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‘It Can Be Done’: the Rosh Hashana 1943 Escape of Danish Jews

Numerous Danish Christian families hid Jews in their homes or farms, and then smuggled them to the seashore.

Danish Jews arrive in Sweden.

Danish Jews arrive in Sweden.

The implications of the Danish rescue operation resonated strongly in the United

States. The Roosevelt administration had long insisted that rescue of Jews from the Nazis was not possible. The refugee advocates known as the Bergson Group began citing the escape of Denmark’s Jews as evidence that if the Allies were sufficiently interested, ways could be found to save many European Jews.

The Bergson Group sponsored a series of full-page newspaper advertisements about the Danish-Swedish effort, headlined “It Can Be Done!” On Oct. 31, thousands of New Yorkers jammed Carnegie Hall for the Bergson Group’s “Salute to Sweden and Denmark” rally.

Keynote speakers included members of Congress, Danish and Swedish diplomats, and one of the biggest names in Hollywood – Orson Welles, director of “Citizen Kane” and “The War of the Worlds.” In another coup for the Bergson Group, one of the speakers was Leon Henderson, one of President Roosevelt’s own former economic advisers (Henderson had headed the White House’s Office of Price Administration).

In blunt language that summed up the tragedy – and the hope – Henderson declared: “The Allied governments have been guilty of moral cowardice. The issue of saving the Jewish people of Europe has been avoided, submerged, played down, hushed up, resisted with all the forms of political force that are available…. Sweden and Denmark have proved the tragedy of Allied indecision…. The Danes and Swedes have shown us the way…. If this be a war for civilization, then most surely this is the time to be civilized.” JNS

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.

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4 Responses to “‘It Can Be Done’: the Rosh Hashana 1943 Escape of Danish Jews”

  1. Dave Lobell says:

    These are the stories that maintain my faith in the human race and G-d himself as I can clearly see that ultimately Good always triumphs over evil!

  2. It is true, that the danish king said to the german "governour" Werner Best: then we must all wear the star. It is not a myth! Werner Best himself confirmed after the war, that the german authorities feared, that the king would do so. In 1943 however King Christian was an old and sick man. His reaction showed, that he was a real king among the best!

  3. Rivk T says:

    My mum, my aunt and my uncle, along with their parents were amoungst the Danish Jews that escaped to Sweden.

  4. Uri Toron says:

    In October 1943, my parent left ouer flat, after receiving the varying. My father contacted business partners, and my mother walked in the street with 3 children, 1 to 5 years old.
    A Danish cobble, Bertram and Kamma Nielsen, approached here " come to ouer home, we know your problem".

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