The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On October 1, 1943, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. The Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many Danish citizens, managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews, plus 686 non-Jewish spouses, by sea to nearby neutral Sweden.
The rescue allowed the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population to avoid capture by the Nazis and is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to aggression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue, and the following Danish intercession on behalf of the 464 Danish Jews who were captured and deported to the Theresienstadt transit camp in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust.
On April 9, 1940, Denmark and Norway were invaded by Nazi Germany. Realizing that successful armed resistance was impossible and wishing to avoid civilian casualties, the Danish government surrendered after a few token skirmishes on the morning of the invasion.
The Nazi German government stated that its occupation was a measure taken against the Allies and that Germany did not intend to disturb the political independence of Denmark. Because the Danish government promised "loyal cooperation" with the Germans, the occupation of Denmark was thus relatively mild at first. German propaganda even referred to Denmark as the "model protectorate", earning the nickname the Cream Front (German: Sahnefront), due to the relative ease of the occupation and copious number of dairy products. King Christian X retained his throne, and the Danish government, the Rigsdag (parliament) and the national courts continued to function. Even censorship of radio and the press was administered by the Danish government, rather than by the occupying German civil and military authorities.
During the early years of the occupation, Danish officials repeatedly insisted to the German occupation authorities that there was no "Jewish problem" in Denmark. The Germans recognized that discussion of the "Jewish question" in Denmark was a possibly explosive issue, which had the potential to destroy the "model" relationship between Denmark and Germany and, in turn, cause negative political and economic consequences for Germany. In addition, the German Reich relied substantially upon Danish agriculture, which supplied meat and butter to 3.6 million Germans in 1942. As a result, when officials in Berlin attempted to implement anti-Jewish measures in Denmark, even ideologically committed Nazis, such as Reich Plenipotentiary Werner Best, followed a strategy of avoiding and deferring any discussion of Denmark's Jews.
In late 1941, during the visit of the Danish foreign minister, Erik Scavenius, to Berlin, German authorities there (including Hermann Göring) insisted that Denmark choose not to avoid its "Jewish problem". A Danish anti-Semitic newspaper used these statements as an opportunity for an attack on the country's Jews; shortly thereafter, arsonists attempted to start a fire at the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen. The Danish state responded robustly; the courts imposed stiff fines and jail sentences on the editors and would-be arsonists, and the government took further administrative action. Denmark's punishment of anti-Semitic crimes during the occupation was interpreted by the German authorities in Denmark as signaling the Danish view toward any future measures that might be taken against Denmark's Jews by the occupiers.
In mid-1943, Danes saw the German defeats in the Battle of Stalingrad and in North Africa as an indication that having to live under German rule was no longer a long-term certainty, as it had seemed in 1940. At the same time, the Danish resistance movement was becoming more assertive in its underground press and its increased sabotage activities. During the summer, several nationwide strikes led to armed confrontations between Danes and German troops. In the wake of increased resistance activities and riots, the German occupation authorities presented the Danish government with an ultimatum on August 28, 1943; they demanded a ban on strikes, a curfew, and the punishment of sabotage with the death penalty. Deeming these terms unacceptable and a violation of national sovereignty, the Danish government declared a state of emergency. Some 100 prominent Danes were taken hostage, including the Chief Rabbi Dr. Max Friediger and a dozen other Jews. In response, the Danish government resigned on August 29, 1943. The result was direct administration of Denmark by the German authorities; this direct form of rule meant that the "model protectorate" had come to an end—and with it, the protection the Danish government had provided for the country's Jews.
