This week my blog focuses on Denmark. I have continued to work with various general books as well as reading a focused book on the Holocaust in Denmark.
Denmark had one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe, estimated at 7,000 before the war. The majority of Denmark’s Jews lived in Copenhagen. Copenhagens Jewish population was estimated at 5,000 in 1939.
Denmark had a unique situation compared to other countries that were under German occupation during World War 2. Despite Germany invading and occupying Denmark in 1940, the Danes were given the right of self administration. The Germans viewed the Scandanavian people as racially pure, like the Germans. As a result of this self rule, the Jews of Denmark remained completely untouched for the beginning years of the war.
However, this completely changed starting in 1943. The Germans attempted to implement their Final Solution without direct occupation by coercing Danish police and the local population. However, German actions were met with great resistance and little cooperation. The Germans declared martial law in August and for the first time began to be direct with Denmark. On the night the Germans planned to deport the Jews, the Danes put forth great effort to protect their Jewish citizens. The vast majority were sent to neutral Sweden by boat. Only 202 Jews were captured in Copenhagen, many of which were poor and recent immigrants who did not hear the warnings in time.
The reactions of the local Danes is strikingly different from that in most of Europe. A few reasons presented are high assimilation levels present within the Danish Jewish community, high intermarriage rates, and low levels of pre-war anti- semitism. In other countries under German occupation, such as Poland and Greece, the Nazis were able to take advantage of anti semitism and ethnic strife. However, as a result of the absence of the pre-described tensions, the Nazis were unable to gain significant support from the Danes. The actions taken by the Danish people in defense of the country’s Jewish citizens will be remembered as a light in the darkness of the Holocaust.
Next week I will blog on Italy.