Saving Denmark Jews in WW-II

In a unique rescue operation during World War II, organized by the Danish resistance movement, and fully supported by the Danish authorities, the vast majority of the Danish Jews were saved from death in the Holocaust.

The history of the Danish Jews goes back to 1622, when the first Jews came to the country from Amsterdam and Hamburg at the invitation of the King. During the Age of Enlightenment in late 18th century Europe, the Jewish community in Denmark started to flourish both economically and culturally. The Danish King ordered several reforms that made it much easier for the Jews to integrate into Danish society, including the rights to join guilds and universities, buy land, and establish schools.

In 1814, the 2,000 Jews in Denmark at that time were granted full equal rights (with one exception: to become citizens they had to pass a "confirmation" - a special test in Judaism). During the 19th century the Jewish community continued to grow and prosper. Many Jews became prominent figures of Danish culture, and several reached high positions in the Danish government. Acts of violence against Jews were very rare and mild, with no reports of casualties. Organized Zionist activities started in Denmark in 1902. During World War I, Copenhagen hosted the Zionist Congress, as Denmark remained neutral during the war.

The Jewish community in Denmark has always been relatively very small, peaking at about 8,000 on the eve of World War II. Nazi Germany invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940 ("Operation Weserubung") in violation of Denmark's neutrality. The Jews in Denmark were not affected immediately due to an agreement between the Nazis and the Danish authorities that allowed the Danish government to continue to function as usual. The Nazis even gave up on their request that the Jews would display the infamous yellow badge after the King Christian X threatened to wear it also.

In 1943, following an escalation against the Nazi occupation by the Danish resistance movement, the Nazis imposed a military administration. This move enabled the Nazis to start planning the deportation of the Jews to the death camps. Fortunately, information about the plot leaked at the end of Sep. 1943. The Jews got a chance to go underground by hiding among Danish friends.

In the following three weeks, the Danish underground, with the full support of various Danish institutions (including the Danish police, the King, the clergy and the universities), organized the transportation of about 7,200 Jews (90% of the Jewish population) and about 700 of their non-Jewish relatives to the east coast of the country and from there, via fishing boats, to neutral Sweden. Unfortunately, close to 500 Jews failed to escape and were captured. The Nazis sent them to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The Danish continued to support them there by sending supplies. The end result was that only about 150 Danish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem (Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust) recognized the entire Danish underground as Righteous Among the Nations for the heroic rescue operation. Following the request of the Danish underground to be commemorated as a group, Yad Vashem made a rare exception to its general rule that recognition should only be given to individuals.

The stamp was issued in 1973 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the rescue of the Jews in Denmark. It was designed by A. Berg.