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Rescue, Expulsion, and Collaboration: Denmark’s Difficulties with its World War II Past

Filed under: Europe and Israel, International Law
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)

For fifty years after World War II, no one in Denmark investigated in detail the fate of the Jewish refugees who sought asylum there in the 1930s and 1940s. Denmark’s status as one of the Allies was a delicate matter, and only the rescue of the Danish Jews to Sweden in October 1943 was widely known. Danish historians averted their gaze from darker aspects of Denmark’s policy, which continued even after the war. Since the 1990s, closed archives have been forced open by a new generation of historians, revealing previously concealed aspects of World War II Denmark. It emerges that from 1935 Denmark rejected Jewish refugees at its borders, and that it expelled twenty-one Jewish refugees to Germany in 1940-1943 most of whom were eventually killed. New findings also show that Danish firms used Jewish slave laborers and that Denmark exported agricultural products that helped feed the German army.

The Danish World War II legacy is ostensibly a pleasant one. In most international presentations to date, the Danish chapter of World War II history has been positive. On the international level, the Danish rescue of nearly seven thousand Jews to Sweden in 1943 is probably the most important factor in this favorable assessment. Because of the policy that Denmark adopted immediately after the Nazi invasion in April 1940, Denmark also had fewer losses in lives and treasure than most occupied countries in Europe.

Within Denmark, its approach during the war has gradually come to be called the “cooperation policy” (Samarbejdspolitik) or “negotiations policy” (Forhandlingspolitik). More critically, it has been termed a “collaboration policy” (Kolaborationspolitik). In recent years, however, the negative definition “collaboration policy” has been disappearing from works by Danish historians on the occupation, whereas the cooperation policy has been receiving a status as the “only right solution” for Denmark. Sixty years after the liberation, a new generation of Danish historians is glorifying the cooperation policy with the Nazis as a necessity, and even arguing that other European nations should have adopted the same approach.

Nevertheless, new findings over the past decade have revealed problematic aspects of Denmark’s World War II legacy. Having been neglected for various reasons, these are finally emerging and being addressed.

Many of the new findings are not easy to accept for many Danes, especially those who esteem the cooperation policy. One reaction to the new findings is to define the historians who have explored the bleaker aspects of Denmark’s World War II history as moralists. They have, it is charged, only a black-and-white vision of that era, are cut off from the realities of the 1940s because they were born in the 1950s or later, and are only seeking to create sensations and bestsellers.

This can also be viewed as the reaction by an older generation of historians and their followers to newcomers with fresh ideas and approaches. In the history departments of Danish universities, there is rarely debate on new hypotheses contradicting those of the regnant professors. Works by authors who praise Danish collaboration with the Germans as an ingenious solution, resulting, for instance, in the 1943 rescue of Jews, are the bestsellers, the stories that most Danes still want to hear.

The focus here will be on less-known aspects of World War II Denmark that have recently emerged, particularly in the Jewish sphere.

The Danish Policy toward Jewish Refugees, 1940-1943

Internationally and nationally, the positive view of Danish World War II history mainly stems from the rescue of the Danish Jews. Danes, as well as the international public, know that most of the Danish Jews were smuggled across the narrow straits between Denmark and Sweden during the first weeks of October 1943. On this basis, Denmark has become a model among the occupied countries of Europe.

It was much less well known, however, that the Danish authorities expelled twenty-one stateless Jewish refugees to Germany during 1940-1943, and that this number could have been much greater if the supporters of accommodation with Germany had had their way. Most of the victims of these expulsions, which were neither ordered nor demanded by the German occupiers, were refugees who had been in Denmark for several years. They were later murdered in concentration- and extermination camps in Germany and Poland.

During the 1930s, Denmark’s refugee policy and treatment of Jewish refugees were similar to those of other West European countries. Denmark’s borders were gradually closed. Its policy toward the Jewish refugee problem was synchronized at every turn with other European states, and for the most part Denmark closed it door to Jewish refugees. Jews in Denmark were never given refugee status according to international treaties. For Jews on the run from Nazi Germany, Denmark was merely a transit station, and those who made it there awaited possibilities to get to more friendly countries. While in Denmark, they had neither rights as refugees nor fundamental civil rights and means of making a living, often depending on handouts from mostly Jewish organizations and social benefits.

In the 1970s and 1980s, historians researched the Danish refugee policy of the 1930s. Like their colleagues in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, these scholars had a political bias and mainly studied the fate of socialist and communist refugees. The Holocaust and Jewish victims did not really exist in their “nomenclature”; instead, they viewed all refugees as victims of “Hitler’s war against the proletariat.”

This view, however, suffered a severe blow with the publication of the book As If They Didn’t Exist at All (Som om de slet ikke eksisterede) by Bent Blüdnikow in 1992. 1 It was the first work since 1945 to focus on Jewish refugees in Denmark. The book clarified that most of these refugees were treated harshly, that Jews had not sought asylum in Denmark because of their political views, and that there was more to the story than the rescue in 1943.

At the time Blüdnikow’s book was published, Danish historians already viewed the cooperation policy as an inevitable response to reality. Danish historian Kristian Hvidt said in an interview to the Jerusalem Report:

Bludnikow claims that Denmark has been so busy polishing its halo for having rescued its Jews in 1943 that it has obscured the fact that it turned a deaf ear to the cries of horror of other Jews when the noose was tightening in the 30s…. This point of view is indeed convincing. But it is being offered by someone who didn’t personally experience this period, and who finds it hard to grasp the whole picture. The Danish people, including the Jewish community, were in full agreement to pursue a cautious policy vis-à-vis the regime of horror in Germany.2

This view was supported by Leni Yahil, who in 1966 published The Rescue of Danish Jewry: Test of a Democracy,3 the first important work on the topic. Although Danish archives and authorities made many sources available to Yahil, far from everything was exposed. Partly because she lacked the whole truth, Yahil was mainly critical of the Jewish leadership, which, however, was under grave pressure from the Danish authorities. If, for instance, she had known of the expulsions of stateless Jews and other aspects of Jewish history in Denmark during the war, she would undoubtedly have depicted the Danish authorities less positively. A vast majority of the Danish public, including the Danish Jews and their leadership, did not agree to a policy that led to the expulsion of Jews. Jewish organizations and individuals worked ardently for the rights and welfare of the Jewish refugees, including those who were expelled to Germany.

The expulsion of Jews from Denmark during World War II was discovered somewhat by chance in 1997, in the process of research on Jewish refugees in Iceland.4 The expulsion of seventy non-Jewish German socialist and communist refugees in 1943 was also described for the first time in 1997.5 Previously, Danish historians either had shown no real interest in refugee expulsions during the war or had attributed them solely to German orders and arrests.

It was considered impossible that Denmark, like other occupied countries, could have expelled Jews. Danish historians viewed the situation of Jewish refugees and of Danish Jews in general as secure before October 1943,6 sufficiently protected under the auspices of the Danish Jewish community. The reality was profoundly different. Relief work for refugees by the Danish Jewish community was forbidden in 1941. Jewish officials protested the state’s policy toward the Jewish refugees. Many Jews went underground, and some tried to flee to Sweden before October 1943.

In the postwar years there was no interest in the expulsion victims. The official postwar commission on the collaboration with the Nazis only produced one and a half pages of information about World War II expulsions of foreign nationals or stateless persons from Denmark in a fifteen-volume report, which was published from 1946 to 1958. Nothing at all was included about the expelled Jews, and all expulsions were incorrectly blamed on the German occupiers.

The immediate reaction to the discovery of the expulsion of Jews was mostly one of great interest. One Danish historian, however, tried to trivialize the findings and dismiss them as an error, arguing that the expelled Jews had been spies for the Russians.7 Now the facts have been published in a book titled The Other Side of the Coin: The Fate of Jewish Refugees in Denmark 1933-1945,8 which offers detailed accounts of the fate of all the victims, none of whom were spies and three of whom were children.

