Feb. 23, 2018
- The Kindness of Strangers: How Thousands of Danes – and One Brave German – Defied the Nazis to Rescue Denmark’s Jews – Duane Schultz
On Sep. 28, 1943, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a high-level staff member of the German embassy in Copenhagen and a member of the Nazi Party, betrayed his country and risked execution to try to save the lives of nearly 8,000 Danish Jews. He knew that in two days‘ time Denmark’s Jews were to be rounded up and shipped off to internment camps. Eight days earlier, he had traveled secretly to Sweden and persuaded the neutral Swedish government to take in all the Danish Jews who could get out of Denmark in time.
While Duckwitz’s warning sparked the rescue operation, it was the Danish people themselves who then rapidly and selflessly carried it out – hiding and caring for their Jewish compatriots, transporting them to boats on the coast, and then ensuring the vast majority made it safely to Sweden. Estimates of the number of non-Jewish Danes who helped in the massive escape to the coast range as high as 10,000.
When the Jews returned to Denmark from Sweden in the summer of 1945, they were greeted by cheering crowds and garlands of flowers. Most of the Jews returned to find their homes, jobs, and businesses intact, ready for them to resume the lives that had been interrupted. In 1971, Duckwitz was honored by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. (World War II Magazine)