War memorial, Russian cemetery, fashionable holiday spot and fishing village

Top-illustration: The funeral of a Russian Imperial Lieutenant-general at the church at Hornbæk, 1918. © Europeana Collections, Creative commons

The small beach-side village in the North of Sealand was originally a fishermans´ village. In the middle of the Ninteenth century, it was made famous by the Danish painter Holger Drachman. It became the favorite hot-spot for cultivated people to spend their vacation here. Large summer estates were built in the countryside alongside smaller wooden fisher-houses, rented out to “City-folk”. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the small village had grown to offer both seaside resorts, cinema and theatre and even a beach-bar. Visitors of both sexes were swimming together enjoying the seaside in almost full-lenght bathing suits.

Due to the First World War, the nearby compound of Horserød was set up housing former prisoners- of-war, the first 150 Russian soldiers arriving in May 1917.

An incredible number of soldiers perished during the war, and a great number were taken prisoner. Germany alone took 1,700,000 prisoners, most of whom were Russian. In Denmark several private persons suggested receiving and nursing prisoners so they could be sent home. The government was compensated for expenses and eventually made an official payment agreement with Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Two prison camps were established: Hald near Viborg and Horserød near Elsinore.

100,000 prisoners of many nationalities were shipped to a temporary stay in Denmark until larger ships could bring them home. But they were not well when they arrived in Denmark; mistreatment, malnutrition, typhoid and post-traumatic stress disorder, which was called “shell shock” when no one could diagnose it, followed many of them and spread death in Denmark. In Denmark, they met the Spanish flu.

In the Summer of 1918, as the death-toll of the Spanish flu was at its peak, the number of soldiers at Horserød totalled over 2.300, and later that same year, a further 650 soldiers arrived in the barracks-camp. A total of 58 Russian soldiers were buried at Hornbæk New Cemetery in 1917 -1918. A memorial was set up that same year, with a commemorative obelisk and 58 stoneslabs laid out in the grass, marked with each soldiers name and dates.

Russian officers and private soldiers were treated accordingly by rank. Both parts were albeit set to good use in the camp of Horserød, occupied with the violin and music lessons or, as here, the private soldiers often being illitterate and being taught to read and write. They were thus able to write letters back home © Europeana Collections, creative commons
Old post-card commemorating the 1916-opening of the railway transporting tourists from town to holiday sea-side
The Danish novelist Georg Brandes (1842-1927) visited the actress Betty Nansen in her summerhouse at Hornbæk in 1919. Influenced by the Russian Fyodor Dotoyevsky, his criticism of romantic literature made him famous in Russia, and he was nominated for the Nobel-price in literature in 1903-06, 1910, 1916-18, 1920, 1922, 1925 and 1926! © Det Kongelige Bibliotek/ Royal Library, Creative commons
Playing croquet on the lawn at a summerhouse dwelling in Hornbæk 1904. © Det Kongelige Bibliotek/ Royal Library, Creative commons
Russian burials at Hornbæk New Cemetery. The former Russian soldiers are in civilian clothes, the Danish nurse Ingeborg Stemann is standing in front, 1918. © Europeana Collections, Creative commons
Random page from the 1918 parish register at the Russian church, written by Father Schtelkunoff. The register-date is written in both European and old Russian calendar, specifying both date of death and burials as 15th/22th of April and 17th/30th of April 1918. As can be seen by the parish register, the list comprises both private soldiers as well as officers. On this page the soldiers vary in age from 26 years over 45 years to 57 years, all died at the Horserød camp