One of the families expelled to Germany was that of Brandla Wassermann and her three children. They had been helped by a young Danish man, who had volunteered for labor in Berlin, to travel all the way from Berlin to Copenhagen in October 1942. Soon after, they were expelled by the Danish authorities and escorted to the German border. Soon after their return to Berlin, they were all transported to Auschwitz. The young children, Ursula, Jacky Siegfried, and Denny, were killed upon arrival and Brandla Wassermann was murdered in December 1942. A police officer and Nazi sympathizer of the Department of Immigration of the Danish State Police wrote about her in a report the day before the family was deported to Germany: “She is a pure Jew, also of religion.”9

It was not until the late 1990s and in the new millennium that the issue of twentieth-century Danish anti-Semitism was genuinely addressed in a series of studies. It is difficult to measure Danish anti-Semitism of the 1930s against that in other European countries. However, it is striking that the rescue of the Jews in 1943, in which only a small percentage of Danes participated, is still adduced as proof that Danes could not possibly have been anti-Semitic. One of the main reasons for the Danish treatment of Jews during the 1930s and the expulsions during World War II was anti-Semitism or xenophobia among the officials responsible for refugee matters.

Danish SS Volunteers and Danish War Criminals

Another less-known aspect of Danish World War II history is that about six thousand Danish men joined and fought with the Waffen-SS, partly encouraged by the Danish authorities. Here, too, it took an exceptionally long time for this information to reach the Danish public.

Apart from fighting for their new masters on various war fronts, Danish SS volunteers also participated in the murder of Jews in Eastern Europe and served in concentration- and extermination camps. Information on these volunteers was not accessible until 1999, when three young historians published an excellent study.10Yet, surprisingly, the book did not discuss the issue of possible war crimes by Danes. The volunteers’ motives are described in terms of their being “ordinary men,” even more so than other nationals in the SS. Finally in 2003 the three authors published a few examples of Danish participation in war crimes, but without explicit details.11

Danish SS soldiers were not different from others; they participated in the Holocaust. In July 1941 in Galicia, units from the Waffen-SS division Wiking, which consisted of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and later Icelandic members – the alleged finest of the “Aryan race” – perpetrated together with Ukrainians the horrific massacres of six hundred Jews in Ternopol and of two to three thousand in Zloczow. The latter massacre was stopped by a German Wehrmacht officer who was shocked by the cruelty and the methods of execution used by the Ukrainians and the Scandinavians. According to a message dated 3-4 July 1941 from the chief of the Third Army squadron in the area, members of Wiking blocked the escape routs from Zloczow and some went “hunting for Jews” and plundering.12

In a recent study called Criminals without Punishment: The Nazis Who Got Away,13 journalist Erik Hoegh-Soerensen brings together information about wanted Danish war criminals who have escaped prosecution in Denmark. The book was condemned by a Danish historian who characterized it as sensational and the work of an intolerant fanatic, and who compared Nazi war crimes to Danish resistance fighters’ killing of Nazi collaborators.14

Even Danish historians who have studied Danish SS volunteers have been reluctant to expose Danish war crimes. Other Danish experts have suggested that possible Danish war criminals would not, in the prevailing climate, “risk anything” if their atrocities were to be publicized.15 Danish historians have, for instance, withheld the identity of a Danish SS volunteer who witnessed war crimes and later recounted to the historians: “A Jew in a greasy caftan walks up to beg some bread, a couple of comrades get a hold of him and drag him behind a building and a moment later he comes to an end. There isn’t any room for Jews in the new Europe, they’ve brought too much misery to the European people.”16

Finally in January 2005, the Danish public was for the first time – partly because of strict archival laws and partly because of a lack of interest by historians – given details about one of the Danes who committed the most severe war crimes against Jews and other prisoners during World War II. This Danish citizen’s name, picture, and crimes were published in an extensive article in a Danish weekly.17 The immediate reaction was criticism of the author for defining Gustav Alfred Jepsen as a Dane.

Jepsen was, in fact, born in a part of Denmark that from 1864 to 1920 had been German. Yet he chose to be a Danish subject and held a Danish passport. When he joined the Waffen-SS he also belonged to the “German minority” in southern Denmark, where his bilingual family had chosen to live after the Danish-German border was determined in 1920. Jepsen, who was hanged in 1947 after being sentenced to death by the Allied War Crimes Tribunals in Germany, defined himself as a Dane and insisted on speaking Danish at his defense in war-crime courts during 1945-1947.

In 2005, two Danish historians denied Jepsen’s Danish identity and ascribed his crimes to his belonging to the German minority in southern Denmark.18 According to one of the critics, Danes were simply incapable of the sort of crimes that Jepsen committed. But in fact other Danes who were not part of the German minority also committed war crimes. A Danish SS doctor, Carl Vaernet, conducted experiments on homosexuals in Buchenwald. He escaped prosecution and fled to Argentina, partly with help from friends and authorities in Denmark. Facts about him in Danish did not become widely available until 2002.19

Probably the main reason that Danish war crimes during World War II did not become publicly known, and were not dealt with in the investigations and court proceedings commissioned after World War II in Denmark, was the Danish authorities’ deliberate attempt to conceal these crimes as they concealed the Danish expulsion of Jews. In the case of Jepsen, for instance, the Danish postwar authorities, who in fact perceived him as a Dane, managed to shield all information about the crimes, court proceedings, and Jepsen’s execution in Germany from the Danish public’s awareness until 2005. In 2001, the Danish Justice Ministry denied the existence of a file on Jepsen, which in fact was found in the ministry’s archive in the Danish State Archive.20

Danish Industries’ Nazi Collaboration during the War

During the war, Danish industries and entrepreneurs carried out tasks for the Nazi occupiers in Denmark as well as assignments in other occupied countries.21 With the encouragement of the Danish government, Danish exporters and entrepreneurs profited greatly compared to other occupied European countries, and entrepreneurs used slave labor including Jewish prisoners provided by the Germans. The German war enterprise had Danish participants on all levels in Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere.

During the 1930s, the most important export markets for Danish food were in Britain. When Denmark was occupied on 9 April 1940, this export was totally redirected to Nazi Germany. This increased export to neighboring Germany was, however, a policy that was advantageous to Danish authorities, and a goal espoused by many political parties well before the German occupation. In the 1930s, Danish wishes to remain neutral led to increased contacts with Nazi Germany. Some Danish politicians saw this as a way of pacifying the powerful neighbour. Many Danes expected Germany to emerge from a possible war as the ruler of Europe.

Danish bacon, butter, fish, and other commodities flowed into Germany during the war. Most of Denmark’s food exports went to the Wehrmacht. The profits streamed back to the Danish industries but were of little benefit to the citizens.

Recently, two groundbreaking volumes on Danish industries’ taking advantage of the Nazi occupation were published in Denmark by historians Joachim Lund and Steen Andersen.22 These books detail the activities of numerous Danish contractors and especially of large firms such as Hoejgaard and Schultz, F. L. Smidth, and Kampsax, which still flourish today.23

In 1936, Hoejgaard and Schultz and other Danish firms joined forces and created a daughter company, Hoejgaard & Schultz and Wright, Thomsen & Kier, that was active in Poland. During the war, the firm used Jewish slave labor to build dikes, fortifications, and roads for the Germans. Hoejgaard and Schultz also engaged in building ports and producing asphalt for the Germans in Poland during the war.24

In the late 1990s, it was reported that F. L. Smidth used Jewish slave labor in Estonia during the war. On the initiative of the then Danish transportation minister, Gunnar Larsen, F. L. Smidth and other Danish firms engaged actively in the Ostraum (the Nazi term for areas east of Germany, often identified as the part of the Lebensraum). F. L. Smidht’s cement plant in Port Kunda, Estonia, which was built in the early 1930s, was nationalized by the communists in 1940 but after the German invasion in 1941 was restored to F. L. Smidth. From that moment it had one customer, Germany, which needed cement badly for building airfields in the warfare against the Soviet Union. To assist the Danish cement plant in 1943, the SS sent Jewish and Roma prisoners from one of the concentration camps in Vaivara, Estonia, to Port Kunda to work in the coal mines there, which provided fuel for the cement production.25