Without the uncooperative Danish government to impede them, Denmark's German occupiers began planning the deportation to Nazi concentration camps of the 7,800 or so Jews in Denmark. The German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz unsuccessfully attempted to assure safe harbor for the Danish Jews in Sweden; the Swedish government told Duckwitz it would accept the Danish Jews only if approved by the Nazis, who ignored the request for approval. On September 28, 1943, Duckwitz leaked word of the plans for the operation against Denmark's Jews to Hans Hedtoft, chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party. Hedtoft contacted the Danish Resistance Movement and the head of the Jewish community, C.B. Henriques, who in turn alerted the acting chief rabbi, Dr. Marcus Melchior. At the early morning services, on September 29, the day prior to the Rosh Hashanah services, Jews were warned by Rabbi Melchior of the planned German action and urged to go into hiding immediately and to spread the word to all their Jewish friends and relatives.
The early phases of the rescue were improvised. When Danish civil servants at several levels in different ministries learned of the German plan to round up all Danish Jews, they independently pursued various measures to find the Jews and hide them. Some simply contacted friends and asked them to go through telephone books and warn those with Jewish-sounding names to go into hiding. Most Jews hid for several days or weeks, uncertain of their fate.
According to the BBC "credit for saving Denmark's Jews has often been handed to Georg F Duckwitz, a German naval attaché and Best's right-hand man, who leaked the date of the round-up to Hans Hedtoft of the Danish Social Democrat Party. Hedtoft in turn passed the information to the acting chief rabbi, Marcus Melchior, who told his congregation the next morning - the day before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year - that there would be no service that day. Instead everybody was to go home, sort out their affairs and find any means of escape."
Although the majority of the Danish Jews were in hiding, they would eventually have been caught if safe passage to Sweden could not have been secured. Sweden had earlier been receiving Norwegian Jews with some sort of Swedish connection. But the actions to save the Norwegians were not entirely efficient, due to the lack of experience in how to deal with the German authorities. When martial law was introduced in Denmark on August 29, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (UD) realized that the Danish Jews were in immediate danger. In a letter dated August 31, the Swedish ambassador in Copenhagen was given clearance by the Chief Legal Officer Gösta Engzell (who had represented Sweden at the 1938 Évian Conference, held to discuss Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime) to issue Swedish passports in order to "rescue Danish Jews and bringing them here". On October 2, the Swedish government announced in an official statement that Sweden was prepared to accept all Danish Jews in Sweden. It was a message parallel to an earlier unofficial statement made to the German authorities in Norway. Groups such as the Elsinore Sewing Club (Danish: Helsingør Syklub) sprang up to covertly ferry Jews to safety.
The Danish physicist Niels Bohr, whose mother was Jewish, made a determined stand for his fellow countrymen in a personal appeal to the Swedish king and government ministers. King Gustav V granted him an audience after a persuasive call from Greta Garbo, who knew Bohr. He was spirited off to Sweden, whose government arranged immediate transport for him to the United States to work on the then top-secret Manhattan Project. When Bohr arrived on Swedish soil, government representatives told him he had to board an aircraft immediately for the United States. Bohr refused. He told the officials, and eventually the king, that until Sweden announced over its airwaves and through its press that its borders would be open to receive the Danish Jews, he wasn't going anywhere. Bohr wrote of these events himself. As related by the historian Richard Rhodes, on September 30 Bohr persuaded King Gustaf V of Sweden to make public Sweden's willingness to provide asylum, and on October 2 Swedish radio broadcast that Sweden was ready to receive the Jewish refugees. Historian Richard Rhodes and others interpret Bohr's actions in Sweden as being a necessary precursor without which mass rescue could not have occurred. According to Paul A. Levine however, who does not mention the Bohr factor at all, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs acted on clear instructions given much earlier by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson and Foreign Minister Christian Günther, following a policy already established in 1942. Even if Bohr's efforts in Sweden might have been superfluous, he did all that he could for his fellow countrymen.
