Quotes: Danish Rescue and Relief


“The Jews are a part of the Danish nation.”

- King Christian X

“The Jews are a part of the Danish nation.  We have no Jewish problem in our country because we never had an inferiority complex in relation to the Jews.  If the Jews are forced to wear the yellow Star, I and my whole family shall wear it as a badge of honor.”  [The badge was not introduced in Denmark.]

- King Christian X

“We Danes know that the whole population stands behind resistance to the German oppressors.  The Council calls on the Danish population to help in every way possible those Jewish fellow-citizens who have not yet succeeded in escaping abroad.  Every Dane who renders help to the Germans in the persecution of human beings is a traitor and will be punished as such when Germany is defeated.”

- Danish Freedom Council

"Efforts to rescue the 'remnants' were an integral part of the Jewish struggle… Gentiles, as individuals and groups, engaged in these activities, risking their lives and the lives of their families in an effort to help their Jewish neighbors.  Many of them were killed.  Their actions recall the ancient saying of our sages: 'A little light pushes away much darkness.'  These 'lights from the darkness' strengthened the belief of many desperate men in the enduring dignity of Man."

- B. Dinur, quoted in L. Yahil, 1969, p. xx

“The Danish Jews are a living part of the people, and the whole nation is therefore profoundly affected by the measures which have been taken and which must be regarded as an infringement of the Danish conception of justice.”

- the five main political parties affiliated with the Council of Nine
in an official statement condemning the deportation of Danish Jews

“We understand by freedom of religion the right to exercise our faith in God in accordance with vocation and conscience, and in such a way that race and religion can never in themselves be a reason for depriving a man of his rights, freedom, or property.  Despite different religious views, we shall therefore struggle to insure the continued guarantee to our Jewish brothers and sisters of the same freedom we ourselves treasure more than life itself. The leaders of the Danish Church have a clear understanding of the duty to be law-abiding citizens and would never revolt needlessly against those who exercise the functions of authority over us—but our conscience obliges us at the same time to maintain the law and to protest against any violation of rights.  We will therefore unambiguously declare our allegiance to the doctrine that bids us obey God more than man.”

- Protest by Danish Bishop Fuglsang-Damgaard against the proposed deportation of Danish Jews.  It was part of a larger protest sent to Werner Best.  It was read in Danish churches on Sunday, October 3, 1943 (quoted in Yahil, 1969, pp. 335-336, 486n49)

“For me the main think is the struggle for the soul of the people.  The essential aim is to get the people to fight… One cannot in all conscience totally reject the assertion that it is not the Danish people but small ‘gangs’ which are fighting… In my opinion ‘how to draw the masses into the war’ is more important than ‘how to cause the greatest practical damage to the Germans.’… I am in no doubt that we must work toward this broader popular rising.  Whether this will succeed and how it is to be done—well, I must admit I can’t see quite clearly at the moment.”

- Frode Jakobsen, one of the principle leaders in the Danish Underground resistance movement, to his ally and resistance leader Christian Møller, September 1943

“The anger in Denmark over what happened was without bounds.”

- Hartvig Frisch

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz Quotes

“He had turned against the whole political line of the party, its terror and violence in Germany and the occupied countries.  In particular, Duckwitz was full of disgust at the inhuman treatment of the Jews by the Nazis.”

- Jorgen Haestrup, Danish historian

“I know what I have to do.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, after learning of Hitler’s plan to deport Danish Jews

“I will assume responsibility for everything I am going to do.  I am consoled by my strong faith that good deeds can never be wrong.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, September 26, 1943, diary entry

“It is good that Anne Marie shares my convictions.  There will be no detour from the road I have taken.  There are, after all, higher laws.  I will submit to them.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, September 27, 1943, diary entry

“The disaster is here.  Everything is planned in detail.  In a few hours ships will anchor in the harbor of Copenhagen.  Those of your poor Jewish countrymen who get caught will forcibly be brought on board the ships and transported to an unknown fate.” 

