Danish Jews transported by Red Cross busses from Theresienstadt to Sweden

Rosh Hashanah 1943

In the tragic story of the Nazis and the Jews, the rescue of the Danish Jews can be seen as a rare ray of sunshine. Thanks to the help of many ordinary Danes, almost all of Denmark’s Jews survived World War II. Today, in and around Copenhagen, you can walk in the footsteps of the escaping Jews, and learn more about the dramatic days and nights of September and October 1943.

A good relationship

Copenhagen, Denmark. The name conjures images of Hans Christian Andersen, Tivoli Gardens, cutting edge design, and refined culture. And then, for some, it recalls a daring rescue – and an indigenous population who risked everything to help their neighbors. 

The legacy of the Danish Jewish community, rescued from the clutches of the Nazi occupying force, is intimately connected with the Denmark of today and the history of this Nordic land. 

Jews in Denmark 1940-1943

While Denmark was occupied by the Germans from April 9, 1940, the Jews in Denmark were to a great extend allowed to carry on with their ordinary lives until 1943 when the collaboration between the Danish government and the occupying force ended. In 1943, Danish politicians - tipped off by a brave employee at the German Embassy - warned the Jewish community that the Nazis planned a mass deportation of the community, and events unfolded rapidly thereafter.  

Rosh Hashanah 1943

Red cross busses transporting Danish Jews from Theresienstadt

On Rosh Hashanah 1943, September 29, Rabbi Melchior urged his congregants to go into hiding and plan an escape to nearby neutral Sweden. The greater Danish population sprang into action, smuggling nearly all of Denmark’s Jews to Sweden on fishing boats. 

Approximately 7,200 Danish Jews were smuggled to Sweden and went on to spend years in exile. Nearly 500 Danish Jews were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. 53 died in the camp, but most survived and returned with The White Busses in April 1945. 

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