The history of the holiday resort dates back to 1938, when the Prime Minister of the day, Th. Stauning, implemented the first Danish holiday legislation that gave employees the right to holiday with pay. Early in the 1940s, tourist associations and municipal councils in Denmark were charged with identifying recreational coastal areas that would in time provide suitable locations for the establishment of holiday village resorts.
A group from Hjørring had drawn up a plan in principle for a holiday village resort. This plan was presented to local and central government. There was full support for the plan, but a shortage of building materials at the time, as well as an unwillingness to invest as a consequence of the war, prevented the realisation of a holiday village resort at Skallerup Seaside Resort.
The actual establishment of the holiday village resort took place in somewhat unfortunate circumstances towards the end of the Second World War. In an attempt to save Germans fleeing from the advancing Russian forces in East Prussia, Pomerania and Danzig, the German authorities initiated rescue plans in 1945 that led to the evacuation of around 2.4 million Germans by sea. During the last few months of the war, around 240,000 German refugees arrived in occupied Denmark. The German occupying forces seized around 1050 potential residences throughout Denmark in a bid to rehouse these refugees. Following the German surrender on 5 May 1945, the fate of these many refugees suddenly became the responsibility of the Danish authorities. The Danish refugee administration tried to find possible accommodation for these refugees. The Danish authorities believed that the refugees would only be in Denmark for a short time, but, in fact, German refugees remained in Denmark for the next 4 years. In order to release seized buildings – including schools – it was decided, following consultation with the Allied forces, to move and then rehouse the refugees in camps by reusing former German military camps around the country.
In1946, the Allies stipulated that in addition to the 125 established camps, a further 10% reserve capacity of camps should be constructed in order to effectively be able to relocate the refugees and isolate any outbreaks of disease that had occurred in the existing camps. The local group from Hjørring learned of this demand and therefore suggested to the Danish Refugee Administration that a holiday village be established in Skallerup, but in such a manner that it would initially function as a reserve camp for refugees, after which – once the German refugees had returned home – it could be converted into a holiday village resort. This idea was well received by the authorities, and thus in 1946 the refugee camp was established in record time. The refugee administration had purchased 2000 sound – but partly non-insulated – Swedish forest worker’s cabins in Sweden. 150 of these cabins were transported by ship and train to the now disused Sønderlev station, from where they were taken by truck to Skallerup Seaside Resort to be erected once more as refugee barracks. Roads, a central kitchen, dining hall and sanitary facilities, including a delousing centre, were constructed. The camp was enclosed by a high barbed wire fence designed to restrict the freedom of the refugees, while at the same time protecting them against assault from the civilian population, who, following five years of occupation, were not kindly disposed towards German citizens staying in their country. Watchtowers were strategically located on site and armed guards patrolled the camp.
Each barrack of 55 square metres consisted of a large room containing 20-25 bunks with mattresses made of seaweed. In the middle of the room was a stove that was fired with peat. The remaining furniture comprised a number of stools. There was no water or toilet in the barracks, although four primitive toilet barracks had been fitted out. There wasn’t much in the way of privacy. The refugee camp was commissioned in October 1946 and was able to house 2,400 refugees. The camp was decommissioned in October 1947, when around 940 refugees were transferred to larger camps, including the camp at Ry. In 1995 the holiday resort was contacted by the Priebe family – three girls who as children had stayed at the camp with their mother. The Priebe sisters described their escape from their native country and everyday life in the refugee camp in letters that they wrote.
Extracts of these letters can be seen in the museum, along with items that the girls had kept since their time at the camp. More items and accounts from individuals who experienced part of their childhood as refugees in the Skallerup camp are also exhibited at the museum.
Following the decommissioning of the refugee camp in October 1947, the original instigators of the project in Hjørring took over half of the barracks. Capital needed to be raised and a large number of enterprises decided to establish a limited liability company. Contributions (share certificates) gave shareholders first claim on a number of weeks of holiday at favourable rates for the employees of the enterprise in question. A limited liability company, Feriebyen Skallerup Klit, was founded on 29 September 1948. The huts were refurbished and fitted out with toilet, kitchen, bedroom and living room – and were equipped with lavatory, sink, running water and electric hotplate. Roads, paths and a sewage treatment plant were constructed. Universal facilities such as a restaurant, cinema, ice-cream bar, etc., were also built. A reception and office were established, with the office building containing a guest wing with rooms. Skallerup Klit holiday village resort was officially opened on 15 May 1949.
Eager holidaymakers streamed to the holiday village resort in the summer months during the first few years of its existence and the resort soon became famous throughout the country. Holiday guests’ requirements in terms of comfort have changed drastically since the first holiday cottages became available. The original huts didn’t have bathing facilities and were not fully insulated. Since the 1960s, the holiday cottages, communal areas and buildings have undergone modernisation and refurbishment on a regular basis. Today, there are 289 modern holiday cottages that are used as holiday accommodation at all times of the year. Feriebyen Skallerup Klit A/S changed its name to Skallerup Klit Feriecenter A/S in the 1990s as part of a major modernisation project. You can read more about Skallerup Seaside Resort’s fascinating history in the book “60 years in the dunes”, which can be purchased at Reception for DKK 20.