More background info:
for more general background about the Danish Resistance see the separate chapter for the Frihedsmuseet
Mindelunden lies in what is now called Nature Park Ryvangen. Back in the early 1940s Ryvangen was home to barracks for the Danish Engineering Regiment. After the collapse of the Danish government’s “truce” with the German occupying forces on 29 August 1943, the Germans seized the Ryvangen site as a barracks for their own troops. And later they also used the place as an execution site and burial ground for executed Danish Resistance fighters.
The first executions took place in November 1943, initially at a pistol shooting range in the south-west of the area. But as this was located close to residential houses, where the shots could be heard, the Germans moved the execution site towards the centre of Ryvangen.
’s liberation in May 1945, the execution site was discovered together with over 200 bodies, almost all of whom could be identified. Just under half of these were reburied in their home towns as requested by their families. The remaining 105 bodies were, in a state funeral ceremony on 29 August 1945, reburied at the large cemetery site created at Mindelunden.
The memorial site around this field of graves was completed and inaugurated in 1950, including the central monument, the large main entrance, the memorial wall for Danish Resistance fighters who disappeared without a trace during WWII
(but whose names are known) and the plot for concentration camp
victims. A number of the latter (around 120) were identified in a post-war formal investigation and brought back to Denmark
. Thirty-one of them were, on the wishes of their families, buried here at Mindelunden.
The main execution site of Ryvangen was incorporated into the Mindelunden memorial grounds in 1977, but the original execution site at the former pistol shooting range wasn’t added until 1990. More recent is the addition of a monument, unveiled in 2017, that is dedicated to the Danish merchant sailors who served with the Allies, especially in the vital transatlantic convoys between the USA
and Great Britain
. In 2019 another monument was added that is dedicated to Danish soldiers who lost their lives during their service in WWII
The Mindelunden memorial site is run by the Kirkeministeriet (‘church ministry’).
What there is to see: I used the main entrance, having walked there from Hellerup station. If you access the site from the south, then the following applies in reverse, as it were. Once inside the park, navigation on the ground is aided by signposting and maps.
The main entrance is already quite a monumental affair (and actually the base for Mindelunden’s logo): a long flight of stairs inside a tall concrete structure above the stairs (see photo above). At the other end you emerge into what looks like a tidy park.
To the right is a small single-storey building with the park office and some info panels. You can also pick up leaflets in a number of languages with brief general overview texts and a map.
To the left is the one end of the long memorial wall, sheltered from the sky by a wooden roof. The plaques covering this wall have the names of resistance fighters who disappeared without a trace but whose names could be identified from Nazi files. Dates of birth and death are given too and sometimes there is extra text. This will remain cryptic to visitors who don’t know any Danish, although a few inscriptions are fairly self-explanatory. In the centre is a general dedication in stone, with the years 1940-1945 given and a 12-line poem in Danish.
The other main component of Mindelunden is the large field of graves of those executed at this compound between 1943 and 1945. There are over a hundred individual graves with red-marble bases and a marble slab listing the names of the victims. In the centre is a sandstone sculpture of a mother cradling a dead son with some Danish inscriptions on the base.
To the left/west of the field of graves stands a newer monument whose front looks like waves of the sea with a cross hairs symbol in the middle. This is dedicated to the Danish sailors who volunteered to serve on Allied merchant ships in the transatlantic convoys and didn’t survive. The monument is entitled “Darkened Sea”.
Another recent monument
stands to the right/east of the burial field and is dedicated to
, pilots and navy sailors who lost their lives in WWII
. On the stone you can make out a few etched images of Spitfire planes and the shape of the old crane at the Skibene på Holmen
site in Copenhagen
’s navy harbour.
Behind the field of graves to the north, in a secluded forest clearing is the burial field for concentration camp victims
who had been repatriated to Denmark. There’s a central memorial and around this are 31 horizontal tomb stones lying in the grass with the names of the victims, dates of birth and death, and the name of the concentration camp
where they died. Amongst those I spotted e.g. Stutthof
and the latter’s satellite camp at Dessauer Ufer in Hamburg
. As on the memorial wall, some stones also come with extra inscriptions in Danish.
Further south in the park is the execution site where most of the executions of captured resistance fighters at Ryvangen took place. It’s inside a horseshoe-shaped earthwork, at the far end of which stand three wooden poles. These were discovered riddled with bullet holes and splintered after liberation. This is where the executees were tied to a pole facing the firing squad. At the opening of the earthwork structure is a memorial stone with a Danish inscription.
