Neighbouring nations – saving the lives of Norwegian and Danish Jews

broderfolk2005.10.10 – 2006.03.31

NEIGHBOURING NATIONS
– saving the lives of Norwegian and Danish Jews

This was an inspiring exhibition that showed how numerous courageous people helped to save persecuted Jews in neighbouring Norway and Denmark.

Sixty years after the end of the Holocaust the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, in collaboration with the Living History Forum, had created an exhibition about how Norwegian and Danish Jews were helped to safety.

The exhibition illustrated the dramatic events of November 1942 and October 1943 when Jews from Norway and Denmark managed to escape to Sweden.

Heroic actions by individuals in the border regions of Sweden made it possible for Jews to be saved in the face of mortal danger. How could these rescuers mobilize such courage in situations where their own lives were at risk?

What were the events in neighbouring Norway and Denmark that led to the need to escape? How did people trying to escape manage to avoid Nazi patrols and informants along the Swedish border? These were some of the issues dealt with in the exhibition.

Visitors were able to read personal testimonies from six refugees and from six people who assisted refugees. Their personal stories, some of them presented in public for the first time, were gripping historical documents. We found ourselves in a no-man’s-land between Norway, Denmark and Sweden and could closely follow the Jews’ escape to Sweden with all the risks it involved.

Parallel to the exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, the Living History Forum was organizing an exhibition dealing with Sweden’s role in and attitude towards the Holocaust.

We hope that our exhibition dealing with how Jews managed to escape from occupied Norway and Denmark to safety in Sweden, the dramatic events that this involved and the courageous actions of so many people along the borders have stimulated personal reflection on the dark history of the Holocaust.

 

Yvonne Jacobsson,
Director

 

The exhibition was shown with the support of Conference of Jewish Claims against Germany Inc. (CLAIMS) and in co-operation with The Living History Forum.

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Testimonies from the rescue from Norway

Persecution of Jews in Norway in World War II

When Norway was invaded by German forces on 9 April 1940 there were roughly 2.100 Jews in the country. Just as today, there were only two organized Jewish congregations in Norway – in Oslo and Trondheim. As early as May 1940 the Norwegian Jews were obliged to hand in their radio sets to the occupying forces. This was the first anti-Jewish action by the Germans in Norway. At about the same time the two Jewish congregations were ordered to hand over their membership lists to the police. The lists contained details of each member’s age, place of birth and citizenship. In spite of this, the situation of the Norwegian Jewish minority during the first year of the occupation has been described as “tolerable”.

The Germans commandeered the synagogue in Trondheim on 21 April 1941 and this event marked a dramatic deterioration for the city’s Jewish population. In the autumn of the same year a succession of Jewish properties were confiscated, often in a brutal fashion. The Germans and Vidkun Quisling’s NS regime collaborated in these actions. A further joint action was the declaration on 20 January 1942 that the Norwegian Jews’ identity cards were to be stamped with a red “J”. The Jews were told that there would be no charge for stamping their cards.

This action gave the occupying power and the Quisling regime a decisive foundation for a new and catastrophic phase in the persecution of Norwegian Jews and the result was mass arrests and deportations. The three largest waves of arrests took place in Oslo on 26 October and 26 November and in Trondheim on 7 October. All three were carried out by Nazified Norwegian police. The ships Monte Rosa, Donau and Gotenland conveyed a total of 770 Jews from the harbour in Oslo to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only thirty of the deported Jews survived.

An estimated 1.100 of the ca. 2.100 Jews who were living in Norway in 1940 were able, with the help of the Norwegian resistance movement, to flee to Sweden before the mass arrests took place. Many of these refugees settled in Norrköping and in Uppsala. During the summer of 1945 most of them returned to Norway. They were faced with enormous tasks. Sadly, there were few of them left to fulfil these tasks.

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Testimonies of the rescuers

Hans Christen Mamen:
“I was 23 years old the first time that I helped a Jewish couple to cross the border.

