03 October 2013
This week the first of October, marks the 70thanniversary of the rescue of the majority of the Jews of Denmark despite the Nazis' plans to round the country's Jews up to deport them to concentration camps. The Danish Ambassador to Israel, Jesper Vahr visited Yad Vashem on Monday, October 1 and laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance. He also paid tribute to the rescuers at the trees planted in honor of the Danish.
The rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943 is a very unique story. In the first years of the 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 discovered and an operation was put in place to warn the Jews, move them to hiding places and to fishing ports, and from there they were transported to Sweden. The wide popular support of the rescue operation and the proximity to 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 rescue the Jews. 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.