From: Peczkis, Jan
Date: Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 9:28 AM
Subject: Dane (Re: Rescued Jews): Don’t Moralize Against Others (Poles)
Here is my review, of a fascinating new book, written by a Danish author. It is better-read than most other works on this subject. Considering the fact that Poles are often, and fallaciously, compared unfavorably with the Danes in terms of the rescue of Jews, his statement on non-moralization is especially instructive.
Review of Countrymen, by Bo Lidegaard, Translated from the Danish by Robert Maass. 2013. Alfred A. Knopf, New York
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
The Danish Rescue of Jews: Seldom-Told Details (The Star Myth, Rescue for Hire, German Passivity, No Moralizing etc.)
This fascinating work provides a wealth of information, notably that from Danish-language sources. I focus on certain details.
THE STAR OF DAVID MYTH
At no time did King Christian ride through the streets of Copenhagen wearing the Star, and at no time did the Germans require anyone in Denmark to wear the Star. In actuality, King Christian had written (in 1940) that, WERE the Germans to make such a demand, the “right attitude” would then be for all Danes to wear the Star. (pp. viii-x).
THE MILDNESS OF THE GERMAN OCCUPATION
Although there were many Wehrmacht soldiers in Denmark, by 1943, in anticipation of an Allied invasion in western Jutland (p. 20), the first few years of the German occupation were quite light, even by western European standards. Merely 89 German officials managed 3.8 million Danes, compared with 260 German officials in Norway, 1,596 in Holland, and some 22,000 in France. (p. 32).
Author Lidegaard goes as far as suggesting that, until October 1943, there was hardly any German occupation at all. He comments, (quote) Until the action against the Jews, the situation in Denmark was more similar to that of its unoccupied, neutral neighbor, Sweden, than to that of occupied Norway or the Netherlands, where Germany had inserted a Nazi regime. (unquote). (p. 196).
Speaking of the latter, Lidegaard states that the Danish Nazis got “a disastrous less than 2 percent” of the Danish vote in March 1943. (pp. 38-39). Perhaps this Danish support for the Nazis was high rather than low, especially considering the fact that the Nazi actions against Jews and non-Jews were very well known by then, and the myth of the military invincibility of the Germans had been shattered at Stalingrad.
The author elaborates on the unfolding events leading up to the German attempt to arrest and deport Denmark’s Jews in early October 1943. Paul Hennig, a Dane who worked for the Gestapo, collected and processed information on Denmark’s Jews. (p. 57).
RESCUING JEWS FOR PAYMENT
This subject got public attention by the books of neo-Stalinist authors, such as Jan T. Gross and Jan Grabowski, on paid Polish rescuers of Jews. Lidegaard discusses Danish fishermen requiring payments to ship Jews to Sweden. The anglers wanted payment because of the fear of loss of their boats and especially the fear of loss of their lives, and only later did they learn that the risk was minimal. (p. 336). Lidegaard comments, (quote) And it is characteristic that, despite the large amounts of money involved, throughout the period it was difficult to find skippers who were willing to sail at all. (unquote). (p. 336). (This seems to contradict the view that “virtually the entire Danish nation” (so honored at Yad Vashem) was actively involved the rescue of Denmark’s Jews.)
Lidegaard suggests that helpers on land were not generally paid, and that no Jew was refused shipment for being unable or unwilling to pay. However, some fishermen charged exorbitant prices, certain Jews wrote sarcastically about the money made by the fishermen, and the fares tended to rise during those times that more Jews sought to be shipped to Sweden. (pp. 334-345). In addition, the high financial burden, imposed even by the AVERAGE rescue-for-hire, must be kept in perspective: (quote) It is estimated that the average price for a ticket was around one thousand kroner per person. That was around one-third or one-fourth of the annual salary of a skilled worker, and almost half the refugees belonged socially to the working class. (unquote). (p. 335). Individuals and organizations had to raise large amounts of money to fund the trips to Sweden. (pp. 100-101, 178-179, 302-303, 306-308, 324, 336-337).
WILLFUL INACTION BY THE GERMANS
Lidegaard realizes that the Germans turned a “blind eye” (his term; pp. 337-on) to the unfolding Danish rescue of her Jews in October 1943. He concludes that the German inaction stemmed not form a lack of manpower or a lack of capacity, but from a lack of will. (p. 338). Both the rescuers and the rescued were amazed that the expected rapid German crackdown did not materialize. (p. 240).
As amazing as this may sound, the Germans were forbidden from breaking into Jewish homes to arrest them. Instead, they could only arrest the Jews when the Jews opened the doors to them! (p. 50). Lidegaard credits this policy for playing a major role in the modest German success in arresting a significant number of Danish Jews in early October 1943. (p. 151).
Criminal Adjutant Hans Juhl, better known as Gestapo-Juhl, was the exception that proved the rule about German passivity. He persecuted Danish Jews with fervor, and was single-handedly responsible for HALF of all the Danish Jews arrested by the Germans on and after October 1, 1943. (p. 291, 341)
The author doubts the authenticity of accounts that Duckwitz arranged German navy ships to be at dry dock in October 1943. (p. 331). In fact, Swedish reports indicate that a significant number of German patrol boats were active in the Sound at the time. (p. 332). A number of Jews report that the boats, in which they were sailing to Sweden, went right past German boats, and were left untouched. (p. 209, 224). Those Danish fishermen caught red handed, by the Germans, in the act of transporting Jews, generally went unscathed. (p. 349).
NO MORALIZING ABOUT OTHER NATIONS AND THEIR JEWS
The author recognizes the fact that the strong Danish reaction against Nazi persecutions of Jews could only have developed because the Germans allowed it. The Germans were afraid of negative ramifications for Denmark’s role as a “model protectorate”, as well as interference with the continued shipment of Danish provisions to the Third Reich. (p. 363).
Pointedly, Lidegaard rejects those who would hold other European nations in opprobrium for not saving their Jews: (quote) The history of the Holocaust tells a different story, and the terms of occupation, local conditions, and much else differed radically from place to place and over time, making the situation unique in each case. The special Danish example cannot be used to reproach others who experienced the German occupation under far worse conditions than Denmark. (unquote). (p. 348). Lidegaard’s candor is refreshing. Polonophobes, take note.
Much more can be said about the rescue of Danish Jews. Those readers interested further in this topic should see the Peczkis Listmania: The WWII Rescue of Danish Jews…
From: Peczkis, Jan