On 10 August 1877, the famous author and lyricist Harald Bergstedt was born. After being the Danish Social Democrats cultural face, Bergstedt changed his mind of national socialism in the early 1940s.
“I have been recognized my whole life to be truthful, courageous and indestructible. So I’m not going to hell in my seventy-seventh year and turn into shit.”
Thus, Bergstedt answered the so-called Honorary Court, which in 1947 would judge his activity during World War II.
Bergstedt was one of the leading Danish authors who changed courses, such as Harald Tandrup, Svend Fleuron, Svend Borberg, and more. His immortal songs “The sun is so red, mother (Solen er så rød, mor)” and “I know a teacher (Jeg ved en lærkerede)” was banned until 1963 before the children could listen to the forbidden songs again. He was on the list of the 17 immortal writers who were voted by the readers in 1928.
Harald Alfred Petersen Bergstedt was born on the 10th of August 1877, in Køge as the son of the watchman Hans Petersen and Maria Bergstedt. In 1908 he took his mother’s name. It was also during 1908 and 1909 he got a job as a teacher in Skagen and found the woman to be his first wife, Christiane Iversen, who was a teacher in the same school. He joined the radical movement in the same period namely the radical Left Party.
In 1913, the couple got their first child, but Christiane never survived the birth, and died in 1919 of tuberculosis, 44 years old. Harald Bergstedt also had a child with another woman from earlier. At the same time, he debuted with his first books: “Songs from the Province” (the first book) in 1913, “Songs of the Province” (the second book) in 1915 and his novel in “Hans and Else” in 1916. After his wife’s death, he began a relationship with a young girl, Helga Hansen, whom he engaged on August 10, 1919 (his birthday) and married 7 November (her birthday). This marriage lasted until Bergstedt’s death and became childless.
In addition to the writing, Bergstedt was also a local editor in Vendsyssel left-wing paper until 1919. Then he worked as a lecturer, people spokesman and interviewer (afholdsagitator). Colleagues and friends admired his work and commitment.
In 1927, he moved to Copenhagen and became a member of the Social Democrat newspaper and became a member of the Social Democrats party. In the newspaper’s Sunday edition, he contributed with a firm comment: Sunday’s Text.
He quickly came into conflict with two of today’s leading Social Democrats, Thorvald Stauning and KK Steincke, about what the working culture was. Bergstedt was a popular working culture that developed independently within the social roles of social democracy, instead of taking over the “bourgeois” (American) values, the “fine culture” that began to spread through, among other things, film and radio. Bergstedt propagated for a simple culture based on singing, solidarity and unity, and the simple things like amateur theatre or taking a walk to the beach.
Bergstedt took an active part in the Social Democratic Youth League, established a song choir and a theatre group, but a dispute with Steincke resulted in him being deprived of the Sunday squad in 1934 and instead began working with radio.
The leading Social Democrats waited only for an excuse to finally kick Bergstedt out, and this opportunity came when the Social Democrat would publish three articles, on 20, 21 and 23 June 1941, about Bergstedt’s reconciliation to Germany. The trip was organized by Dr. Gustav Meissner, Press Attaché at the German Embassy in Denmark, for a group of elected representatives in the Social-Democratic Party, and went through East Germany to Berlin. Bergstedt was awarded a work camp in Gdynia, held talks with a National Socialist in Breslau (a man who deeply impressed him) and also had time to explore the six-month workplace for young Germans. On November 4, 1942, the final break came when Bergstedt delivered his last manuscript for the Social Democrat. At the same time, he started his new job at the National Socialist newspaper Fædrelandet.
On the front page they greeted the new employee with the words:
“The editorial board emphasizes that Harald Bergstedt has not broken with social democrats and that he is still a socialist. He honestly and sincerely professes his faith in a new and better Europe than what is now thrown into the abyss.”
Bergstedt joined DNSAP on December 10, 1942 as party member number 54.184.
“My time at the Fædrelandet belongs to the happiest moments of my life, full of bright and happy memories in the midst of an awful time. The greater freedom I have never had. Going against stagnant opinions, making people think has always been my pleasure.“
He continued as a radio announcer at Fædrelandet, but also got his own column, Brevhjørnet, where he answered the members’ questions. From January 1943, “A life in the people – a memorable socialist memory” was printed as a daily newspaper. Bergstedt stayed with the newspaper until May 5, 1945. He also wrote in other national socialist journals, including the DNSAP’s Months letter, Aktion and Globus.
In the post-war trial, the Copenhagen District Court judged him on 19 March 1946 for 2 years in prison for his work on the Fædreland newspaper, and 5 years ‘loss of general trust’. The following meant losing the right to vote and the right to state jobs, work as a teacher, a lawyer, run his own business or lead another company that requires official permission, etc. On March 27, 1947, the former “immortal writer” was also kicked out of the Danish Writers’ Association.
He addressed his judgment and was released on September 11, 1947. He published a series of books about his experiences in captivity: “Songs from the Grid” in 1948, “Twelve Letters of Occupation” in 1952 and “Fever Falls” in 1954.
He also wrote a monthly journal entitled The People’s Voice and wrote articles for the newspaper Revision. Revision was a newspaper written by the “landlords” who had collaborated with the national socialists. The goal was to release and give rise to political prisoners who had been convicted by the so-called honorary court.
Bergstedt resisted until his death that he had acted in accordance with the Danish government’s attitude to the German occupation force and that he was a victim of the well-known social-democratic politicians’ slim attitude. Bergstedt died on 21 July 1965 at the age of 88 years. The Necrologist in the Current (former Social Democrat), written by his old “friends”, said: “His voice is still heard in our ears:” Listen now, sing the stars, they sing to me. ” They never forgave him but found it difficult to ignore him as one of their cultural personalities. But he could not have acted differently, for he always lived his life.
The children song “Solen er så rød, mor“. Text: Harald Bergstedt.