For practical reasons one could only guide three people at a time. The escape route used the railway and buses or the so-called milk bus. The final stage involved crossing a lake – Rödenesjön. On the far side of the lake a farmer named Skogstad helped the refugees on their way to the border. Just across he order there was a Swedish forester who always kept a lamp lit so that the refugees could know that they had reached safety.

The Adler family met with an alarming incident. On their way from Oslo towards Mysen the bus was stopped by the police. Everyone had to show their papers. Mrs Adler was sitting just behind the driver with her husband in the middle of the bus and her son at the back. Mrs Adler was convinced that the situation was hopeless since there was a large ‘J’ on her identity card which she pretended not to be able to find. The policeman said that he would come back and look at it later and carried on down the bus. The two men of the Adler family managed to hide their ‘J’s by holding a finger over them. The policeman returned to Mrs Adler who did not manage to hide the ‘J’ on her card. It was highly visible. Despite this the policeman announced that everything was in order, gave a salute and left the bus!

Another memory: Leopold Berman had already succeeded in getting to Sweden but his wife and their three year-old son needed to be helped across the border. The trip so far had been successful. But the night was cold and the last stage involved walking for ten hours from the lake to the Swedish border. One had to be careful because there were patrols out looking for refugees. The three year-old was a problem so I put him in my rucksack. He found it difficult to sit still and to remain silent for such a long time and began to call out for his mother increasingly loudly. I told him that he really had to be quiet because otherwise he could wake up the birds. And he seemed to accept this!”

 

Willi Olofsson:
“I was born in 1924. I still live in Kroken by the Östervall forest where i grew up. Our farm was about 3 kilometres from the Norwegian border. I was only sixteen when I became involved in helping the Norwegian resistance movement.

About 3.500 refugees passed through our home during the years of the occupation. We invited them in to warm themselves, have something to eat and sometimes to stay the night. Initially my mother did all this out of the goodness of her heart but later the British legation became involved. They erected a military hut equipped with beds alongside our house. There was always food for refugees in our kitchen. All the people who came over the border were tired, many of them completely exhausted. I especially remember a Polish man who came with a group one winter. When they were about to sit down to eat they realized that he was missing. My father took his horse and sledge and went out to look for him. He found the Pole about one kilometre from the border lying in the snow at the top of a hill. He had been too exhausted to continue. He looked dreadful but after hot coffee and some food he recovered and became very talkative.

The people who came across were Norwegian resistance fighters as well as other nationalities. Presumably some of them were Jews but I do not remember that there was any particular mention of Jews or who might be Jewish.

Through the British legation my mother received compensation. Initially she received 75 öre for each refugee that she fed. I was commissioned to take food parcels and other necessities to the Norwegian resistance. The parcels were stored in a shed and I took them, with the help of Munter, our horse, to the Edvinsson farm about 300 metres rom the Norwegian border. People from the Norwegian resistance would then fetch the parcels from a shed there.

My mother cooked food in a giant pan. She was constantly working. When anyone asked her how she managed to keep going she would reply with a quotation from the Bible:’Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.”

 

Jon Moan:
“During the autumn of 1942 there were twelve Jews from Trondheim living at our farm in Leksvik on the other side of the fjord. To oppose he Nazis and help the Jews just came naturally.

Among the Jews whom my friends and I helped to flee to Sweden were Irene Klein and her four year-old daughter Anne Ruth. Irene’s husband had already been arrested and was a prisoner at Falstad outside Trondheim. It was winter time and much of the journey had to be done on skis. Irene did not know how to ski and the only solution was to give her a crash course in the art of skiing. Her training started in the kitchen and after that we trained in the surrounding countryside. After three weeks of intensive training we decided that she could ski well enough to undertake the journey. Time was short because the police were intensifying their search for Jews including women and children and the district law officer had phoned the farm to say that the Jews who were staying there would be collected. Only Irene and her little daughter were still at the farm. Since we would be obliged to carry the child or pull her on a sled we needed four men to escort Irene and her daughter to he border. The route went across Moansetrene to Mosvik, Ytterøy, Levanger and Verdal up into the mountains and on to the Swedish border.