Hoejgaard and Schultz and Kampsax (merged as Groupe Danois) were contracted for building the concrete fundaments of the Prinz Eugen Bridge over the Sava River near Belgrade. Forced labor26 was used to build the bridge, which was crucial for German mobility in the area when completed in September 1942.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, FLS Industries – formerly F. L. Smidth – demanded compensation for the factory in Port Kunda, which they lost after the Soviet annexation of Estonia. In 1992 the firm renewed the claims, but this time against the present Estonian owners, Kunda Nordic Tsement. The Danish claims were finally abandoned in 2000 after the Danish media announced Lund’s findings that Jews and Roma were used as slave labor in Kunda. FLS Industries set up a fund to grant “financial support to persons now living who were forced to take part in cement production at Port Kunda, Estonia, and Kursachsen, Germany, during the period of World War II, when FLS was in charge of the operation of the two plants.”27 Twelve Jewish and Roma survivors of Port Kunda have so far been located, but have received only symbolic compensation from the fund.28

The Danish trade and contracting tasks for Nazi Germany were seen as an important part of the cooperation policy that allegedly benefited Denmark. It clearly did not benefit Jews and other victims of Nazism. Domestically, Danish Nazi collaboration and servility also directly affected Danish Jews. Although the small Danish Jewish population played only a minor role in Danish businesses and industries, Danish firms began aryanizing their boards in 1940. Danish export and import firms fired or voted their Jewish board members out of the boards. When this was brought to the attention of the Danish authorities, they found no reason to intervene.29

Danish unions and trade organizations also played their part in making life impossible for Jewish refugees in the 1930s and during the occupation. Most of the Jewish refugees in Denmark were unable to work at all. For many that situation continued for several years after the war.30 Many of these refugees were forced to pay back the social benefits they had received during World War II, whereas Danish Waffen-SS veterans received monthly tax-free pensions from Germany for years.31

Postwar Hardships

After Denmark’s cooperation policy with the Nazis resulted in minimal casualties and maximal profit, as well as expulsions of Jewish refugees, Denmark continued to behave harshly toward people in need. Although the rescue of the Jews put Denmark in good standing with the Allies, this did not soften Denmark’s attitude toward Jewish refugees. After returning in 1945, even Jewish refugees who had made it to Sweden or been caught and deported to Theresienstadt in 1943 received letters from the Danish authorities giving them short notice to leave the country.32

Many non-Danish Jewish refugees who had fled to Sweden in 1943 encountered difficulties on returning. They had to sign forms stating that they had not been members of Nazi organizations, and some even had to prove that they were Jewish because they had not been stripped of German or Austrian citizenship by the Nazis. Others had to prove their Jewishness because their physical appearance did not correspond to the Jewish stereotype apparently held by many Danish police officials. In some cases these measures were no more than chicanery.

After the war it could take eight to ten years, sometimes even more, for refugees who had fled to Denmark during the 1930s to obtain Danish citizenship. Some gave up because of restrictions on work permits and other difficulties created by the Danish authorities. The continuing restrictive policy toward Jewish refugees in postwar Denmark indicates that such practices did not result just from German pressure but were rooted in Danish attitudes.33

In 1947, some 4,400 Jewish refugees on the ship Exodus were denied entry to Denmark. After also being denied entry to Palestine and pursued by British warships, the refugees rejected French offers to settle and work in France. The idea to invite the Jews from the Exodus to Denmark came from Bonde Henriksen, editor in chief of the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende. He suggested that concurrently, the British should take 4,400 German refugees from the British Zone in Germany to Britain – Germans who eventually might have ended up in Danish refugee camps. Danish Zionists also encouraged the Jews on the Exodus to come to Denmark. The Jewish Agency asked Danish chief rabbi Marcus Melchior to ask the Danish government to give the refugees preliminary safe haven there. Rabbi Melchior said that if the request was granted, Danish Jewry should “mend the wounds” of these refugees and “their material welfare should be taken care of by the whole of the Danish nation.”34

The Danish authorities, however, refused, partly attributing this to the eighty-five thousand German refugees who were already in Denmark. The Danish daily Jyllands Posten, which reflected the government’s policy in 1947, was downright opposed to admitting the Exodus refugees.35 They ended up in camps in Germany until later moving to Cyprus and Israel. Although many Danes protested these Jews’ confinement in Germany, they had no knowledge of their own government’s refusal to assist them.

Why Now, and Not Earlier?

Why did it take so long for these bleak facts about World War II Denmark to come to light?

One reason was that from 1943 to 1998 the responsible Danish authorities concealed the expulsion of the Jews from Denmark. Expulsion lists published after the war for internal use by police and immigration authorities omitted some of the Jewish expellees’ names. They were now both expelled and erased from the statistics. The postwar commission that prosecuted various forms of collaboration and crimes during the German occupation never dealt with nor revealed the nature of these expulsions. Those inquiring into the expellees’ fate usually received inaccurate or misleading responses from the police or the Justice Ministry.36

Most likely, some of the officials did not view the refugees’ expulsion to Nazi Germany as criminal, but as an economic necessity. The authorities’ argument for not allowing Jews into Denmark in the late 1930s concerned national economic interests. Some of the officials involved in the expulsion later obtained some of the highest positions in the Danish judicial system. Some of them also helped prepare additions to the Danish penal code for the postwar judicial procedures. One paragraph in these additions prescribes the death sentence for anyone directly involved in the transport to Nazi Germany of persons who subsequently lost their lives in concentration- and extermination camps.37 No one, however, was ever tried for that offense in Denmark.

When in 1998 one of the present authors published initial findings on the refugee expulsions,38 the authority that administered access to the files of the Division of Immigration of Danish State Police, which had relevant information on the expelled Jewish refugees, denied access to these files. The reason given was that the files contained material of a delicate, private nature. Not until the media, politicians, and international organizations took an interest in the case were these files released for research.39

Regarding the expulsion of Jews and others, the strict Danish archive laws concerning matters of World War II in Denmark were among the main reasons for the tardy publication of the facts. According to the laws and regulations, in some cases it will take seventy to eighty years from the end of the war or postwar judicial proceedings before important information about Danish wartime history is released. To this day it is impossible to access information from the Bovrup Index, a book published in 1946 disclosing the names of twenty-eight thousand members of the Danish Nazi Party (DNSAP). The Danish authorities banned both access and possession of this list in 1946. It seems that all things reprehensible in Denmark were to be concealed as long as possible.

One might ask why the fate of twenty-one expelled Jews, or the activities of Danish industrialists in the Baltic countries, should necessarily have been known earlier than 1998. Indeed, there is a huge quantity of Danish research on the occupation years. Danish historians were, however, more interested in national aspects than in the fate of Jews and other refugees, or the misdeeds of Danish firms abroad.

There were also many preconceived notions. Most Danish historians assumed that those Jews who were not rescued to Sweden in 1943 were deported to Theresienstadt by the Germans, and had little interest in the fate of Danish Jews in Sweden or in Theresienstadt. Jews deported to Theresienstadt mainly wrote about their experiences themselves, whereas Danish historians focused on the German Nazis’ action against the Jews in Denmark of 2 October 1943 and predominantly on one of the rescuers, German Nazi diplomat George Ferdinand Duckwitz, with little interest in the experiences of individuals and victims. Hence, the publication of historian Michael Mogensen’s preliminary findings in 2001 caused a stir. They show that Danes in Swedish exile, especially members of the Danish resistance movement, were often hateful or anti-Semitic toward the Jewish refugees there.40

The political and ideological agenda of Danish historical research has also had its effects. Danish researchers on twentieth-century refugees in Denmark focused mostly on politically active refugees, including communists and Social Democrats. When they came upon the name of Brandla Wassermann and her three children who, as mentioned, were expelled from Copenhagen in 1942, available to them on expulsion lists in the archive of the Danish State Police, these historians did not find any match in the East German archives, which constituted their main reference.

