Jewish refugees from the island of Falster, Denmark, travel on a fishing boat en route to Ystad, Sweden. September 1943-October 1943. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Frihedsmuseet, Copenhagen

October 1, 1943

Danes Help Jews Escape to Neutral Sweden

From September 20 into October 1943, over 7,000 Danish Jews escaped to Sweden with help from fellow Danes.

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Jews, Jewish, Denmark, Danish, Danes, Sweden, Swedish, Swedes, Copenhagen, Stockholm

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By summer 1943, Germany had occupied Denmark for more than three years. While there had been minimal resistance to the Germans during the first years of the occupation, Allied victories emboldened many Danes; labor strikes and acts of sabotage now strained relations with Germany. The Danish government resigned on August 28, 1943, and the following night, the German military commander declared martial law.

On September 15, 1943, SS General Werner Best, the German civilian administrator in Denmark, had secured a proposal from Adolf Hitler to deport the Danish Jews. Best, however had second thoughts about the political consequences of the deportations, and he informed Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German naval attaché, of the impending deportation operation. Before the final order for deportation came to Copenhagen on September 28, Duckwitz, along with other German officials, warned non-Jewish Danes of the plan. In turn, these Danes alerted the local Jewish community.

In the intervening days, Danish authorities, Jewish community leaders, and countless private citizens facilitated a massive operation to get Jews into hiding or into temporary sanctuaries. When German police began the roundup on the night of October 1, 1943, they found few Jews. In general, the Danish police authorities refused to cooperate, denying German police the right to enter Jewish homes by force, or simply overlooking Jews they found in hiding. Popular protests quickly came from various quarters such as churches, the Danish royal family, and various social and economic organizations. The Danish resistance, assisted by many ordinary Danish citizens, organized a partly coordinated, partly spontaneous rescue operation.

Resistance workers and sympathizers helped Jews move into hiding places throughout the country and from there to the coast; fishermen then ferried them to neutral Sweden. The rescue operation expanded to include participation by the Danish police and the government. Over a period of about a month in October 1943, some 7,200 Jews and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives traveled to safety in Sweden, which accepted the Danish refugees.

Dates to Check

Typically, daily newspapers reported news the morning after it occurred. However, some papers were printed in multiple editions, including evening news. If you are using an evening paper, begin your search on the same day as the event being researched.


October 3-8, 1943 News reports about the rescue of Danish Jews.

October 4, 1943 - November 15, 1943 Editorials, opinion pieces, letters-to-the-editor, and political cartoons regarding the rescue of Danish Jews.

October 25, 1943 - November 15, 1943 News articles, editorials, opinion pieces, letters-to-the-editor, and political cartoons citing the Danish rescue in an effort to pressure Congress and the President to develop an American rescue plan for Jews in Europe and to open Palestine to immigration. 

Bibliography

Goldbeger, Leo, ed. The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress. New York: New York University Press, 1987.

Haestrup, Jorgen. Secret Alliance: A Study of the Danish Resistance Movement. New York: New York University Press, 1977.

Hong, Nathaniel. Sparks of Resistance: The Illegal Press in German-Occupied Denmark, April 1940–August 1943. Odense: Odense University Press, 1996.

Levine, Ellen. Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews. New York: Scholastic, 2001.

Loeffler, Martha, Knud Dyby, and John Mark Nielsen. Boats in the Night: Knud Dyby’s Involvement in the Rescue of the Danish Jews and the Danish Resistance. Blair, NE: Lur Publications, Danish Immigrant Archive, Dana College, 2000.

Yahil, Leni. The Rescue of Danish Jewry. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1969.

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