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European Jewish Congress


There are an estimated 8,000 Jews in Denmark today, most of who live in Copenhagen and the immediate surroundings. The great majority of Danish Jews are Ashkenazim with roots in central and Eastern Europe. Although intermarriage has taken its toll, Jewish life has been bolstered by the arrival of Jewish immigrants from other European countries and also from Israel. Moreover, in recent years, children of some of the refugees from Poland have begun to take an active part in communal life.


There has been a Jewish presence in Denmark for more than 400 years. Denmark was the first of the three Scandinavian countries in which Jews were permitted to settle. The first Jewish community was founded in the newly-established town of Fredericia in 1682 and in 1684; an Ashkenazi community was founded in Copenhagen.

While Jews in Denmark were initially active in the seventeenth century in trading and manufacturing they also gained prominence as financiers and jewelers for the royal family. In 1782, there were 1,830 Jews in Denmark, most of them in Copenhagen. In 1814, Danish Jews were granted civic equality and received full citizenship rights in 1849.

The community's population increased steadily until the middle of the nineteenth century when there were approximately 4,200 Jews in Denmark. Their numbers soon declined to 3,500 in 1900 due to intermarriage and a low birth rate. By 1920, following an influx of Jewish refugees fleeing from pogroms in Eastern Europe, the total Jewish population numbered 6,000.

In 1943, with a German roundup of Jews imminent, about 90% of the Jewish population was spirited to safety in neutral Sweden. All in all, 5,191 Jews, plus 1,301 people of part Jewish parentage, and 686 Christians married to Jews were secretly transported to Sweden. Some 472 Jews were captured and deported to Terezinstadt, and 53 lost their lives there.

After the war, the Jewish community was reconstituted. In 1968, 2,500 refugees from Poland, victims of its former government witch-hunt, settled in the Copenhagen area.


The Jewish Community in Denmark (Mosaisk Troessamfund) is an officially recognized religious community with approximately 2,400 members. The community operates in a broad cultural framework catering to both religious and secular Jews. Most of the Jewish organizations and institutions have their offices within the Jewish Community center.

The Dansk Zionistforbund (Danish Zionist Federation) is the leading Zionist body. B’nai B’rith, WIZO and B'nei Akiva have chapters in the community.


The Caroline Jewish Day School and Kindergarten, founded in 1805, has an enrollment of some 200 pupils, about half of Denmark's Jewish children in the 6-16 year age group.

There are two homes for the elderly, run in cooperation with the Copenhagen Municipality.

Two Jewish periodicals are published in Danish: Rambam, published by Selskabet for Dansk-Jødisk Historie; and Goldberg, a journal of Jewish culture. Other publications cater to Jewish youth. The Royal Library in Copenhagen is an important repository of Judaica and houses the famous Biblotheca Simonseniana, as well as a Jewish department.


The Great Synagogue in Copenhagen was completed in 1833 and is the seat of the Chief Rabbinate. There is also another small Orthodox synagogue which maintains a mikvah, and there is a Chabad Rabbi. Shir Hatzafon is the Progressive Jewish synagogue and community in Denmark.

Kosher food is readily available, There is a hotel in Hornbeak during the summer where one can have kosher food.


Israel and Denmark established full diplomatic relations in 1947 and Denmark is a strong supporter of Israel in the United Nations. In Jerusalem, a monument to the rescue of Danish Jewry was erected on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the operation, and the King Christian X Hospital in Eitanim is named after Denmark's king during World War II. Since 1948, 1,320 Danish Jews have immigrated to Israel.


Site of Jewish interest are Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue, designed by one of Denmark’s most famous architects, Gustav Friedrich Hechst. The city also has a burial ground dating back to 1693 and another, consecrated in 1886 that is the site of a monument to the 53 Danish Jews who perished in Terezinstadt. In the Liberty Museum, there is a special section devoted to the resistance movement and a section dealing with the persecution of the Jews.


