Marked up to be included in the Scandinavian-Canadian Journal
ABSTRACT: For 70 years the flight of the Danish Jews to Sweden in 1943 has most commonly been referred to as
RÉSUMÉ : Depuis 70 ans, la fuite des Juifs danois vers la Suède en 1943 a été plus communément désignée comme
As described by Jensen and Jensen,
by 1945, two out of every three Jews living in Europe in 1939 were dead
beacon of light in a time of darkness.
To reduce our understanding of the event to a rescue has had, and continues to have, great appeal, but it comes at the expense of a historically accurate portrayal of the decisions and actions of the Danish Jews themselves during the fateful days of September/October 1943. To describe an event as a
Post-World War II popular English-language literature has included the immensely popular
Since the end of World War II the Danish Jews who accomplished the same thing as the Allied soldiers described above have overwhelmingly been described as having been rescued rather than having escaped. There are historical reasons for this, which will be discussed in this article, but the central point is that there is no historical justification for denying the term
On April 9, 1940 the people of Denmark woke to the news that their country had fallen under the onslaught of Nazi German military aggression. What would follow would be three and one-half years of increasingly intense existential anxiety for Denmark’s approximately 8,000 Jews.
From the outset of the German occupation, a fiction was maintained between the German and Danish governments that was to have very real impacts on the lives of its Jewish population. That fiction was that in exchange for non-interference with German military hegemony, Germany would treat Denmark as a sovereign and neutral state. (This was later extended to include trade practices that met German needs for Danish agricultural products.) This meant that most Danish political, administrative, legal, law enforcement, and military systems stayed in place almost as if nothing had happened. This somewhat incredible state of affairs lasted from April 1940 to August 1943.
The Danish government’s policy of cooperation was and is to this day hugely controversial. Any honest discussion of the Danish government’s policy of cooperation must, however, recognize that within that policy was a determination to prevent the introduction of legislation that would discriminate against that country’s Jews. It was recognized that as long as Denmark’s internal democratic structure remained in place and was accepted by the Germans (as was the case until August 1943), major persecution of the Jews could not occur unless discriminatory legislation was passed by the Danish parliament.
In late 1941 official Danish national governmental policy in defence of the nation’s Jews began to coalesce. A high governmental advisory committee
agreed that any mention of a legislative act in connection with the Jewish question was unacceptable. On December 22, Danish Prime Minister Stauning announced that this was also the final decision reached by his coalition cabinet of eight ministers
As the Jewish community came to understand that the above-described state of affairs provided them with real protection against major persecution by the Germans, they began to come to the conclusion that their chances for survival would be enhanced by maintaining a low profile as long as the Germans allowed the Danish government to have authority over the country’s internal affairs. It was during this time that the myth of Danish Jewish passivity first gained ground. The leadership of the Danish Jewish community was in contact with the leadership of the Danish government throughout this period and received reinforcement from government officials as to the wisdom of that approach
From the earliest days of the occupation through 1942, the policy of cooperation seemed to be a satisfactory state of affairs to the Danish people and the German occupying power. The exception to this were those Danes who belonged to the Communist Party who had been imprisoned and driven underground shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. In the spring of 1942 the, by then, illegal Danish Communist Party decided to begin organized sabotage against industries that contributed to the German war effort
The entire attitude taken by official Denmark may prove fatal for the future position of Denmark in post-war Europe, if the Danish nation does not in time, in an unequivocal manner, make it clear to the free world that it is wholeheartedly on the side of the United Nations.
Acts of sabotage that had numbered two in 1940, 12 in 1941, and 59 in 1942 leaped to 816 in 1943
In August 1943, the country erupted into a series of popular strikes and demonstrations. These popular uprisings were directed both at the German occupying power and the Danish government’s policy of cooperation. On August 28, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark, Dr. Werner Best, presented the Danish government with an ultimatum that would have abrogated basic Danish civil rights. The Danish government rejected the ultimatum. At 4:00 a.m. the following morning the German army imposed a state of emergency and declared martial law to be in effect. The citizens of Denmark, including its Jews, no longer had the protection of its elected government. No longer would Danish legislation be a prerequisite for the implementation of German persecution of Denmark’s Jews. On September 8, Best sent a telegram to Berlin recommending
that measures should now be taken toward a solution of the problem of the Jews
On September 28, German shipping attaché Georg Duckwitz informed several Danish Social Democratic Party leaders of the pending action against the Danish Jews. Immediately upon being informed, these political leaders set to work using their extensive labour union and other contacts to warn as many Jews as possible of the action scheduled for the night of October 1/2. Many of Denmark’s 8,000 Jews were warned in this manner.
