Previous posts in this discussion:
PostVichy France and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA, 08/14/12 1:46 pm)
Alain de Benoist (14 August) pointed out that three quarters of French Jews survived the Vichy regime. Alain is right as far as French Jews are concerned, but nonetheless he is wrong when he says that the percentage of French Jews that were murdered was the lowest of all the Wehrmacht-occupied European countries (26% in France, 75% in The Netherlands).
That honor belongs not to France but to Denmark. Less than one percent of Jewish Danes were murdered.
JE comments: And the worst, as we know, was in all-suffering Poland: Ninety percent of the 3.3 million prewar Jewish population was murdered.
How did so many of the Danish Jews survive? Was it the proximity of neutral Sweden, or their overall small numbers to begin with (only 8000)? Did the non-Jewish Danes protect them in large numbers?
Vichy France and the Holocaust
(Gilbert Davis, USA
08/15/12 8:06 AM)
Both Istvan Simon and Anthony D'Amato (14 August) got it right in their respective responses to Alain de Benoist's assertion: "Many bad things were surely done by 'Puppet Vichy.' How is it however that the proportion of French Jewish victims of the Holocaust was, fortunately, the lowest of all the other Wehrmacht-occupied European countries (26% in France, 75% in Netherlands)?"
But let me add that Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark and even Finland had lower percentages of their Jewish citizens die in the death camps than did France. Their statistics range down from 22-0%. The main reason for this was the unwillingness of their respective governments to cooperate with their Nazi occupiers or overlords.
By contrast, the French police were the main arm in the roundups that sent both French and refugee Jews (from Germany and elsewhere) to the infamous Drancy and Vélodrome d'Hiver, way stations to the death camps in the East. With the Vichy government's first defining Jews essentially by race and then later liquidating Jewish property (enacted into law, March 20, 1941), the stage was set for what the Danes, Finns, Bulgarians, and to a lesser extent Italians, would not tolerate.
Let me also add my urging that members have a look at Richard H. Weisberg's Vichy La Justice et les Juifs, which is available in English as Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France (NYU Press, 1996). Though the book focuses on the French legal profession's failure (downright unwillingness) to raise its collective voice in protest against the anti-Jewish laws adopted by the Vichy government, along the way Weisberg gives an excellent picture of how tolerant, even cooperative, the French were in standing by as these outrages turned ever more murderous.
JE comments: I'm under the weather today, so I got a late start with WAISing. My apologies for the delays.
Next up, a word from David Gress on Denmark in the Holocaust.
- Denmark and the Holocaust (David Gress, Denmark 08/15/12 8:14 AM)
Istvan Simon's post of 14 August is my cue to come in as a half-Dane and historian, and hello again to all you other such brilliant WAISers, whose deeds and experience so far surpass my own.
Why so many Danish Jews survived--only about 80 out of 8,000 perished--is simply explained. The Germans allowed it.
In August of 1943, a wave of strikes broke out across much of Denmark, thoroughly disturbing Danish food and mechanical production for Germany. The Reich Plenipotentiary for Denmark--der Bevollmächtichge des Deutschen Reiches in Dänemark--Dr. Werner Best, realized that to ensure further reliable deliveries of food and mechanical parts he would need to keep the Danes in line.
Dr. Best was, by the way, the Nazi party's leading legal mind. He had written a dissertation in 1931 as one of the cleverest jurists in Germany.
On August 29, 1943, the Danish government resigned over German claims that the Danes institute the death penalty for saboteurs. Until that day, the German occupation authorities had no direct jurisdiction in Denmark.
In September, the order came down from Berlin to corral the Danish Jews for transport. Best knew that if he executed that order, given the rebellious spirit of the August demonstrations, he would risk further disruption of Danish deliveries of food and supplies. Danes would not allow their Jewish compatriots to be dragged away without objecting, and dramatically.
Best therefore chose the easiest way out. He leaked the plan for arresting all Danish Jews to the naval attaché at the German embassy in Copenhagen, Friedrich von Duckwitz, who duly leaked it to the Danish Resistance. And so, on Rosh Hashanah in 1943 by the Christian calendar, when the uniformed German soldiers were told where to find the Jews, they were mostly all gone, and because Best had ordered the naval patrols in the Sound between Denmark and Sweden to be very sleepy, 7,900 plus of Danish Jews escaped. The few who were arrested were taken to Theresienstadt, where 77 died.
