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Did high level Nazis conspire to save the Jews of Copenhagen?

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  • Did high level Nazis conspire to save the Jews of Copenhagen?

    This is an amazing story,

    https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-45919900

    When Alexander Bodin Saphir's Jewish grandfather was measuring a high-ranking Nazi for a suit in Copenhagen 75 years ago he got an important tip-off - the Jews were about to be rounded up and deported. It has often been described as a "miracle" that most of Denmark's Jews escaped the Holocaust. Now it seems that the country's Nazi rulers deliberately sabotaged their own operation.
    It was a cold October night 75 years ago when my grandparents, Fanny and Raphael Bodin, stood on the dock of a harbour on the east coast of Denmark with their 15-month-old daughter, Lis, in their arms.
    I imagine they peered into the darkness, nervously awaiting the fisherman who would take them across the water to the safety of neutral Sweden. Until that point the Jews of Denmark - unlike those in other parts of occupied Europe - had been free to go about their business. But now the order had been given to transport them to Germany "for processing".
    So my grandparents and aunt fled. As they boarded the fishing boat they handed the fisherman a substantial sum of money for the hour-long boat trip across the Oresund - the narrow stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. Then it started to rain and my aunt began to cry. The fisherman, fearing the Germans would hear her cries, ordered my grandparents either to leave their child on the dock or get off the boat. They chose the latter and watched as the boat cast off for Sweden with their money and perhaps their last chance of escape.
    Fortunately, it wasn't their last chance. They succeeded in making the crossing the very next night - after giving their daughter a sleeping pill to ensure she remained silent - and lived out the rest of the war in Sweden.
    Their story mirrors that of the vast majority of Danish Jews. According to Sofie Lene Bak, associate professor in history at Copenhagen University, 7,056 of them escaped to Sweden, with 472 captured and deported to Theresienstadt.

    This became known as the "Miracle Rescue" but many Danish historians now believe it was less miraculous than it seems. And my grandparents' experience provides evidence for this theory.
    My grandfather - usually known by his nickname, Folle - always claimed that the reason they managed to escape early in that month of miracles was because of a high-ranking German officer who came to his brother-in-law's tailor shop, N Golmanns, on Istedgade in the seedy red light district of Copenhagen.
    After the war my grandfather would open his own shop, R Bodin on St Kongensgade, one of the most fashionable streets in Copenhagen, but in 1943 he was still learning his craft. Together with his brother-in-law, Nathan, they would take measurements of new customers and note them down with other relevant information on A5 cards. These cards were stored in a bureau in the shop. I suspect my grandfather's hands shook as he took the measurements and fitted the suit of this particular German officer, who must have been pleased with the finished article as he then offered my grandfather and brother-in-law a warning: "Get out, while you still can. There's a round-up coming."
    My grandfather never named the high-ranking German officer, but years later Nathan made a startling declaration to my cousin, Margit. The source of the leak that saved my Danish family was none other than Dr Karl Rudolph Werner Best - the very man who, as Germany's plenipotentiary in Denmark (and, moreover, deputy head of the SS) was in charge of ensuring that Denmark's Jews were sent to their death.
    So why would such a man - a member of Hitler's inner circle, known as the Butcher of Paris for his relentless pursuit of France's Jews a year before - be fraternising with Jewish tailors in the red light district of Copenhagen, much less warning them to escape? It's hard to believe.
    When Margit heard the story, she immediately went to the bureau which still then held pride of place in the family tailor shop. She searched for the measurement cards from 1940-1943 and rifled through to the letter B. Her heart stopped as she pulled out the card of Dr Karl Rudolph Werner Best.
    The measurement cards have since been lost, but the story has always fascinated me. A few years ago I started to turn it into a play, and learned then how historians have been rewriting the narrative of the miracle rescue.
    Dispite our best intentions, the system is dysfunctional that intelligence failure is guaranteed.
    Russ Travers, CIA analyst, 2001

