Doris / Rescue of the Scandanavian Jews
was a country with a population who didn't pay any particular notice to the
ethnicity of its citizens. The country was safe and prosperous and no one gave
much thought to the growing Nazi threat to the south. Then the Nazis invaded Denmark, and the
lives of many of its people changed, including that of Doris, our Danish
up in the town of Svendborg,
which was home to about ten thousand people. It was close to Germany, and
ferries would go back and forth 3 or 4 an hour. Doris would sometimes ride the
ferries, taking her bike with her to bike around Germany. She stopped going to Germany in 1937, when people in Denmark
realized how horrible conditions had gotten there.
November of 1938, when Doris was 14 years old, young Jewish children started
coming into Denmark on
Danish ferries. At that time, Doris and others she knew had no idea why the
Jewish children were coming into their country. The children were between the
ages of three and eleven years old, much younger than Doris.
The children began coming after Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) when
massive violence broke out against the Jews in
When the children reached
Denmark, they knew nothing of the language and
culture; often they had no idea where they were going - they were terrified. In
Svendborg, around 300-400 children came in. Later in 1938, people were contacted
about taking in Jewish children. Doris' family took in 3 or 4 such children. Doris became good friends with some of them.
invaded Denmark on April
9th 1940. They came first by boat, and also by air. It was unexpected - Denmark had
never been invaded before. During the occupation, Doris
attended college, but it was not the experience she had planned on. The Nazis
controlled everything. Curfew meant being home, off the streets by 8 p.m.
Failure to do so could get you arrested or even shot.
of Denmark were not especially targeted by the Nazis until October, 1943. They
were considered to be protected by the Danish Constitution. King Christian the
Tenth remained in the country, calling himself a prisoner of war. The Prime
Minister of Denmark stated his policy was that no Jew should be made to wear the
yellow star because this would violate his or her civil rights. This policy made
it hard for Nazis to single out Jews for special measures because they could not
easily be segregated from the general population.
the Nazis stopped honoring Danish policy and law. They made ready to put all the
Jews in Denmark into concentration camps, mostly to Buchenwald. Doris at that
time barely knew anything about these camps.
surprised to find that two Jewish women lived right down the hall from her
apartment in Copenhagen. She got news
to tell the women to get out as fast as they could, but they refused to leave,
wanting to prove to the Nazis that they weren't afraid, and that they were proud
to be Jewish. Doris told them to get them out
by 4 p.m., when a BBC (Freedom Council) ambulance would arrive to spirit them
away; ambulances were the only civilian transportation allowed on the road. The
women still refused -- Doris and a friend had to carry them kicking and
screaming down to the ambulance.
had around 8,000 Jews, and the other Danish tried very hard to get them all out
before the Germans could take them. Big fishing boats were used to get them
away. A German man, Duckwitz, who had lived in
since 1928 and was not a Nazi sympathizer, was an information gatherer for Denmark. One day
Duckwitz found out that the Nazis were soon cracking down on the Jews, but no
one believed him. He managed to convince the King and with his support started
to look for places to relocate the Jews. He went over to Sweden asking
permission to bring over some Jewish refugees, and was successful. When the
German Command found out about this they were furious and redoubled their
efforts to deport Jews. Out of it the Nazis only ended up getting 202 out of
8,000 Jews. The Germans also tried to scuttle the ships. They sunk many, but 9
ended up getting away.
rescue of the Jews was unique. Many of them made it over to Sweden where they were assimilated
into the population. Fishing boats were the only kind of naval vessel permitted
on the water, and these were used to carry the refugees. The Germans started
getting suspicious and began to search the fishing boats with dogs; but the boat
captains had countermeasures for this -- they would soak numbing drugs into
handkerchiefs and let the dogs inhale the fumes, so their scenting abilities
would be impaired. Another captain pretended to be drunk, and went about
shouting, "Sure, my boat's full of Jews!" and in this manner put the Germans at
the continual problem of being given away by the crying and noises of small
children hiding on the boat. Finally Danish doctors came on board and gave the
children sleeping drugs so they would be sure not to make any noise.
escaped to Sweden
this way and started rebuilding their lives. In conclusion, Doris lived through
the German Occupation and eventually left Denmark. She settled in the United States,
where she now lives happily.
Fact: Denmark was the
only country invaded by the Nazis who made any concerted effort to save its
Related Resources for this Speaker:
The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust
Paladiel, Mordecai. KTAV Publishing, 1993.
Rescue in Scandanavia
Map of Denmark: