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Party must vacate house used as party headquarters

AALBORG, Denmark - The Danish Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 3-0 in favor of Edith Craig of Butte and ordered the Danish Nazi Party to vacate the three-story brick house that belonged to her half-brother.

The Supreme Court ruling was celebrated throughout the country. The Danish minister of justice, who lives in the same neighborhood in Aalborg, and the mayor of Aalborg both expressed their delight in seeing the Nazis forced to leave the city.

The court ordered the Nazis, who have made the house one of their party headquarters, to sign the house over to Craig and vacate it within two weeks. It is a three-story brick house valued at $180,000 in Denmark's fourth largest city.

Reached in Butte, Craig, 82, said: "We are absolutely delighted. I'm ready to go dancing in the streets.

"It's a wonderful feeling that it came together when it did," Craig said.

Craig intends to sell the house but only after making sure any prospective owners are not Nazis.

She and her daughter, Barbra Cockhill, will spend two weeks in Denmark in June, with their plane tickets paid for by the Montana Human Rights Network, which is raising money for the trip. It was Cockhill's dogged genealogical research done on her computer that discovered that Craig's father, a Danish immigrant, abandoned her shortly after she was born in North Dakota and returned to Denmark. The half-brother she never knew had been active in the Danish Nazi Party.

"It wouldn't have happened without Barb," Craig said.

Craig's strange saga began two years ago when she learned that her half-brother Gunner Gram Jr., whom she did not know, had died and left his house to the Danish Nazis.

For 806 straight nights, neighbors, human-rights activists and trade unionists held candlelight parades and sang Danish national songs in front of the house to protest the Nazi presence. Crowds ranged in size from 20 to 800 people. On special occasions such as the day of the German occupation and liberation of Denmark during World War II, member of the parliament or government spoke.

In return, the Nazis had put up swastikas on the fence around the house and turned up their stereos to blast out World War II Nazi songs, sounds of gunfire and speeches of Adolph Hitler.

"Not a night has gone by that I haven't thought about those people over there and said a prayer for them," Craig said. "They deserve a free homeland and free neighborhood where children can play."

As the lawful heir to the house that belonged to her father, Craig decided to contest her half-brother's will, and was represented at no cost by prominent Danish lawyer Claus Fischer.

Last August, a probate court in Aalborg ruled in favor of the strong-willed Butte woman and turned the property over to Craig.

The court disqualified one of the witnesses, Esben Kristensen, a longtime member of the Danish Nazi Party and the editor of the Nazis' weekly newspaper, and ruled the will invalid. With no valid will, Craig was found to be the owner of the estate.

But the Nazis appealed the decision to the Danish Supreme Court, which allowed them to stay in the house until a decision was reached.

Craig said she was notified of the court decision at 1:15 a.m. and fielded calls from three Danish newspaper reporters and a Danish television reporter in between her shift at the Butte dry-cleaning business, where she works with her daughter.

Said Cockhill: "A couple of sheepherders from Montana winding up in this limelight? It's such a remote, far-fetched situation."

Craig said the man who signed as a witness to her half-brother's will could not legally do so if he were to be its beneficiary.

She said she had very mixed feelings after learning about his background from her daughter. She said she could forgive her father for giving her up for adoption after his wife died shortly after childbirth because "what does a man know about diapers and formula?"

"But I cannot forgive him for joining the Nazis," she said, adding that she can't understand why he never tried to contact her after giving her up for adoption.

While Danish people are participating in victory celebration around the house Tuesday night, the Butte grandmother plans to celebrate by having a dish of ice cream.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson contributed to the story.

If you're interested in helping

HELENA - The Montana Human Rights Network is raising money to send Edith Craig and her daughter, Barbra Cockhill, to Denmark for two weeks beginning June 21.

One of the network's co-directors, Christine Kaufmann, said she will travel to Butte on Friday to deliver the two airline tickets to Craig and Cockhill. The network needs to raise $2,400 for the two tickets and hopes to raise another $600 for added expenses.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Montana Human Rights Network, P.O. Box 1222, Helena, MT 59624. The network also will provide a plaque commemorating Craig's victory to be mounted in the stone wall in front of the house in Aalborg, Denmark.

Missoulian State Bureau

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