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Yad Vashem This Month in Holocaust History
October
October 1943, Danish Jews being smuggled by ship to Sweden

October 1943

Danish Jews being smuggled by ship to Sweden

The Danes had been living under German occupation since April 1940. In 1943, following a sharp increase in strikes and sabotage against the Germans, Germany intended to restrict the Danes’ autonomy, and the Danish government resigned in objection. The German military commander declared a state of emergency, and the German plenipotentiary in Denmark prepared to deport the 7,800 Jews in the country.

News of the planned roundup was passed on and an operation was put in place to warn the Jews, move them to hiding places and to the fishing ports, from where they were transported to Sweden. The wide popular support and the proximity of Sweden enabled the Danish underground to transport 7,200 Jews and some 700 of their non-Jewish relatives to Sweden in the course of three weeks in October 1943.

This rescue operation by the Danish underground is exceptional because of the widespread agreement and resolve of many Danes from all walks of life – intellectuals, fishermen, priests, policemen, doctors, and simple workers – to save the Jews. It was a national refutation of Nazi Germany and a reaffirmation of democratic and humanistic values.

To pay tribute to this exceptional rescue operation and in the understanding that this was a joint effort, Yad Vashem decided to honor the Danish underground by planting a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous. This was in the spirit of the Danish underground’s request not to honor individual members but to pay tribute to the movement.

Yad Vashem Photo Archives 4013/1; Photo Courtesy of The Museum of Denmark Fight for Freedom