It was a tough journey in cold and windy weather. Irene had to be pulled on a sled for the last part of he trip. It was on the 21 of December that we crossed the border and reached the Skalstugan in Swedish Jämtland. It had taken us three days to cross the mountains. The entire flight took a week. We were given hospitality at a military installation on the Swedish side and Irene and her daughter were at last in safety.

My friends and I reached home again just as the church bells were ringing in Christmas. This was the best Christmas of my entire life.”

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Testimonies of those rescued

Rosa Tankus:
“It was December 1942. I and my sister fled with a group of 16 people. My father and my ittle brother had already been deported. My mother was in hospital and that was her escape.

It was now that our escape began in earnest. Their were 16 of us. Firtst we hid in an air-raid shelter in the middle of Oslo. Our flight was organized by people from the underground resistance movement. They were all anonymous and wore masks. The flight took three days. We had to wait in a cellar. It was cold and we wore boots and woollies. We took nothing with us. We rode in cars, German cars decorated with swastikas, from Oslo to the border. We spent the first night in a barn. Our guides were waiting for instructions. Then we spent a night in an empty house without any water, without a fire. No one must know that we were there. Then we were driven to a lake. Now we had to walk and we were told to spread out.

We walked across the lake on the ice. It was bitterly old, 28°C below zero. My sister and I each had a cyanide capsule in case things went wrong. I don’t know whether the others had cyanide. We walked and walked. And then we saw some white figures a long way off and someone shouted: ‘Look out, Germans’. We thought that this was the end.

The white figures got up and ran towards us and suddenly they shouted ‘Welcome to Sweden’. We had crossed the border at Koppom by the Östervall forest.

We were taken into the barracks of the Swedish border guards and one of them, a customs officer called Andreasson, said ‘You two can stay at my house’. He took my sister and I home with him. Several months later I wrote a postcard to thank him for being so kind. Thirty years later he sought me out. He still had the postcard which he returned to me.

When we returned to Oslo after the war, in June 1945, our entire apartment had been emptied. Even the cooking stove was gone.”

 

Hans Levy:
“I was born in Hamburg in 1919. In 1938 my father had the opportunity to move to Norway as the representative of a British firm. In due course the rest of the family was able to join him in Norway together with my uncle with his family.

Anti-Jewish propaganda was intensified in Norway during the autumn of 1942.One Sunday in October we heard that there had been many arrests and we did not dare to remain in our home. But when we heard that some of the people had been let out again we concluded that the danger was past and we moved back again.The very same evening I was arrested along side my father and my brother. We were interned in the Bredtveit camp.

One month later we were taken to the harbour where a ship was waiting.On the quay there were already about a hundred Jewish women and children who had been woken up at five in the morning. More people arrived until there were about 400 waiting to go on board. Germans and Austrians guarded us. My father said ‘Now we are done for’. Then a German officer called out ‘Arnold Levy, back to the camp’. My father took a step forward and said out loud ‘Not without my sons’. The German officer hesitated for a moment before answering ‘Take them with you,they can go next time instead’.

The three of us returned to the Bredveit camp. We knew what awaited us if we were deported. We were allowed to go outside on the yard and take the air in the evenings. Because of the blackout all the lights were turned off. The recurring ritual of the evening walk was something that the guards got used to.In the middle of January my brother suddenly fell ill with a fever. On the Sunday he had disappeared. I knew about this but my father did not.

My brother, now on the outside, did everything possible to get us out. He smuggled instructions into the camp about escaping during the evening walk.Our opportunity came on 15 February.

My father and I reached Oslo and planned, with the help of an underground organization, to flee to Sweden. We were driven to the border in a taxi. Just before we reached the border we were stopped by the police who demand to see our ‘papers’. The driver showed his papers. The policeman looked at us and said ‘Good luck with your trip’. Shortly afterwards we swapped vehicles and drove towards Fredrikstad on the Oslo Fjord in an ambulance with a flashing light. On the next night we embarked a little fishing boat and made our way to Koster in the dark. We waded ashore but were not at all certain that we had reached Sweden. We lit a fire and sent up an SOS – three short, three long, three short. A motorboat turned up and somebody shouted ‘Welcome to Sweden’.”

