- In April 1940, the Germans invaded Denmark; in return for the Danes’ surrender, Germany promised to respect their political independence. The Danes agreed, and King Christian X was allowed to retain his throne, and the Danish army, navy, and police were allowed to function. Danish foreign policy, however, was directed by Germany. This political arrangement between Denmark and Germany was subject to an agreement that no harmful actions would befall Denmark’s Jewish population.At the time of the German occupation of Denmark, there were about 8,000 Jews, who constituted 0.2 percent of the population. The small number of Jews included about 1,500 refugees from Germany, Austria, and Bohemia and Moravia. Jews were totally integrated into all aspects of Danish political, economic, and social life. Although a Danish Nazi Party attempted to stir up agitation against the Jews, anti-Semitism did not gain a foothold in Denmark. Despite the agreement with the Danes, Heinrich Himmler exerted pressure on the Danes to legislate anti-Jewish measures, but the Danish government resisted any coercion on the issue of the Jews. As a consequence, neither anti-Jewish legislation nor efforts to Aryanize Jewish property were attempted by the Germans. At the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the refusal of the Danes to cooperate on the Jewish question was discussed, and the Final Solution of Danish Jewry was deferred until the end of the war. This decision, however, was reversed in the spring of 1943 when Werner Best was appointed Reich commissioner for occupied Denmark.During Best’s tenure, the Danish resistance emerged as a force in opposition to the German occupation. The resistance engaged in raids and acts of sabotage that resulted in Best declaring martial law in Denmark. In declaring a state of emergency, Best also seized the opportunity to introduce the Final Solution in Denmark. In October 1943, the Germans commenced arresting Jews, which, in turn, aroused the ire of the Danish population. They alerted the Jews to their imminent danger and proceeded to find places for them to hide. In cooperation with the Swedish government, nearly the entire Jewish population of Denmark was first hidden and then ferried across to Sweden. Initially an act of spontaneous behavior on the part of the Danes, this quickly was given direction by the Danish resistance. The confrontation with the Germans was joined by King Christian X as well as the heads of the Danish churches, who urged their congregations to help the Jews. Sweden also let it be known that it was prepared to absorb all of Denmark’s Jewish population. Subsequently, all but 400 Danish Jews were able to escape the Germans. Those who were rounded up were sent to Theresienstadt, but the Danish people did not forget them. They sent food parcels and insisted that the Danish government be permitted to inspect the camp.Although most of the Jews sent to Theresienstadt eventually were deported to Auschwitz, this was not the case with the Danish Jews. Because of the agitation of the Danish people, the Jews were eventually transferred to a camp in Sweden in the spring of 1945. At the end of the war, a total of 51 Danish Jews had perished, all of them a result of natural causes at Theresienstadt.See also Yellow Star Of David Badge.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.