The Gendarme garden

Gendarmhaven - an urban garden laid out in 2001
In 2001 a decision was made to create Gendarmhaven – “the Gendarme Garden” – an urban park that is now a popular gathering place in Padborg. It was designed as part of the urban renewal project that transformed Nørregade street into a green avenue that could accommodate pedestrian, wheeled and motorized traffic.

The playground sculpture Kunsten at gemme sig – at blive set (The art of hiding – being seen)

In 2004 the artist Jørgen Glud (b. 1942) created a combined sculpture-and-playspace for the Gendarme Garden. It is easy to see that in his art, Jørgen Glud works for and with children. Kunsten at gemme sig – at blive set (The art of hiding – being seen) is a sculpture meant for use; meant to be played in, on, and around. Specifically designed for climbing, crawling, and hiding away, the work invites children in and challenges their imagination.

This playful, life-affirming aspect stands in stark contrast to the gravity and solemnity that also resides in this space, which is a place of remembrance too. Here, on 9 April 1940, three Danish gendarmes were killed by German advance troops in civilian clothing – an incident commemorated by the memorial found here in the Gendarme Garden.

When darkness falls, the lighting also affects the nature of the sculpture, changing it from playful to monumental.

Memorial for the Danish border gendarmes who fell on 9 April 1940

Prominently placed in the Gendarme Garden stands a memorial raised in honour of the three Danish gendarmes killed by German advance troops that crossed the border on 9 April 1940. All bearing the rank of Overgendarm, “senior gendarme”, their names were J. P. Birk, A. S. Albertsen, and A. A. Hansen.

The angel motif and the inscription on the memorial stone were designed by sculptor and professor Aksel Einar Utzon-Frank (1888–1955). His artistic idiom is clearly rooted in classicism, in the tradition of Bertel Thorvaldsen (likewise a Dane), but it is far more stylized.

The verse on the back of the memorial was written by the South Jutland author and folklorist Hansigne Lorenzen (1870–1952), who came from the Ballum area on the west coast. The stone itself was a gift from the gravel processing factory in nearby Smedeby.

The events of 9 April 1940

On 9 April 1940, Denmark was occupied by the German armed forces. Early that morning, at 4:15 a.m., uniformed troops marched across the Danish–German border and began moving north.

However, around 4 a.m. German military intelligence had already dispatched a small group of agents in civilian clothing, sending them north along the railway embankment. Their mission: to secure the railway viaducts in Padborg, which were crucial to the northward progress of the German troops.

Near the viaduct the agents came upon the three border gendarmes, who were easily recognizable in their blue uniforms. The Danish gendarmes hailed and questioned the Germans, who responded by opening fire and shooting them.

P. Birk died at the scene. His two peers, A. S. Albertsen and A. A. Hansen, were taken to the hospital in Sønderborg, where they died later that day.

In this incident, the three senior gendarmes became the first Danes to lose their lives in Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway, which was code-named “Operation Weserübung”.

It is widely believed that the reason the German armed forces regarded the gendarmes as military targets was that the Germans knew about the Danish plan of defence. According to this plan, one of the strategic tasks of the border gendarmerie was to blow up the viaducts in Padborg and the bridge across the Vidåen river near Tønder, seeking to prevent the enemy from advancing.

What the Germans did not know was that just hours earlier, the gendarmes had been ordered to withdraw – without blowing up the viaducts and without engaging in battle with the German forces, which were far superior.

Senior gendarmes Albertsen and Hansen are buried at Bov Church cemetery. Birk and Albertsen had both been among the gendarmes transferred, after the border referendum of 1920, from the Kongeåen river position down to the new 1920 border further south. Hansen had not joined the gendarmerie corps until 1922. Because of Birk’s family ties he was buried further north, at Taps Church cemetery near Kolding.

The Gendarme Garden and the memorial are cared for and maintained by Aabenraa Municipality.

Further information

If you would like to learn more about the Danish Border Gendarmerie and its often brutal history as the corps responsible for patrolling and guarding the Danish side of the borderlands, we encourage you to visit the museum here in Padborg – called Museum Oldemorstoft, and located at Bovvej 2, 6330 Padborg. Find details at

If you would like to visit Frøslevlejren – the prison camp where during the German occupation border gendarmes and others, including Danish police officers and Resistance fighters – were detained from August 1944 onwards, the web site can help you plan your visit. The address of the camp is Lejrvejen 105, 6330 Padborg.