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

“It has finally happened and here, too, everything has gone to pieces.  One has to try very hard not to lose one’s composure and not to weep.  Four years of hard work is for naught—because of stupidity and unreasonableness.  Now the inhabitants of the last country in Europe will hate us from the bottom of their hearts.  It is very difficult to be a German.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

“She [Duckwitz’s wife] was my best moral support, willing to go with me through thick and thin.  We never regretted our decision.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

“Vorbereitet sein, is alles, was getan werden kann.”  [Be prepared for all eventualities.]

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, warning Jews of the impending deportation, October 1943

“Everything looks dark and hopeless.  The preparations for the actions against the Jews are proceeding in great haste.  New people have arrived—experts in this tawdry enterprise.  They will not find many victims.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, diary entry on his 39th birthday, September 29, 1943

“It is a tribute to the German Navy that I succeeded to at least lessen the dreadful consequences of the planned action, since I could no longer prevent it.  I reasoned that the police forces would not be able to patrol the Danish coast on land and sea to stop any illegal crossings.  The danger that German naval units would have to take over this job was prevented by the German harbor commander of Copenhagen [Corvettenkapitän Richard Camman].  He saw to it that the coast guard ships were out of action.  He took a great personal risk, but he did so without hesitation.”

- Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

Duckwitz met secretly with members of the Danish Social Democratic Party and its leader, Hans Hedtoft.  Hedtoft recalled that on that occasion Duckwitz appeared “white with indignation and shame.” 

“He came to see me while I was in a meeting in the worker’s old meeting place at 22, Romergade.  ‘Now the disaster is about to occur,’ he said.  ‘The whole thing is planned in full detail.  Ships are going to anchor in the harbor of Copenhagen.  Your poor Jewish fellow countrymen who will be found by the Gestapo will be forcibly transported to the ships and deported to an unknown fate.’  His face was white with indignation and shame.  I frankly admit that—although during those years I was accustomed to get many surprising messages from this man—I became speechless with rage and anxiety.  This was too diabolic.  I just managed to say, ‘Thank you for the news,’ and Duckwitz disappeared.  He personally did everything that was possible to save as many human lives as he could.”

- Hans Hedtoft, Chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party,
later became Prime Minister of Denmark

“He had turned against the whole political line of the party, its terror and violence in Germany and in the occupied territories.”

- Hans Hedtoft, Chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party,
later became Prime Minister of Denmark

They informed leaders of the Jewish community:
“The thing we have feared so long has come into being.  Tomorrow night the Gestapo will raid all Jewish homes to arrest the Jews and bring them to boats in the harbor…You must warn everybody. Of course, we’ll assist you in every way we can.” 

- Hans Hedtoft, Chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party,
later became Prime Minister of Denmark

“I have very important news to tell you.  Last night I received word that the Germans plan to raid Jewish homes throughout Copenhagen to arrest all the Danish Jews for shipment to concentration camps.  They know that tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah and our families will be home.  The situation is very serious.  We must take action immediately.  You must leave the synagogue now and contact all relatives, friends, and neighbors you know are Jewish and tell them what I have told you.  You must tell them to pass the word on to everyone they know is Jewish.  You must also speak to all your Christian friends and tell them to warn the Jews.  You must do this immediately, within the next few minutes, so that two or three hours from now everyone will know what is happening.  By nightfall tonight we must all be in hiding.”

- Rabbi Marcus Melchoir, Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen

“The people of other countries have let their Jews go before, and, perhaps, they were happy to get rid of them, especially when Jewish homes, property, and money were involved.  In such cases, saying ‘Good-bye’ was easier than saying ‘welcome back.’  But when we returned, our fellow Danes did say ‘welcome back.’  And how they said it—emotionally, with open arms and hearts.  Our homes, our businesses, our property, and money had been taken care of and returned to us…You cannot imagine how happy it made us feel to be back home.”

- Rabbi Marcus Melchoir, Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen

“Duckwitz’s efforts were unique, and we know about no other high-ranking German official who fulfilled such an important role in the rescue of Jews, certainly putting his own life in great danger.”

- Leni Yahil, 1969, Holocaust historian

“Of course it is.  All decent people did.  Because of sympathy with poor, persecuted people, who came to us confidently placing their lives and fates in our hands.”

