Denmark has long been regarded as one of the world’s most attractive nations, for citizens and tourists alike. My own visits there years ago as a student were delightful. And the Danes have a wonderful history of civic virtue, not least during the Holocaust. As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum notes in a web site dedicated to “The Rescue of the Jews of Denmark,”
The Danish resistance movement, assisted by many ordinary citizens, coordinated the flight of some 7,200 Jews to safety in nearby neutral Sweden. Thanks to this remarkable mass rescue effort, at war’s end Denmark had one of the highest Jewish survival rates for any European country.
Times change. The latest news out of Denmark bore this headline: “Jews Warned Not to Wear Kipot, Stars of David in Copenhagen.” Is it really acceptable that in one of Europe’s great capitals someone wearing a Star of David cannot walk safely in the streets?
The Holocaust Museum web site tells us of a different Denmark:
- Germany occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940. However, Danish Jews were not persecuted until the autumn of 1943.
- When the German police began searching for and arresting Jews on the night of October 1, 1943, the Danish police refused to cooperate.
- Unlike Jews in other countries under Nazi rule, the Jews of Denmark were never forced to wear the yellow Star of David or any other identifying badge.
- Approximately 500 Jews were deported from Denmark to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Following protests from their government, these Danish inmates were allowed to receive letters and even some care packages. Most of them survived the Holocaust.
It seems, from this information, that a Jew could more safely walk the streets of Denmark’s capital in 1942 than today, 70 years later.
I discuss all of this in an article entitled “Alas Denmark” here, in The Weekly Standard.