Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rescue of the Danish Jews - October 1-2, 1943

The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. When Hitler ordered that Danish Jews be arrested and deported on 1–2 October 1943, many Danes took part in a collective effort to evacuate the roughly 8,000 Jews of Denmark 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 repression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue and Danish intercession on behalf of the 5% of Danish Jews who were deported to Theresienstadt transit camp in Bohemia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust.

The Jews were smuggled out of Denmark by transporting them by sea over the ├śresund (the strait that separates the Danish island Zealand from the southern Swedish province of Scania) 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.

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, others were lost at sea when vessels of poor seaworthiness capsized, and still others were intercepted at sea by German patrol boats. However, the Danish harbour police and civil police generally cooperated with the rescue operations. 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 Danish resistance movement as a collective, rather than as individuals, have been honoured at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) in Israel as being part of the "Righteous Among the Nations." Also honored are a handful of Danes who were not members of the official resistance movement, and Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz - a German attache who warned the Danish Jews about their intended deportation in 1943. It is estimated that he prevented the deportation of 95% of Denmark's Jews in the resulting rescue of the Danish Jews.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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