- Mrs. Aage Bertelsen, when asked by Nazi authorities whether it was true that she had helped Jews, and why she did it, November 9, 1943

“It’s as if we never realized before what it means to live.”

- Mrs. Aage Bertelsen, discussing rescue of Jews with her husband


Danish Rescue Quotes

“It was the natural thing to do. I would have helped any group of Danes being persecuted. The Germans’ picking on the Jews made as much sense to me as picking on redheads.”

- Dr. Karl Henry Koster (Flender 124)

“I was brought up to believe in democracy and to believe that you have to be willing to fight if you want to preserve that democracy. As for helping the Jews, I didn’t feel any particular responsibility for Jews. As a matter of fact, I never thought of them as Jews or anything else. They were merely my countrymen and they needed my help.”

- Nurse Signe Jensen (Flender 124)

“It was never a question of Jew or non-Jew. It was a question of people in distress. I would have helped anyone to escape from the Gestapo.”

- Jørgen Knudsen

“The history of the European underground movement, so rich in examples of the triumph of an organized popular action against apparently invincible power, contains no instance of so complete and impressive a victory as that which the Danes have now won.”

- The Times of London (Flender 236-237)

“Sir: According to press reports that have just reached Legation, one of the first acts of the newly appointed military dictator in occupied Denmark was, on personal orders from Adolf Hitler, to start the deportation of Danish Jews. I greatly fear that very little can be done from here to come to the aid of these, my fellow citizens, in their hour of affliction. I want, however, to offer you the assurance, Mr. Secretary, that any measures the American Government might deem feasible and appropriate to take in an attempt to afford protection to the Danish Jewish population, or to alleviate their fate ad the threat against their lives, will have my fill and unconditional support. As fat as financial responsibilities may be involved, I undertake the guaranty towards your government, or any other Government that may incur expenses in the effort t bring help to Danish Jews or other Danish nationals persecuted by the Nazis, to reimburse such expenses out of the Danish public funds under my control in this country. In making this declaration I know I am acting in line with the wish of the people of Denmark. I should be grateful for an early opportunity to discuss with you, Sir, what it may be possible to do in order to render assistance to my nationals and to protect them against the dangers threatening their existence. Receive, Sir, the assurance of my highest consideration.”

- The Danish Ambassador to the United States Henrik Kauffmann
to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull after learning of the
German plan to deport Danish Jews. (Flender)

“Are you sure that there is nothing – really nothing that you have done against us? Come, I give you my word that we are going to let you go free. We really have nothing to hold you on. But, just for the fun of it, off the record, isn’t there anything that you have done against us?”
Knudsen was so taken in by the officer’s apparent charm that he admitted that he had helped Jews escape to Sweden.
“But why?”
“Because I felt it had to be done. I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing while friends of mine were being persecuted.”
“So you have Jewish friends?”
“And you did not like the way we were treating them?”

- Jørgen Knudsen, rescuer, after being arrested and questioned by Gestapo agents, he was then beaten and released. (Flender 227-228)

“In the midst of all the tragedy we underwent a great experience, for we saw hoe that same population which had hitherto said to itself, in awe of German power, ‘What can we do?’- how this same population suddenly rose as one man against the Germans and rendered active help to their innocent bretheren”

- No attribution, Danish Rescuer

“…it was the greatest fault and stupidity of the Germans to start Jewish pogroms in Denmark. But in a way, one could also say that it was also a very good thing- actually a ‘service’ that the Germans performed. What happened to the Jews strongly accented the resistance and united people- not politically, but on a human plane. The net of contacts that the saving of the Jews created throughout Denmark showed itself to be most useful for the later development of the resistance movement. New channels were developed… without the aid of which the underground movement would have looked very different.”

- Ole Barfoed, Danish historian (Flender 225)

“At first public opinion was against sabotage, but then once the Germans started in with the Jews and we had to help them escape, we got a taste of what it was like to fight the Germans, and we liked it. We thought, now that the Jews are safe in Sweden- let’s continue, let’s go all the way.”