“Holocaust fatigue,” the weariness of hearing or learning about the Holocaust, may also have contributed to the delay of information on the Danish expulsion of Jews. Some Danes assert that it is more important to focus on ongoing genocides, among them “the genocide of the Palestinians by Israel,”41 than to dwell on the fate of twenty-one Jews expelled from Denmark. Indeed, the observation of Denmark’s Auschwitz Day has seen a gradual decline in discussion and information on the Holocaust and the Danish victims of the Holocaust. The first such day was observed on 27 January 2003 and, as in subsequent commemorations, the organizers rejected suggestions by one of the present authors to mention the expulsion of Jews from Denmark even though most of these Jews were eventually killed in Auschwitz. In response to the apparent absence of the remembrance of the Jewish Holocaust at the Auschwitz Day ceremony in 2004 and 2005, Danish Jews decided to commemorate this day in the Copenhagen Synagogue and in 2005 to boycott the official event in Copenhagen.

The meager interest of many Danish historians in Holocaust-related matters was evident, for example, in remarks by Hans Kirchhoff, one of the most prominent Danish historians of World War II. Asked in 2001 whether he could be considered a “new moralist,” he expressed a dismissive attitude toward morally charged issues:

The spirit of the times has changed in recent years, and moralism influences many other areas than historical interpretation. Take, for instance, politics, where moralism played a large role when the European countries chose to boycott Austria [because of statements by far-Right leader Joerg Haider]. They were inspired by the Holocaust conference in Stockholm, which was a gala performance for statesmen…. The debate and the perception of the occupation [of Denmark] is today ahistoric, because interpretations are influenced by . . . new moralism. For example, one can point to the erroneous liquidations [of innocent people by the Danish resistance movement] and the story about the German [i.e., Jewish] refugees whom the Danish authorities expelled…. Apologies are offered in east and west for passivity and for collaboration with the Nazis – the latest one being the apology for the Catholic Church’s role as a bystander during the Holocaust.42

Still another reason for the late emergence of unpleasant aspects of Danish World War II history is the fact that a small number of Danish historians, including Kirchhoff, monopolized the research and nearly all relevant sources. Less than a month after Denmark’s liberation in 1945, it became clear that there was an ongoing political struggle over research on the war, and that the authorities and various groups sought to prevent disclosures about certain people. In 1951 the DNH (Association for Publishing the Contemporary History of Denmark)43 was founded, its members mostly historians connected to Danish universities. For decades, this small organization of historians had sole access to information in Danish archives concerning the Nazi occupation of Demark. The DNH gained little popularity among foreign, and younger Danish historians, and were called “historical hairdressers.”

In 1995, at a conference to evaluate the achievements and failures of Danish research on the occupation years, a DNH member stated: “Behind the project was the intention of the grant-awarding authorities that there should be a focus – and a positive one – on the cooperation policy and the politicians’ efforts to enable the country to survive the occupation, an intention that also was fulfilled to a certain degree.”44

As late as 2000, members of this privileged group of historians, which had by then dissolved, still tried to prevent or appropriate other researchers’ discoveries. When the discovery that Jews had been expelled to Germany in 1940-1943 was announced, two former members of the group proposed forming a historical commission, led by themselves, to explore the topic.45

To some extent, as noted earlier, this is also a clash between generations. An older generation of government-authorized researchers and their disciples, expected to uphold national interests and pride, dismiss scholars with new approaches as “moralists” and their research as “subjective.”

White Buses and the Red Cross

The rescue of Jews to Sweden in 1943 was not the sole factor in the positive postwar perception of Denmark; there were also the White Bus relief convoys in 1945. Although Sweden officially credits the Swedish Red Cross and Count Folke Bernadotte for the convoys,46 Norwegian and primarily Danish participation were also crucial to transporting Scandinavian prisoners, and later other groups of prisoners, from German camps through Denmark to Sweden during the last months of the war.

Recently the Danish historian Hans Sode-Madsen, who has fervently extolled the cooperation policy, published a study on the White Buses.47 His book has been criticized by historians as well as surviving Danish resistance fighters as a deficient treatment that very selectively discusses Danish aspects of the White Bus endeavor while mostly ignoring the new international research on the topic.48 One of Sode-Madsen’s main aims was to demonstrate that this relief action was a beneficial consequence of Denmark’s cooperation policy.

Among the eleven thousand rescued by the White Buses were Danish and Norwegian resistance fighters, Danish policemen, and Danish Jews deported to Theresienstadt in 1943. Later, the buses took prisoners who were in worse condition to Sweden for treatment. The initial plans, however, did not include rescuing Jews even though they were the most in need. The action also ignored international regulations on aid to prisoners of war.

This and much else is ignored in Sode-Madsen’s book. According to him, were it not for the cooperation policy, all Jews in Denmark would have been deported and killed. Adolf Eichmann and Werner Best, the Third Reich’s plenipotentiary in Denmark, would not have agreed to a “lenient” alternative of deporting Jews to Theresienstadt. Danish Jews, Sode-Madsen asserts, should have been grateful for the cooperation policy.49

Yet Sode-Madsen omits much available information that contradicts his positive view of the cooperation and its alleged importance for the White Bus effort. His book, for instance, makes no mention of the Scandinavian buses being used for transports of non-Scandinavian prisoners between camps. Swedish historian Inger Lomfors has recently shown that many French and other nationals lost their lives because the patrons of the White Buses yielded these services to the Nazis in 1945.50

Sode-Madsen also argues that there is no proof that the cooperation policy was harmful. That may be why the book mentions neither Denmark’s expulsion of stateless Jews to Germany nor the lack of effort by the Danish organizers of the White Bus convoys, who included the Red Cross and numerous officials, to rescue Danish Jews in camps other than Theresienstadt in 1944-1945. Neither Danish authorities nor the White Buses helped Louis Lichtenstein, who was killed in Dachau in February 1945. No efforts were made to help Jacob Thalmay, who was killed on 9 March 1945 during a death march.

Isaak Edelmann also did not get a seat on the buses; deported in 1944, he survived a death march from Auschwitz to Mauthausen. Although Danish authorities knew he had last been registered in Mauthausen, they made no effort to locate him when collecting Scandinavians for the White Buses. When Edelmann returned to Denmark late in 1945, he could read his own obituaries in Danish dailies.51 Kurt Bolz, a German Jew who was expelled from Denmark in 1943 and one of two who survived the expulsions, managed to get a fare on the White Buses under a false Swedish name. When he arrived in Copenhagen he was arrested by the same authorities who had expelled him, and held for one year in prison isolation and a prison camp. He fled to Sweden in 1946.52

Sode-Madsen’s book has no room for these victims of the Danish World War II policy. It also leaves out information on the Nazi contacts with Count Folke Bernadotte. It does not mention how Bernadotte, who did not originally plan to rescue Jews on the White Buses, hurried to testify in favor of his friend, the SS general Walter Schellenberg, at the Nuremberg proceedings.

Although ordinary Danes, members of the resistance, and others helped Jews flee to Sweden in 1943, the Danish Red Cross did not contribute. In 1942, under pressure from their wives, the Danish Red Cross sent parcels to Danish communists who had been transported to the Stutthof concentration camp in Germany. The director of the Danish Red Cross, Helmer Rosting, was a member of the Danish Nazi Party and frequented Werner Best’s offices. On 29 September 1943, Rosting proposed to Best that Danish Jews be interned in return for a gradual release of Danish soldiers held by the Germans. Rosting also suggested that the interned Jews be used as hostages, to be deported if the acts of sabotage against the Germans did not cease. Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop rejected these ideas.53

Rosting was not the only one who favored interning Denmark’s Jews; Danish officials discussed the possibility in September 1943. Another group of Danes also made use of the idea. The New York-based Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy, a branch of the National America Denmark Association (NADA), worked to promote a better image of Denmark among the Allies. On 8 February 1942, the Friends released to the press a fabricated story that the Danish Jews had offered to the Danish king to let themselves be interned. They had supposedly stated: “We have always been well treated in this country and we understand that our being here is one of the difficulties between you and the German Government. If we can make things easier for you by being interned, please intern us.”54

A delegation of the International Red Cross visited Theresienstadt on 23 June 1944. After the war the two Danish delegates, Frants Hvass of the Foreign Ministry and Eigil Juel Henningsen of the National Board of Health, were reluctant to discuss this visit. It consisted of a few hours of inspection of the camp, where the Danish and other delegates were fooled by a theatrical scene that the Nazis had created for the occasion, followed by several days’ stay in Prague with dining out and concerts on the Nazis’ invitation. In 1979, Juel Henningsen declined to comment, in statements on the television series Holocaust, that the Danish delegates had been fooled at Theresienstadt.55 Even today, the Danish public is shielded from such information by Sode-Madsen’s tribute to the cooperation policy.

