President Reuven Rivlin sitting with the Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Under the shadow of latent antisemitism in Europe and other parts of the world, President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, joined Danish Prime Minister Lars Lekke Rasmussen and several Danish dignitaries on Thursday in commemorating the remarkable rescue of the majority of Denmark’s Jews during World War II.
The commemoration ceremony took place in the Gilleleje Church where – for eleven hours in September 1943 – 86 Jews were given shelter in the attic. Food and blankets were brought to them by local fishermen and church congregants, despite ultimately being betrayed by someone who disclosed their secret hiding place to the Nazis. The Jews were then arrested and deported to Theresienstadt, from where most did not return.
At the church Rivlin and Rasmussen ascended the stairs to the attic in a memorial mark of respect to those Jews.
But 7,900 Danish Jews were able to be rescued, an act that Rivlin characterized as one of the most unique events in the history of the Holocaust and a shining light in the darkest time in human history.
At the commemoration ceremony, Rivlin told the story of the rescue operation in which thousands of Danes risked their lives to find Jews, hide them and ferry them to Sweden on fishing boats.
Rivlin told the tale almost as if he had been there himself. “The courage, the bravery, the humanity and the solidarity of the Danish people and the Danish resistance stood as a firm wall between Denmark and the Nazi death machine,” he said.
At a meeting that Rivlin subsequently had with Rasmussen, the president thanked the Danish prime minister for initiating the 75th anniversary commemorative events
and said: “This is an important message in the context of the need to oppose the present rise of antisemitism in Europe.”
He also perceived the Danish commemoration as a sign of support for Israel, declaring that “Denmark is a positive role model for Europe.”
During the meeting they also discussed bilateral cooperation by the two countries with regards to counterterrorism, homeland security, cyberwarfare, innovation and regional issues – in particular the situation in Gaza. While they were talking about Gaza, Rivlin raised the matter of the two Israeli citizens being held hostage by Hamas, as well as the two fallen soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose remains Hamas refuses to repatriate to Israel.
Rivlin thanked Rasmussen for Denmark’s ongoing support for efforts to bring stability to the Middle East.
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