 

Liv Kanter:
“I was eight years old in 1942. My father had already left for Sweden. A decree had been issued that all Jewish men over the age of 16 must report to the Gestapo. I remained With my three year-old brother and my other.

There was now a rumour that women and children could be rounded up. My mother said ‘It can’t be true, what could they want us for?’ But the next morning there was a large black vehicle outside the house and they rang he bell. My mother was quick-witted and maintained that as a Danish citizen she was under the official protection of the Danish king. The Gestapo officer became uncertain and said that he would check this and then left. We got dressed as fast as possible. Mother took a case, a sort of midwife’s bag made of artificial leather and she filled it with clothes, a lot of biscuits and all the money that she had at home.

We took the tram to he home of the resistance man who had helped my father. He took us to an apartment where we were collected by another man and we went to Fredrikstad in a taxi. We lodged there with a man who was a butcher and who periodically devoted himself to drinking. Unfortunately we arrived when he was in the middle of a drinking bout. He was drunk almost all the time and sat playing cards with a group of German officers. We were terrified of his daughter who was a member of Hirden, the Nazi youth movement.

We stayed for quite a long time in Fredriksstad as it proved difficult to find a fisherman who could take us over to Koster. But in the end we left. It was a winter’s night and very cold. We had to walk the last bit. We slept for a few hours on Koster in a lighthouse keeper’s cottage. The young lighthouse keepers did everything possible to make us comfortable. On the following day we sailed over to Strömstad. There the local law officer received us. There was a problem because of my mother’s Danish nationality. We were put under some sort of arrest until my father came and got us out.

The local law officer’s report gives the reason for our flight: ‘Claims to have been persecuted in Norway’.

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danmarkThe German occupation of Denmark

Germany occupied Denmark on April 9th 1940. During the first years of the German occupation the Danish government consistently refused to engage in any discussion of the “Jewish question” as they insisted there was no “Jewish question” in Denmark.

In 1943, an internal struggle for power between Werner Best and General von Hanneken resulted in the former sending a telegram on September 8th to the German Foreign Office in Berlin on the question of the Danish Jews.

On September 17th, Hitler ordered that the “Final Solution” was also to encompass the Danish Jews. Surprisingly the decision aroused intense criticism within the Nazi machinery. Werner Best’s close associate at the Legation in Copenhagen C.F. Duckwitz, who had established personal ties with leading Danish Social Democrats, travelled to Berlin – in all likelihood with the approval of his boss and with the intention of conveying the understanding that Best was against the imminent operation. But once the Führer had given an order, it was irreversible.

On September 22nd Duckwitz travelled secretly to Stockholm where, against all the odds, he succeeded in meeting the Swedish Prime Minister. He informed the PM of he imminent operation against the Danish Jews. His information sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity. The Swedish Legation in Denmark was ordered to provide travel documents for all Danish Jews. On October 1st, the Swedish Lelegation in Berlin offered to intern all Danish Jews in Sweden. They received no answer.

On September 28th, Best received the final order to implement the operation and on the same day he informed Berlin that the operation would take place on October 2nd. The same day Duckwitz met with Hans Hedhoft in Copenhagen and informed him of he impending operation. He also urged him to pass on the information and spread the warning. Hedtoft immediately contacted the chairman of the Jewish community in Denmark, C.B. Henriques, who was an advocate of the Supreme Court, as well as passing on the information through other channels. Next morning, early service was celebrated at the synagogue and the congregation was informed of the imminent operation. The warning was spread by word of mouth to almost all the Jews In Copenhagen and the provinces.

Deportation and rescue

In the days preceding October 1st, most Danish Jews took refuge with gentile friends or made their way towards harbours on the coast of the sound, seeking passage to Sweden. As a result, the Gestapo, who led the German raid on he evening of October 1st, found very few Jews at home. The Nazis had also decreed that the Gestapo might only enter those homes that voluntarily opened their doors. That night, “only” some 200 of the 7.000 Danish Jews were arrested. These were mainly the elderly, sick and lonely, who had neither the initiative nor the will to flee. They were put aboard a waiting ship and deported to the Theresienstadt concentration amp in occupied Czechoslovakia.

