KKL-JNF Marks 70th Years since Rescue of Danish Jewry.
(photo credit: KKL)
KKL-JNF Marks 70th Years since Rescue of Danish Jewry
On Thursday, October 24th, high school students, Israeli soldiers and Danish ex-pats living in Israel met at KKL-JNF's Golani plant nursery in the north to mark the seventieth anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry. The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On October 1, 1943 Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, took part in a collective effort to evacuate about 7,800 Jews in fishing boats to nearby neutral Sweden.
Honored guests at the ceremony, which was graciously emceed by KKL-JNF's Elisha Mizrahi, included Esther Herlitz, former Israeli ambassador to Denmark and president of the Israel-Denmark Friendship society, Alexander (Sasha) Wolfson, who was one of the children rescued at the time, Ministry of Education officials and schoolteachers. The audience also included Israeli army soldiers and students from schools in the Haifa region and Mazkeret Batya, together with their teachers.
Sasha Wolfson and Esther Herlitz told the story of the rescue to the audience, and Sasha shared his personal memories with them. Denmark had been occupied by Nazi Germany at the beginning of 1940. Legend has it that when the Nazis demanded that the Jews wear the yellow star, the Danish king, Christian X, said that he would be the first to put it on, and the Germans let the matter go until 1943, when the order was given to deport the Jews to Auschwitz. The German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz leaked word of the order to the Danish resistance movement and to the Jewish community leaders, and the Jews went into hiding until safe passage by sea could be organized to nearby Sweden. After the war, Duckwitz was appointed the German ambassador to Denmark.
"I was a child of four when all this happened," Sasha recalled. "I want to emphasize that the entire country helped the Jews. For example, when things first started getting bad, I went to sleep every night at our neighbor's home, so that if anything happened, at least I would remain alive. When we took the train to the harbor, the conductor warned us that Gestapo officers would be boarding at the next station and told us to get off the train. A taxi drove us to the port and refused to accept payment. I will never forget the bravery and courage of the extraordinary Danish people."