There is one event, however, that is given primacy in the comprehensive accounts of the warning—the warning given by Acting Chief Rabbi Melchior at the special synagogue service on September 29 beginning the Jewish New Year observation. Even Hans Hedtoft, one of the leading Social Democratic political leaders who had been warned by Duckwitz and who played a prominent role in spreading the warning, gave Melchior’s warning primacy in his Introduction to Bertelsen’s
At a very solemn moment, I interrupted the service and told the more than one hundred persons gathered there at this early hour of the ominous developments. I called upon them to pass on the information immediately and to ask its recipients to become messengers themselves. In this way, the news would become known to the entire community within a matter of hours. Largely, this did indeed happen, and each person, each family, had to set out on the desperate task of sneaking away from homes and places of work of every kind and to find ways of contacting Gentile friends who might be willing to grant them temporary shelter.
At the moment of crisis, the Jewish community’s religious leadership successfully conveyed to the approximately 180 people in the Synagogue that morning the urgent need to act swiftly. Not content with that, Melchior gave two of his children lists of 25 names of Jews who had not been at that morning’s service and had them bicycle throughout Copenhagen spreading the warning
In many cases, the decisions had to be made by family units involving family members from the most elderly to the very young. The required family discussions and decisions are nearly unimaginable. Nearly all earthly possessions, no matter how treasured, would have to be left behind. Family members too old or too sick to flee would have to be left behind to their fate at the hands of the Germans. Jobs and income, neighbours, the physical and emotional comfort that one’s home had provided for years—all left behind on a moment’s notice with absolutely no certainty of ever being able to return. In many cases the warning was received too late to allow for the gathering of personal financial assets. The decision to flee was often also a decision to be destitute. In cases of mixed marriages, especially if the non-Jewish spouse was employed, impossibly difficult decisions had to be made about whether or not to split up the family. There was uncertainty about the degree of risk to either spouse in a mixed marriage. Those families with children that decided that the non-Jewish spouse would remain in Denmark then had to decide whether the children would flee or stay. Additionally, as has been documented most recently in Sofie Lene Bak’s
At this critical moment the fate of the Danish Jews was in their own hands. If they could not or would not leave their homes within three days they would be captured by the Germans. How the Jews responded to this warning and how history has treated that response are the fundamental elements of this article that lead to its central conclusion regarding the symbolically important and powerful choice of title (
Since the end of World War II there has been a seemingly endless supply of English-language works written about the flight of Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen from capture in German-occupied Europe. In almost all of these narratives that which takes place is described as an
One of the best known of the indigenous escape organizations was the Comet Line, which operated in Belgium and France. This organization is credited with having saved more than 800 Allied servicemen from capture
One of the starkest examples of this phenomenon is the 1958 publication of David Howarth’s
In contrast to this, the efforts of the Danish Jews to gain the safety of neutral Sweden have been described in an entirely different manner. The agency of action has been attributed not to the Jews who were trying to get to Sweden, but to the non-Jewish Danes who helped them get there. In this case the events are not described as an escape but as a rescue. The verb used in application to the Danish Jews rather than being in the active voice, i.e.
to be rescued.
The English-language literature describing the flight of the Danish Jews to Sweden has overwhelmingly used the descriptor
Any serious study of the escape of the Danish Jews to Sweden during World War II must take into account historian Leni Yahil’s
Yahil’s view of the subject of this paper is made very clear in the concluding chapter in her book:
All in all, the Jews in Denmark were and remained an object: an object of persecution and an object of rescue, an object of the political decisions of others—now the Germans, now the Danes
This is a puzzling conclusion in that the very genesis of the successful escape was the fact that on the night of the German raid almost no Jews were at home. Rabbi Melchior’s warning and the subsequent distribution of that warning, mostly by the Jews themselves as well as the warnings conducted by the Social Democratic political leaders, had been met with startling swift action on the part of the Danish Jews to go into hiding. To use Yahil’s own words,
most of the Jews left their homes within a few hours and also passed on the news to one another
the only group which became stirred and tried to find a way out of the trap
…and even here the really active were few in number
Yahil’s perspective on the events of October 1943 becomes difficult to fathom in parts of her 1990 masterwork
in Denmark, a daring and decisive operation was launched to rescue the Jews
Yehuda Bauer has been a preeminent Holocaust historian for decades. He has written 14 books and over 90 articles on the Holocaust. Bauer takes a different view on the issue of Jewish passivity than does Yahil.
