Danes have long relied on their bicycles as a means of commuting and for general mobility, so were especially outraged by a bizarre Nazi plan to steal their vehicles. A new research paper details the degree to which the bike proposal circulated among German authorities, even reaching Adolf Hitler’s busy agenda, before it was launched in October 1944.

The Germans hatched the bike confiscation plan, incorporating the Netherlands and Italy as well as Denmark, to supply transportation for their military, which was suffering from a shortage of vehicles. In his paper, researcher John T. Lauridsen details the bickering among Nazi officials regarding which bikes to grab – the decision was to initially focus on bikes for sale or those newly produced, rather than whipping the wheels out from under travelling Danes. In theory, owners could apply for compensation, but in reality they never received a krone.

One Copenhagen bicycle was immune from consideration – the iconic Utzon-Frank statue of a gilded bike and its woman rider, which rotates out of a special high-up building nook to indicate fine weather, in contrast to the umbrella-toting woman that circles out on wet days. Since this quaint weather vane was installed in the Richshuset building near city hall square in 1936, Copenhageners have turned their heads upwards to learn what to expect of the skies in the upcoming few hours, even if they have no choice but to cycle in the rain.

Photo of Einar Utzon-Frank’s woman on bike
How Hitler decided to launch the bigggest bike theft in history, by ScienceNordic, referring to the paper written by John T. Lauridsen in Historisk Tidsskrift under the summary title: “Hitler’s Secret Weapon”
askART: Ejnar (Einar) Utzon-Frank