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The Mass Escape Of Jews From Nazi-occupied Denmark

Article about: Interesting BBC article featured today. BBC News - The mass escape of Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark

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    Default The Mass Escape Of Jews From Nazi-occupied Denmark

    Interesting BBC article featured today.

    BBC News - The mass escape of Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark
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    I have vague memories of having seen a movie or documentary on this escape many years ago. Thanks for posting this Carl.

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    Hi Carl , thanks for refreshing my memory about this episode in Jewish/Danish history. I seem to recall that when this all came to light after the war the "debate" begun as to whether the "tip off" was given out of genuine concern for these Jewish families or if it was just seen as a very easy way of ridding that area of Jews by letting them make a very dangerous and life threatening escape over sea to Britain. Leon.
    "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Ernest Hemingway

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    Quote by sandgroper View Post
    I have vague memories of having seen a movie or documentary on this escape many years ago. Thanks for posting this Carl.
    Yup i've seen something similar!....
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    Quote by FALLSCHIRMJAGER View Post
    Hi Carl , thanks for refreshing my memory about this episode in Jewish/Danish history. I seem to recall that when this all came to light after the war the "debate" begun as to whether the "tip off" was given out of genuine concern for these Jewish families or if it was just seen as a very easy way of ridding that area of Jews by letting them make a very dangerous and life threatening escape over sea to Britain. Leon.
    Hi Leon (and the rest of you guys), Im reading a newly published biography about Werner Best at the moment(unfortunately its in Danish), it includes a range of newly available info about Best and is probably the most well-researched book about Best's activities in Denmark during the war

    According to this biography Werner Best has a kind of double role in regards to the Danish jews, because of a power struggle between the wehrmacht, the SS and the Auswärtiges amt in 1943, Werner Best initiates a "Judenaktion" in order to acquire muscles (police forces) and strenghten his position against his rivals in the SS and the Wehrmacht.

    Another motive is that Best needed to impress Hitler and Himmler and prove that he was a true nazi after Hitler had accused him of being too soft against the Danes.

    On the other hand, Best had to take into consideration that a "Judenaktion" could seriously hurt Danish-German relations on official level and in regards to the Danish people, as the Danish jews were seen first and foremost as Danes and not jews by the vast majority of the population, and that an action against jews would most likely have resulted in a general strike in all larger cities.

    This has to be seen in the light that the Danish resistance had increased tremendously during 1943 and that Denmark was one of (if not) the most important food suppliers to Germany, Best couldnt afford production to fall behind, so he choose to execute the action during the already ongoing general strike.

    So all in all Werner Best would personally benefit from an unsuccesful "Judenaktion", and there are many indications that this was his plan and accordingly he provided several indications to the Danish jews of what was about to happen.

    At first there was a burglary in the Jewish Synagog where an internal list with the names, adresses etc of all the members of the Jewish Congregation was stolen (rumours have it that Sören Kam was one of the burglars).
    2 weeks later Gestapo arrives very indiscrete at broad daylight to get more lists

    Shortly after 3 bataillons of Orpo police arrived in Copenhagen in a very indiscrete manner. Later a transport ship with the capacity of more than 5000 persons docked in the centre of Copenhagen.

    Finally the day before the action diplomant Georg Duckwitz warned off Hans Hedtoft who directly passed the info to the Jewish congregation and the Danish resistance movement.

    The action isnt mentioned in any newspapers or radio on order from Werner Best, however its announced to the public that the Danish army and police personel who were arrested a few months earlier will be released. Very smart move by Dr. Best who thinks he can soften Danish opposition but it doesnt go unmentioned by Danish officials who denotes this praxis as "tasteless.

    The day after the action, Danish officials protest and negotiate that all half Jews and Jews married to non-Jews are exempted from the measures. Furthermore its agreeed that Danish Jews can only be deported to Theressienstadt and cant be deported further east.

    As a sidenote the Kriegsmarine did order extraordinary many routine checks on their vessels and as a result patrol activity was reduced drastically in exactly those days, coincidence? hmm.

    There are probably alot more to this story, hope that the future will bring back more hidden info to the table.

    Cheers, Mads
    Last edited by Shadwellarmy; 10-11-2013 at 09:24 AM.

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    I believe that movie was the last drop, rather mediocre film.
    Morris

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    Morris, which movie?