The Jewish Community in Denmark
Det Jødiske Samfund i Danmark
Addrecc:Krystalgade 12, DK-1172 København K.
Tel: 33 12 88 68

(Go to site for more information)


Without the uncooperative Danish government to impede them, Denmark's German occupiers began planning the deportation to Nazi concentration camps of the 7,800 or so Jews in Denmark. The German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz unsuccessfully attempted to assure safe harbor for the Danish Jews in Sweden; the Swedish government told Duckwitz it would accept the Danish Jews only if approved by the Nazis, who ignored the request for approval. On September 28, 1943, Duckwitz leaked word of the plans for the operation against Denmark's Jews to Hans Hedtoft, chairman of the Danish Social Democratic Party. Hedtoft contacted the Danish Resistance Movement and the head of the Jewish community, C.B. Henriques, who in turn alerted the acting chief rabbi, Dr. Marcus Melchior. At the early morning services, on September 29, the day prior to the Rosh Hashanah services, Jews were warned by Rabbi Melchior of the planned German action and urged to go into hiding immediately and to spread the word to all their Jewish friends and relatives.

The early phases of the rescue were improvised. When Danish civil servants at several levels in different ministries learned of the German plan to round up all Danish Jews, they independently pursued various measures to find the Jews and hide them. Some simply contacted friends and asked them to go through telephone books and warn those with Jewish-sounding names to go into hiding. Most Jews hid for several days or weeks, uncertain of their fate.

Although the majority of the Danish Jews were in hiding, they would eventually have been caught if safe passage to Sweden could not have been secured. Sweden had earlier been receiving Norwegian Jews with some sort of Swedish connection. But the actions to save the Norwegians were not entirely efficient, due to the lack of experience in how to deal with the German authorities. When martial law was introduced in Denmark on August 29, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (UD) realized that the Danish Jews were in immediate danger. In a letter dated August 31, the Swedish ambassador in Copenhagen was given clearance by the Chief Legal Officer Gösta Engzell (who had represented Sweden at the 1938 Évian Conference, held to discuss Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime) to issue Swedish passports in order to "rescue Danish Jews and bringing them here". On October 2, the Swedish government announced in an official statement that Sweden was prepared to accept all Danish Jews in Sweden. It was a message parallel to an earlier unofficial statement made to the German authorities in Norway. Groups such as the Elsinore Sewing Club (Danish: Helsingør Syklub) sprung up to covertly ferry Jews to safety.

The Danish physicist Niels Bohr, whose mother was Jewish, made a determined stand for his fellow countrymen in a personal appeal to the Swedish king and government ministers. King Gustav V granted him an audience after a persuasive call from Greta Garbo, who knew Bohr. He was spirited off to Sweden, whose government arranged immediate transport for him to the United States to work on the then top-secret Manhattan Project. When Bohr arrived on Swedish soil, government representatives told him he had to board an aircraft immediately for the United States. Bohr refused. He told the officials, and eventually the king, that until Sweden announced over its airwaves and through its press that its borders would be open to receive the Danish Jews, he wasn't going anywhere. Bohr wrote of these events himself. As related by the historian Richard Rhodes, on September 30 Bohr persuaded King Gustaf V of Sweden to make public Sweden's willingness to provide asylum, and on October 2 Swedish radio broadcast that Sweden was ready to receive the Jewish refugees. Historian Richard Rhodes and others[8] interpret Bohr’s actions in Sweden as being a necessary precursor without which mass rescue could not have occurred. According to Paul A. Levine however, who does not mention the Bohr factor at all, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs acted on clear instructions given much earlier by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson and Foreign Minister Christian Günther, following a policy already established in 1942. Even if Bohr's efforts in Sweden might have been superfluous, he did all that he could for his fellow countrymen.

The Jews were smuggled and transported out of Denmark over the Øresund strait from Zealand to Sweden – a passage of varying time depending on the specific route and the weather, but averaging under an hour on the choppy winter sea. Some were transported in large fishing boats of up to 20 tons, but others were carried to freedom in rowboats or kayaks. The ketch Albatros was one of the ships used to smuggle Jews to Sweden. Some refugees were smuggled inside freight rail cars on the regular ferries between Denmark and Sweden, this route being suited for the very young or old who were too weak to endure a rough sea passage. Danish Resistance Movement operatives had broken into empty freight cars sealed by the Germans after inspection, helped refugees onto the cars, and then resealed the cars with forged or stolen German seals to forestall further inspection.

