Renowned microbiologist and WWII hero dies at 100

Prof. David Sompolinsky left hiding in Denmark during WWII to save other Jews.

 David Sompolinsky in synagogue. (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Sompolinsky in synagogue.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Renowned biologist and Holocaust hero Prof. David Sompolinsky passed away last week at the age of 100.

Born in Copenhagen in August of 1921, Sompolinsky had turned 100 this year. He was known for his work as a microbiologist as well as his heroics that saved many Jews during World War II.

Denmark surrendered to Nazi Germany on April 9th, 1940, but they were allowed to mostly retain self-rule for three years, and the Danish Jews were not harmed. However, in August of 1943, the Danish protectorate of Jews ended and Hitler ordered that they be arrested and deported.

Because of an early warning, Danish Jews were able to organize escapes, with Sompolinsky greatly involved in the process. 

Despite having found somewhere to hide with his parents, in the days leading to the deportation, Sompolinsky left safety and went around to different hospitals, requesting that Jews be admitted under false names. He also formed a group with teachers who eventually brought 700 Jews to Sweden.

Danish Jews arrive in Sweden (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Danish Jews arrive in Sweden (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to the efforts of Sompolinsky and people like him, 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews were saved by being smuggled to Sweden.

His last act before escaping Denmark himself was to take Jewish children who had been hidden in an asylum with him to Sweden.

In 1951, Sompolinsky arrived in Israel and earned a doctorate in Philosophy at Hebrew University three years later.

He served as director of the medical laboratory at Assaf Harofe Medical Center for 35 years between 1951-1986, served as a professor of microbiology at Bar Ilan University between 1957-1989, and directed the medical laboratory at the Mayenei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak beginning in 1991.