  • #2
    This is well documented in a number of Holocaust histories. See for example Christian Gerlach, The Extermination of the European Jews, Cambridge University Press, 2016. Denmark was of vital importance to the 3rd Reich as a source of food. As a result, although occupied, Denmark was treated with some care and retained its own government with its King as Head of State. That government was quite prepared to refuse to do the Germans' bidding and had done so on several occasions. The Germans did not want major disturbances to disrupt the export of food stuffs to Germany. It was known that the King was strongly opposed to Jewish persecution as was the parliament and many ordinary Danes. It was anticipated that any serious attempt at forced deportation of the Jews would result in riots, mass demonstrations and strikes. Whilst the Nazis had no moral scruples about suppressing these by force it would mean diverting troops and would have a severe impact on food production. Nevertheless Best had been ordered by Berlin to begin to clear the Jews from Denmark. He therefore ensured that the forthcoming action was well leaked and not just to a single Jewish tailor.
    The German soldiers and policemen given the task of doing the round up were told to knock on the door of the houses concerned and announce loudly why they had come but if no one answered they were not to force the door but go away quietly. As a result most of the Jewish population with the aid of Danish resistance were able to escape to Sweden. Best also arranged for German naval patrols to be otherwise engaged. As a result Best was able to report to Berlin that Denmark was free of Jews and food supplies remained unaffected
    Last edited by MarkV; 09 Nov 18, 06:33.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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    • #3
      The previous post illustrates that the Danish Jews owed their survival in no small part to the willingness of the Danish government to stand up to the German occupiers. That such possibilities existed is well illustrated by what happened in France. This also well documented by Gerllach and is well covered by a paper in Cesarani's Final Solution ( Not his enormous tome published in 2016 but an earlier compilation of academic papers published under the same title and edited by Cesarani)

      It is often not appreciated that the Petain administration based in Vichy were responsible for running many strands of French government not only in the unoccupied zone but also in the occupied parts of France. One of these functions was the police. This situation continued even when all of France was occupied and only ceased with the liberation in 1944. Germany had a major manpower problem and as a result German security services were spread very thin across Hitler's European empire. Contrary to the impression given by some popular films, TV etc there was not a member of the Gestapo lurking round every corner. Considerable reliance was placed on the co-operation of local police forces who had both the numbers and knowledge of their own patch.

      When the time came for the intended deportation of French Jews East to the extermination centres the Germans had two major problems. Firstly they didn't know who many of them were or where they lived (especially outside of Paris) - most of the knowledge was in French hands. Secondly because of the pressures on the railway system of the military needs and the transport of strategic materials (especially food) to Germany trains could only be allocated and scheduled within a very tight window.

      Whilst the Vichy government was anti-Semitic and had no qualms about discriminating against all . Jews in general and rounding up and handing over non French Jews living in France (the numbers of which had swelled considerably before 1940) when it came to handing over FRENCH Jews there was a firm NON. Persecuted and despised they might be but they were French citizens and they would stay in France to be persecuted and despised. Pierre Laval was presented with a schedule of how many Jews were to be delivered to the deportation railway centres each day in order to meet the constrictions on the allocation of trains. He refused to sign the necessary revocation of citizenship, deportation orders and instructions to the police, later he agreed to sign them but didn't do so and later still he said he had signed them but nothing reached the police. The Germans did try and do their own rounding up but they lacked both the resources and, importantly, the knowledge of whom to round up and where to go to do it. They did not have the manpower to do extensive house to house searches checking identity papers and the French police refused to hand over their records. In the mean time many Jews were quietly moving out of their registered dwellings and finding accommodation elsewhere, Many fled the towns for the country where some joined the local maquis. There was great hardship but the majority survived.

