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Bornholm
Copenhagen Capital Region Denmark


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in Denmark

Map of Denmark, Bornholm is to the far right
Map of Denmark, Bornholm is to the far right  

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Bornholm in few lines

Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea. It also refers to Bornholm Regional Municipality, the municipality (Danish, kommune) which covers the entire island, and has county privileges.

The island is located to the east of Denmark, the south of Sweden, and the north of Poland (on the map of Denmark to the right, it is not shown in its true location; see the map at the bottom of the article). The main industries on the island include fishing, pottery using locally worked clay, clockmaking and dairy farming. Tourism is important during the summer.

The small islands Ertholmene are located 18 km to the north-east of Bornholm.

Strategically located in the Baltic Bornholm has been a bone of contention usually ruled by Denmark, but also by Lübeck and Sweden. The castle ruin Hammershus on the northwestern tip of the island gives testimony to its importance.

In the Old Icelandic sources, its name is Burgundarholm, and Alfred the Great uses the form Burgenda land. Some scholars believe that the Burgundians are named after Bornholm; the Burgundians were a Germanic tribe which moved west when the western Roman Empire collapsed, and occupied and named Burgundy in France.

The island was originally part of Scania (Skåneland). When the eastern provinces of Denmark were ceded to Sweden in 1658, Bornholm was returned to Denmark-Norway two years later (along with Trøndelag and Anholt).

Bornholm, as a part of Denmark, was captured by Germany relatively early in the Second World War, and served as a lookout post and listening station during the war. The island's perfect central position in the Baltic Sea meant that it was an important "natural fortress" between Germany and Sweden, effectively keeping submarines and destroyers away from Nazi occupied waters. Several concrete coastal installations were built during the war, some of which had tremendous range, but none of them were ever used, and only a single test shot was fired during the occupation. These remnants of Nazi rule has since then fallen into disrepair and are mostly regarded as a novelty. Many tourists visit the ruins each year, providing a useful supplement income to the tourist industry.

As it was true about the rest of Denmark, the inhabitants of Bornholm quickly came to accept the Germans. "They don't bother us, we don't bother them" was the unspoken rule of the agreement between commoners and soldiers. German soldiers acted more like tourists than occupants during their stay, and the rough German discipline meant that only few incidents of violence was reported on the island. (No noteworthy resistance from the natives was ever reported by the German officials).

On the 22nd of August 1943 a rocket (numbered V83) crashed on Bornholm as part of a test - the warhead was a dummy made of concrete. This was photographed (? Some sources only mention sketches?) by the Danish Naval Officer-in-Charge on Bornholm, Lieutenant Commander Hasager Christiansen. Although this rocket was probably launched from a Heinkel III, this was the first sign British Intelligence saw of Germany's aspirations to develop the flying bombs and rockets - which were to become known as V1 and V2.

Bornholm was heavily bombarded by Soviet forces in May 1945. Von Kamft, the German superior officer in charge of the island garrison refused to surrender to Soviet forces, as his orders were to surrender to the Allied Forces. The Germans sent several telegrams to Copenhagen requesting that at least one single British soldier should be transferred to Bornholm, so that the Germans could surrender to the western allied forces instead of the Russians. When Von Kamft failed to provide a written capitulation as demanded by Russian HQ, Soviet aircraft relentlessly bombed and destroyed more than 800 civilian houses, with roughly 3000 more being seriously damaged on the 7th and 8th of May 1945. Eventually, the German garrison did surrender to the Soviet forces, which occupied the island until April 5, 1946. As a result, quite a few natives of Bornholm to this day regard Russians with some suspicion and contempt, as the Russian forces made their presence felt for a whole year while looting and ravaging the Bornholm countryside.

In newer times NATO radar installations have been placed on the island.

A Russian (Soviet) declaration after World War II states that foreign (read: NATO) soldiers on Bornholm would be a declaration of war against Russia, and that Denmark should keep troops on it at all time to protect it from foreign aggression. This has caused diplomatic problems at least twice; once when an American helicopter landed outside the city of Svaneke due to engine problems in a NATO drill over the Baltic Sea, and once (somewhere between 1999 and 2003) when the Danish government suggested total shut down of Almegårdens Kaserne, the local military facility, since "the island could quickly be protected by troops from surrounding areas and has no strategic importance after the fall of the Iron Curtain".

By the Courtesy of  Wikipedia 

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