- Christian Kisling, sea captain, rescuer (Flender 225)

“Der er et yndigt land." [It is a lovely land.]

- First line in the Danish National Anthem

“From now on there was no doubt or uncertainty possible. In the face of these open acts of atrocity, insanely meaningless, it was not a question of one’s viewpoint. Action was the word. Even under serious or desperate conditions it is often a happy feeling to be able to devote oneself to a cause that one feels convinces is both unconditionally just and absolutely binding. The situation in Denmark at that time was precisely that simple. No honest man could possible refrain from action after this raid, when the persecuted cried for help.”

- Aage Bertelsen. Oct. 1943

“The Danes, being a peace-loving and easygoing people, had been reluctant for several years to take an active part in the resistance movement. But when the Germans started to persecute the Jews, when people had to hide relatives and friends, it meant that they were taking the first step in engaging in illegal activities against the Germans. This encouraged them to go even further and, as consequence, the resistance movement grew enormously.”

- Ole Lippman, leader Danish resistence (Flender 224-225)

“We will never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, according to God’s promise to the Chosen People of Israel. Persecution of the Jews conflicts with the humanitarian conception of the love of neighbors and the message which Christ’s church set out to preach. Christ taught us that every man has a value in the eyes of God. Persecution conflicts with the judicial conscience existing in the Danish people, inherited through centuries of Danish culture. All Danish citizens, according to the fundamental law, have the same right and responsibility under the law of religious freedom. We respect the right of religious freedom and to the performance of divine worship according to the dictates of conscience. Race or religion should never in themselves cause people to be deprived of their rights, freedom, or property. Notwithstanding our separate religious beliefs we will fight to preserve for our Jewish brothers and sisters the same freedom we ourselves value more than life. The leaders of the Danish Church clearly comprehend the duties of law-abiding citizens, but recognize at the same time that they are conscientiously bound to maintain the right and to protest every violation of justice. It is evident that in this case we are obeying God rather than man.”

- Letter to German Führer in Denmark on Oct. 3, 1943. Signed by Danish Bishops also read in church. (Flender 69)

“I tell you that I would rather die with the Jews than live with the Nazis.”

- Pastor Ivar Lange of Frederiksberg Church, October 3, 1943.

“Christians will be the first to fight this dirty anti-Semitism.”

Pastor Dean Johannes Nordentoft, Oct. 1943

“It is as if the Nazis’ latest infamy, the persecution against the Jews, had destroyed the last weak dikes which-strangely enough- in some places still stopped the stream of indignation… The persecution of the Jews has hit the Danes in the sorest point of their conception of justice; even the much too tolerant, the passive, the lukewarm can feel this meanness and shrink from it… People say they’re surprised that the Germans really had the courage to do it. We cannot take part in this astonishment… from this power we expect no better than racial persecution. We know that this kind of brutality has been the Third Reich’s specialty since 1933… The Germans should not think that the sending home of soldiers or the formal annulment of the state of emergency will subdue the wave of indignation created by this infamy… We couldn’t yield to the German threats when the Jews’ well-being was at stake. Nor can we yield today, where hard punishment and the probability of being taken to Germany await us if we help our Jewish fellow countrymen. We have helped them, and we shall go on helping them by all the means at our disposal. The episodes of the past two nights have to us become part of Denmark’s fate, and if we desert the Jews in this hour of their misery, we desert our native country.”

- Editorial in Danish Underground Newspaper by Christian Møller,
Danish Minister of Trade. Dated Oct. 2, 1943 (Flender)

“When here in this country pogroms have been started against a special group of our fellow countrymen, only because they belong to a special race, then the church has a right to cry out. This is breaking the constitution of Christ’s kingdom and is abominable to the Nordic way of thinking. The church must here be indefatigable.”

- Kaj Munk, Danish Minister Oct. 1943

“It is, indeed, really this cooperation on the part of the active, sound, and moral forces of the people which gives the conception of democracy meaning in a progressive and highly civilized society such as ours.”

- Erling Foss, forward of his book, cited in Yahil, 1969, p. 224