Originally Posted by American Dane
I agree, you should be extremely proud of your ancestors for not only the above but the Danish rescue of the Jews in World War 2, among other events. I sometimes wish Denmark was a superpower but that's a whole other topic!
DK has a long history of protecting the Jews living here. Also in connection with the state bankrupcy in 1814. Someone had to be blamed by the street mob and the Jews were easy to pick on because you could tell them apart. - In a time where you by a glance at people's clothing could tell their occupation, social standing and often where they came from with a very high degree of accuracy.
There were riots and at least one Jew was killed, so King Frederik VI cracked down hard on the rioters and had soldiers protecting the Jews. - Leading him for a period to be labelled by the rabble as "King of the Jews".
By 1943 the Jews had been assimilated into the Danish tribe and people would almost stop and stare if they saw an orthodox Jew in the street. In practically every other respect the Jews were indistingushable from other Danes. Now, being a part of the tribe also means protection.
In that year the Danish government resigned as it felt it could no longer function due to the increasing demands by the German occupation and for the rest of the war DK was administered by civil servants.
Until then Denmark had been an autonomous protoctorate. Which from a very pragmatic point of view was an astonishing feat of diplomatic tight-rope-walking. Hardly something to be proud of though. It's a national embarrasment that can be compared to the Vichy government in France. Pragmatic, but....
Anyway, the Danish Jews had been left alone. They were never required to wear the yellow Star of David, their properties were left alone and they were rarely harrassed, enjoing the full protection of Danish law.
However the plans for die Endlösung also included the Jews living here and they had all been registered, ready to be rounded up. The order was given shortly after the resignation of the government and the internment of what was left of the military, leading to sporadic fightings, also around Amalienborg.
But, and this is something Germans can be proud of.
There was throughout the war a silent agreement between the Danish resistance and the German Wehrmacht about live and let live. German soldiers could walk the streets unarmed and alone without fear of being harmed and German officers and soldiers would not be direct targets for the resistance. In return the German military kept one eye shut, - often both eyes.
As such the German high command in DK knew perfectly well how to get in contact with the Danish resistance. And when the plans for arresting the Danish Jews were laid out, they were leaked to the press, to civil servants, to the resistance and to prominents Danes. The vast majority of Jews were warned and went underground at least with hours of warning.
It goes without saying that the resistance movement simply could not organise the hiding, feeding, moving and evacuation of thousands of men, women and children. That involved many thousands of ordinary Danes who often with a moments notice found themselves joining the resistance, because the local priest, doctor or police officer knocked on their doors and asked if they could hide a family in the attic for a few days.
Others were asked to provide motor transport, provide food (the rationing made sudden hoarding of food suspicious) or to sail refugees across to Sweden.
Some wanted payment, it wasn't all charity and good will. A very few betrayed the Jews. - They paid a high prize later on, either being liquidated by the resistance or stripped of their citizenship after the war and expelled to Germany.
All that took time, weeks, before the Jews had all been evacuated to Sweden.
It's litterally impossible to hide say 30 people in the outskirts of a costal town in DK. Within two days half the town knows it.
During all that time especially the German navy was - shall we say - surprisingly inefficient. Patrolships were out for maintanence, off on excersize, very conspicious, suffered "engine problems", so they couldn't catch up with a fishing boat, alas..., and if they did board a fishing boat the German sailors were often blind and deaf.
In other words: It should have been no particular problem for the German navy to intercept or at least discourage any effective evacuation to Sweden if they really wanted to. Yet, the vast majority of the Jews got across.
What the Jews had to fear the most were Danish collaborators, stupidity (there was after all a limit to how blind and deaf the Germans could be), bad luck, the Sicherheits Dienst, SD (along with the then handful of Gestapo officers in DK. But the German security forces were few and relied on the Wehrmacht. And the German military intelligence, Abwehr, couldn't care less) and the odd and eager Nazi officer/NCO.
I can't remember off hand how many Jews who were captured, certainly much less than a thousand in total. And they still enjoyed the protection of the tribe. Despite there being no Danish government, the Danish Jews were not send to the extermination camps. No labour camps, where they would be worked to death. They were placed in an "ordinary" (bad enough!) concentration camp, where they were allowed to recieve red cross parcels and were reqularly enquired upon by the Danish (civil servant) administration.
In fact it appears to be very likely that Danish and Norwegian prisoners. be they Jews, resistance, police officers and others in the camps, were treated very mildy in return for a very convenient unofficial diplomatic channel via Sweden, and in particular via Bernadotte. There are certainly enough pointing in that direction...
Well, I intended this to be a very brief account of the evacuation of the jews, and look how it turned out!
Okay, I hope I didn't bore too many of you.