By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: This cartoon by Arie Navon appeared in the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Davar on Oct. 13, 1943. Navon contrasted the rescue of Denmark’s Jews with the farcical refugee conference that the Allies staged earlier that year in Bermuda. The title of the cartoon is a Hebrew word that means both “lifeguards” and “rescuers.” The lifeguards, one smoking a Churchill-style pipe, and the other wearing Roosevelt-style glasses, are standing next to an unused life preserver labeled “Bermuda.” The scrawny man diving into the swastika-infested ocean to rescue a drowning person is labeled “Sweden.” Credit: From the forthcoming book “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust,” by Rafael Medoff and Craig Yoe.
As the final minutes of Rosh Hashanah ticked
away, 13-year-old Leo Goldberger was hiding, along with his parents and three
brothers, in the thick brush along the shore of Dragor, a small fishing village
south of Copenhagen. The year was 1943, and the Goldbergers, like thousands of
other Danish Jews, were desperately trying to escape an imminent Nazi roundup.
“Finally, after what seemed like an
excruciatingly long wait, we saw our signal offshore,” Goldberger later
recalled. His family “strode straight into the ocean and waded through three or
four feet of icy water until we were hauled aboard a fishing boat” and covered themselves
“with smelly canvases.” Shivering and frightened, but grateful, the Goldberger
family soon found itself in the safety and freedom of neighboring Sweden.
For years, the Allied leaders had insisted
that nothing could be done to rescue Jews from the Nazis except to win the war.
But in one extraordinary night, 70 years ago next month, the Danish people
exploded that myth and changed history.
When the Nazis occupied Denmark during the
Holocaust in 1940, the Danes put up little resistance. As a result, the German
authorities agreed to let the Danish government continue functioning with
greater autonomy than other occupied countries. They also postponed taking steps
against Denmark’s 8,000 Jewish citizens.
In the late summer of 1943, amid rising
tensions between the occupation regime and the Danish government, the Nazis
declared martial law and decided the time had come to deport Danish Jews to the
death camps. But Georg Duckwitz, a German diplomat in Denmark, leaked the information
to Danish friends. Duckwitz was later honored by Yad Vashem as one of the
Righteous Among the Nations. As word of the Germans’ plans spread, the Danish
public …read more