When wives and fiancées of Danish communists in Stutthof visited Frants Hvass in the Foreign Ministry on 11 July 1944, Hvass proudly told them what he had experienced at Theresienstadt. One of the wives wrote: “The visit to Theresienstadt had been much better than expected. There were 40,000 Jews in the camp, but only 15 Germans. We were shown photos from there. The children looked both well dressed and well fed. There were photographs from a classroom. They had their own teachers, their orchestra, fire engines, Jewish police etc.”56

A Case of Deception

In their reports, Hvass and Juel Henningsen show how badly the Nazis deceived them in their visit to Theresienstadt on 23 June 1944. No such information is available in Sode-Madsen’s allegedly instructive book about the rescue of the Danish Jews from Theresienstadt. On 10 July 1944, Hvass wrote about the few Danish Jews he had seen in Theresienstadt: “They are clean and well groomed and must be said to wear better clothes than what is the average in a German village.”57

Juel Henningsen wrote in his unpublished postwar memoirs:

Many arrangements and improvements were evidently made hastily. Hvass and I were of course aware that they tried to give us an idealized picture – but at the same time had to admit that the picture was far better than the descriptions from other camps we had knowledge of. The sanitary situation of the Danish Jews, judging from appearances, state of nutrition, skin complexion etc. exceeded our expectations…. In the same way I, in my report to the Foreign Ministry, draw a relatively favorable picture of the conditions – I of course had to expect that the report sooner or later was going to be read by the Germans. [This] is not a rationalization. Hvass and I discussed these things thoroughly during our mission and agreed fully on the importance of personally behaving moderately and as the representatives of the Danish authorities. On the other hand, we didn’t feel that we had to show any sort of humbleness or outspoken goodwill. We emphasized acting as equals. In the evening we were “compulsorily committed” to a dinner with the German Gauleiter, [Hans] Frank. We were treated with exquisite politeness by the relatively large German company. Also here it was evident that we were to be charmed. I sat at the left hand of the Gauleiter, who tried to force flattering comments about the camp from me. I resisted by presenting moderately critical comments. Music was discussed by the way, and a Ukrainian violinist was fetched from the town. He arrived in white tie and tails and received orders on what to play. When he asked me what I wanted to hear I suggested certain Danish tunes, but we ended up with Grieg….58

After the Theresienstadt inspection and an unexplained stay in Prague, Hvass went directly to Berlin to arrange for a visit to Stutthof. He did not get permission to see the camp, only to speak to a selected group of its Danish prisoners outside of it. Apparently, though, that meeting did not come about because of Hvass’s “moderate” attitude toward the Nazis.59

Sode-Madsen’s book also makes no mention of this visit to Berlin, though it could have been important if Hvass could have told Danish officials about conditions in Stutthof. Such information could also have had an impact on alleged plans of the Danish Red Cross to visit Birkenau and other camps during the same mission as the visit to Theresienstadt.60 In a visit to Stockholm in August 1944, Hvass continued to tell his story about the good conditions for the Jews in Theresienstadt.61 In Stockholm at that stage, there was probably no reason for him to worry about how the Nazis would react to critical reports.

The role of the Danish authorities and the Danish Red Cross in the relocation of wanted Nazi war criminals to South America and other places has often been debated.62 Although it is clear that Danish war criminals such as Carl Vaernet left Europe with the help of Danish doctor colleagues and Red Cross documents,63 no research has been done on this subject in Denmark. The Danish Red Cross was also involved for decades in transferring monthly payments of invalid pensions to Danish SS veterans.64 Although in 1999 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) declared an open-door policy toward researchers examining its role during World War II and its aftermath, the archives of the Danish Red Cross are in practice inaccessible when the subject is the Nazi occupation of Denmark.

Danish officials who visited Theresienstadt in 1944 could have transmitted honest assessments of the situation there to governments of nonoccupied countries or international organizations. But Danish officials during the war were not really interested in the non-Danish Jews who were deported from Denmark to Theresienstadt in 1943, nor, for that matter, in the fate of Jews elsewhere in Nazi Europe. In his book on Eichmann, David Cesarani states that the ICRC representatives’ visit to Theresienstadt in 1944 was cowardly and forestalled negative publicity for the Nazis. He notes: “On the contrary, the official statement by the visitors reinforced the lie that Theresienstadt was a final destination for Jews rather than a transit camp for Auschwitz-Birkenau.”65

An Official Danish Apology to the Jewish People

On 4 May 2005, at the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of Denmark’s liberation, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the Danish Liberal Party did something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. He presented an official apology to the Jewish people for the Danish expulsions of Jewish refugees to Germany from 1940 to 1943. Thus Fogh Rasmussen became the first Danish head of state to directly address this matter, which contrasts so greatly with the rescue of Jews in 1943 and the alleged advantages of the cooperation policy.

In 1999, the question of an official apology was publicly debated after the initial reports on the expulsions and the fate of the Jewish refugees involved. Fogh Rasmussen’s predecessor Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a Social Democrat, was reluctant about an apology but ordered an official investigation of the claims about expulsions. Earlier prime ministers, many of whom may also have known about the expulsions, kept their silence. No prime minister before Fogh Rasmussen admitted that Denmark during the war was an accomplice in the murder of Jewish refugees.

The official apology was presented in the National Memorial Park in Copenhagen on 4 May 2005. Fogh Rasmussen stated:

What was worse, as we know today, is that Danish authorities in some instances were involved in expelling people to suffering and death in the concentration camps. There were persons who sought safe haven in this country from the Nazi persecutors of the Jewish people. The Danish authorities expelled these people to the Nazis.

Also other innocent people were, with the active assistance of the Danish authorities, left to an uncertain fate at the hands of the Nazi regime. These are shameful incidents. A stain on Denmark’s otherwise good reputation in this area.

The remembrance of the dark aspects of the occupation era is unfortunately also a part of the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Denmark. Thus I would very much like – on this very occasion and in this location – on behalf of the government and thus the Danish state, to express regret and apologize for these acts.

An apology cannot alter history. But it can contribute to the recognition of historic mistakes. So that present and future generations will hopefully avoid similar mistakes in the future.66

The apology was presented a few weeks after the book Medaljens Bagside, which tells the stories of the expelled Jews, was published in Denmark. One of Fogh Rasmussen’s comments on the book was: “It is significant that it was a foreign researcher who managed to lance this inflamed boil.”67 Fogh Rasmussen was aware that Danish historians tended to praise the Danish policy toward the Nazi occupiers.

The fact that the discovery was made by a non-Danish national has indeed been difficult to accept for many Danes. The author received hate mail, including a statement that “such a discovery is not credible when presented by foreigners.” The Danish Institute for International Studies, in its annual report Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2005, indeed credits the discovery to Danish historians, stating:

In reaction to the revelation by Danish historians [sic] that one of the results of the policy of collaboration during the occupation – officially called the politics of negotiations or cooperation – was the expulsion on Danish initiative of 21 Jewish refugees to be exterminated in German camps, [Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen] did not rule out a formal apology. In his own words, “An apology may be at hand. Of course we cannot change the course of history by acknowledging, regretting and excusing on behalf of the past. But it is important for a nation to take this step.”68

Apparently, this misattribution of the discovery was written and published shortly before the prime minister actually decided to present the official apology.

The official apology was welcomed by the few relatives and descendants of the expelled Jews, who are presently living in Israel, Britain, and Sweden. Some of these still await compensation for the assets that Denmark confiscated from the Jews before they were expelled.