In 2001 Bauer wrote
In all of the books discussed so far, books that claim to have unlocked the secret of the Holocaust – to explain what caused it and provide a picture of that cataclysmic event – certain major deficiencies become obvious, and the fact that they are common to all the books makes one wonder. In all of them, the Jews are passive victims
…The basic issue of Holocaust history is to tell it in such a way as to advance the prospect, dim though it may seem, to prevent genocides, Holocaust–like events in particular. In terms of prevention, the behavior of the victims of the Holocaust is of universal moral, social, and political importance, not to mention philosophical or theological considerations…That the overarching attempts in these books do not deal with the Jews except as murdered victims distorts the picture completely. What we see here may be an unconscious treatment of the Jews as the quintessential Other.
Victims are not passive except in their last moments. We must know how the Nazi’s victims behaved, what cultural baggage they had to start with, and whether their behavior or their baggage was useful in any way. We must know what they thought, how they reacted, what they did. Therein lies a lesson, possibly, or a warning, possibly, or an encouragement, possibly
…The persecutors are not the subject and the Jews merely objects, but both are subjects reacting to each other. This is the kind of history that needs to be written.
an object of persecution and an object of rescue, an object of the political decision of others – now the Germans, now the Danes.
It is important to strike a reasonable balance between nostalgic hero worship of Jews during the Holocaust and attempts to downplay all forms of amidah (resistance). The importance lies, among other things, in the need for truthful analyses of reactions of victims of genocide generally to further the educational process that may provide at least an outside chance of preventing future tragedies like the Holocaust or other genocides.
Yahil and Bauer provide adversarial scholarly positions that frame the debate over whether the Danish Jewish response to their persecution by the German occupying power was one of passivity or action. As discussed earlier, both scholarly and popular literature have overwhelmingly used the term
There was another broader pressure regarding the alleged passivity of the Danish Jews during World War II. As one studies the Holocaust, it is easy to get discouraged about the human condition. The history of the world in terms of acting to save European Jewry is singularly horrible. The human need to find an exception to this dark fact is enormous. And the more the Danish story can be presented as an exception to this inaction, the more comfortable we become in relying on the Danish
beacon of light in a time of darkness
in spite of everything
…people are really good at heart
Danish historian and journalist Bent Blüdnikow presents an additional factor that may have contributed to the tendency of many historians to describe the Danish Jews as passive victims:
Når der endelig blev skrevet beretninger, var det atter og atter flugten i 1943 og den store taknemlighed over for den danske befolkning, der blev beskrevet. Derved kom de danske jøder til at fremstå som passive ofre, der blot lod sig transportere over til Sverige.
Menighedens ledelse var desuden opvokset i en tradition, hvor man holdt en lav profil i det danske samfund. Man nøjedes med at fortælle historian om de gode danskere, der hjalp ved flugten i 1943, og af beskedenhed og af tradition fortalte man ikke om sine egne gøremål i offentligheden. Derfor blev rollefordelingen således, at darskerne var de modige helte, medens jøderne var de passive ofre.
Central to the argument of this article is how the Danish Jews responded to the warnings of their pending arrest in September 1943. If they responded with passivity as suggested by Yahil and others, then the term
One of the earliest English-language works on the flight of the Danish Jews is Aage Bertelsen’s
In a sense this young Jew was the actual founder of the relief action in Lyngby. A few days before the persecutions began he had appealed to the principal and the teachers of his old school
…and asked them whether they could possibly help him to hide a number of Jews who had no personal contacts outside Jewish circles ….
Incessantly, day and night literally, David was being busy helping, completely disregarding his own dangerous situation
…He was on the go everywhere, and everywhere he looked up Jews and helped them out, always bubbling with activity, yet always well balanced, cheerful, but also cunning and levelheaded. When he slept – and that was usually only for a couple of hours – he spent the nights wherever it could be arranged, most often on the divan in our sitting room with the door leading to the veranda ajar, in case there should be a visit by unwelcome strangers.