So one can say that the reason Best did not execute the order from Berlin was that he was frightened of a Danish popular reaction. We can also say that Best had an easy out: that the Danish Jews could be sailed to neutral Sweden across less than four miles of water. Get rid of them, get rid of being bothered by Berlin. Everyone's happy.
Let me add that I thoroughly agree with Alain's comment about the Vichy government's attitude to Jews. It was, in the main, honorable, and I think in general that the government of Marshal Pétain has been grossly misunderstood by many who think that victory gives them the right to tramp on the defeated. Marshal Pétain was a great man.
JE comments: I did not know this about Dr. Best; most interesting. I wonder how the Jewish refugees were received in Sweden. But David Gress's last paragraph will be extremely controversial. Pétain, despite a victory at Verdun which saved France in 1916-'17, later became synonymous with treason throughout the world. Pétain was spared the gallows only because of his advanced age.
Last month we re-evaluated Chamberlain; is it now Pétain's turn? A great man? Makes me cringe.
Istvan Simon (next in the queue) attributes the high survival rate of the Danish Jews to one man, King Christian X (the 10th).
- Denmark and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 08/15/12 8:43 AM)
JE asked on 14 August why the Danish Jews survived the Holocaust. It was due to King Christian X (the 10th), who resisted the Nazis' order to marginalize and separate Jews from the rest of Danish society. When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a yellow star, Christian X went on his daily horseback ride wearing a yellow star. This gesture galvanized Danish society. Jews were systematically smuggled to Sweden, saved one by one, family by family by the magnificent Danes. An example where one man, the King, made a huge difference in the lives of thousands.
JE comments: King Christian's contribution to the Jewish Danes' high survival rate is no doubt significant, but the yellow star story is apparently apocryphal. (See Wikipedia on Christian X of Denmark.) According to the Wiki-account, this story was popularized by Leon Uris in his 1958 novelized account of the founding of Israel, Exodus. Among other things, the Germans never imposed the yellow star marking on Denmark.
Christian X, Denmark, and the Holocaust
(Holger Terp, Denmark
08/16/12 6:04 AM)
In response to Istvan Simon (15 August), there are, according to the best of my knowledge, no contemporary sources to confirm the story of King Christian X and the Jewish Star. The king was pleased with businessmen, and there certainly would have been some Jews among them. The story of the king and yellow star is a myth.
I have documented the rescue of the Danish Jews in English here:
Thus the resistance work was partly non-violent civil disobedience during the war and partly violent, or as the Danish historians describe it, active and passive resistance. This is clearly exemplified by the medical profession.
On October 3, 1943, the bishops' protest on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church / Folkekirken, against the persecutions of the Jews in Denmark, was read as a pastoral letter at worship services. The escape to Sweden of the 5600 Danish Jews, half-Jews and relatives of Jews around and after October 1943 was only possible because the medical profession and students on a mass scale helped the Jews to escape.
The doctors used hospitals to hide the Jews and their cars for transportation. Also the Danish chapters of WRI and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom were active in the rescue of the Jews.
Between 60 and 200 small Jewish children up to the age of seven were separated from their parents and hidden in Danish families. This case is currently under investigation by historians at the Danish Jewish Museum.
However, not all the Jews were saved. Four hundred eighty-one Danish Jews ended up in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.
After the escape of the Jews many of the doctors and students became active in the militant resistance movement.
In 1963 the Danish-American entertainer Victor Borge and the New York attorney Richard Netter founded Thanks to Scandinavia to commemorate the courage and decency of people who rescued Jews during WWII.
Members of the Other Germany, like Hilltgunt Zassenhaus (born 1916), tried to help Danish and Norwegian prisoners in Germany during World War II. Her American autobiography was published in Danish in 1974.
The émigré professor Walther A. Berendsohn, the son of a Jew, escaped to Sweden in a small boat together with two German deserters from Luxemburg and a Danish saboteur. On October 22, 1942, the German soldier Alfred Andersch deserted in Germany and sailed to Denmark.