Next day, on October 2nd, Werner Best declared in a telegram to Berlin that the operation had been a success. Denmark was now “entjudet”, that is free of Jews. Very few had been captured but the Jews had, in fact, left Denmark which was the aim of the operation.

All sections of Danish society were involved in small or larger rescue operations. From a variety of harbours, more than 7.000 Jewish refugees were transported at night in all sorts of boats and ships to Sweden or to the protection of the Swedish coastguards on the open sea.

The story of the Danish people’s spontaneous reaction and help at this critical time in history has been told and retold and still lives on in the memory of many who survived or are affected by the Holocaust. Our understanding of the events will never be complete unless we understand the importance of the Danish, Swedish and – perhaps especially – German authorities’ actions and positions.

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Testimonies of the rescuers

Erick Björk:
“I was born on the island of Råå. I belong to a long line of fishermen and seamen.

In 1941 I was sent to serve in the Malmö naval district and in due course I came to command a small coastguard vessel. We were stationed in Skanör, Limhamn, Landskrona and Råå.

Our job was to check that no unwanted shipping passed through Öresund.

Unofficially we were also to keep an eye out for small boats crossing from Denmark to Sweden.

During the night of the second and third of October 1943 I was patrolling off the port of Limhamn. The night was clear and everything visible in the moonlight. I saw a fishing boat come in, lying deep in the water. I thought ‘There must be lot of refugees on board for the boat to be so low in the water’. Then I saw a German patrol boat behind it. We saw them from time to time. And I knew that if I passed the patrol boat astern it would probably turn round and go back. Which is what it did.

We escorted the fishing boat into the harbour at Limhamn. As the commander in charge it was my duty to check the passports. On this occasion there were 4 people on board the little fishing boat. The youngest was a baby of four months and the oldest a 74 year-old man.

Suddenly I saw on a passport a name that I had seen many times before. To my amazement I was standing face to face with the atomic physicist and Nobel prize- winner Niels Bohr and his brother.

They had moved on every night for three weeks because the Gestapo was looking for them. The Germans desperately wanted to know how heavy water was produced. And the mathematician Niels Bohr had a wealth of useful knowledge about this. Heavy water was an Essential element of atomic research at his time.

I was not allowed to tell anyone that Niels Bohr had come to Sweden. Not even my wife.”

 

Gunnar Nilsson:
“I was born in 1915 in the fishing port of Nyhamn north of Höganäs. For most of my working life I was at the customs station in Höganäs.

When war broke out in the autumn of 1939 there were great changes. The fishermen on this side in the fishing ports of Nyhamn, Mölle, Lerhamn, Lerberget and Viken had formerly had lively contact with the Danish fishermen.

In October 1943 there was a stream of refugees from across the water, principally Jews. Previously there had been a lot of non-Jewish refugees but this month most were Jews. The Danish fishermen offered their services; for which they naturally wanted to be paid. But they took big risks themselves. They concentrated on the northern part of he sound, Gilleleje and an area south of Copenhagen. I was mainly occupied with the northern part.

The number of refugees on a boat varied. One boat took 189 people on a single trip. Mostly the fishing boats carried 20-30 people in cramped conditions below deck.

North of Gilleleje there was a wooded area with a hundred or so summer cabins that were empty during winter. There was a shop, too, and the owner saw to the cabins and kept the keys. This was a perfect arrangement.

It was not far across the water but many of the refugees were in poor shape when they arrived. I especially remember a newborn baby, only about three hours’ old.

That baby is now grown up and well established in society. A number of years ago, in 1983, we had a meeting in Mölle and the Israeli ambassador came as well as the Danish rabbi, Bent Melchior. At the meeting I met the baby again. We celebrated the fortieth anniversary of this flood of refugees with a grand event here in Höganäs.”

 

Nils Pålsson:
“I was born in Råå in 1923. My father’s family had been fishermen for generations.

We could watch the English squadrons on their way to Germany over the sound and could hear the anti-aircraft guns.

