Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Only Way
Leo Goldberger: The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress, NYU Press, 1987, preface pages XX-XXI Linked 2014-04-29
The Only Way is a 1970 war drama film about the Rescue of the Danish Jews starring Jane Seymour.
The Only Way
Directed byBent Christensen
Produced byBarry Levinson
Screenplay byJohn Gould
StarringJane Seymour
Ebbe Rode
Helle Virkner
Ove Sprogoe
Music byCarl Davis
CinematographyHenning Kristiansen
Edited byNorman Wanstall
Distributed byUniversal Marion Corporation
Release dates
  • October 20, 1970
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States

Rescue of the Danish Jews

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany'soccupation of Denmark during World War II. On October 1, 1943, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews, plus 686 non-Jewish spouses, by sea to nearby neutral Sweden.[1]

Polish passport used in Denmark up to March 1940. The Jewish holder escaped to Sweden during the war.
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 Theresienstadt transit camp inBohemia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived theHolocaust.[1]

"Model protectorate" (1940–1943)[edit]

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.[2] 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".[3] 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.[4] 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 a slanderous 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 were 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.

Deportation order and rescue[edit]

Without the recalcitrant 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 they 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 phoned 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.
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) realised 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 to issue Swedish passports in order to "rescue Danish Jews and bringing them here".[5] 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.[5] Groups such as the Elsinore Sewing Club (Danish:Helsingør Syklub) sprung up to covertly ferry Jews to safety.[6]
Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist whose mother was Jewish, made a determined stand for his fellow countrymen in a personal appeal to the Swedish king and government ministers.[7] 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 touched Swedish soil, government representatives told him he had to board a plane immediately for the United States. Bohr refused. He told the officials, and eventually the king, that until they announced over their air waves and through their press that their borders would be open to receive the Danish Jews, he wasn't going anywhere. Bohr wrote of these events himself.[8] As related by the historian Richard Rhodes,[7] 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. Historians Richard Rhodes and others[7] interpret Bohr’s actions in Sweden as being a necessary precursor without which that mass rescue could not have occurred. According to Paul A. Levine however, who does not mention the Bohr factor at all, the Swedish MFA acted based on clear instructions given much earlier by Prime Minister Hansson and Foreign Minister 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.[9]

  • Niels Bohr's Times, in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity. page 488. Abraham Pais, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991

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 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. The underground 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.
At first, a few "bad apples" among the fishermen assisting in the rescue charged an excessive sum of money to transport Jews to Sweden, but most took just a modest payments from those who could pay for the passage or were helped by funds supplied by the organizers. The Danish underground took an active role in organizing the rescue and providing financing, mostly from wealthy Danes who donated large sums of money to the endeavor.
During the first days of the rescue action, Jews moved into the many fishing harbors on the Danish coast for rescue, but 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).[10] 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 they 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.[11][12]
Gunnar S. Paulssen (1995). "The bridge over the Oeresund: The historiography on the expulsion of Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark," J.contemp. Hist., vol 30, 431–464
Hans Kirchhoff (1995). "Denmark: a light in the darkness of the Holocaust? A reply to Gunnar S. Paulsson". Journal of Contemporary History 30 (3): 465–479. JSTOR 261158.

Arrests and deportations[edit]

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 15,000kroner was rejected and the cash destroyed. The arrested Jews were allowed to bring two blankets, food for 3–4 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.[13]
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, chief rabbi Max Friediger, and the other Jewish hostages mentioned above, 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, on October 5, shortly before being unloaded in Danzig, they received filthy water for the first time since they had left Copenhagen.[14]
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, however, 464 of the 580, were captured and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupiedCzechoslovakia.[1] 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. 
Some 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 (whereof a few born in the camp) were turned over by the Germans to Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross and transported to Sweden (see White Buses).[1] 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

Myth of the Danes and the yellow star[edit]

It has been popularly reported that the Nazis ordered 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.
However, the story is a myth.[15][16] 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.[17][18][19] 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—apastoral 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, apolitical, and without a central leadership.
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. It persists to the present, but it is unfounded.


In October, 1943 in occupied Denmark, the Nazis decide to deport the Danish Jews to extermination camps. However, the Danish people decide to prevent this. Lillian Stein is a Jewish ballet teacher, learns of the Nazi plan, but her father, a violin dealer, refuses to leave.The Nazi roundup nets very few Jews, because most have gone into hiding, protected by the Danish resistance. Soldiers break into the Steins apartment, but they are not there, as they are hiding downstairs in the apartment of their friend, Mr. Petersen. The Resistance plans on how to get the Jews out of the country by hiring fishing boats to take them to neutral Sweden. Petersen meets with various people in an effort to get the Steins out of the country. Stein leaves the apartment to try and sell a valuable violin he owns to get funds. When Dr. Kjær comes to pick up the family, Mrs. Stein refuses to leave without her husband and sends Lillian on ahead. The Nazis return to Stein’s shop, but he again eludes capture. The next day when the couple are leaving Petersen’s apartment, Lars, Stein's assistant gives his life to prevent their capture. After some narrow escapes both Lillian and her parents reach the evacuation point. They get in a small boat and reach Sweden.