This account of David Sompolinsky’s efforts, in spite of the danger to himself, is similar to the actions of Rabbi Melchior’s son Arne who, after the family had fled from Copenhagen, went
American historian and journalist Richard Petrow in
The vessel set sail shortly after nightfall on the evening of October 8. If all had gone well, they could have expected to reach Swedish waters by morning, but their inexperienced skipper grew confused in the dark. Daybreak found the vessel sailing in large circles near the Danish port of Gedser
…a particularly hazardous area because of German naval activity in the vicinity. When the fisherman realized where he was, he suggested that the boat, with its refugees, return to Hæsnæs to try again another day. Alarmed at his suggestion, the refugees insisted on taking over command of the vessel and themselves set a course which successfully took them into Swedish waters.
During the 1950s Ole Barfoed worked with some 70 Danish Jews who had escaped to Sweden during World War II and persuaded them to write down their accounts of their experiences from that time. The majority of these firsthand accounts were written by Jews who were well connected in society, and who also, for the most part, were above average in terms of personal financial status. They provide an invaluable insight into the thoughts and experiences of Danish Jews in 1943. Many of the 70 individual accounts involve multiple generations, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, friends, etc., and therefore describe the experiences of far more than 70 people. One of the most striking aspects of these accounts is the extent to which many of the decisions that had to be made by the Jews upon receiving the warning of the impending German action were often extended family decisions including elderly grandparents as well as very young children. The difficulty of this decision-making process can only be imagined and yet, as is shown by the number of Jews who escaped to Sweden, nearly everyone who was able
The complexity of this decision-making process was increased if the family consisted of mixed, Jewish and non-Jewish, marriages. The Barfoed collection contains heart-breaking accounts of these kinds of decisions, including what was best to do in regard to the children if one spouse stayed in Denmark while the other attempted to escape to Sweden.
The following account is typical of those found in the collection. The collection is made available to researchers by the Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet) on the condition that identities of non-public individuals are not revealed. That requirement is honoured in this article.
The particular account under analysis was written by a Jewish woman who was married to a non-Jew. (It can be found in the Barfoed Collection, Korrespondence og beretninger 1, Box #224.) She begins her account by stating that the first reaction that she and her husband had to the warning of the pending arrest action was to find hiding places for her closest Jewish relatives. She then moved in with her mother-in-law while her one and one-half year old twin sons stayed at home with her husband. Within a few days the family tried unsuccessfully to gain passage on a fishing boat from Kastrup to Sweden. Her sister had dyed her hair blonde, and the day after the author’s failed attempt the sister succeeded in escaping on a boat to Sweden.
The author lived at her mother-in-law’s home in hiding for several weeks and dyed her hair blonde as her sister had. Her mother-in-law had hired a hairdresser,
An escape possibility was found in Snekkersten, and the author was given 30 minutes to get her twin boys, with no time to get extra clothing for them. She, her husband, their twins, and her brother-in-law all met at the Copenhagen central train station. On the train to Snekkersten they sat in a compartment with several Germans. They had given their twins sleeping potions, but they did not fall asleep. A member of the underground met them at Snekkersten. At this point the author and her twins were to be taken by taxi to a villa on the coast, and her husband was to return to Copenhagen. In her account she has written simply
The woman and her twins were then driven to the villa where
a major saboteur,
The following night the same group set out in a rowboat with an outboard motor to meet a fishing boat. The twins started to cry, and according to the author one of the men in the boat threatened to throw them into the water but her brother-in-law intervened. After two or three minutes the motor gave out and they had to row:
In reading the accounts in the Barfoed collection one is struck by the number of times that the warnings of the pending German raid came from other Jews, primarily family and friends. It also becomes clear that in most of these cases it was the Jews who took the initiative to locate places where they could hide. It was most often the Danish Jews who would call or visit their non-Jewish friends or acquaintances to ask if their family could stay for an uncertain amount of time. Certainly there were some cases where this was volunteered by non-Jews on their own initiative. The important point is that regardless of who initiated the contact, the great majority of Danes responded positively. Nonetheless, in the 70 or so accounts in the Barfoed collection most of these contacts were initiated by the Jews themselves.
Within the Barfoed collection we can turn to the choice of words of the Danish Jews themselves for some indication of how they viewed the events of 1943. Variations of
Collectively these accounts present a strong image of the Danish Jews of 1943 as a people reacting to limited information by quickly making the most difficult decisions imaginable and then acting on those decisions under extraordinarily difficult circumstances in an ultimately successful manner. One is hard-pressed to think of another civilian population of extended families that acted more swiftly or effectively than did the Danish Jews of September/October 1943.
