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The Danish Rescue

Lawrence Bush
September 30, 2017

A Nazi roundup of Denmark’s Jewish population was launched on this date in 1943, at the start of Rosh Hashone. Four days earlier, however, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German naval diplomat, had warned of the roundup, and Jews had been urged to go into hiding. A nationwide rescue effort was then set in motion: Over the course of three weeks, Danish fishermen ferried some 7,200 Jews (and 680 non-Jewish family members) to Sweden, while other Jews escaped by train, car, and even on foot, with the aid of many Danish citizens from all walks of life. Although the Nazis captured some 500 Jews, mostly elderly or sick, and sent them to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, all but 51 survived, thanks to the ongoing pressure and solicitation of the Danish and Swedish governments. When Danish Jews returned from their exile after the Nazi surrender in May, 1945, most found their homes well tended and their possessions untouched.

It was “a conspiracy of decency . . .” —Emmy E. Werner

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.