Delivery in Denmark

August 24th, 2017

by Henry Kellen, Holocaust surviver, as told to Becky Cerling Powers

It was dangerous to protect a Jewish neighbor in 1943. In the conquered European nations, the Nazis publicly hanged people who were caught trying to save Jews from the Reich’s death camps. As a warning to neighbors, they sometimes hanged the person’s whole family — children and babies, too.

Nevertheless, in 1943 the people of tiny Denmark banded together against their conquerors to save their fellow citizens who were Jewish.

Up until then, the German Reich had allowed the Danes to run their own domestic affairs. So the 8000 Jews in Denmark had remained safe. But after Nazis dissolved the Danish parliament, the Reich made secret plans to move all Jews in Denmark to concentration camps.

A spy in the German embassy warned Rabbi Marcus Melchior. So on Sept. 19, 1943, Melchior warned his congregation in Copenhagen to go into hiding and to tell all their Jewish neighbors to do the same.

The next day, on Sunday, Christian Danish pastors throughout the land told their congregations what was happening and urged their people to help. Doctors, teachers, policemen, pastors, taxi drivers – people of every occupation – took in and hid the Jews.

Then they smuggled them down to the Baltic seashore over a period of several weeks, where boats ferried the fugitives to neutral Sweden.

A few Danish Jews were caught and sent to the Terezin concentration camp. But Denmark’s Red Cross kept close track of them, making sure they had food packages, and returned them to Denmark in buses shortly before the war ended.

In other parts of Europe, Jews lost their dignity, their property, and their lives. Some survived the concentration camps only to be killed by their own neighbors when they returned home. The neighbors had taken their property while they were gone and wanted to keep it.

But in Denmark, all property was gladly handed back to the returning Jews.

In every conquered European nation except Denmark, only a small percentage of the Jewish population survived the Holocaust. The population of the Danish Jews actually increased by a few people.

Worth repeating: The Bible says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Prov. 24:11-12)

Let’s pray: Lord, help me to practice being loyal to my family and neighbors today in small ways. That way I can develop a strong enough character to be able to be loyal in a big way, like the Danish people, if I am ever faced with a challenge like theirs. Amen

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