Rescue of the Jews WWII

Rescue of Danish Jewry during World War II

In April 1940, Denmark was occupied by the German army. Initially the occupation was a relatively peaceful one, and there were no anti-Jewish laws enacted. It was apparent that the Germans did not want to upset the peace in Denmark. In fact the three shuls all functioned, as did all the Jewish Clubs and groups.

The King, Christian the 10th was very instrumental in keeping the moral of the people up during those hard times. He would ride daily on his horse through the streets of Copenhagen, meeting people and boosting the spirit. He also made it quite clear that the Jews were not to be treated differently then anyone else.

In the summer of 1943 the war started to turn against the Germans, with this came increased acts of sabotage by the Danish people. Strikes, sabotage, and riots led the Danish government to resign and martial law to be applied. With this Eichman sent SS troops from Germany to implement the ‘final solution’ on Denmark’s Jews.

George Duckowits, the director of the German shipping operation in Denmark, was informed by Werner Best, the German Ambassador, that the Jews were to be deported. On September 28th he reported this at a meeting with Hans Hedtoft (later Danish prime minister) Vilhelm Buhl, H.C. Hanson and Herman Dedichen, all prominent political figures. As soon as Duckowitz left they called for Danish secret police vehicles and visited as many Jews as possible. The following morning it was announced at the Shuls. The people were advised not to stay home but to get away, preferably to Sweden. Most Jews heeded the advice, and when the Gestapo raided peoples homes Rosh Hashanah night the German commandos returned empty handed. About 6000 Jews escaped.

Throughout the escape, and it took a full month until all the Jews were able to make it across the Øresund to Sweden, the Jews were helped by total strangers, who transported them to the fishing villages along the cost, hid them, fed them and finally took them to Sweden.

Unfortunately some 500 Jews were captured by the Germans and were taken to Thresiesenstadt. There they were kept until they were freed some one and a half year’s later. 50 people perished.

During the time that the Jews were in Sweden their homes and the Shuls and School were kept in perfect condition by the Danish people.

Denmark was the only country in the world where such a thing happened. As the national anthem says "Der er et yndigt land, det står med bred bøge". Translated it simply means "It is a lovely land"