The Jews were smuggled and transported out of Denmark over the Øresund strait from Zealand to Sweden – a passage of varying time depending on the specific route and the weather, but averaging under an hour on the choppy winter sea. Some were transported in large fishing boats of up to 20 tons, but others were carried to freedom in rowboats or kayaks. The ketch Albatros was one of the ships used to smuggle Jews to Sweden. Some refugees were smuggled inside freight rail cars on the regular ferries between Denmark and Sweden, this route being suited for the very young or old who were too weak to endure a rough sea passage. Danish Resistance Movement operatives had broken into empty freight cars sealed by the Germans after inspection, helped refugees onto the cars, and then resealed the cars with forged or stolen German seals to forestall further inspection.
Fishermen charged on average 1,000 Danish kroner per person for the transport, but some charged up to 50,000 kroner. The average monthly wage at the time was less than 500 kroner, and half of the rescued Jews belonged to the working class. Prices were determined by the market principles of supply and demand, as well as by the fishermen's perception of the risk. The Danish Resistance Movement took an active role in organizing the rescue and providing financing, mostly from wealthy Danes who donated large sums of money to the endeavor. In all the rescue is estimated to have cost around 20 million kroner, about half of which were paid by Jewish families and half from donations and collections.
During the first days of the rescue action, Jews moved into the many fishing harbors on the Danish coast to await passage, but officers of the Gestapo became suspicious of activity around harbors (and on the night of October 6, about 80 Jews were caught hiding in the loft of the church at Gilleleje, their hiding place having been betrayed by a Danish girl who was in love with a German soldier). Subsequent rescues had to take place from isolated points along the coast. While waiting their turn, the Jews took refuge in the woods and in cottages away from the coast, out of sight of the Gestapo.
Some of the refugees never made it to Sweden; a few chose to commit suicide; some were captured by the Gestapo en route to their point of embarkation; some 23 were lost at sea when vessels of poor seaworthiness capsized; and still others were intercepted at sea by German patrol boats. Danish harbor police and civil police often cooperated with the rescue effort. During the early stages, the Gestapo was undermanned and the German army and navy were called in to reinforce the Gestapo in its effort to prevent transportation taking place; but by and large the German military troops proved less than enthusiastic in the operation and frequently turned a blind eye to escapees. The local Germans in command, for their own political calculations and through their own inactivity, may have actually facilitated the escape.
In Copenhagen the deportation order was carried out on the Jewish New Year, the night of October 1–2, when the Germans assumed all Jews would be gathered at home. The roundup was organized by the SS who used two police battalions and about 50 Danish volunteer members of the Waffen SS chosen for their familiarity with Copenhagen and northern Zealand. The SS organized themselves in five-man teams, each with a Dane, a vehicle, and a list of addresses to check. Most teams found no one, but one team found four Jews on the fifth address checked. There a bribe of 15,000 kroner was rejected and the cash destroyed. The arrested Jews were allowed to bring two blankets, food for three or four days, and a small suitcase. They were transported to the harbour, Langelinie, where a couple of large ships awaited them. One of the Danish Waffen-SS members believed the Jews were being sent to Danzig.
On October 2, some arrested Danish communists witnessed the deportation of about 200 Jews from Langelinie via the ship Wartheland. Of these, a young married couple were able to convince the Germans that they were not Jewish, and set free. The remainder included mothers with infants; the sick and elderly; and chief rabbi Max Friediger and the other Jewish hostages who had been placed in the Danish internment camp, Horserød, on August 28–29. They were driven below deck without their luggage while being screamed at, kicked and beaten. The Germans then took anything of value from the luggage. Their unloading the next day in Swinemunde was even more inhumane, though without fatalities. There the Jews were driven into two cattle cars, about one hundred per car. During the night, while still locked in the cattle cars, a Jewish mother cried that her child had died. For comparison the Danish communists were packed into cars with "only" fifty people in each; nevertheless, they quickly began to suffer from heat, thirst and lack of ventilation; furthermore, they had nothing to drink until they were given filthy water on October 5, shortly before being unloaded in Danzig.
