Israeli President Rivlin Pays Tribute to Danish Rescue of Jews From Nazis on 75th Anniversary
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday recounted the extraordinary rescue of more than 7,000 Danish Jews from the clutches of the Nazis in October 1943.
Speaking at a ceremony in Denmark marking the 75th anniversary of the rescue of the Jews of Denmark, Rivlin praised “the courage, the bravery, the humanity and the solidarity of so many Danish people and the Danish resistance.”
“When people in Europe were asked why they didn’t help their fellow Jews, they often said, ‘What could we have done?’ When those brave Danes were asked about why they helped the Jews, they replied ‘How could we have done anything else? It was our duty as humans,'” Rivlin declared.
Rivlin was joined at the event at a church in the town of Gilleleje by Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen. In September 1943, 86 Jews were hidden at the Gilleleje church before they were given away and deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The following month, 7,200 Jews and 700 non-Jewish relatives — 95 percent of the community — were whisked to safety over the water to neutral Sweden in a daring naval operation that lasted for three weeks.
Rivlin recalled that “exactly 75 years ago, at morning prayers on the eve of the Jewish New Year, 29th September 1943, Rabbi Marcus Melchior, the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen, spoke to the congregation.”
He continued: “The day before, he was warned by the Danish resistance that the Germans were planning to round up the Jews of Denmark and send them to concentration camps. Rabbi Melchior asked the congregation to pass on the news to everyone they knew and told them to leave their homes and to find shelter. The Torah scrolls of the synagogue were hidden in a church nearby. Only then, the rabbi looked for safety for him and his family. A Danish pastor offered him his house. ‘Are you sure?’ Rabbi Melchior asked him. He knew what could happen to the pastor if he was caught. ‘I am prepared to pay the price,’ answered the pastor. And the pastor was not the only one. Over the next two days, the Jews of Denmark went underground, with the help of Danish people who offered help and shelter.”
In his remarks, Prime Minister Rasmussen said that the Holocaust had underlined the need for a Jewish state.
“As a Dane, it is heartwarming to visit Israel, to experience the gratitude for the rescue of the Danish Jews,” Rasmussen said. “Denmark strongly supported the formation of the State of Israel. The cruelty of the Holocaust made it clear that the world’s Jews needed a safe haven.”