Sources: Stræde, Therkel: October 1943: The Rescue of the Danish Jews from Annihilation, 1993.
See also the introduction to: Steffensen, Steffen: På flugt fra nazismen: Tysksprogede emigranter i Danmark efter 1933. 1987.
Translated into German:
Exil in Dänemark. Deutschsprachige Wissenschaftler, Künstler und Schriftsteller im dänischen Exil nach 1933. Hrsg. v. Willy Dähnhardt u. Birgit S. Nielsen. (Deutsche Redaktion: Dieter Lohmeier), Heide 1993.
JE comments: Many thanks to Holger Terp for this valuable addition to our conversation, especially for mentioning probably the greatest Jewish Dane to escape the Holocaust: Victor Borge (born Borge Rosenbaum).
Denmark and the Holocaust
(Paul Levine, Denmark
08/17/12 3:24 AM)
The 1943 rescue of Danish Jews was certainly one of the few points of light
in the dark history of the Holocaust. What is remarkable is the spontaneous
nature of the rescue mission and the number of people involved in making it
happen. But there are still aspects of the rescue that are shrouded in mystery.
For instance, why did it succeed? To what extent did the German authorities,
and their leader Werner Best, participate in the action? At the time, few Danes
who participated in the action would have anticipated the German response.
Despite the questions, it is hard to see their actions as anything but heroic.
In 1993, on the fiftieth anniversary of the rescue, my old friend Henry Kamm
visited us in Copenhagen to write about the historic event for the NY Times.
Here is his account which may help readers to comprehend the complexities.
I am happy to say that many of my Copenhagen friends are still here
because of the actions of ordinary Danes in 1943.
Danes Commemorate Rescue of Jews From Nazis
By Henry Kamm
Published: September 28, 1993
In October, Danes will observe the 50th anniversary of an operation that ultimately saved nearly all of the country's Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. But this time the public is hearing a fuller account of the rescue, which made Denmark a striking exception among the countries occupied by Germany in World War II.
While the German occupation forces were preparing to deport more than 7,000 Jews to death camps beginning at 10 PM on Oct. 1, 1943, Danes shepherded all but a few hundred to the east coast of the island of Zealand, where they boarded small boats that ferried them to neutral Sweden in hundreds of crossings over a period of a few days.
Historians specializing in the occupation years have recently brought forth evidence showing that not only was Denmark's broad defense of its Jews an exception, but so were the actions of the German authorities here, including Gen. Werner Best of the SS, Hitler's chief representative in Denmark.
Danish historians and scholars from Israel and Germany have compiled documentary material that makes clear that the escape took place virtually under the eyes of the general and other high-ranking German military, police and civilian officials, who took no major steps to block the operation. The documentary evidence has been corroborated by many of the rescuers and Jews themselves.
"Many saw without seeing," said Esben Kjeldbaek, the curator of Fight for Freedom 1940-1945, a Resistance museum in Copenhagen that has organized an exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of the rescue.
"I don't think it could have happened without the connivance of the Germans," said Ulf Ekman, 76, a writer and publisher who fled in 1943 with his wife, Ruth, who was Jewish, and left their 2-year-old son in his parents' care. "The Germans had an observation post just north of from where our boat left. They could see the boats go back and forth."
The rescue operation was so successful that no Danish Jews were sent to death camps, although about 50 died from hunger, neglect and natural causes in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, which served as a way station for routing deportees to death camps.
The new evidence compiled by researchers poses an interesting question: Why did General Best, a key organizer of the deportation of France's Jews and a former deputy of Reinhard Heydrich, the notorious SS general in charge of the Nazis' "final solution" until his assassination in Prague in 1942, spare the vast majority of Danish Jews?
Historians of the Holocaust offer no simple answer, but many point to the limited options faced by General Best.
"He knew the Danish police will not arrest Jews," said Raul Hilberg, the leading American historian of the Holocaust. Interviewed by telephone from his home in Burlington, Vermont, Mr. Hilberg emphasized that the latest research fully supported the Danes' reputation for stoutly defending Jews during the Nazi occupation, which lasted from April 1940 to May 1945.
