King Christian X enforced Denmark's neutrality throughout World War I. He took in numerous Romanov relatives fleeing the Russian revolutions, including his aunt, the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. During the 1930s, the king promoted national unity and became the first European ruler to visit a Jewish synagogue. Denmark's nonaggression pact with Germany seemed to assure peace, so Christian X was taken by surprise when Germany invaded his country on the morning of 9 April 1940. The king instructed his forces to surrender and appealed to his subjects to behave correctly so as to give the Germans no pretext for further violence. Under house arrest, he became a rallying symbol for the Danes, noted for the daily horseback rides he took alone. His position was a difficult one, as he refused to allow Danish Nazis into the government but did allow Schutzstaffel (SS) recruitment and agree to have a pro-German prime minister. In 1941, Adolf Hitler interpreted Christian X's cool response to birthday greetings as a pretext for forcing Denmark to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact on 23 November. The king became even more important as a resistance symbol in 1943, when the Germans assumed control of the government over royal and cabinet protest. Guarded only by the Copenhagen police and confined to a wheelchair after a riding accident, the elderly king was beloved by his people, and his popularity gave rise to two apocryphal legends: that he offered to wear a yellow star if Danish Jews had to do so and that he challenged German soldiers to shoot him for taking down a Nazi flag flying over Copenhagen.
After the liberation of Denmark in May 1945, the king asked for dispensation to avoid signing death sentences for collaborators but retained the ability to pardon them. He also exiled members of his family who had shown marked sympathy to the Germans during the occupation. Christian X died in Copenhagen on 20 April 1947.
Petrow, Richard. The Bitter Years: The Invasion and Occupation of Denmark and Norway, April 1940–May 1945. New York: William Morrow, 1974.; Van der Kiste, John. Northern Crowns: The Kings of Modern Scandinavia. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1996.; Werner, Emmy E. A Conspiracy of Decency. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002.