Only some 580 Danish Jews failed to escape to Sweden. Some of these remained hidden in Denmark to the end of the war, a few died of accidents or committed suicide, and a handful had special permission to stay. The vast majority, 464 of the 580, were captured and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. After these Jews' deportation, leading Danish civil servants persuaded the Germans to accept packages of food and medicine for the prisoners; furthermore, Denmark persuaded the Germans not to deport the Danish Jews to extermination camps. This was achieved by Danish political pressure, using the Danish Red Cross to frequently monitor the condition of the Danish Jews at Theresienstadt. A total of 51 Danish Jews—mostly elderly—died of disease at Theresienstadt, but in April 1945, as the war drew to a close, 425 surviving Danish Jews (a few having been born in the camp) were among the several thousand Jews turned over by the Germans to Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross and transported to Sweden in White Buses. The casualties among Danish Jews during the Holocaust were among the lowest of the occupied countries of Europe. Yad Vashem records only 102 Jews from Denmark who died in the Shoah.
It has been popularly reported that the Nazis ordered all Danish Jews to wear an identifying yellow star, as elsewhere in Nazi controlled territories. In some versions of the myth, King Christian X opted to wear such a star himself and the Danish people followed his example, thus making the order unenforceable.
The story is a myth. In fact the story about the King and the Star and other similar myths originated in the offices of the National Denmark America Association (NDAA) where a handful of Danish nationals opened a propaganda unit called "Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy", which published a bulletin called The Danish Listening Post. This group hired Edward L. Bernays, "The father of Public Relation and Spin" as a consultant. Whether Bernays was the inventor of the story about the King and the yellow star, is not known.
Although the Danish authorities cooperated with the German occupation forces, they and most Danes strongly opposed the isolation of any group within the population, especially the well-integrated Jewish community. The German action to deport Danish Jews prompted the Danish state church and all political parties except the pro-Nazi National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (NSWPD) immediately to denounce the action and to pledge solidarity with the Jewish fellow citizens. For the first time, they openly opposed the occupation. At once the Danish bishops issued a hyrdebrev—a pastoral letter to all citizens. The letter was distributed to all Danish ministers, to be read out in every church on the following Sunday. This was in itself very unusual since the Danish church is decentralized and non-political.
The unsuccessful German deportation attempt and the actions to save the Jews were important steps in linking the resistance movement to broader anti-Nazi sentiments in Denmark. In many ways October 1943 and the rescuing of the Jews marked a change in most people's perception of the war and the occupation thereby giving a "subjective-psychological" foundation for the myth.
A few days after the roundup, a small news item in the New York Daily News reported the myth about the wearing of the Star of David. Later, the story gained its popularity in Leon Uris' novel Exodus and in its movie adaptation. The political theorist Hannah Arendt also mentions it during the discussion of Denmark in her book of reportage, Eichmann in Jerusalem. It persists to the present, but it is unfounded.
At their initial insistence, the Danish resistance movement wished to be honored only as a collective effort by Yad Vashem in Israel as being part of the "Righteous Among the Nations"; only a handful are individually named for that honor. Instead, the rescue of the Jews of Denmark is represented at Yad Vashem by a tree planting to the King and the Danish Resistance movement—and by an authentic fishing boat from the Danish village of Gilleleje. Similarly, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. has on permanent exhibit an authentic rescue boat used in several crossings in the rescue of some 1400 Jews.
While only a few Danes, mostly non-resistance members who happened to be known by the Jew he or she helped, made the Yad Vashem list, there were several hundreds, if not a few thousands, of ordinary Danes who took part in the rescue efforts. They most often worked within small spontaneously organized groups and "under cover". Known only by their fictitious names they could generally not be identified by those who were helped and thus not meet the Yad Vashem criteria for the "Righteous Among Nations" honor. Below is a partial list of some of the more significant rescuers, both within and outside the formal resistance movement, whose names have surfaced over the years:
Different explanations have been advanced to explain the success of efforts to protect the Danish Jewish population in light of less success at similar operations elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe:
I offered to help organize the Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy, made up for the most part of Americans of Danish ...