My father helped a lot of people flee across the water. Roughly opposite Sofiero, in the middle of the sound on the Danish side, there was a Danish lightship called Lappegrund. Many refugees managed to reach the lightship. This was before the invention of radar so they could enter the harbour at Helsingborg with the lanterns lit. Then they put out the lanterns and turned round and followed the Swedish coast round and then went over to Lappegrund.

There was a signalling system that used the lifebuoy marked ‘Lappegrund Helsingör’ to say how many people were waiting to be fetched. If it was hanging to the left there was only one while if it was on the right there were several eople. People watched with binoculars from Tågaborg. As long as the lifebuoy was hanging straight there was no one waiting.

Other people arrived by boat. When the fishermen were out drifting with their herring nets at night boats would turn up with people whom they took on board. Most of them were Jews. The boats at this time had the old compression-ignition engines and they could all be recognized by their individual sound.

Helping refugees was by no means risk free. But I do not think that they were afraid. They were fishermen and used to taking responsibility for heir actions. There is always danger at sea when a storm blows up and they were used to taking risks from time to time

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Testimonies of those rescued

Paula Gringer:
“I was born in Copenhagen in 1924. My parents were from Poland and Russia respectively. My father was a tailor and he started a business making menswear. My mother was also in the business. We were well off.

After the occupation it was said that everything would carry on as normal and the King encouraged people to remain calm. The Danish government guaranteed the safety of the Jewish population.

The change came in 1943. Germany had been taking advantage of Danish welfare, the Danes were getting tired of this and sabotage by the resistance movement was intensified. On 29 August 1943 a puppet government was installed. The Germans seized the membership lists of the Jewish congregations. On 1 October, at the Jewish New Year, we attended the synagogue. It was announced that a raid was planned for that night. We were told to go home and warn as many people as possible.

My family went out to Snekkersten to the fishing family that we rented a summer cottage from. They were very welcoming. The fisherman promised to arrange a trip across the water to Sweden.

On the train out to Snekkersten there were a lot of Jews on board. The conductor knew at which stations there were German controls and he warned the Jewish passengers so that they could leave the train in time.

Not everyone could organize their own journey over the water. In spite of the fact that we all had to pay the fishermen everyone was taken over – whether they could pay or not. My family willingly paid 1000 crowns for each member. A few nights later the crossing had been organized. We were not allowed to take any luggage and we were to walk slowly down to the beach two at a time. “You don’t need to worry about the German guard’, he said, ‘I have got him fixed’. He knew who was on guard, a very young German boy. The fisherman was a big strong man and he had told him that he had a valuable cargo and that if he saw anything he would be in real trouble. He did not even turn round as we passed.

We lay beneath the deck under a tarpaulin. Everything smelt of fish. The engine started, chuff, chuff, chuff. After we reached Swedish waters we were allowed to come up on deck. We were saved.

The boat landed at Råå. The first thing we saw were soldiers. For an instant I was frightened and thought that we had been deceived. But then I heard their Skåne dialect ‘Welcome to Sweden’.”

 

Willy Salomon:
“In 1943 the terms of the occupation changed and the Germans seized the membership lists of the synagogues.

In the autumn of 1943 there was a rumour of an impending raid. My father knew someone with contacts in the resistance. We took the train out to our summer cottage at Hornbeck. But we slept at the neighbours’ house. During the night the Germans came. They had been tipped off by Danish Nazi. But the house was locked and empty. Had we spent the night there we would have been caught. For several nights we stayed in different houses in the little community.

We were taken in a lorry along the coast to Humlebæck. The lorry was loaded with bricks but only round the edges. In the middle there was an empty space where a number of people could lie down, covered with tarpaulin. During the night we went down to the beach. We were told not to get too close to each other. We stood on the jetty with a lot of other people; my brother with my father behind him and me with my mother behind me. Then the fishing boats arrived.

When we reached the front of the queue they were busy loading a boat. There were six people on it besides the fisherman. ‘We can take one more’ he said. They took my brother and threw him into the boat. My mother protested but they told her to shut up. The boat left and now it was our turn. We lay beneath the deck. In the middle of the sound the fisherman tried to start the engine. A German naval vessel passed us. But the night was dark and there was no sound of engines.

