Denmark Forced by History To Revisit Heroic Tale of Jewish Rescue From Nazis

Cracks Emerge in Baltic Nation's Feel-Good Holocaust Story

Heroic Escape: A Jewish family lands in Sweden after escaping from Denmark as Nazis prepared crackdown in 1943.
courtesy of museum of danish resistance
Heroic Escape: A Jewish family lands in Sweden after escaping from Denmark as Nazis prepared crackdown in 1943.

By Paul Berger

Published September 23, 2013, issue of September 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 5 of 5)

Metz, whose 40-year-old father lost half his body weight and died of a combination of malnutrition and being worked to death at Thersienstadt, said, “Even an email exchange, supported by facts by me, with the historian did not convince him.”

Metz added: “It was a model camp for one day only.” He said that of the 145,000 people sent to Thersienstadt, 32,000 died and an additional 80,000 were sent onward to extermination camps. Metz and his mother were among the survivors.

“If you call that not a bad [camp], then people don’t know what they are talking about,” Metz said.

Metz’s father died six months after arriving at Theresienstadt, in March 1944. One month later, the Nazis began allowing the Danish Red Cross to send food parcels to Danish prisoners. Those parcels gave Danish prisoners something to barter with and minimized the number of Danes who died in Theresienstadt.

Copenhagen’s social services agency was heavily involved in helping Danish Jews in Theresienstadt. The Nazis allowed the Danish authorities to send clothes to the prisoners. Even the famous visit of the Red Cross to Theresienstadt was arranged by Danish authorities who insisted on inspecting conditions there. A delegation of Danish civil servants joined the Red Cross delegation.

Danish officials are also believed to have influenced Werner Best, the top Nazi official in Denmark, to forge an agreement with Adolf Eichmann that Danish prisoners at Theresienstadt were not to be transported on to death camps.

Statistics of Denmark’s pre-war Jewish population and the number of survivors vary slightly depending upon sources.

Roughly 7,200 Danish Jews escaped to Sweden, according to Yad Vashem. Of the approximately 470 Jews sent to Theresienstadt, Tarabini Fracapane says 412 returned, plus three Jewish children born in the camp.

Bak said that she believes a total of 103 Danish Jews died during the war. It’s a stunningly low number compared with the genocide that occurred all around. But the redemption renders the Holocaust no less traumatic to those who survived.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.