    Cheers, Mads

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    In the BBC article it states:

    "...But getting there was not easy. To even secure a place on one of the small fishing boats being used to ferry the Jews across could cost as much as £5,500 ($9,000) a head in today's money."

    Does this mean all of the 7,500 rescued Danish Jews were asked to pay for their own rescue or escape? If so did the Jewish community as a whole finance the entire rescue to include those that couldn't afford a seat on the boats or did the Danish government also help fund it?

    If the statement by the BBC is to be believed then the rescue was not the altruistic action by concerned fellow Danes it first seems but a sordid commercial transaction imposed on the desperate and "rescue" is the wrong term to describe what happened.
    I collect, therefore I am.

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    Quote by 4thskorpion View Post
    Does this mean all of the 7,500 rescued Danish Jews were asked to pay for their own rescue or escape? If so did the Jewish community as a whole finance the entire rescue to include those that couldn't afford a seat on the boats or did the Danish government also help fund it?

    If the statement by the BBC is to be believed then the rescue was not the altruistic action by concerned fellow Danes it first seems but a sordid commercial transaction imposed on the desperate and "rescue" is the wrong term to describe what happened.
    Some fishermen took advantage of the situation and demanded large amounts especially in the first days when faced with desperate Jews, however it was a minority, in many cases no fees were charged and often the resistance movement negotiated very fair prices or simply just bought boats themselves. One has to take the risks that these fishermen were running into account, in worst case it could mean death penalty if caught, so often the Jews and resistance movement insisted to pay at least something.

    Later the crossings were systemised by the resistance movement and fees were more or less fixed. The system continued to be used throughout the war in order to transport all sorts of people wanted by the Germans, weapons were often reversed towards the end of the war.

    Many Jews at first were moved to hospitals by the resistance movement and issued with new papers while waiting for an opportunity to cross the strait to Sweden. As the hospitals discovered that some (especially German Jews) couldnt afford to pay the crossing. They set up a system that would enable the hospitals to pay the crossings with state funds, without that it was possible to track it in the accounting books. There are also examples were hospital staff would simply just steal the money leaving a large hole in the budget, which was later just ignored.

    btw. Its known that some Jews paid alot more than 5.500 quid to cross, but prices varied greatly especially in the beginning of the action, ranging from free to millions of danish crowns.

    Cheers, Mads

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    I believe the penalty of death for Danes assisting Jews to evade deportation or helping them into hiding might be an erroneous view and not based on any decree issued by the Germans to the Danish population.

    Unless I am mistaken the death penalty for assisting Jews to escape from or stop from being deported to Jewish Residential Districts or Ghettoes as we now call them was only applied in the General Government territory of the former Polish state and then later extended in September 1941 to the Reichskommissariat Ukraine.

    I don't think any similar "death penalty" decrees were imposed on any of the West European countries for assisting Jews, for example those that helped to hide Anne Frank were not executed but mainly sent to concentration camps for short sentences; Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Otto Frank, Victor Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl were all very much alive at the end of the war, and one of the family's helpers was not even arrested although complicit.

    Maybe the death penalty might have been handed out for belonging to or assisting the Danish resistance rather than for helping Jews?


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    Above: Proclamation announcing the death penalty for Jews leaving the Jewish Residential District (Warsaw Ghetto) and for Poles helping Jews - dated 10 November 1941



    = = = = = = = = = = = =
    Announcement
    = = = = = = = = = = = =


    Regarding: death penalty for illegal leaving the Jewish residential district

    Recently, in many documented instances, Jews, who have left the residential districts designated for them, have spread typhus. To safeguard the population against this dangerous threat, the General Governor has ordered that any Jew, who in the future illegally leaves the residential district designated for him, will be punished by death.

    The same punishment will apply to whoever consciously shelters Jews mentioned above or in any other way assists them (for instance, by providing overnight accommodation, or sustenance, by giving a ride in any kind of vehicle, etc.)

    The sentence will be imposed by the Special Court in Warsaw.

    I explicitly draw the attention of the whole population of the Warsaw District to this new regulation since henceforth it will be applied with merciless severity.

    Warsaw, 10 November 1941
    (-) Dr Fischer
    Governor

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    Last edited by StefanM; 10-12-2013 at 07:19 PM.
    I collect, therefore I am.

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