I was wearing two or three sets of underwear, a couple of shirts and a suit with short trousers. Nine year-olds wore shorts in those days. Our documents and passports were in my father’s briefcase. That was all that we had with us. We reached Ven and people continued to land there throughout the night. I remember hearing about a family that drowned. They had tried to take too much luggage with them and their boat capsized.

My father used to say ‘That was my most costly trip across Öresund’. One had to pay the fishermen. If the fishermen were caught the Germans impounded their boat so one paid a sort of insurance premium. Those who had money to pay with did so and those who had no money did not. No one was left behind. I believe that my father paid a huge sum, 25.000 crowns. All the cash that he could scrape together.”

 

Jenny Finder:
“I was 17 years old. At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, they told us in the synagogue that we needed to leave because Jews were to be sent to concentration camps.

My father already knew a fisherman and had previously paid him to take numerous Jewish youngsters across the water so the fisherman now said that he would take our family without payment. We travelled out to a summer cottage at Skottsborg and from there, during the night, the fishing boat collected us.

We sat in cramped conditions beneath the deck with another family, couple with their daughter. Our family consisted of my parents, myself, my two younger sisters and a German foster sister called Betty, one of the German children who had been sent to Denmark.

When the boat reached the Swedish side we came on deck and the fisherman started the engine, chuff, chuff, chuff, chuff. And so we landed on the island of Ven. In my mind’s eye I can still see us wading ashore because the boat stayed off land and we had to wade through the water, splash, splash, splash.

Before we left home my father went down into the coal cellar and attacked the chopping block with an axe. Out poured jewellery and money that he had been saving in case we should have to flee. During our voyage I had so any rings on y fingers that I could not clasp my hands! When we reached the Swedish side we needed the money because there was no public welfare at that time. I was allowed to keep one ring. I still have it.

I do not remember that we took any suitcases with us. My mother had a shoebox which she had filled with our new silver knives and forks. She had to carry this through the water which made her stumble as the silverware was very heavy. I do not remember carrying anything but I remember how my fingers were stretched out because of he rings.

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dagbockerExcerpts from the diaries

Excerpt from the diary of Hans Kaufmann

In 1939, when Hans Kaufmann was fourteen years old, his parents managed to send him with a group of children from Münster, where they lived, to Denmark. And so his life was saved.

4 October 1939: “I say goodbye to my father at the railway station in Münster. My mother goes with me on the night train to Berlin.”

5 October: “I travel with 20 other children of my age to Denmark and to freedom. I am to work on a farm.”

Fyra år senare tvingas Hans återigen fly, denna gång till Sverige.

Four years later, in 1943, Hans again had to flee, this time to Sweden. His diary reports:

5 October 1943:
“In the morning Chajim and I travel to the farm at Søborg to collect our cases. The girls pick up the rest of the luggage at Saltrup Station. At dinner time we all gather at the house of the man who is to lead the trip. More people arrive. We are now a total of 10 Chawerim (friends, editor’s note). We are to wait until the man comes home. We are given both dinner and an evening meal. He was supposed to come back at 6:10 pm. But he does not arrive until 8 pm. Anxious hours of waiting.

There are reports that the Gestapo are in Gilleleje which is where we are to sail from. They are going to get hold of a lorry to drive us to Gilleleje. This proves impossible. Only lorries are allowed on the roads after 8 pm. We cycle to Pårup Station.

In the waiting room are 15-20 older Jews from Copenhagen. They are going to be taken by road to Gilleleje. We abandon our bicycles in Pårup and walk to Gilleleje. While we are walking a car comes along. For safety reasons it is preceded by a Dane on a bicycle. There has been shooting in the harbour at Gilleleje. They want us to know of the danger so that we can decide whether we want to continue. We make a decision to take a risk in order to have a chance. It is now 11 pm and the curfew is in force. The Danes are risking their lives to help the Jews. We continue on foot. A Dane takes the lead. There are now eight of us. At a T-junction just outside Gilleleje we lie down in a ditch. For safety reasons we leave the ditch and hide behind a hedge 150 metres away. After 10 minutes a German car stops at the junction, presumably to position a patrol. We lie behind the hedge for several hours. It blows and rains a little.