One reason that General Best probably hesitated to persecute Danish Jews with the same ruthlessness he had shown in other countries, the historian said, was a conviction that Danes would not accept such actions with the passivity that prevailed elsewhere in Western Europe. The occupation authorities were faced with the prospect of a drawn-out hunt that would only harden the resolve of the Danish Resistance.
For that reason alone, General Best may have tolerated the escapes, Mr. Hilberg said. "But we're not going to figure out the full truth," he added.
The new focus on the vacillation of the Nazi occupiers is not intended to diminish the singular status accorded to the Danes for their rescue effort, which made the survival rate of Denmark's Jews the highest of any country occupied by German forces.
A Couple's Escape
Interviewed in September in their home in Copenhagen, Ulf and Ruth Ekman recalled being led by daylight through a town near the shore with about 50 others who had assembled in winter coats in warm weather. Many of the women wore all of their jewelry.
"This could never have a good end, I thought," Mr. Ekman said.
Herbert Pundik, 66, the editor of the newspaper Politiken, escaped from Copenhagen--nearly all Jews lived in the capital--with his parents. "There is only one train line to the coast," he said. "The trains were loaded with Jews." But not one instance was recorded, he said, in which German officials tried to check the identity of a Jewish passenger.
Prof. Ebba Lund, a virologist and immunologist who played a role in rescuing at least 500 Jews as a 20-year-old student and Resistance member, said a feeling bordering on invincibility had sprung up among the rescuers.
They felt so sure of success, she said, that they "smuggled" Resistance members and defecting German soldiers into the boats.
In the exhibition in Copenhagen, no effort is made to provide a single explanation for the ease of the escape. Exhibits of photographs are accompanied by long, carefully worded texts summarizing the main events and the interpretations of scholars.
One enigma is a decision by General Best and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of transporting Jews across Europe to their deaths, to make an exception for the 481 Danish Jews who were arrested and sent to Theresienstadt.
The Danes were not sent on to the liquidation camps, and they were allowed to receive food parcels from the Danish Red Cross. A scientist in Copenhagen devised a nutritional pill to include in the packages.
"Best is a very, very difficult problem," said Prof. Hans Kirchhoff of Copenhagen University, a leading scholar in the history of the occupation. Many SS records were destroyed by the Nazis, and any action running counter to direct orders by Hitler, who specifically approved plans for the deportation of the Danish Jews in September 1943, was not noted in writing.
Professor Kirchhoff's explanation, which is similar in many respects to those of his colleagues, is that General Best saw his main mission as assuring Denmark's stability so it could continue to produce the food that was meeting one-tenth of the German Reich's needs.
He is also thought to have shared with other SS leaders a view that Nordic peoples would hold a favored position after the war. This is believed to have made him wary of ruling Denmark with an iron fist.
Invasion and Martial Law
When German troops invaded in April 1940, Denmark offered almost no resistance, and unlike other occupied countries it was allowed to keep its Government. Two elections were held under the occupation in which the small Nazi party was badly defeated. When German officials raised the issue of depriving Jews of their rights, the Government replied that Denmark would never cooperate by adopting or enforcing anti-Semitic measures.
By 1943, Germany's war fortunes were declining and Danish protests took more active forms. Strikes and sabotage dominated the summer; repression increased, with the authorities executing a Resistance fighter for the first time, and martial law was proclaimed on Aug. 29.
The Government resigned after the proclamation, and the parties refused to form another. The authorities back in Berlin accused General Best of losing control.
General Best proposed the deportation in a telegram to Berlin on Sept. 8 and was informed of Hitler's approval on Sept. 16. On Sept. 28, he received the final order to proceed.
But the same day, General Best told Georg F. Duckwitz, a German maritime attache who had friends in Denmark's leading party, the Social Democrats, of the decision. Professor Kirchhoff said the consensus among historians was that General Best intended for Mr. Duckwitz to inform his friends so that they could thwart the roundup.
Mr. Duckwitz immediately tipped off Hans Hedtoft, a Social Democrat who served as a postwar Prime Minister, who in turn warned C. B. Henriques, head of the Jewish Community, the organization overseeing Jewish interests in Denmark. The next day, the word was passed on to the congregation at Copenhagen's synagogue. Jews hid in friends' houses, in churches and in hospitals, and the rescue operation was immediately organized.
