The synagogue security guard who was killed in the terror attack early Sunday morning in Copenhagen, Denmark has been hailed as a hero by friends, family and members of the local Jewish community, as details of the attack began to emerge late in the day.
Dan Uzan, a volunteer, who was on duty as some 8o people celebrated at a bat-mitzva party inside the community center, “prevented a massacre from occurring” the head of Copenhagen’s Jewish community, Dan Rosenberg Asmussen told Danish media outlets.”He and his family paid a very high price.” Authorities said that Uzan was talking to police outside the house of worship when he was shot from close range by the assailant.
In both physical appearance, and in personality, those that knew Uzan, who stood over 6.5 feet tall, described him as a giant. A former elite basketball player, Uzan held a degree in economics and was said to be a hard worker.
On social media, Uzan was honored for his dedication to the Jewish community, with some even comparing him to the legendary Jewish hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, Mordechai Anielewicz.
“My hero,” wrote one woman on Facebook, who had attended the bat-mitzva inside the synagogue, “you sacrificed your life to look after me, my family and friends. Rest in peace dearest friend.”
Flemming Voetmann, Uzan’s cousin, told Danish news agency Ritzau that Uzan cared deeply about his community and always volunteered to help. “It was very symptomatic of Dan that he had offered to help out last night,” said Voetmann. “He was the warmest person I knew.”
One of his oldest and closest friends, Daniel, who said he has known Uzan from the age of three – they attended the same Jewish school in Copenhagen – told The Algemeiner that Uzan was always known among his friends as “Dan the Man.”
“I’ve known Dan since we were three years old,” he said, “He was the sweetest guy in the world. He would always offer his help to everyone, never refuse a request for assistance… He was a rock to all who knew him, and was known by everyone in the Jewish community. In the Jewish football club, Hakoah, he was known as ‘the big goalie.’ Among the voluntary guards, he was known as ‘the big rock.’ The man who, when you gave him a hug, you simply disappeared in his giant arms.
“Dan served the community as a guard for twenty years! Since he was 17 years old… Rain or shine, whether it was freezing or blazing hot, Dan would be there and he stood there like a rock,” Daniel, who asked The Algemeiner not to publish his last name, said of his friend. “As a friend, you could always call him, no matter what the time of day. He would always show up. Always.”
An elderly Jewish couple, fragile and visibly shaken by Uzan’s death, were interviewed by Danish television outside the synagogue, where people had gathered to lay flowers and offer prayers. “We are shocked,” they said, barely able to talk, “he was such a fine human being. Always happy, always smiling and always ready to help. Nothing was too heavy for Dan Uzan, nothing too difficult.”
Uzan’s friends at his Danish basketball club, the Hoersholm 79ers, said they were horrified and heartbroken by the cruel murder, Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported. “Dan was extremely liked by all,” Peter Dam, a member of the club’s board, said, “Involved and happy. He played with Muslims, Arabs and all nationalities; it is so unreal that he had to die in this way.”
“He also helped organise several parties for the young kids of the club, where he made sure that they were safe,” Dam added. Uzan played for the basketball club for several years, and served a stint as the team captain. The club has scheduled a memorial tribute for him at their next game on Monday night.