Who is … Erik Scavenius?
Or was! He was a Danish politician who died 50 years ago. Most notably he was prime minister during the German Occupation in the Second World War.
So … why are we reading about this man now?
Despite being dead for half a century, Scavenius remains one of Denmark’s most controversial politicians (Pia Kjærsgaard aside) and last month the city denied him a street in a new all-PM-named area of Islands Brygge in Copenhagen.
Why is he so controversial?
Scavenius is remembered as being a Nazi collaborator. To be fair to his critics, he did negotiate the terms of the German Occupation in 1941, a year after it had started. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, another former PM, called him naïve and immoral. Scavenius would have called him an ungrateful wuss.
Scavenius, who became PM after the previous government was dismissed, didn’t care much for politicians who went through the trouble of actually being elected. He saw himself as Denmark’s greatest protector, and many historians praise him for getting Denmark through the war as well as it did. Ideologically-blind and a bit of an arse, he saved a lot of Danish lives nevertheless.
But still no street?
Nope. The Copenhagen Board of Street Names says he is too controversial and that nobody would want to live on Scaveniusvej. Aksel Larsen – the former leader of the Danish Communist Party and a founder of Socialistisk Folkeparti − gets to keep his street name despite being a loyal supporter of Stalin and covering up his colleagues’ deaths at the hands of the Soviets.