... at han vilde engagere den kendte Public Relations Ekspert Edward L. Bernays til at være Raadgiver. ... Resultatet blev Dannelsen af »American Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy«, et Navn f oreslaaet af Mr. Bernays, som mente, ...
The "Father of Public Relations and Spin" and nephew of Sigmund Freud Edward L. Bernays (1890–1995), was also hired by the Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy as a ...
When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it...
Events from the year 1943 in Denmark.Crime in Denmark
Crime in Denmark is combated by the Danish Police and other agencies.Danes
Danes (Danish: danskere) are a North Germanic ethnic group native to Denmark and a modern nation identified with the country of Denmark. This connection may be ancestral, legal, historical, or cultural.
Danes generally regard themselves as a nationality and reserve the word "ethnic" for the description of recent immigrants, sometimes referred to as "new Danes". The contemporary Danish ethnic identity is based on the idea of "Danishness", which is founded on principles formed through historical cultural connections and is not based on racial heritage.Danish straits
The Danish straits are the straits connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through the Kattegat and Skagerrak. Historically, the Danish straits were internal waterways of Denmark; however, following territorial losses, Øresund and Fehmarn Belt are now shared with Sweden and Germany, while the Great Belt and the Little Belt have remained Danish territorial waters. The Copenhagen Convention of 1857 made all the Danish straits an international waterway.Frieboeshvile
Frieboeshvile (lit. "Friboe's Resting Place") is a Baroque-style country house in Kongens Lyngby north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is located across the street from Sorgenfri Palace, where Lyngby Main Street meets Lyngby Kongevej. The house takes its name after Frederik Casper Conrad Frieboe who is buried in the grounds together with his wife and a few other family members. Its most notable former resident is Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz who played an important part in the Rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II.
The house now serves as a historic house museum showing how Copenhagen peers decorated their country homes in the late 18th century. It hosts a permanent and special exhibitions about local history as well as the local historic archives for Lyngby-Taarbæk Municipality.Hans Hedtoft
Hans Hedtoft Hansen (21 April 1903 – 29 January 1955) was Prime Minister of Denmark from 13 November 1947 to 30 October 1950 as the leader of the Cabinet of Hans Hedtoft I and again from 30 September 1953 to 29 January 1955 as the leader of the Cabinet of Hans Hedtoft II. He served as the first President of the Nordic Council in 1953.
Hedtoft was a Social Democrat, and had taken over the leadership of his party from Thorvald Stauning in 1939, but was forced by the Nazis to resign his posts in 1941 because he was too critical of the German occupation of Denmark. In September 1943, he was instrumental in starting the rescue of the Danish Jews.
During his time as Prime Minister, progressive taxation was introduced, together with other reforms. The Public Assistance Act of April 1949 introduced special treatment and assistance (transferred from communal assistance or poor relief) for TB patients, while the law on measures for the deaf and dumb of January 1950 introduced special provisions for the deaf and partially deaf within the framework for the special care of handicapped persons. In addition, the Home Help Act of April 1949 obliged municipalities to operate home help services.
After the failure to create a Scandinavian defence union, Denmark joined NATO in 1949. In October 1950 his government lost a vote on lifting the rationing of butter. Because this failure to get his policy through signalled that his party had lost its parliamentary support, new elections were called. Erik Eriksen from the Liberal Party was able to form the Cabinet of Erik Eriksen together with the Conservative People's Party on 30 October 1950.
On 30 September 1953 Hedtoft was able to return as Prime Minister, and formed the Cabinet of Hans Hedtoft II, consisting only of the Social Democrats. He did not have the support of the Danish Social Liberal Party as they were unsatisfied with the large amount of resources allocated to the military because of Denmark's obligations to NATO.
On 29 January 1955 Hedtoft died suddenly from a heart attack while in a meeting in the Nordic Council in Stockholm. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by his friend and Foreign Minister H. C. Hansen. The liner MS Hans Hedtoft was named after him.
