07.01.1921 - 18.10.1944
Medal Of Freedom
One of the greatest and best-known members of the Danish Resistance movement, one half of the duo known as "The Torch" & "The Lemon", fell alone as a true hero, taking his own life rather than face capture by the Gestapo. With his death, yet another legend was born. That "The Lemon" was killed only a few days earlier in a violent and heroic gun battle against the German occupational forces made his death a major blow to the Resistance.
Erik Schousboe Poulsen:"The Torch" was always willing to lend a hand with the washing-up and other kitchen chores, but he was definitely best at supervising, inspecting, and keeping others busy. He had a large wardrobe of German and Danish uniforms and forged gun-permits and identity cards to correspond. He also had doctor papers and a complete kit of surgical instruments. Of cause, looking after such things was other people's business. He left ammunition, grenades, pistols and STENguns strewed about the place for us to pick up. He really needed a team of assistants to tidy up, run errands, move his car, take messages which couldn't be entrusted to the telephone, and perform a thousand and one others chores. I used to compare him to a bomber plane with ground crew facilities. He was careless and untidy in the house as any schoolboy, yet in action he was coolly methodical, planning every move in meticulous detail. His boldness was phenomenal.
Originally his hair was blond but he decided to disguise himself by changing the colour to a darker brown. O.B.'s wife volunteered to do the dyeing and she made a mess of it. His hair came out of the bowl a screaming carrot-red. He managed to wash out a little of the dye but it remained red, hence the nickname "The Torch".
In April 1944, Erik Poulsen was arrested. He was taken to Dagmarhus, where four Gestapo men positively identified him as a participant in the hold-up of three German cars. "If we put you in front of a court-martial, you're finished", the Gestapo chief said, but that's not what we want. We're holding you as a crown hostage. You're the man we're going to use to get "The Torch".
That was the beginning of an intensive manhunt that was to continue throughout the summer and autumn. To the Germans "The Torch" was one of "die böse Leute", to be captured at any cost. They put on his head the highest price ever offered for any Resistance fighter.
The moment "The Torch" returned to Zealand from an assignment in Jutland, he was notified as to the fate of "The Lemon". The news devastated him. Because of the tragic event and the "heat" that followed in its wake, he decided to return to Jutland and continue working there. It would also be safer. Having spent a couple of days in Tisvilde he moved to Bellevue Beachhotel about 10 miles North of Copenhagen. The morning of October 18, he decided to go to Copenhagen. He arranged to meet with his good friend Elisabeth Bomhoff for lunch on The National Museum. They were in no mood for jokes and none of them felt comfortable. The whole situation was awkward. Their primary goal was to spend some time together and keep a low profile before he was leaving for Jutland later in the evening.
They spent the evening in a "safe house" owned by their friends Erik and Elsa Nygaard on Strandvejen 184 in Ordrup. While the rest of the party sits around the coffee table, Erik and "The Torch" are upstairs discussing confidential matters. Around 10:00 pm when the party were about to leave, they heard a voice shouting "Aufmachen" followed by a heavy knocking on the front door. "The Torch" immediately ran to the first floor and opened a window to try an escape over the flat roof. The moment he jumped on the windowsill he was met by submachine gun fire forcing him to retreat into the house. The Germans, led by Kriminalrat Bunke, by now have forced their way through the front door and starts shooting up the stairs riddling the first floor with bullets. Apparently they believe that the fire from the garden directed towards "The Torch" was aimed at them! Contrary to "The Lemon", "The Torch" was unarmed. Only days before he had stored his personal weapons with "The Lemon" due to his trip to Jutland and now found himself defenceless in face of the Germans.
The remaining of the party, Erik and Elsa Nygaard, Helmer and Elisabeth Bomhoff and her father-in-law were held with their arms above their heads against a wall in the hall guarded by a team of armed Gestapos. Pushing Mrs. Nygaard and Elisabeth in front they went up the stairs to the first floor, using the ladies as living shields in case any survivors should continue to resist. As they came upstairs they saw Nygaard's two sons, about nine to ten years old, sitting in their beds, eyes dark with terror, holding a blanket like a shield in front of them. They could not see "The Torch". He was hiding behind a door. They were then pushed down again after which Kriminalrat Bunke rushed up the stairs to the bedroom with a couple of his thugs at his heels. As they burst into the room "The Torch" took his cyanide pill.
When the Germans realised who they had captured shouts of joy were heard. They couldn't believe their own luck. Right there in front off them lay "The Torch" unconscious. The deadly Cyanide capsule had taken effect immediately but in an attempt to wake him up they grabbed him by his ankles and dragged him down the stairs into the hall. The terrible sound of his head hitting the carpet-clad steps and the sight of his shirt turning inside out to end up covering his face was unbearable to his friends. The Germans finally dropped him in front of Elisabeth and when she looked at him his empty eyes were wide open. Attempting to counter the effect of the cyanide they ordered Elisabeth to fetch some milk from the kitchen, but to no avail. "The Torch" was dead.
Just like his friend "The Lemon" he had long ago sworn never to be taken alive, not wanting to risk the possibility of not being able to withstand the torture that inevitably followed capture, revealing secrets that would compromise the Resistance movement. Just like "The Lemon", "The Torch" remained true to his word.
His face was calm. Elisabeth wanted to kneel down beside him and close his eyes but the Gestapo kept their guns aimed at them all waiting for an excuse to shoot. They could do nothing but just stand there, looking at the boy who had come to mean so much to them, thanking God that his brave spirit was at last at peace.
They were all arrested and while the men and Elisabeth was taken to Dagmarhus for questioning, Elsa Nygaard were accorded 30 minutes to pack the most necessary items before the house was blown up.
The memorial plaque erected at the address, Strandvejen 184, Ordrup.
Berlingske Tidende 20. oktober 1944.
The Giant-Killers - John Oram Thomas.
Faldne i Danmarks frihedskamp 1940 - 45.
Story by Elisabeth Bomhoff. (Frihedsmuseet 1996)