Keeping our distance we creep into the village. We are just about to climb into somebody’s garden when two Gestapo officers come up behind us. We throw ourselves at the hedge. The noise we make is added to the rustling of the wind in the trees. They do not hear us.”

Hans Kaufmann was one of 180 Jewish refugees who succeeded in fleeing to Sweden in a boat from Gilleleje in Denmark on 6 October 1943 (editor’s note).

Excerpt from the diary of Bertha Altschuler

It was quite a small boat with room for not more than 15 people. We numbered 90 so conditions were cramped. The most elderly passengers and the children were put in the cabin while we youngsters were placed along the sides of the deck. There was so little space that we lay on top of each other. Things did not improve when we were covered with a net and then with a tarpaulin on top of the net. We were now completely covered up and had to lie there until it got light which was when the boat would leave. This was a matter of 2 or 3 hours. Among the passengers was Mr. Blachmann who lay beside me. To keep our spirits up he narrated an uninterrupted stream of risqué jokes. The rest of us also did what we could to limit our nervousness and defuse the tension. We lay there in our very uncomfortable positions, listening to the fisherman going through his usual preparations for a fishing tour rather than actually transporting 90 refugees to freedom. Every time we heard steps there was a deathly silence beneath the tarpaulin. We were sure it was the Germans wanting to inspect the boat. But we were lucky. It was not the Germans but the Danish police who waved to us and wished us a safe journey.

At last we heard the engine start and we moved off. It was not long before the boat started to rock wildly. The foul smell underneath the tarpaulin and the cramped conditions did not improve matters.

I soon started to vomit and suffer from all of the horrors of seasickness. The others were also seasick and after an hour we were covered in each other’s vomit. The waves were now breaking over the boat, the tarpaulin was not waterproof and we got soaked. Everyone was in the same state and no one spoke. Blachmann with all the jokes was just as “dead” as the rest of us. Our strength only sufficed, from time to time, to stick out our heads and ask the fisherman whether we would soon be on Swedish territory. But each time we received the discouraging answer that we should be patient. We could not sail directly to Sweden but had to make a lengthy detour. Besides which we had to remain in the boat until it was dark and we could go ashore. This was dreadful news; the thought of lying in the boat for another ten hours appalled. After a terrible night in these cramped conditions our limbs ached. We lay in even more uncomfortable positions in a mixture of vomit and icy salt water.

What was that noise? In our misery we tried to identify the noise that we could hear. An aeroplane passed over the boat. The Germans were making an inspection. We tried to make ourselves as small as possible and hardly dared to breathe. The plane flew off but returned half an hour later; or perhaps it was another one. Our nerves were at breaking point. When we were not being sick and the ice-cold waves stopped washing over us for a moment the Germans were there, inspecting us. All the time we thought of the Germans, the Germans. On that day the name etched itself in my innards with the force of desperate hatred.

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En vandring i utställningen

stockholm

The image is typical of Stockholm from the time of the period the exhibition’s events take place.

norge2

 

norge1

Refugees passing the Norwegian border in the beginning of the forties.

ryggsack

Hans Christen Mamen and the rucksack, in which he transported the small children over the border from Norway to Sweden.

shofar

In the background, standing, is the shofar from Norway that were kept safely in Sweden during the war. In the foreground a photograph of Filip Kahn and his diary from the time of the war’s end and peace in Norway.

malning

Danish Jews hide in a brickyard before the fligt to Sweden. Photograph of oil on canvas, 167 x 67 cm. Artist Adina Edel Sompolinsky, sister to Jenny Finder.
Privat property.

jenny_paula

Below, to the righ: Fork, knife, tablespoon and coffee spoon from newly bought nyköpta table silver that Jenny Finder’s mother brought to Sweden from Denmark. Above is the ring that Jenny Finder was allowed to keep after the arrival in Sweden. Beside it is Paula Gringer’s passport for Danish citizens residing as refugees in Sweden. They were issued by the Danish Consulate in Gothenburg. Below the passport her royal sign in silver is seen.
Private property.

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