Reported That Jews Were Gone
On Oct. 4, General Best felt free to report to Berlin that Denmark had been "de-Jewed," without specifying the unexpected way that had been accomplished. By then the bulk of the Jews had been taken to Sweden.
General Best was arrested when the city was liberated by British troops in 1945 and was condemned to death by a Danish court in 1948. His sentence was reduced to 5 years, then increased to 12 years in a ruling by Denmark's Supreme Court.
He was freed in August 1951 and expelled to Germany, where he was held several times on charges of war crimes committed in Europe but always escaped trial on grounds of ill health. This did not prevent him from practicing successfully as a lawyer, and he died in 1989 at the age of 86.
Mr. Duckwitz, the attache who alerted Danes to the deportation order, died in 1973 after having served as West Germany's Ambassador to Denmark and having been honored by Israel for his part in the rescue of the Jews.
Why did it take a half century to give the public a full account of a story that has been told in the same way for 50 years?
"It's a myth that people don't want to smash," Mr. Pundik, the editor, said of the hazards of the rescue operation. "And don't forget, the Jews were truly frightened, and the Danes were truly heroic."
JE comments: An extraordinary story, which adds a great deal of detail to the account provided by David Gress on 15 August. My thanks to Paul Levine for sharing Mr. Kamm's article.
Czechoslovakia and the Holocaust; a Family Story
(Istvan Simon, USA
08/18/12 5:49 AM)
My thanks to Paul Levine (17 August) for sharing this deeply moving magnificent example of the Danes' heroism and humanity. Few people in Europe can say that they acted with the same determination and courage as the Danes had. But there is another country that deserves the same honors that the Danes should be accorded. That country is Czechoslovakia, the same country raped by Hitler and sold down the tubes by Chamberlain at Munich.
This is a personal story that I share with WAIS of the heroism of the Czechs and Slovaks under Nazi occupation.
My father was arrested in Budapest and deported to Oranienburg (latitude 52° 45' 0" North, longitude 13° 14' 0" East) to work as a slave laborer in the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory.
The Jews that were rounded up with my father were put in cattle cars, and transported by train to Germany. The conditions on the trains were appalling and inhuman. There were too many people crammed into the cattle cars, and they were given no water or food or sanitary facilities during the long journey.
My father's train to Germany went through Czechoslovakia. He told me that the Czechs were lining the overpasses under which the trains with its unfortunate victims would pass, and throw water and food and shouted encouragements to the wretched human cargo that they contained.
No Jew will ever forget the heroism of the magnificent Danes. No Jew should ever forget the heroism of the Czechs and Slovaks either.
JE comments: I don't think Istvan Simon will mind me sharing that both his father and mother were the sole Holocaust survivors from their respective families. Istvan came along shortly after the War.
Thank you for sharing these personal stories, Istvan. If it's not prying too much, I'd be very interested in hearing what daily life was like for the slave laborers at the Heinkel factory.
I'm bound by family loyalty to repeat that Poland, which suffered more than any nation during WWII, is being unfairly overlooked as less than heroic. For example, how about this Q: What is the only city to rise up twice against the German occupiers?
Even if only 70,000 Polish Jews were "saved," as Gilbert Davis claims, it still is nearly ten times the total for Denmark, which experienced a far more benign occupation in any case. I'm going to talk this over with the Poland expert in my house, and share some specific stories with WAISworld.
Hungary and the Holocaust
(Anthony D`Amato, USA
08/19/12 6:49 AM)
Recent posts on WAIS have discussed Holocaust issues as relating to countries such as Poland, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and France. Hungary has not been discussed. This is perhaps due to the fact that Hungary has never paid a single pengo to Holocaust survivors or next of kin--nothing newsworthy about Hungary.
Yet Hungary--Greater Hungary to be exact--was the scene of the most extensive Holocaust atrocity. Six hundred thousand Jews were transported by cattle car to Auschwitz and to slave-labor camps in the spring and summer of 1944. The rate was 100 persons per cattle car; along the way, those who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the tracks, their clothes divided among the women and babies.