The image found in the English-language literature of the Danish Jews as passive victims being rescued is grounded in Harold Flender’s 1963
In 1995 Danish historians Rasmus Kreth and Michael Mogensen broke new ground with
the Jews themselves arranged their transport over the Sound
prisværdigt lykkes det forfatterne at nuancere Leni Yahils ret stereotype billede af de danske jøder som ‘objekter for redning’ commendably the authors succeed in providing nuance to Leni Yahil’s stereotypical picture of the Danish Jews as ‘objects for rescue’
In 2002 Danish historian Hans Kirchhoff edited
den (redningen) er blevet en del af vor nationale identitet og selvforståelse it (the rescue) has become a part of our national identity and self-image
Danish historian Michael Mogensen, in his chapter, describes the actions taken by the Danish Jews as follows:
efter advarslen den 28. september tog mange direkte ud i de sjællandske havne for at skaffe sig overfart til Sverige. Andre gemte sig hos venner og bekendte, for der at arrangere overfart. Atter andre, oftest de ubemidlede, søgte skjul i parker og skove, indtil de blev fundet af hjælpegrupperne. Variationerne er utallige. Det lykkedes mange på egen hånd at finde vej over til friheden i Sverige.
The final chapter in
Hvad perspektiv – og dermed videreudvikling af Holocaust–forskningen, åbning af nye synsvinkler - angår, er det klart den forskning, der sætter ofrenes situation, oplevelser, valg og reaktioner i fokus, som er mest spændende og frugtbar. Og det er – med Yehuda Bauer – tillige den historie, der klarest peger fremad imod en ændring af menneskelig adfærd og praksis.
As regards perspective – and the further development of Holocaust research, opening of new points of view – it is clearly the research that sets the victims’ situation, experiences, choices and reactions in focus that is the most exciting and fruitful. And that is – as Yehuda Bauer writes – also the history that most clearly points forward toward a change of human behavior and practice.
Stræde then deals with the issue of the alleged passivity of the Danish Jews in the following passage:
Der forekom selvmord og desperate handlinger blandt jøderne i Danmark, da det blev klart for dem, at jagten på dem var gået ind; men det store flertal reagerede hensigtsmæssigt og med snarrådighed. Jødernes adækvate reaktion - som indebar at hjælpe hinanden indbyrdes på tværs af de sociale, politiske og religiøse skel, som vitterligt var store blandt jøder i Danmark, samt at vise tillid til ikke–jøder (ofte endda vildt fremmede, om hvilke man ikke kunne ane, om de måske ville stikke en) – har en væsentlig del af æren for den succesrige redningsaktion, men er af forskningen – udover en ansats hos Leni Yahil – blevet behandlet som en biomstændighed.
Hvis man reducerer den ene side til passive objekter, går man i en vis forstand gerningsmændenes ærinde, indskrænker sin historie til deres del og skruer sit blik ind i deres optik. Og man udsletter af den historiske erindring mindet om dem, der gjorde noget, dem der stod imod
… Ligesom forskningen mindre og mindre behandler tyskerne som systemets og strukturernes viljeløse objekter, er det på høje tid, at den kommer ud over at behandle jøderne og andre ofre som passive objekter for tyskernes og deres kollaboratørers overgreb og forbrydelser.
In 2003 Hans Sode-Madsen produced
Også i den danske selvforståelse indtager jødernes redning en vigtig plads. I besættelsestidens historie . . . glimrer oktober 1943 som en of de få stjernestunder, der kunne samle hele nationen. Fra kongen til studenten, fra Grosserersocietetet til fiskeren – ja selv politikerne nåede med i protestens sidste runde
…Således har oktober ’43 gennem et halv århundrede strålet som besættelsesgenerationens finest hour, uberørt of nogen gusten revision.
The rescue of the Jews takes an important place in the Danish self-image. In the history of the German occupation . . . October 1943 gleams as one of the few great moments that could unite the whole nation. From the king to the student, from the Merchants’ Guild to the fisherman – even the politicians involved in the protest’s latest round …Thus has October ’43 shined through a half century as the occupation generation’s finest hour, untouched by any pale revision.
Kirchhoff ventures into troubling territory when he suggests a religious motive for an alleged passive response of
The final chapter in the book,
nemlig at ofrenes stemme høres igen namely that the victims’ voice be heard again.
Holocaust danner således grundlaget for et konsensualt sæt af værdier, der anerkender folkedrab som det ultimative onde, nedprioriterer betydningen af den “heroiske” nation og fokuserer på ofrenes lidelser i stedet for på “helte” eller gerningsmænd.
