Denmark apologizes to children taken from Greenland in a 1950s social experiment

Denmark’s prime minister apologized to 22 children removed from their homes in Greenland in the 1950s in a failed social experiment.

Teachers and priests were asked to identify children who could be re-educated and given a “better life” in mainland Denmark, and then return to be role models for Greenland-Denmark relations. They were taken to Denmark to be re-educated as “little Danes” who could later return to foster cultural links.

But when 16 did return, they were put in an orphanage and many did not see their families again. Only six are now alive. One of the children, Helene Thiesen, said the apology meant everything.

Greenland is now an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark and relies on Copenhagen for management of currency, foreign relations and defense, as well as the provision of a large annual subsidy.

A report on the case of the children, who were from Greenland’s indigenous Inuit population, was published last week.

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