Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen issued an official apology on Tuesday to victims who suffered abuse in care homes during the country’s post-World War II period.
At a ceremony at Frederiksen’s residence in Marieborg, she apologized to the victims on behalf of Denmark for what she described as one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.
“I would like to look each of you in the eye and say the only right thing: Sorry,” she said. “Sorry for the injustice done to you and your loved ones.”
“For those who are here, and for those who were — and for those who will follow. On behalf of Denmark: Sorry.”
Children at care homes between 1946 and 1976 had suffered years of abuse including beatings and neglect. A doctor at one boys’ home had also been accused of carrying out medical experiments on children.
Soon after taking office in June, the Danish prime minister had signaled she would address demands for an apology, at the time saying it was “high time that we apologize to the victims.”
‘For years we have felt guilt’
Calls for an official apology over Denmark’s failure to adequately oversee the care homes grew when a 2005 documentary aired allegations from survivors and staff.
One of the most notorious care homes was Godhavn’s boys’ home in northern Zealand.
Poul-Erik Rasmussen, head of the National Association of Godhavn boys’ home, had said an apology was crucial in bringing closure.
“During our upbringing at the care home we were told we had no value,” he told German news agency DPA.
Rasmussen was in the home in the 1960s and suffered beatings and mental abuse by staff.
Following the prime minister’s speech, he said, “For years we have felt guilt. We no longer have to do so.”
Denmark abolished corporal punishment in 1967.