Ambassador of Denmark honors countrymen who saved Jews during World War II

Jesper Vahr, 100 Danish Jewish gather in honor of 70th anniversary of Denmark's rescue of more than 7,000 Jews from Nazi persecution.

Danish Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr 370 (photo credit: Denmark Embassy)
Danish Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr 370
(photo credit: Denmark Embassy)
The Ambassador of Denmark to Israel, accompanied by more than 100 Danish Jews, gathered at a high school in the capital Tuesday to honor the 70th anniversary of Denmark’s rescue of more than 7,000 Jews from Nazi persecution.
During a two-day incursion between August 29 and October 1 in 1943, the Nazis, who occupied Denmark at the time, attempted to deport the country’s nearly 7,500 Jews to death camps, but were defeated during a spontaneous uprising coordinated by Denmark’s citizens.
In defiance of the powerful Nazi war machine, thousands of Danes risked their own lives by hiding Jewish men, women and children, and then utilizing row boats and other modest vessels to transport the vast majority to politically neutral Sweden.
Danish Ambassador Jesper Vahr spoke at the memorial ceremony at the Denmark School in Talpiot.
“I, as Ambassador of Denmark and all Danes, can take great pride in this: The name Denmark reminds us of our duty to protect human life,” said Vahr.
“This anniversary means a lot both to Danes and to Israel.”
Vahr said the anniversary was also being commemorated throughout Denmark Tuesday, in memorials hosted by the country’s queen and prime minister.
“What is unique about this story is that it was not the act of one or two or three people – it was an act by all the people of Denmark who came together to rescue the Jewish community because Jews were an integral part of their society,” he said.
Vahr noted that it was his countrymen’s fundamental moral values and strong “sense of humanism to fight the terror of racism” that led many to risk their own lives to save a Jewish minority many had never met.
Indeed, shortly following Kristallnacht in November of 1938, Denmark responded by enacting an anti-racism law supporting the civil liberties of Jews and all other minorities in the country.
“No Jew was forced to wear a Star of David in Denmark because the Danes thought it would be an assault on the cohesion and values of their society,” said Vahr. “The people of Denmark said: ‘No! We will not accept any measures that infringe on the rights of any group – be they Jews or any other.’” On October 1, 1943, Vahr said 7,000 Jews were ferried to safety with the aid of fellow Danes, while 400 were deported to Theresienstadt.
Although Vahr said dozens of Jews died after being deported to the death camp, he added that the vast majority were saved and survived World War II.
“The Jews of Denmark became an inseparable part of the Danish community, and when the fundamental ‘code’ [Danes held] that an assault on individual Jews, or Jews in general, because of ‘who they were’ was violated, this constituted a threat against all of our society,” he said.
“In October 1943, the Danish people merely drew the natural [conclusion] from this deeply held belief.”