Fishermen charged on average 1,000 Danish kroner per person for the transport, but some charged up to 50,000 kroner. The average monthly wage at the time was less than 500 kroner, and half of the rescued Jews belonged to the working class. Prices were determined by the market principles of supply and demand, as well as by the fishermen's perception of the risk. The Danish Resistance Movement took an active role in organizing the rescue and providing financing, mostly from wealthy Danes who donated large sums of money to the endeavor. In all the rescue is estimated to have cost around 20 million kroner, about half of which were paid by Jewish families and half from donations and collections.

During the first days of the rescue action, Jews moved into the many fishing harbors on the Danish coast to await passage, but officers of the Gestapo became suspicious of activity around harbors (and on the night of October 6, about 80 Jews were caught hiding in the loft of the church at Gilleleje, their hiding place having been betrayed by a Danish girl who was in love with a German soldier). Subsequent rescues had to take place from isolated points along the coast. While waiting their turn, the Jews took refuge in the woods and in cottages away from the coast, out of sight of the Gestapo.

Some of the refugees never made it to Sweden; a few chose to commit suicide; some were captured by the Gestapo en route to their point of embarkation; some 23 were lost at sea when vessels of poor seaworthiness capsized; and still others were intercepted at sea by German patrol boats. Danish harbor police and civil police often cooperated with the rescue effort. During the early stages, the Gestapo was undermanned and the German army and navy were called in to reinforce the Gestapo in its effort to prevent transportation taking place; but by and large the German military troops proved less than enthusiastic in the operation and frequently turned a blind eye to escapees. The local Germans in command, for their own political calculations and through their own inactivity, may have actually facilitated the escape.


In Copenhagen the deportation order was carried out on the Jewish New Year, the night of October 1–2, when the Germans assumed all Jews would be gathered at home. The roundup was organized by the SS who used two police battalions and about 50 Danish volunteer members of the Waffen SS chosen for their familiarity with Copenhagen and northern Zealand. The SS organized themselves in five-man teams, each with a Dane, a vehicle, and a list of addresses to check. Most teams found no one, but one team found four Jews on the fifth address checked. There a bribe of 15,000 kroner was rejected and the cash destroyed. The arrested Jews were allowed to bring two blankets, food for three or four days, and a small suitcase. They were transported to the harbour, Langelinie, where a couple of large ships awaited them. One of the Danish Waffen-SS members believed the Jews were being sent to Danzig.

On October 2, some arrested Danish communists witnessed the deportation of about 200 Jews from Langelinie via the ship Wartheland. Of these, a young married couple were able to convince the Germans that they were not Jewish, and set free. The remainder included mothers with infants; the sick and elderly; and chief rabbi Max Friediger and the other Jewish hostages who had been placed in the Danish internment camp, Horserød, on August 28–29. They were driven below deck without their luggage while being screamed at, kicked and beaten. The Germans then took anything of value from the luggage. Their unloading the next day in Swinemunde was even more inhumane, though without fatalities. There the Jews were driven into two cattle cars, about one hundred per car. During the night, while still locked in the cattle cars, a Jewish mother cried that her child had died. For comparison the Danish communists were packed into cars with "only" fifty people in each; nevertheless, they quickly began to suffer from heat, thirst and lack of ventilation; furthermore, they had nothing to drink until they were given filthy water on October 5, shortly before being unloaded in Danzig.

Only some 580 Danish Jews failed to escape to Sweden. Some of these remained hidden in Denmark to the end of the war, a few died of accidents or committed suicide, and a handful had special permission to stay. The vast majority, 464 of the 580, were captured and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. After these Jews' deportation, leading Danish civil servants persuaded the Germans to accept packages of food and medicine for the prisoners; furthermore, Denmark persuaded the Germans not to deport the Danish Jews to extermination camps. This was achieved by Danish political pressure, using the Danish Red Cross to frequently monitor the condition of the Danish Jews at Theresienstadt. A total of 51 Danish Jews—mostly elderly—died of disease at Theresienstadt, but in April 1945, as the war drew to a close, 425 surviving Danish Jews (a few having been born in the camp) were among the several thousand Jews turned over by the Germans to Folke Bernadotte of the Swedish Red Cross and transported to Sweden in White Buses. The casualties among Danish Jews during the Holocaust were among the lowest of the occupied countries of Europe. Yad Vashem records only 102 Jews from Denmark who died in the Shoah.