In this way the Holocaust forms the foundation for a consensual set of values that recognizes genocide as the ultimate evil, giving a lower priority to the significance of the “heroic” nation and focusing on the victim’s suffering rather than on “heroes” or perpetrators.
I årtier har en række nationale erindringskulturer, der blev domineret af myter om selvopofrende og bred national modstand mod nazismen, båret præg af, at de jødiske ofre og overlevende næsten var fraværende.
For decades a number of national remembrance cultures, which were dominated by myths of self-sacrificing and broad national resistance against Nazism, were marked by the characteristic that the Jewish victims and survivors were almost absent.
At first glance there seems to be some justification for suggesting that the treatment of the events of the Holocaust by historians, including the Danish experience, is trending away from national heroic
An examination of several of the more recent relevant publications available, however, leaves some doubt as to the current status of historiographical treatment of the escape of the Danish Jews in World War II. One of the most recent American general-circulation publications on the subject is Emmy E. Werner’s
In 2007 Isi Foighel published
A unique story of fear and hope, of evil and humanity, and especially of helpfulness and courage. A story about people in Denmark who had a responsibility, or shouldered one, people who showed their true colors and made a difference.
Another relevant Danish book published in 2007 is historians Hans Kirchhoff and Lone Rünitz’s
In 2010 Sofie Lene Bak published
a new understanding of the active role of the Jews also requires a linguistic or terminological adjustment, where flight rather than rescue appears to be the appropriate word to describe the events of 1943
That there is a difference in connotation between
Or perhaps not. In 2013, Hans Kirchhoff published
Published in both Danish and English in 2013 is Bo Lidegaard’s
no full history of it (the escape of the Danish Jews) has been written,
Ironically, the most recently published reference to the events of September/October 1943 of which the author of this article is aware is also the most dismissive of the Danish Jews’ efforts. A February 16, 2015 article in
Denmark, who rescued its Jewish population during World War II by sending them to neutral Sweden
We are left with conflicting examples of both scholarly and popular literature, extending from the immediate postwar years all the way to the present day, some of which perpetuate national myths and some of which recognize the decisions and actions of the Jews as important factors in their successful escape to Sweden. At the conclusion of
to gain perspective on Denmark’s occupation history, the Danes will have to wait for the passing of not only those of us who witnessed the event, but also one or two further generations
The debate among historians as to the alleged passivity of the Danish Jews during World War II is reflective of the larger historical debate regarding European Jews in general during the Holocaust. This examination of primary and secondary source material has led the author to the conclusion that in 1943 the Jews of Denmark acted with courage and decisiveness that were indispensable to the fortunate outcome of the survival of 98 percent of the Jews of this Nazi-occupied country.
The choice of
That many Danes opened their doors to their Jewish brethren, helped them to escape, and just as importantly welcomed them back in 1945, has been recognized for almost 70 years. There is no prospect of this not being recognized for the next 70 years and beyond. Danish bravery, both Jewish and non-Jewish, should be able to be recognized simultaneously. We should be at a point where the story can be told in a way that is respectful of the good deeds of the Danes of October 1943, but not at the expense of the very people whom they helped escape from the Nazi German authorities.
This inquiry has dealt with the Danish corner of the incomprehensible evil of the Holocaust. In his chapter
De tyske nationalsocialister indledte en bølge af jødeforfølgelser, der med Tysklands angrebskrige og erobringer kom til at omspænde det meste af Europa og kostede henved 6 millioner jøder livet. At fatte dette enestående barbari til bunds er nok umuligt. Men at opklare, hvad der faktisk skete, og forsøge at forklare det må være en af historievidenskabens vigtigste opgaver.
The German Nazis instituted a wave of Jewish persecution that with Germany’s wars of aggression and conquests came to envelope most of Europe and cost nearly 6 million Jews their lives…It is probably impossible to truly understand this singular barbarity. But to clarify what factually happened and try to explain it must be one of historical scholarship’s most important tasks.
If Stræde is correct in his assessment of the importance of historical examination of the Holocaust, then there is no place for influence of national pride or comfort-seeking idealism in the search for historical truth in one of the very few places where the Holocaust met with near total failure. History should recognize the bravery of action of both the Danish Jews and the Danish non-Jews who helped them in their escape.
This article is a revised version of a 2009 thesis for a Master’s degree in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington.