Saturday, January 29th | 27 Shevat 5782

March 15, 2018 11:34 am

Examining Holocaust History in Denmark and Elsewhere

avatar by David Kornbluth


Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Furya via Wikimedia Commons.

A prince of Denmark recently died, and a story in The Algemeiner took the opportunity to once again praise the famous escape of Danish Jews to Sweden during World War II.

Here, as with so much about the Holocaust, too many people attempt to rewrite history before it has been written.

The first go at this was the last gasp of Nazi propaganda: the claim that the Wehrmacht (the regular German army) was untainted, and that the murdering was done solely by the SS. It was a big lie then, and it’s a big lie now.

And this lie is partly responsible for letting the vast majority of the German murderers die unpunished.

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Research, initiated by Professor Omer Bartov and others, has now caught up with the racist Wehrmacht’s central and pro-active murderous role in the Holocaust. We now know, for example, that the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar was done by the Sixth Army — later to meet their well-deserved destruction at Stalingrad.

Individual Wehrmacht murderers can also now be identified. Von Choltitz — the savior of unburnt Paris in August 1944, was — by his own admission — the murderer of the 27,000 Jews of the Crimea. There are many other examples, and there will be more.

The professed innocence of the Austro-German army was fake propaganda. Undeniably, it was an antisemitic and racist army. Young Germans (and Austrians?) know this today, better than anyone else.

But not everyone falls into that boat. You should watch the amazing YouTube video “March of Life: Descendants of Nazi Perpetrators Sing the Hatikvah.” I dedicate this article to them — and their civic courage.

The Danish example is another case where the history of the Holocaust has been tainted.

The Danes did save their Jewish population, enabling them to flee to nearby Sweden.

Yes, the circumstances were favorable. The actions of the Danish police, the absence of informers, even — apparently — the cooperation of some Germans were responsible for this. And Denmark had the Swedes, who — by October 1943 — were prepared to take in the 7,742 Danish Jews together with 1,376 German Jewish refugees in Denmark. Around 250 Jews got trapped in Denmark.

It was a great act — and should be justly praised.

And when this story became widely known in the 1960s, pioneered by Leni Yahil’s book on the escape that was published by the Jewish Publication Society, the Danes became the darlings of the Jews.

Israel and the Jews, still reeling from the isolation of the 1930s and the Holocaust itself, were more than grateful for any kind of warmth and companionship. The hand of friendship was reciprocally extended.

Gradually though, this began to feel odd. Why? Because after Hitler’s election and takeover in 1933, tens of thousands of Jews has been desperately trying to flee Germany. The futile 32 nation Evian Conference of 1938 marked the low point of international diplomacy.

Simply put, no state — except the Dominican Republic — was willing to accept Jewish refugees. This includes Denmark.

Consider the history of this yourself — Jews were clamoring to escape since 1933. So why were there so few Jews in Denmark? Because, according to Andrew Roberts’ The Storm War, “the Danes had restricted German Jewish immigration in the 1930’s, and actually closed the border to them in 1938”– as did Sweden. He adds that Nazi-occupied Denmark produced 15% of the Reich’s food supply, a system overseen by only a couple of hundred administrators.

So a touch of humility about Denmark’s record in the Holocaust might be in order here — and perhaps even a little less festivity.

Other countries saved their Jews, too.

Bulgaria protected its own, though it surrendered those from territory it had occupied while allied with Germany. France saved about two-thirds of the Jews on its soil, and got very bad press for that. (Corsica saved its own, too.) Holland was just the reverse, some 80% of Jews there were murdered. Yet the Dutch came out of the war with a far better reputation than most — a major example of re-writing Holocaust history before it was written.

Albania was apparently the only country in Europe to have ended the war with more Jews than it began. Britain, unoccupied by the skin of its teeth, took in some 70,000 refugees from 1933-1939, mostly in the last year (the writer’s mother included). But the British record will be forever blackened by the 1939 White Paper — an act of appeasement towards Palestinian Arabs.

So Britain doesn’t have a lot to be proud of — especially considering the size of its empire. And the as-of-yet unidentified senior Canadian immigration official who said that “none is too many” when it came to Jewish immigrants, will live in infamy.

Holocaust history must be told truthfully. It’s a powerful thing. Ask the Poles. Or remind the Swiss, where the memory of our murdered people crushed the disgraceful arrogance of Swiss bankers and took much of Swiss banking secrecy with it.

As for Denmark, by all means let’s praise all those who saved Jews. And let’s praise them highly, too. But don’t forget those individuals who prevented our people’s escape.

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