An American think tank also welcomed the apology in a statement shortly after it was presented. Director Helle C. Dale of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation remarked that the apology would be seen internationally as indicating that Denmark sets a high moral standard.69 Radek Sikorski, resident fellow of another Washington-based think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, said: “No nations were totally innocent. Good things happened and bad things happened, and it is wise and instructive to admit one’s errors. But the total Danish effort to rescue Jews to safety is still a great achievement in your history.”70

Many Danes also welcomed the apology. But that view was overwhelmed by critics of the prime minister, who voiced their dismay in the spring of 2005. Danish historians, as they had done in 2003 when the prime minister criticized the acolytes of the cooperation policy, characterized his words as nonsense. Historian Aage Trommer was quoted as saying: “For research the apology doesn’t mean anything. For a historian the primary goal is to become wiser. And it seems strange to me that later generations should apologize for what the ancestors did.”71 Trommer himself did not live up to that goal when in the 1960s he engaged in “positive research” evidently aimed at protecting Denmark from the shadows of its past.

Another senior historian, Henrik S. Nissen, stated: “The expulsion of the Jewish refugees is a black spot on the history of Denmark. But an apology is nonsense. It is a large philosophical problem, whether guilt should be collective, and whether one can apologize on behalf of others. It should be those responsible who apologize, and for that it is of course too late.” Many Danes also claimed that the apology was a kind of exoneration for Denmark’s participation in peacekeeping in the war in Iraq.73

A few weeks after the apology was presented, the Danish Institute for International Studies published a state-commissioned, 2,350-page report on the Cold War era in Denmark.74 The report found no evidence that Danish Social Democrats and other left-wing politicians had, as often argued, collaborated with the Warsaw Pact nations, and showed that other NATO countries had considered Denmark a committed ally. In reaction, left-wing politicians of the opposition demanded apologies from the present government, which it typically blamed. Member of Parliament Villy Soevndal of the Socialist People’s Party even demanded an apology from the prime minister, “like the one he had given to the Jewish people.”75

“Pharisees” vs. the “Only Danish Solution”

Among the increasingly large numbers of Danish historians who extol the cooperation policy during the Nazi occupation, terms such as “outrageous,” “ahistorical,” “subjective,” “moralistic,” and “pharisaism” etc. have been used in reaction to the historical discoveries that call their view into question. Many of these discoveries point to grave humanitarian failures by the Danish authorities and industrial sector during the war. Clearly, facing the truth about Denmark’s wartime history is still difficult.

The dogma concerning the cooperation policy has also acquired political significance. Members of the Danish Social-Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre) now attribute the allegedly unique policy to one of their party’s early members, the most hated twentieth-century Danish political figure, Erik Scavenius (1877-1962). In November 1941 as foreign minister, Scavenius went to Berlin to – among other duties – sign the Anti-Komintern Pact and meet with Nazi leader Hermann Goering. Scavenius also paid a courtesy visit to Hitler. According to Scavenius himself, Goering told him that in the long run Denmark could not avoid the “Jewish question,” and Scavenius responded that there “was no Jewish question in Denmark.”76

Scavenius, however, must have been poorly briefed about what was happening in the shadows of his cooperation policy back home in Denmark, where Danish authorities were expelling stateless Jews and other refugees to certain death in German camps. Such officials were indeed concerned about the “Jewish question.”

To point out that if all countries had behaved like Denmark during World War II, Europe would today be a Nazi continent, arouses contempt from many Danish historians. These scholars work hard to reconcile Denmark’s Nazi collaboration during the war with the rehabilitation of Danish politicians who, though not Nazis, harmed the Danes as much as Quisling harmed the Norwegians. What is actually objectionable is to claim that Eric Scavenius with his cooperation policy rescued the Danish Jews.

Danish historical research on World War II and Denmark’s occupation has until recently been nearly totally confined to national topics, lacking a wider context. Historians have tended to ignore or overlook archives and important sources outside Denmark that have significance for Danish history. The Swedish-Canadian scholar Gunnar S. Paulsson, author of numerous books on the Holocaust, noted that Danish research on World War II generally, and the rescue of the Jews to Sweden specifically, has been problematic and suffered from blind spots. He saw a need for assessments by foreign scholars, and remarked that in Denmark “national myths . . . have created an unbalanced national perception.”77

The spokesmen for the cooperation policy seem nationalistically motivated when they ignore the condemnation of the policy that most Danes expressed after the war. For instance, historian Bo Lidegaard has argued that even the Jews in Denmark supported the policy that resulted in Jews being rejected at the borders or expelled from the country. He grossly simplifies when stating:

The [Danish] government had long since given up on reacting to the unfortunate events south of the border and solely concentrated on the survival of the Danish nation. This policy was reflected in the Danish Jewish community, which supported the restrictive refugee policy and never engaged in political support for the minority of activists who tried to obtain immigration permits for more German and Austrian Jews.78

In a book on the Danish Foreign Ministry from 1914 to 1945, Lidegaard lauds the cooperation policy. Although the book is titled The Survivor,79 it is not about the victims of the Foreign Ministry, which participated in the expulsion of Jews during the war and, in the 1930s, helped introduce strict limitations on the admission of Jewish refugees. Furthermore, Lidegaard argues that the Danish population’s reaction to the action against the Jews in 1943 was not a response to the cooperation policy but to “sorting out a certain group in society and removing that group’s civil rights. In this case the most central nerve of democracy and the constitutional state was under attack, and the population stood up, not only in solidarity with those who were threatened, but also in defense of the society and values, which still evoked national unity.”80

Thus, Lidegaard’s omission in his books of any information about World War II expulsions of Jews and other groups from Denmark is understandable. Their fate does not jibe with his uncritical praise of Danish values.

Kirchhoff has also maintained that the Danish Jews’ upholding of the cooperation policy was what rescued them.81 Many other historians have repeated this claim. What is clear, however, is the opposite – that the cooperation policy caused the expulsion. Are scholars who espouse such views capable of recognizing research that reveals great failures in Denmark’s World War II conduct?

At the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Holland, the Dutch seemed well disposed toward the Jews there, but the eventual outcome was disastrous. This, clearly, is not an analogy that would suit the Danes who praise cooperation. Nor is the case of the four hundred thousand Hungarian Jews who were murdered despite Hungary’s cooperation with the Nazis. Were the Danish population, officials, and even the Danish SS volunteers indeed better people and less anti-Semitic than the rest of the Europeans? Did the Danes show genius in adapting to the Nazis’ wishes instead of fighting back?

The resurgent positive view of the cooperation policy and the intolerance toward new, contradictory findings do not necessarily reflect a generational feud between historians in Denmark – a sort of late Danish equivalent of the controversy in German historical research in the 1980s. The opposing assessments of the cooperation involve less complexity than Germany’s controversy over its past.

Another factor behind the present focus on the cooperation policy as “the only solution for Denmark” is purely political. Left-wing historians who, until the 1990s, produced research that was ideologically mainstream, now need to take up new issues. Some turn to doctrines that, a few decades ago, they could not possibly have espoused in the name of their ideologies. When a right-wing prime minister like Fogh Rasmussen, like many Danes, sees the cooperation with the Nazis as the saddest chapter of Danish history, some left-wing scholars find a new fad in becoming ardent advocates of the cooperation policy.

A political explanation can certainly be given to the interpretations of Claus Bryld, a Danish professor of contemporary history who has studied the Nazi occupation in the collective memory of the Danish people. His method is allegedly that of the “politically conscious” radical of the 1970s. Bryld is troubled by new views of the “moralists” and the “Pharisees,” who, he says, “condemn and curse” whatever they “happen to dislike in the manner of the Old Testament prophets.”82 Although failing to make clear who these moralists are, Bryld asserts that history, for them, is

a never-ending dialogue, and there will be none if the voice of the past is constantly being drowned by loudspeaking [sic] moralists. Furthermore these moralists are often fakes; they have their own hidden agenda and slyly consider how they can profit here and now if a certain version of the past favours them rather than their opponents. A genuine engagement built on knowledge of the past must be individually appropriated and is closely related to active citizenship in contemporary society. In the 1970’s, a decade now subjected to regular denunciations, “political consciousness” was seen as something positive which built on a sympathetic attitude to the past and present events and included a call to commit oneself to a change in society for the better. Does today’s shrill, ahistoric moralism imply that if the past is truly “historicized,” the result will be a political commitment, and more often than not on the left? Maybe so. Anyway, some of those campaigns which specialize in wrenching events and conditions from their historical context reveal a glaring lack of historical consciousness which entails the risk of sliding into the world of propaganda.83

Yet another reason for the harsh reactions to the questioning of the cooperation policy and its implications for Jews is the increasing indifference toward Holocaust victims. Certain Danish historians and political factions, for instance, recommend that the annual Auschwitz Day should focus on the “genocide of the Palestinians.” As noted earlier, the state-run Department for Holocaust and Genocide of the Danish Institute for International Studies decided, regarding the annual Auschwitz Day ceremony, not to commemorate or even mention the Jewish victims of Danish expulsions.