To get to the original execution site at the former pistol shooting range, you have to exit Mindelunden park proper through the rear gate in the fence and proceed south-west in Nature Park Ryvangen, past the lake. Just west of the lake is another horseshoe-shaped earthwork, and this time no poles but a small plaque. Another memorial stone with a dedication from a Freedom Fighter Veterans organization stands nearby.
This concludes the “official” parts of the site. In addition I also spotted structures that looked like bunkers
, presumably from WWII
or older. One was open (door missing) but when I peeked in I saw a homeless person camped inside, so I did not enter.
On the walk back to the road towards Hellerup station my wife and I had a rather strange encounter. A man walked up the road to the car park with a smartphone and said something agitated to us in Danish. When we made it clear we didn’t understand what he was saying he switched into English and said there was a gunman loose en route to Hellerup station and that we should turn the other way – and that he was getting updates on the situation on his phone. We saw him turn other people away too, though a couple on bicycles must have chosen to ignore the warning and carried on along Tuborgvej (maybe they were not going to Hellerup station). So we walked all the way south to Ryparken station and got on a train back to Copenhagen main station from there instead (see directions below
). Later, back in the hotel room, I tried to search news websites for any indication of a gunman incident in Hellerup. But I found nothing. It remains a mystery.
All in all, I found the visit to Mindelunden a sombre affair, quite touching. Apart from the grim execution sites, the atmosphere is very calm and peaceful (notwithstanding that strange incident at the end).
The atmosphere would probably have been quite different the next day when anniversary ceremonies would have taken place on 29 August, exactly 80 years after the Germans seized Ryvangen and 78 years after the state funeral of the execution victims (see above).
in the north of Copenhagen
, in the suburb of Hellerup. Address: Tuborgvej 33, 2900 Hellerup.
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs:
quite a distance from the centre of Copenhagen
, but not too difficult to get to; free
The site is really a bit too far from the city centre of Copenhagen
to be walkable … and it wouldn’t be the nicest of walks anyway. Bus line 21 has a stop near the main entrance but you’d need to change from a connecting bus (various options), so the quickest way is taking a train to Hellerup (frequent connections from Copenhagen’s main station or from Østerport). From the station it’s a ca. ten-minute walk, first south down Ryvangs Allé, then down a flight of stairs (so not wheelchair-compatible!) onto Tuborgvej, heading west under the railway bridges and a short distance after those the main entrance is on the left.
A longer alternative is taking a train to Ryparken station and walking north-east from there, parallel to the train tracks and past some sports facilities, to the southern entrance to Ryvangens Naturpark; cross the park, past the former pistol shooting range/execution site and onwards until you come to the rear/disabled entrance to Mindelunden proper.
Opening times: daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between April and September, only to 4 p.m. in February, March and October, and only to 3 p.m. between November and January.
Note that the main entrance is not wheelchair-friendly, but there is a level disability access door at the end of the path that leads to Ryvangen site from the car park.
At weekends there are free guided tours at 1 p.m., conducted in Danish. English-language tours can be arranged by request (email: mindelunden[at]km.dk]
Time required: between 30 and 45 minutes, or longer if you want to take a closer look at the memorial wall and graves in more detail (for which some knowledge of Danish is helpful) or go on a guided tour.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
nothing in the immediate vicinity, but back in the north of the inner city of Copenhagen
is the Museum of the Danish Resistance
, which is a more than suitable combination, it’s almost a must-do.
And the counterpart, as it were, of the Ryvangen execution site, the site where Denmark later executed Nazi collaborators, can be found in a secluded location in Christianshavn – see this separate chapter
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Hellerup is a wealthy suburb with many a grand mansion for the rich, but it’s hardly touristy. However, to the east, by the water, is the redeveloped site of the former Tuborg Brewery (of which only a few buildings survive, now used for other purposes). And this includes the science museum “Experimentarium”, a shopping centre and even a beach.
- Mindelunden 01 - entrance
- Mindelunden 02 - memorial park
- Mindelunden 03 - long wall of memorial plaques
- Mindelunden 04 - in the centre of the memorial wall
- Mindelunden 05 - main field of graves
- Mindelunden 06 - central memorial monument
- Mindelunden 07 - another monument, for sailors and pilots
- Mindelunden 08 - to the concentration-camp graves
- Mindelunden 09 - concentration-camp graves plot
- Mindelunden 10 - central concentration-camp memorial
- Mindelunden 11 - one from Stutthof
- Mindelunden 12 - one from Hamburg
- Mindelunden 13 - main execution site
- Mindelunden 14 - three poles
- Mindelunden 15 - the other execution site
- Mindelunden 16 - some sort of bunker