The Rescue of Denmark's Jews
The rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943 is a unique story. In the first years of German occupation the situation of the Danish Jews did not change much, however in fall of 1943, following a sharp increase in strikes and sabotage against the Germans, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark prepared to deport the 7,800 Jews in the country. News of the planned roundup was passed and an operation was put in place to warn the Jews, move them to hiding places and to fishing ports, from where they were transported to Sweden. The wide popular support of the rescue operation 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. 500 Jews, mostly elderly and sick, were caught and deported to the camp of Theresienstadt.
The 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, blue-color workers – to save the Jews. They viewed it as a national refutation of Nazi Germany and a reaffirmation of democratic and humanistic values. It should be noted that recent research by Danish scholars shows that on the other hand, in many cases big sums of money were paid to the seamen who brought the Jews across to Sweden.
To pay tribute to this exceptional rescue operation and in the understanding that this was a joint effort, a tree was planted in the Avenue of the Righteous in honor of the Danish underground. Members of the Danish underground expressed their wish to Yad Vashem not to honor them as individuals; however several Danes whose acts of rescue were exceptional were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations title.