King Christian X was often said to have worn a yellow star in support of the Danish Jews

It has been popularly reported that the Nazis ordered all Danish Jews to wear an identifying yellow star, as elsewhere in Nazi controlled territories. In some versions of the myth, King Christian X opted to wear such a star himself and the Danish people followed his example, thus making the order unenforceable.

The story is a myth. In fact the story about the King and the Star and other similar myths originated in the offices of the National Denmark America Association (NDAA) where a handful of Danish nationals opened a propaganda unit called "Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy", which published a bulletin called The Danish Listening Post. This group hired Edward L. Bernays, "The father of Public Relation and Spin" as a consultant.[21][22][23] Whether Bernays was the inventor of the story about the King and the yellow star, is not known.

Although the Danish authorities cooperated with the German occupation forces, they and most Danes strongly opposed the isolation of any group within the population, especially the well-integrated Jewish community. The German action to deport Danish Jews prompted the Danish state church and all political parties except the pro-Nazi National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark (NSWPD) immediately to denounce the action and to pledge solidarity with the Jewish fellow citizens. For the first time, they openly opposed the occupation. At once the Danish bishops issued a hyrdebrev—a pastoral letter to all citizens. The letter was distributed to all Danish ministers, to be read out in every church on the following Sunday. This was in itself very unusual since the Danish church is decentralized and non-political.

The unsuccessful German deportation attempt and the actions to save the Jews were important steps in linking the resistance movement to broader anti-Nazi sentiments in Denmark. In many ways October 1943 and the rescuing of the Jews marked a change in most people's perception of the war and the occupation thereby giving a "subjective-psychological" foundation for the myth.

A few days after the roundup, a small news item in the New York Daily News reported the myth about the wearing of the Star of David. Later, the story gained its popularity in Leon Uris' novel Exodus and in its movie adaptation. It persists to the present, but it is unfounded.


Go to Terezin Red Cross Visit

Coordinated by the Holocaust Memorial Committee, Oregan State University -
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion    2014 (26.49)

During 1943 the Germans occupied Denmark and made plans to deport Danish Jews to the death camps. During the night of September 30-October 1, however, thousands of Danes took part in transporting their Jewish countrymen to safety in Sweden. While most other nations in Nazi-occupied Europe cooperated with the deportation of Jews, the Danish rescue was so successful that not a single Danish Jew is known to have died at the hands of the Nazis.

During the war, Knud Dyby served on the Danish police force. He played a significant role in the rescue of the Danish Jews and for his work has been recognized as a "Righteous Gentile" by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Mr. Dyby's talk, which will focus on the Danes' struggle to save the Jews, will be preceded by a short film, ‘Rescue in October’.

At OSU, we have observed Holocaust Memorial Week every year since 1987 and the breadth and the duration of our effort are unmatched in the Pacific Northwest. This program grows from the belief that educational institutions can do much to combat prejudice of all kinds, and to foster respect for the diversity that is America, by promoting an awareness of the Holocaust, perhaps the most horrific historical indicator of the high cost of prejudice.
It is particularly important to teach young people about the Holocaust, so that coming generations will not forget the lessons that a preceding one learned at such cost.
This emphasis recalls the motto of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
"For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."

TV2 2017 (20.59)

TV 2 Norway investigate Norwegian anti-Semitism. The word "Jew" is a common insult in many communities in Norway. What role does the neo-Nazis’, muslim immigrations and the - BDS (boycott Israel) movement play – if any? And: Can old prejudices be joked away?

Program: Vårt lille land, TV 2 Norway (Our little country. Everybody has a story) Sendt 27. November 2016.

Viking Ocean Cruises   (5.56)


At their initial insistence, the Danish resistance movement wished to be honored only as a collective effort by Yad Vashem in Israel as being part of the "Righteous Among the Nations"; only a handful are individually named for that honor. Instead, the rescue of the Jews of Denmark is represented at Yad Vashem by a tree planting to the King and the Danish Resistance movement—and by an authentic fishing boat from the Danish village of Gilleleje. Similarly, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. has on permanent exhibit an authentic rescue boat used in several crossings in the rescue of some 1400 Jews.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, the German official who leaked word of the round-up,
is also on the Yad Vashem list.