Prime Minister’s question on forced removal and assimilation of Greenlandic children

Kenn Nakata Steffensen

On the 10th August 2009 Juliane Henningsen, one the two Greenlandic members of the Danish parliament, asked a Prime Minister’s question about the forced removal of Greenlandic children in the 1950s. The following is my translation of the question and answer as recorded in the official parliamentary proceedings. The Danish source text is availabe from the parliament’s website at

Parliamentary year: 2008-09
Question no. S 2770
To the Prime Minister (Lars Løkke Rasmussen)
10/8 09 by: Juliane Henningsen (IA)

Full text of question:

Does the Prime Minister on behalf of the Danish state intend to issue an official apology and related compensation to the children and their families who as part of the Danification in the 1950s were removed from their families in Greenland and sent to Denmark to subsequently be adopted or placed in orphanages?

Written argumentation:

In the beginning of the 1950s the Danish state wished to Danify the Greenlandic school system and in connection with this create a group of Greenlandic elite pupils who were to become role models for the other children in this new Greenlandic school system. This “experiment” had the purpose of teaching Greenlandic children to be like Danes. In order to achieve this, the Greenlandic children were removed from their families and sent to Denmark. The children had no contact with their families, they were not allowed to speak Greenlandic, and they were generally cut off from Greenlandic society, which resulted in cultural, linguistic and identity alienation and a loss for the children. The experiment has scarred them psychologically and had consequences for the children who were part of the “experiment”, for their families and for Greenlandic society as a whole. The questioner would therefore like to ask the Prime Minister on behalf of these people whether he intends to issue them with an official apology and offer them compensation for their loss and suffering.

Date of reply: 18/8 09


Date: 18th August 2009

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s reply to question no. S 2770 by Juliane Henningsen (IA).


Both Greenlandic society and the relationship between Greenland and Denmark have gone through extensive changes and a positive development in the time from the 1950s until today. But there are also events in our common history, which we must now realise have been unfortunate.

The stay in Denmark at the beginning of the 1950s of the Greenlandic children referred to belongs to the latter, unfortunate, category. But at the same time we must realise that the way of thinking in both Greeland and Denmark was significantly different at the time in question. And we must understand that the stay of the children was initiated with good intentions on the part of the involved parties in Greenland and Denmark.

History cannot be changed. The government considers the colonial era a closed part of our common history. We must rejoice in the fact that times are different now. Within the framework of the self rule arrangement we now develop our common history in equality and with mutual respect between Greenland and Denmark.


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