      Most of the deportation trains had to be cancelled as there were not enough deportees to fill them and the window allocated by the transportation authorities closed. 80% of French Jews survived to see the liberation. 20% murdered is still a x shocking and tragic amount but it is a far smaller proportion than in every other mainland European country other than the neutrals Finland and Denmark. It didn't save Laval's neck at the end of the war.
      Last edited by MarkV; 11 Nov 18, 11:53.
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Urban hermit View Post
        This is an amazing story,

        https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-45919900

        When Alexander Bodin Saphir's Jewish grandfather was measuring a high-ranking Nazi for a suit in Copenhagen 75 years ago he got an important tip-off - the Jews were about to be rounded up and deported. It has often been described as a "miracle" that most of Denmark's Jews escaped the Holocaust. Now it seems that the country's Nazi rulers deliberately sabotaged their own operation.
        It was a cold October night 75 years ago when my grandparents, Fanny and Raphael Bodin, stood on the dock of a harbour on the east coast of Denmark with their 15-month-old daughter, Lis, in their arms.
        I imagine they peered into the darkness, nervously awaiting the fisherman who would take them across the water to the safety of neutral Sweden. Until that point the Jews of Denmark - unlike those in other parts of occupied Europe - had been free to go about their business. But now the order had been given to transport them to Germany "for processing".
        So my grandparents and aunt fled. As they boarded the fishing boat they handed the fisherman a substantial sum of money for the hour-long boat trip across the Oresund - the narrow stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. Then it started to rain and my aunt began to cry. The fisherman, fearing the Germans would hear her cries, ordered my grandparents either to leave their child on the dock or get off the boat. They chose the latter and watched as the boat cast off for Sweden with their money and perhaps their last chance of escape.
        Fortunately, it wasn't their last chance. They succeeded in making the crossing the very next night - after giving their daughter a sleeping pill to ensure she remained silent - and lived out the rest of the war in Sweden.
        Their story mirrors that of the vast majority of Danish Jews. According to Sofie Lene Bak, associate professor in history at Copenhagen University, 7,056 of them escaped to Sweden, with 472 captured and deported to Theresienstadt.

        This became known as the "Miracle Rescue" but many Danish historians now believe it was less miraculous than it seems. And my grandparents' experience provides evidence for this theory.
        My grandfather - usually known by his nickname, Folle - always claimed that the reason they managed to escape early in that month of miracles was because of a high-ranking German officer who came to his brother-in-law's tailor shop, N Golmanns, on Istedgade in the seedy red light district of Copenhagen.
        After the war my grandfather would open his own shop, R Bodin on St Kongensgade, one of the most fashionable streets in Copenhagen, but in 1943 he was still learning his craft. Together with his brother-in-law, Nathan, they would take measurements of new customers and note them down with other relevant information on A5 cards. These cards were stored in a bureau in the shop. I suspect my grandfather's hands shook as he took the measurements and fitted the suit of this particular German officer, who must have been pleased with the finished article as he then offered my grandfather and brother-in-law a warning: "Get out, while you still can. There's a round-up coming."
        My grandfather never named the high-ranking German officer, but years later Nathan made a startling declaration to my cousin, Margit. The source of the leak that saved my Danish family was none other than Dr Karl Rudolph Werner Best - the very man who, as Germany's plenipotentiary in Denmark (and, moreover, deputy head of the SS) was in charge of ensuring that Denmark's Jews were sent to their death.
        So why would such a man - a member of Hitler's inner circle, known as the Butcher of Paris for his relentless pursuit of France's Jews a year before - be fraternising with Jewish tailors in the red light district of Copenhagen, much less warning them to escape? It's hard to believe.
        When Margit heard the story, she immediately went to the bureau which still then held pride of place in the family tailor shop. She searched for the measurement cards from 1940-1943 and rifled through to the letter B. Her heart stopped as she pulled out the card of Dr Karl Rudolph Werner Best.
        The measurement cards have since been lost, but the story has always fascinated me. A few years ago I started to turn it into a play, and learned then how historians have been rewriting the narrative of the miracle rescue.
        No.

        One or two Nazi's might have hinted for a friend to flee, but being a Nazi means being Evil.
        How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
        Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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