Hedtoft was married to Ella Gudrun Ingeborg Holleufer. She died in 1954 from Addison's disease, aged 48.LGBT history in Denmark
This article concerns LGBT history in the Nordic country of Denmark.Law enforcement in Denmark
Law enforcement in Denmark is handled by a number of organisations, under the resort of various ministries:
Ministry of Justice:
Police of Denmark, common law enforcement
Rigspolitiet, specialised police enforcement
Politiets Aktionsstyrke, police special response unit
Politiets Efterretningstjeneste, national security and intelligence service
SKAT, tax, customs and border authority
Ministry of Defence:
Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, military intelligence and foreign intelligence service
Danish Military Police, police enforcement within Danish military
Danish Home Guard Police Branch, simple enforcement on behalf of either the Police of Denmark or Danish Military Police
Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries:
The Danish Food Administration, inspection of food handling companies
The Danish Fisheries Directorate, inspection of fishing vessels in Danish watersLeo Goldberger
Leo Goldberger (born June 28, 1930) is a psychologist, author, and editor known for his work in sensory deprivation, personality, stress and coping, as well as for his writings on the rescue of the Danish Jews during the Holocaust., A professor emeritus of psychology at New York University (NYU), Goldberger is a former director of its Research Center for Mental Health.List of extreme points of Denmark
This is a list of the extreme points of Denmark: the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.List of rivers of Denmark
Rivers of Denmark.
Vejle River (see Ravning Bridge)List of years in Denmark
This is a list of years in Denmark.Marcus Melchior
Marcus Melchior (1897 – 1969) was the rabbi of the main synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the time of the rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943, during the Second World War. After escaping with his family and other Danish Jews to Sweden, he served as the acting rabbi for the Jewish refugees in Sweden until the end of the war, in mid 1945. In 1947 he became the chief rabbi of Denmark, a post he held until his death, in 1969.Miracle at Midnight
Miracle at Midnight is a TV movie based on the rescue of the Danish Jews in Denmark during the Holocaust. It is a Disney production and premiered on ABC in 1998.Number the Stars
Number the Stars (1989) is a work of historical fiction by American author Lois Lowry, about the escape of a Jewish family (the Rosens) from Copenhagen, Denmark, during World War II.
The story centers on ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen, who lives with her family in Copenhagen in 1943. She becomes a part of the events related to the rescue of the Danish Jews, when thousands of Jews were helped to reach neutral ground in Sweden in order to avoid being relocated to concentration camps. She risked her life in order to help her best friend, Ellen Rosen, by pretending that Ellen is Annemarie's late older sister Lise, who had died earlier in the war. Lise had been killed by the Nazi military as a result of her work with the Danish Resistance, though her former fiancé Peter, based in part on Danish resistance member Kim Malthe-Bruun, continues to help them. The story's title is taken from a reference to Psalm 147:4, in which the writer relates that God has numbered all the stars and has named each one of them. It ties into the Star of David, worn by Ellen Rosen on her necklace, which is symbolic to Judaism.
The novel was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1990 as the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". Lois Lowry traveled to Copenhagen to conduct research and interviews for the book. She took the photo of the girl used for the cover (shown in infobox). That cover was used on many editions of the book.Summer Evening on Skagen's Southern Beach
Summer Evening on Skagen's Southern Beach (Danish: Sommeraften på Skagen Sønderstrand) is a painting by Peder Severin Krøyer (1851–1909), from 1893, and is counted as one of his masterpieces. Krøyer was one of the most notable members of the Danish artistic community known as the Skagen Painters. The works of Krøyer often emphasise the special effects of the Skagen light, with several memorable works depicting beach scenes.Telecommunications in Denmark
This article concerns the systems of telecommunications in Denmark. Denmark has a highly developed and efficient telephone network, and has a number of radio and television broadcast stations.The Only Way (1970 film)
The Only Way is a 1970 war drama film about the Rescue of the Danish Jews starring Jane Seymour.