On a more elusive level, the consequences of the Danish cooperation policy for the European Jews raise a reasonable question, since Danish exports of food, weapons, machines for the metal industry, cement and ships to Germany did prolong the war – and thereby the sufferings of the Jews.2 However, even though the Danish government had no guarantee that this strategy would succeed, it is an unquestionable fact – despite the tragic side-effects – that the policy of cooperation saved the Danish Jews from the Nazi genocide.
The German occupying authorities accepted that the promise given on April 9, 1940 – that they would not infringe the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Denmark or its political independence – also included the security of the Danish Jews. When the promises given by the Germans were exposed to pressure, which happened repeatedly during political crises, any talk of special measures directed at the Danish Jews was categorically rejected by the Danish government.
The Danish and German authorities were in agreement that “the Jewish question” was not to be raised. In specific situations the Danish government was willing to give minor concessions, with the full backing of the Jewish Community in Denmark. This entailed a restrictive practice with regard to appointing Jews to prominent public offices and in certain cases submitting to German pressure to omit radio broadcasts by or about Jewish personalities. The Germans, on the other hand, carried out no special measures against the Jews in Denmark.
Action against the Jews was successfully postponed until October 1943, even though deportations from occupied Europe to the death camps in Eastern Europe started in March 1942. The German Reich Plenipotentiary and SS general Werner Best, the supreme commander in Denmark, was personally deeply involved in ensuring that the Danish Jews were warned before the roundup was carried out on October 1, 1943. His orders also made certain that the roundup was limited in scope (it was to be completed in three hours) and the German police were ordered not to break down doors or enter homes by force. The moderation of the German authorities and the numerous attempts by the Danish authorities to avoid a roundup and alleviate its consequences were both results of the policy of cooperation.
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Get a discount of 10% at selected cafés by showing your ticket from the museum (Photo: Eddie Michel Azoulay).
- an exhibition about Jews in Denmark
The exhibition is a broad story of Jewish life in Denmark and focuses on co-exixstence and indentity through 400 years. Read more...
September - May:
Tuesday-Friday: 1 pm - 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 12 noon - 5 pm