My friend Art told me an amazing story about the way the Danes protected their Jews from Hitler’s plans of eradication towards the end of World War II. It was discovered that plans were afoot to round up the Jews and send off to camps so the Danish people, including their king, all went out the next day wearing the yellow Star of David armband that labeled them as Jews. That obviously frustrated any attempt to differentiate and the Nazis went home thwarted. What a great story of everyday heroism!
Unfortunately it is just a story. I went to my trusty internet to find out more on the story and found that it was more myth than fact. The story does an unfortunately good job of disguising the true heroism shown in Denmark during Nazi occupation.
The Danes did indeed stand up for their Jewish countrymen. King Christian X stood up to Hitler on a number of occasions while retaining his figurative leadership position. His example helped many Danes cope with the occupation and when it was leaked that the Jews were to be shipped way the citizens stood up to be counted.
There were 7,500 Jews in Denmark and only 481 were captured when the Nazis came to execute their orders. Over 7,000 were kept in hiding or shipped to Sweden by the people of Denmark. Everyday heroes hid them in hospitals, basements, farmhouses, and anywhere they could find. Fisherman carried them in stowed away in holds and navigated through Nazi blockades. The risk they took should be obvious.
The Danish Jews that were captured were sent to a camp where they were supplied with food and clothing by the Danish people throughout their stay. It wasn’t a death camp, but conditions were horrible. Little things can make a big difference.
The people of Denmark showed something that didn’t seem to exist in any of the other countries. They stood up for the Jews as they always stood up for any minority. Not only that, Denmark was the only country where the Jews returned to find their homes looked after and intact. Many Jews returned to their homes in other countries to find them looted and vandalized. I know a few Danes and they should be proud.
You can find out more on this story here or on Wikipedia.