The rescue of Denmark’s Jewish citizens

“During the darkest chapter in human history, the people, churches, and governments of a few countries refused to cede their Jewish citizens to the dire fate that awaited them in much of Nazi-occupied Europe.”
From: Heroes in History: The People of Denmark  published by Thanks To Scandinavia.


In September 1943 the Nazis sent boats to take all of Denmark’s Jewish citizens to concentration camps—a death sentence. They surely assumed that their plans would work, successfully, the same as they had in many other European countries.

Instead, a German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz communicated with Denmark’s resistance movement—revealing the Germans’ plans to roundup the Jews of Denmark on the evening of Rosh Hashanah and during services the next day. Those that had not been captured while they prayed would have been rounded up during the days that followed. This would have been October 28th and 29th of 1943.

When the German soldiers arrived, they arrived at empty synagogues and empty Jewish homes. All the Danish citizens of Jewish faith had literally disappeared. Their neighbors, their friends, and total strangers took them into their homes until they could be sent away in safety.

Denmark’s king, King Christian X and other leaders negotiated with the Swedish government to take these refugees. The Danish fishing fleet, risking execution and confiscation their boats (their means of a living), took nearly all of the Jews of Denmark to the shores of Sweden and safety.

This happened nowhere else in Europe.

I will share more on this in the coming days.

A conversation with Danish Home Guard soldiers

On Monday night, while driving through Keystone, I recognized the uniforms of the Danish soldiers who are working with South Dakota’s and other state’s Guard units this summer.

I couldn’t resist stopping to visit with the soldiers and telling them a little about the plans that we have to recognize the 70th Anniversary of the rescue in Denmark at Mount Rushmore on Saturday, September 28th.

(I spoke on this subject at the annual ELCA conclave in Sioux Falls last Saturday and was pleased with the reception. There will be more on this story in upcoming blog posts.)

As I visited with the soldiers, I became more and more impressed. They were well aware of their country’s history—proud their country saved all of the Jews that lived there—and were aware of their people’s heroic actions. I sometimes wonder if our children are as aware of the sacrifice, daring, and bravery of the people of the United States during the Second Word War.

When I told the soldiers that I hoped to get their queen to come to the event they clapped their hands and said “Oh, that would be wonderful.”

It’s a wonderful world that young men like these are committed to the service of their country and our shared values. One of the sergeants gave me a shoulder patch and it was exciting for me to see the coyote of the South Dakota Guard, which I once wore on my own uniform, paired with the coat of arms of the Danish Home Guard.