By March 1944 it was clear to most high-ranking Germans that the war was lost. But Eichmann wanted to ensure that Hitler's war aim--to rid Europe of Jews and Slavs--would not be abandoned. With his bevy of goons, Eichmann journeyed to Hungary. They needed homes. But by then the Nazis were extremely efficient in rounding up and transporting Jews. The first thing they did was to look in the Hungarian phone books for lawyers with Jewish names. These lawyers were likely to live in good houses. The lawyers were duly arrested, along with their families, and constituted the first shipment to Auschwitz. The Nazis moved into the lawyers' homes. (It's clever they didn't round up doctors; no one misses a bunch of lawyers.)
Next they dealt with Jewish leaders. The leaders became complicitous in identifying and rounding up Jews, all in return for a great prize: they were excused from having to wear the gold star. (But they wound up in Auschwitz anyway.)
The Jews' bank accounts were frozen; they were advised to use safety deposit boxes for their valuables. They were moved from their homes to poorer homes where they were packed in. Then on to even poorer homes, where they awaited their turn to walk to the train station. A few years ago one of my clients had the safety deposit box key his parents had smuggled out with him before they were picked up by the police for a ride in a cattle car. He went to the bank. The bank officials treated him with courtesy, they led him to the safe deposit box room, and his key was used to open the box. It was empty. The attendant said he had no idea when or how the contents were removed from the box.
Until three years ago no one sued the Hungarian banks or the Hungarian railways for Holocaust reparations. My plan to sue them was turned down by the biggest law firms in the United States, and many middle-sized firms. I finally teamed up with the Pavich Law Group, a very small firm in Chicago. I wrote the Complaints for class actions in both cases; they were filed in court; the defendants were served; they argued (sometimes with briefs and appendices of 200 page length) that the cases should be thrown out; we prevailed; the cases went up on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; oral argument was heard; and we're waiting for the three-judge panel's disposition. The panel may be waiting for the Supreme Court's disposition of the Kiobel case which is somewhat related to our cases.
Kiobel is a big one. Many amicus briefs have been submitted to the Supreme Court, one written by my former student and me, another by our small law firm. I've alerted JE that come October the Kiobel case might furnish an interesting topic for discussion on WAIS.
JE comments: Absolutely. For those unfamiliar with Kiobel and Alien Torts, here's the background:
In short, Kiobel will decide the validity of suing in US courts for injustices committed entirely in a different country. The Supreme Court judgment will have an impact on Holocaust reparations suits. I hope Anthony D'Amato will keep us updated on any new developments.
Returning to Hungary, Istvan Simon has sent a very moving note on his family's experience there during the Holocaust. (Fortunately, several of Istvan's relatives survived the war, not just his parents, as I mistakenly wrote on 18 August.) Istvan is next in the queue.
(David Pike, France
08/22/12 4:17 AM)
I move in the world among Holocaust reductionists. They do not deny the Holocaust, they simply diminish it, "bringing it into perspective," they would say, and latching on to anything that can discredit the accounts of the survivors. Any false claim is a windfall to them.
Anthony D'Amato wrote (19 August): "Those [prisoners] who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the [railroad] tracks." Now, in dispatching prisoners, the SS took care to avoid the use of open freight cars. The only way to get out of a closed freight car (other than through the bolted door) was through the small vasistas (the term used in French for the ventilator, and I think used internationally) which was covered by barbed wire. I have never heard of bodies thrown out of a freight car. (I do know one man who punched his way through the vasistas, got his body out, and is still alive, the ex-mayor of a small French town.)
Anthony adds: "The Nazis didn't round up doctors." But they did. Prisoner-doctors were sought after. University professors of medicine served in camps as doctors of the SS; others in the prisoners' Revier, where they tended the stronger among the sick, allowing these prisoners to return to work. There was nothing in Nazi Germany that was not programmed.
PS and unconnected: We have discussed how most sports in the world were exported from England. I am curious about the origin of football. Italians tell me that the name of London's Pall Mall derives from the Roman palus malus, which was a ball of stuff the Romans kicked around. Pall Mall served as Britain's main stadium.
JE comments: I'm quite certain Anthony D'Amato intended nothing "reductionist" in his Holocaust posting of 19 August. The point of Anthony's comment was precisely to single out Hungary as one nation never held accountable (through reparations) for the horrors committed there.
