Introduction to Danish Rescue in the Holocaust
Before the war, approximately 8,000 Jews lived in Denmark. This was approximately 0.2% of the overall Danish population. Sixty-five hundred were Danish Jews, and 1,500 were refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Jews were well integrated into Danish society, and there was virtually no anti-Semitism in Denmark.
Germany occupied its neighbor to the north, Denmark, in the spring of 1940.
Denmark accepted Germany’s declaration that it had no intention of violating Denmark’s territorial or political integrity. The Danish King Christian X stayed and the Danish Army, Navy and police were kept intact. The Danish parliament continued to function and operate independently.
During the period of the German occupation, the Danish government and civil authorities protected its Jewish community. Antisemitic laws were never enacted on Danish soil. Jews kept their property and businesses. They also maintained their positions in the Danish civil service.
At first, the occupation was benign. Until the fall of 1942, German and Nazi occupying forces allowed the autonomous Danish government to continue operating. At this time, Hitler appointed Carl Werner Best, an SS general, to become Reich Plenipotentiary. The Germans planned to disband the Danish army.
In August 1943, the Wehrmacht occupied Copenhagen. The Nazi government dissolved Danish parliament, incarcerated King Christian X, and disbanded the Danish army.
Danish resistance to the German occupation led the Germans to declare and enforce martial law on August 28, 1943. Under martial law, the SS planned to deport all of Denmark’s Jews. When news of the deportation was leaked, King Christian X publicly denounced the plans. Further, the leaders of the Danish churches also publicly denounced the deportation plans.
The SS sent a battalion to plan the deportation for the 1-2 October 1943. With warning in advance of the deportation, the Danish underground, police forces, sea captains, and fishermen organized an action to ferry Jews across the sea to Sweden. Nearly 8,000 Danish Jews were saved. When the SS battalion began its mission, they found only 500 Jews. Most of these were elderly Jews who were too frail to make the journey. Most of these 500 Jews were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. The Danish government monitored these 500 deportees and, as a result of this scrutiny, 423 of the 500 survived the war.
All but 45 of the 8,000 Danish Jews survived the war. This was over 99% of Danish Jews. Four hundred elderly Danish Jews were deported to Theresienstadt, but were protected by the Danish government’s interest in their welfare and survival. When they returned to Denmark, their homes, businesses, and money were returned intact.
This was the most effective rescue of Jews in Nazi occupied Europe.
Yet, as of 2009, only 22 Danes have been honored by the State of Israel.
The Jewish community was active and participated in rescue activities that resulted in saving most of the Jews of Denmark.
3,213 Danes were killed resisting the German occupation.
Survival in Denmark Fact Sheet
Number of Danish refugees who successfully escaped to Sweden: 17,020
Number of Jews (and non-Jewish relatives): about 7,906
Non-Jewish Danes: 9,114
Of number of Jewish Refugees 7,220
Jewish refugees from Germany: 1,376
Jewish Danes: 5,844
Percent of Jews who survived from Denmark: 95+ percent
Number of Danish citizens designated as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem: 22
Number of Danish citizens who participated in the rescue of Jews in October 1943: unknown
Number of boats involved in ferrying Jews to Sweden: approximately 300
Number of boat crossings: approximately 1,000
Number of embarkation points in Denmark: 50, in the North from Zealand, Møen, Falster to Haesnaes in the South.
Number of Danish boats seized or sunk by German Navy during rescue: 0
Cost in Kroner to rescue a Jews: 500-10,000 (US $100) per person.
Length of German occupation of Denmark: 5 years, May 1940-May 4, 1945.
Number of Danish citizens who are listed in this document: 78
Number of Danish officials who are listed in this document: 12
Number of diplomats who saved Jews in Denmark: 10
Number of doctors, nurses and medical personnel who saved Jews in Denmark:
Number of fishermen who saved Jews in Denmark:
Number of Danish rescue and relief organizations: 35
Number of Jewish rescue and relief organizations who saved Danish Jews: 10
Number of Jews who rescued Danish Jews: 31
Number of Jews who were arrested and deported to Terezin:
Number of Danish Jews who perished in Terezin: 45
Number of Danish resistance operators who were arrested by German authorities for helping Jews:
Number of Danish policemen who were arrested and deported to Terezin: 500
Number of books published on Danish rescue:
Number of Danish commemorative/memorial organizations to the rescue of Jews:
Thanks To Scandinavia, New York City
Jewish Population in Denmark, October 1943
Jewish population: 8,000 (including non-Jewish relations)
Jewish proportion of Danish population: 2%
2,100-2,200 Jews were not Danish citizens
7,220 Jews in Denmark register as refugees
Old Jewish Danish families 1,431
20th Century Jewish immigrants 3,112
Half Jews 1,301
Refugee Jews 1,376
686 Non-Jews escaped with Jewish relatives
495 Jews were deported to Theresienstadt