It is not surprising, then, that Danish historians who are greatly upset by criticism of the Vatican for not dealing with its own World War II issues, and who call their own opponents Pharisees and moralists, are not keen to accept new discoveries such as Danish expulsions of Jewish refugees. Some of these historians may miss the “political consciousness” of the 1970s with its alleged sympathetic attitude toward the past and present. But most Danes of the 1970s were not aware of the murder and other evils to which Danish society subjected Jews during World War II. Then again, even in the 1970s there were politically conscious Danes who called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews from Denmark.84

* * *


1. Bent Blüdnikow, Som om de slet ikke eksisterede (Copenhagen: Samlerens Forlag, 1991) [in Danish]; Bent Blüdnikow, “Goering’s Jewish Friend,” Commentary, Vol. 94, No. 3 (1992).

2. Kristian Hvidt in an interview to Reuben Loewy, “Denmark’s Other Record,” Jerusalem Report, 30 May 1996, p. 32.

3. Leni Yahil, “Hatsalat ha-yehudim be-danya: Demoqratya she-‘amda be-mivhan” (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Yad Vashem Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, 1966) [in Hebrew]; Leni Yahil, The Rescue of Danish Jewry: Test of a Democracy, trans. Morris Gradel (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969).

4. See Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside: Joediske flygtningeskaebner i Danmark 1933-1945 (Copenhagen: Forlaget Vandkunsten, 2005), 8-13. [in Danish]

5. Lief Larsen and Thomas Clausen, De forraadte. Tyske Hitler-flygtninge i Danmark (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1997). [in Danish]

6. Peder Wiben, “Komitéen af 4. maj 1933,” in H. Dethlefsen and H. Lundbak, eds., Fra mellemkrigstid til efterkrigstid, Festskrift til Hans Kirchhoff og Henrik S. Nissen på 65-aarsdagen oktober 1998 (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 1998). [in Danish]

7. Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 313, endnote IV, 76; Lars Lillelund and Joern Mikkelsen, “Historikerne strides om 21 udviste jøder,” Jyllands-Posten,10 February 2000. [in Danish]

8. Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside.

9. Ibid., 203-15.

10. Claus Bundgaard Christensen, Niels Bo Poulsen, and Peter Scharff Smith, Under hagekors og Dannebrog : Danskere i Waffen SS. (Copenhagen: Aschehoug, 1998). [in Danish]

11. Claus Bundgaard Christensen, Niels Bo Poulsen, and Peter Scharff Smith, “The Danish Volunteers in the Waffen SS,” in Mette Bastholm Jensen and Steven B. Jensen, eds., Denmark and the Holocaust (Copenhagen: Institute for International Studies, Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 2003).

12. Bernd Boll, “Zloczow, Juli 1941: Die Wehrmacht und der Beginn des Holocaust in Galizien,” ZfG (Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft) 50, Jahrgang, Heft 10, 906-07, 910-11, 913. [in German]

13. Erik Hoegh-Soerensen, Forbrydere uden straf: Nazisterne der slap fri (Copenhagen: Forlaget Dokumentas, 2004). [in Danish]

14. Book review by Kristian Hvidt, Berlingske Tidende, 24 July 2004. [in Danish]

15. Jyllands-Posten, 16 January 2000, section 1, 5 (Danish professor of history Claus Bryld is quoted for this view).

16. Christensen, Poulsen, and Smith, “Danish Volunteers.”

17. Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “En dansk krigsforbryder,” Weekendavisen, 28 January-3 February 2005. [in Danish]

18. René Rasmussen, “En tysker,” letter to the editor of Weekendavisen, 4-10 February 2005 [in Danish]; René Rasmussen, “Vores sindelag bestemmer vi selv,” Weekendavisen, 18-24 February 2005 [in Danish]; Stig Woermer, “Hjemmetysk,” Weekendavisen, 18-24 February 2005 [in Danish]; René Rasmussen, “Sindelag,” Weekendavisen, 11-17 March 2005 [in Danish]; Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “Vi er langt fra sindelagsfrihed,” Weekendavisen, 18-23 March 2005 [in Danish].

19. Hans Davidsen-Nielsen, Niels Hoeiby, Niels-Birger Danielsen, and Jakob Rubin, Vaernet: En Dansk SS-laege i Buchenwald (Copenhagen: Munksgaard Bogklubber, 2002) [in Danish]. The book is also available in German: Davidsen-Nielsen et al., Carl Vaernet: Der dänische SS-Arzt im KZ Buchenwald; aus dem Dänischen von Kurt Krickler; mit einem Vorwort von Günter Grau und einem ergänzenden Kapitel über Eugen Steinach von Florian Mildenberger (Wien: Regenbogen, 2005). [in German]

20. Vilhjálmsson, “En dansk krigsforbryder,” 11; letter from the Danish Justice Ministry to V. Ö. Vilhjálmsson, 16 October 2001.

21. See Joachim Lund, Hitlers Spisekammer: Danmark og den europaeiske nyordning 1940-43 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005) [in Danish]; Steen Andersen, De Gjorde Danmark Stoerre…: Danske entreprenoerer i krise og krig 1919-1947 (Copenhagen: Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2005). [in Danish]

22. Ibid.

23. See:;;

24. Lund, Hitlers Spisekammer, 250.

25. Ibid., 225-26.

26. Expert opinion, written by Christopher R. Browning, Professor of History at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, on Instructions of Davenport Lyons and Mishcon de Reya, Solicitors, for the Purposes of Assisting the Queen’s Bench Division in the High Court in London in the Case between David John Cawdell Irving, Plaintiff, and Penguin Books Limited and Deborah E. Lipstadt, Defendants. Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington; letter by SS-Gruppenführer Harald Turner to SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, head of the personal staff of the Reichsführer SS (RFSS) [head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler], dated 11 April 1942, StA Muenchen II, Az.10a Js 39/60, bill of indictment/accusation (ZSL, Az. Sammelakte 137, Bl.164-167). [in German]

27. Statement of the Kunda Kursachsen Fund/FLS Industries A/S Corporate Public Relations of 7 January 1999. See: [in English]

28. Lund, Hitlers Spisekammer, 227.

29. Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “Vi har ikke brug for 70.000 joeder,” Rambam 7, Tidsskrift for joedisk kultur og forskning, Udgivet af Selskabet for Dansk Joedisk Historie, 1998, 41-56, 47. [in Danish]

30. Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 318 ff.

31. Bent Blüdnikow and Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “Skeletter efter 1945,” Weekendavisen, 19-25 September 1997. [in Danish]

32. Vilhjálmsson, “Vi har ikke brug,” 52; Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 320. 33. See Blüdnikow and Vilhjálmsson, “Skeletter efter 1945”; Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 317 ff.

34. Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 336-37; “Danes Consider Offer of Haven,” Palestine Post, 27 August 1947.

35. “Joeder i noed,” Jyllands-Posten, 27 August 1947 [in Danish]. The same page in Jyllands-Posten reports about a Danish physician in the town of Skive who obviously had the editors’ full sympathy. The authorities only allowed him to buy a European car though he preferred an American one. In his distress he had received two tires and three tubes for his dilapidated German car, while the local sheriff was buying a brand-new American Ford from the local car dealer.

