A 1943 Rescue of Danish Jews on Rosh Hashanah

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY Sören BILLING (FILES) This 1943 photo shows a boat carrying people during the escape across the Oresound of some of 7,000 Danish Jews who fled to safety in neighbouring Sweden as Denmark three years after the German Nazi invasion. As Denmark commemorates the heroic rescue of the vast majority of its Jewish population during World War II, the country faces difficult questions over its relationship with Nazi Germany. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK +++ DENMARK OUTIn honor of the Jewish New Year, I located a great story of a daring rescue that occurred on Rosh Hashanah in 1943. The Germans occupying Denmark planned a mass round-up of the country’s 7,800 Jews on the Jewish holiday. They planned to capture the Jews as they gathered in their homes and synagogues, most of whom were in Copenhagen. Instead, the Danish underground got word of the planned action in advance and coordinated a massive rescue operation. In one night fishermen ferried nearly 7,000 Danish Jews to safety in neutral Sweden. Denmark remains the only European country to save almost all of its Jews.

Danish Knud ChristiansenKnud and Karen Christiansen – Unsung Heroes and Members of Danish Underground
Knud Christiansen and his wife Karen played a key role in coordinating the rescue of Jews, yet remain little known heroes. Christiansen worked with the underground for the entire German occupation, using his connections and position. He’d competed in the 1936 Olympics as a member of the Danish rowing team, his father-in-law served as the personal physician to the King of Denmark’s royal household and ran a successful business. His upscale apartment stood near where many high-ranking Nazi’s lived, since the Germans always appropriated the best of housing. Thus he often found out information by watching the comings and goings of German officers.

The Danish Underground is recognized as One Person as Righteous Among the Nations
According to JewishPost (dot) com, the Danish rescue of their Jews stands out because of the large number of people who worked in unison for this rescue. Universities shut down for the week of Rosh Hashanah so students were available; ministers urged their congregations to help their Jewish neighbors; rabbis canceled services telling their members to hide, and Danish diplomats negotiated with Sweden in advance to arrange for safe passage of the Jewish refugees. Some accounts report in many cases large sums of money were paid to fishermen to ferry the Jews.

Because so many Danes participated in the underground, the government and many individuals asked that their names not be used, and the Underground be recognized as one entity. In honor of the Danish Underground a tree was planted in the Avenue of the Righteous. Knud is also recognized individually as Righteous Among the Nations for his many efforts with the underground, and Karen is recognized for secretly publishing translations of Danish BBC broadcasts into German for five years. At great personal risk, she secretly distributed these to German soldiers so they’d know of the real atrocities being committed by their country. It’s reported that many German soldiers looked the other way as so many boats left shore.

Knud and Karen Christiansen – Yad Vashem database of the Righteous

More Details in the Jewish Post

More stories on Danish Underground – Yad Vashem

(Photo of boat rescue published on Der Spiegel, AFP Photo / Scanpix Denmark; photo of Christiansen from Jewish Foundation for the Righteous)

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Tags: World War II - Europe

1 Comment. Leave new

  • You don’t really expect the Danish to be victims of the the Germany onslaught of horror. Keep exposing these morbid truths with there heros! Keep protecting the innocent!


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