran from active resistance to passive resistance to passive collaboration to active collaboration. Up until late 1943, the vast majority of Danes didn’t make waves, fearing the harsh conditions seen elsewhere. However, few Danes actively supported the Nazi cause. The Frikorps Danmark, Schalburg Corps, and the Danish Nazi Party were small and often mocked and derided.
Active resistance in Denmark began among the communists, an unpopular group in Denmark, leading to reluctance to resist. However, over the years, resistance groups grew, often aided by the British SOE. Real groups mentioned in the story include BOPA, Holger Danske, and the Ringen. The Freedom Council, which first met on September 16, 1943, unified these groups, and the roundup of the Jews in October 1943 led to an explosion in popularity. The resistance continued to grow up until liberation in May 1945. Real freedom fighters named in the story include Mogens Staffeldt, Erling Foss, Flemming Muus (code name “Jam”), and Christmas Møller.
Illegal newspapers flourished in Denmark, including the papers mentioned—Frit Danmark, De frie Danske, and Land og Folk.
Henrik’s story was inspired by Knud Christiansen, a Danish Olympic rower who is named in the “Righteous Among Nations” by YadVashem for hiding dozens of Jews in his seaside home and transporting them to Sweden in his racing boat. Christiansen is among the estimated thirty to forty thousand Danes who rose, almost as one, to rescue the Jews of Denmark.
As noted in the story, the Germans did not force the Danish government to impose antisemitic laws. Danish Jews never were required to wear the yellow star, and they kept their jobs and freedoms. Since Denmark had a small Jewish population, the Nazis bided their time.
As tensions rose in 1943, Werner Best, the Reich Plenipotentiary to Denmark, under pressure from Hitler and Himmler, issued a decree to round up all the Jews in Denmark on a single night, October 1–2, 1943. However, he leaked the information to his friend, Georg Duckwitz, German shipping attaché in Denmark. Duckwitz, at great personal risk, informed some Danish politicians, who spread the word to the Jewish community and the resistance.
Between 7,200 and 7,800 Jews were safely transported to Sweden in October 1943. The Germans deported 474 to Theresienstadt, but due to hounding by Danish leaders, the Danish Jews were treated well, with about 58 deaths—the highest survival rate in any Nazi-occupied country. As depicted in the novel, the Gestapo chief did indeed issue an order not to break down doors or to loot, and German soldiers often looked the other way when Jewish families passed—truly astounding. This is believed to be due to the strong protests made by the Danish population and leadership.
The world-renowned Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen was renamed the Niels Bohr Institute after Bohr’s death in 1962. As a chemistry major, I was intrigued to find the name of this Nobel Laureate in my World War II research, and I couldn’t resist making his institute a focal point for this story.
Bohr sheltered refugee scientists in the 1930s, was friends with many in the resistance, and sent valuable information clandestinely to the Allies—a fact I was unable to include in this story. On September 29–30, 1943, he and his wife fled by boat to Sweden, with his sons following soon after. His pleas to the Swedish king and prime minister on behalf of the Danish Jews may have helped influence the granting of asylum.
Niels Bohr arrived in New York on the HMT Aquitania on December 6, 1943—the same day the Germans officially took over his institute in Copenhagen. However, intervention from Werner Heisenberg led to the Germans releasing the institute back to the University of Copenhagen.
The story of atomic research during the war is fascinating. Due to their isolation, physicists in Denmark didn’t know about the key discoveries made during the war, which is reflected in Else’s story. Real-life physicists at the institute mentioned in the story include Georg von Hevesy, Hilde Levi, and Stefan Rozental. Hevesy did in fact dissolve Nobel medals in aqua regia. The dissolved gold was precipitated out after the war and cast into new medals for Max von Laue and James Franck. Hevesy received his own Nobel Prize on December 6, 1943.