36. Vilhjálmsson, ibid., 135-36, 318-29.

37. Ibid., 302-09.

38. Vilhjálmsson “Vi har ikke brug”; Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “Danmark foraadte ogsaa joederne,” Berlingske Tidende, 26 December 1998. [in Danish]

39. Ibid., 358-59.

40. Michael Mogensen, “Antisemitisme i den danske flygtningesamfund i Sverige 1943-45,” in Michael Mogensen, ed., Antisemitisme i Danmark? Arbejdsrapporter fra DCHF 5, Dansk Center for Holocaust- og Folkedrabsstudier, 2001. [in Danish]

41. “Maerkedag: Auschwitz-dag moedt af kritik,” Jyllands-Posten, 25 January 2003. [in Danish]

42. “Vi mangler graatonerne”, interview with Hans Kirchhoff, Weekendavisen, 14 December 2001. [in Danish]

43. Udgiverselskabet for Nyere Tids Historie.

44. Knud J. V. Jespersen and Thomas Pedersen, eds., Besaettelsen i perspektiv: Bidrag til konference om besaettelsen 1940-1945 (Odense: Odense Universitetsforlag, 1995) [in Danish]. The quotation is from an article by Prof. Aage Trommer, “Hvad har vi naaet og hvad mangler vi?”

45. Miriam Katz, “Forskere vil bevilge penge til sig selv,” 15 February 2000, “Holocaustcenter er gaaet i taenkeboks,”16 February 2000, Berlingske Tidende. [in Danish]

46. See

47. Hans Sode-Madsen, Reddet fra Hitlers helvede: Danmark og de Hvide Busser 1941-45 (Copenhagen: Aschehoug, 2005). [in Danish].

48. Bent Blüdnikow, “Theresienstadt-delegationen stod paa taersklen til helvedet,” Berlingske Tidende, 10 September 2005 [in Danish]; Joergen H. Barfod, “Boganmeldelser: Beretningen om de danske KZ-fanger,” FV: Frihedskampens Veteraner, No. 183, December 2005, 30-31. [in Danish]

49. Letter to the editor by Hans Sode-Madsen, Berlingske Tidende, 27 September 2005. [in Danish

50. Ingrid Lomfors, Blind fläck: Minne och glömska kring svenska röda korsets hjälpinsats i nazityskland 1945 (Stockholm: Atlantis, 2005), 51-97. [in Swedish] 51. Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 282-84.

52. Ibid., 220-55.

53. Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “The King and the Star,” in Jensen and. Jensen, Denmark and the Holocaust, 114. See also: _kap_5.pdf].

54. Ibid., 111-13.

55. Danish State Archive, Copenhagen: Eigil Juel Henningsen’s private archive (No. 6880): Letter from journalist Erik A. Larsen to E. J. Henningsen, 8 March 1979, E. J. Henningsen’s response, 11 March 1979. [in Danish]

56. Per Ulrich, De roede enker (n.p.: Tiden, 1982 ), 48-49. [in Danish]

57. Danish State Archive, Copenhagen: Eigil Juel Henningsen’s private archive (No. 6880): Frants Hvass’s report of 11 July 1944, 5. [in Danish]

58. Danish State Archive, Copenhagen: Eigil Juel Henningsen’s private archive (No. 6880), ibid.; E. J. Henningsen’s unpublished memoirs, 20. [in Danish]

59. Ulrich, De roede enker, 49.

60. See Blüdnikow, “Theresienstadt-delegationen.”

61. Sode-Madsen, Reddet fra Hitlers helvede, 164.

62. See Davidsen-Nielsen, Hoeiby, Danielsen, and Rubin, Vaernet; Uki Goñi, The Real Odessa: How Perón Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina, rev. ed. (London: Granta, 2002).

63. Davidsen-Nielsen, Hoeiby, Danielsen, and Rubin, ibid.; see also:

64. Blüdnikow and Vilhjálmsson, “Skeletter efter 1945.”

65. David Cesarani, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (London: William Heinemann, 2004), 137.

66. The entire speech was published in Berlingske Tidende, 5 May 2005. [in Danish]

67. Interview to Berlingske Tidende, 1 May 2005. [in Danish]

68. Uffe Oestergaard, “Denmark and the New International Politics of Morality and Remembrance,” Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2005 [English], 67; see Oestergaard has not been willing to explain his opinion that the official apology was given after revelations made by Danish historians.

69. Oestergaard, “Denmark and the New International Politics.”

70.”Amerikansk ros til Fogh,” Berlingske Tidende, 6 May 2005. [in Danish]

71. “Undsyldning er vroevl”, Berlingske Tidende, 6 May 2005. [in Danish]

72. Ibid.

73 Many articles in the Danish daily Politiken (8 May 2005) presented the apology to Jews as an apology for the participation of Danish forces in Iraq. Historian Bo Lidegaard also draws that conclusion in a press release published in Politiken, 10 April 2005. [in Danish]

74. See the highlights of the report, Denmark during the Cold War, on:

75. Politiken, 30 June 2005, article on its website titled “Venstrefloejen kraever undskyldning af statsministeren” [in Danish]; “Den Kolde Krig: Politisk opgoer om kold krig,” Politiken, 1 July 2005. [in Danish]

76. See Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, “‘Ich weis was ich zu tun habe’: En kildekritisk belysning af Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz’ rolle i redningen af joederne i 1943,” Rambam, No. 14, forthcoming [in Danish]; Bo Lidegaard, Overleveren 1914-1945, Dansk Udenrigspolitisk Historie 4 (Copenhagen: Danmarks Nationalleksikon, 2003), 540. [in Danish]

77. Gunnar S. Paulsson,”Danmarks besaettelse set med fremmede oejne,” Berlingske Tidende, 30 April 2005.

78. Bo Lidegaard, Kampen om Danmark (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005), 115-16. [in Danish]

79. Bo Lidegaard, Overleveren 1914-1945.

80. Ibid., 546.

81. Hans Kirchhoff, “Forsvar for historikerne,” Politiken, 18 May 2005.

82. Claus Bryld, “Occupied Denmark as Mirror: Danish Attitudes to War and Occupation 55 Years after the Event,” lecture presented at the seminar on European Research on Nazism, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust: State of Research and New Perspectives, Stockholm, 14-16 March 2002 (manuscript dated June 2000), 15. The article, which was originally presented at the seminar, was kindly provided by Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie in Amsterdam.

83. Ibid.,16.

84. See Vilhjálmsson, Medaljens Bagside, 355; Arthur Arnheim, “Anti-Semitism after the Holocaust-Also in Denmark,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 15, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2003); Bent Blüdnikow, “Venstrefloej og antisemitisme,” in Michael Mogensen, ed., Antisemitisme i Danmark? Arbejdsrapporter fra DCHF 5, Dansk Center for Holocaust- og Folkedrabsstudier, 2001, 199-36. [in Danish]

*     *     *

BENT BLÜDNIKOW worked at the Danish National Archives from 1983 to 1993. He then became opinion editor of the weekly Weekendavisen. From 1998 he was opinion editor, and since 2002 journalist, at the conservative daily Berlingske Tidende. He has published several books on Danish Jewish history and eighteenth-century Danish history. Among them are Immigranter: Østeuropæiske jøder i København 1904-1920 (Copenhagen, 1986) and Som om de slet ikke eksisterede: Hugo Rothenberg og kampen for de tyske jøder (Copenhagen, 1991).

DR. VILHJÁLMUR ÖRN VILHJÁLMSSON was an archeologist and curator at the National Museum of Iceland (1993-1997) and senior researcher at the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (2000-2002). He is the author of Medaljens Bagside (Copenhagen, 2005), which reveals the Danish expulsion of Jewish refugees to Germany during 1940-1943. Currently he is completing a book about Stefan Glücksman, a Warsaw historian who was expelled from Denmark in 1941. Both authors are both board members of the Danish Jewish Historical Society.

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The above essay appears in the Fall 2006 issue of the Jewish Political Studies Review, the first and only journal dedicated to the study of Jewish political institutions and behavior, Jewish political thought, and Jewish public affairs.

Published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (, the JPSR appears twice a year in the form of two double issues, either of a general nature or thematic, with contributors including outstanding scholars from the United States, Israel, and abroad.