On David Pike's second topic, is there a Roman antecedent for the modern sport of football/soccer? Pall Mall in the US, of course, connotes the extra-long, old-school filterless cigarette, which regales the user with copious amounts of tar and nicotine.
Ancient Rome, Soccer and Pall Mall
(Cameron Sawyer, Russia
08/22/12 2:32 PM)
David Pike wrote on 22 August:
"We have discussed how most sports in the world were exported from England. I am curious about the origin of football. Italians tell me that the name of London's Pall Mall derives from the Roman palus malus, which was a ball of stuff the Romans kicked around. Pall Mall served as Britain's main stadium."
Very interesting, but it doesn't sound right to me. "Palus," in Latin, is a stake or a pale (and cognate to the latter word); "Malus" is an apple tree, if I'm not mistaken. I have never heard of "palus malus" and could find no references to it (neither of which, of course, proves that there is no such thing, so I would be glad to be corrected if someone has more information than I was able to dig up). It is not listed in any of the lists of Roman ball games which I was able to find.
Pall mall was a game played in London not by the Romans, but by the English--popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the street in Westminster apparently got its name during this period, not in ancient times. The game pall mall was derived from an Italian game called pallamaglio, and was basically what we know today as croquet. It was played not with a ball of stuff kicked around, but with a wooden ball struck by mallets (see: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallamaglio ). "Maglio" is Italian for "mallet" (and cognate to that word), and comes from Latin "malleus" (http://www.etimo.it/?term=maglio ). "Palla" is Italian for "ball," and the word is apparently not of Latin origin ("Benecke assegna una radice germanica [cfr Balla]; altri congiunge alla stessa radice del gr ballein, pallein . . ." http://www.etimo.it/?term=palla ). It is important also to note that Pall Mall is not in the City of London, but in the City of Westminster, miles away from the borders of Roman Londinium, which was more or less coextensive with the modern City. Little is known about Londinium, as the city was apparently abandoned for some centuries after the Romans left in 410. As far as I know, the only Roman amphitheater ever found or even heard of anywhere near London is the one under the Guildhall in the City, and nothing Roman at all has been found in Westminster apart from a Roman road running along the Thames.
Furthermore, I don't believe that the Romans played ball games in their circuses or amphitheaters. They did apparently have a kind of football/soccer type game, harpastum, but it was a mob sport, not a spectator sport in the modern sense. It was played in fields, not in circuses or amphitheaters, as was football/soccer until quite recently. Ball games played in stadiums specially arranged for spectators is a very recent invention--I don't think we find it before the 19th century. To imagine the Romans playing ball games in front of seated spectators is, I'm afraid, an anachronism.
So I'm guessing that David's Italian friends were either pulling his leg about the origin of the name of Pall Mall, or were being fanciful--supposing that pallamaglio possibly had Roman origins, and that the Romans perhaps introduced that game to Britain, and then, riding this wave of fancy, inventing the rest of the details. "Palus malus" sounds like a made-up word to me, but I would be glad to be corrected if that is not the case.
JE comments. These are the kinds of discussions that make WAIS interesting! But let's not forget the ancient Mexicans, who played a ball game in purpose-built stadia from around 1400 BCE.
- Holocaust Reductionism? A Clarification (David Pike, France 08/23/12 4:16 AM)
In his comments to my post of 22 August, JE misread my point. I wasn't calling Anthony D'Amato a reductionist! I was saying that the information he gave plays into the hands of the reductionists, because the information is not true. Of course, Anthony could adduce something I've never heard of (I'm constantly being taught!), but I wanted to clear up any possible misunderstanding.
JE comments: My apologies to David and Anthony for the confusion. For another view on Hungary during the Holocaust, stay tuned for George Krajcsik.
Holocaust Reductionism? A Clarification
(Anthony D`Amato, USA
08/24/12 5:06 AM)
David Pike (23 August) does not call me a reductionist; he just calls me a dispenser of untrue information. Apparently he raced through my post so quickly looking for errors that he missed what I said:
(1) Naked bodies were tossed out of cattle cars when they came to a stop during the day. The Hungarian officials running the railroads didn't want there to be too many naked bodies when the trains arrived at Auschwitz.
(2) The Nazis didn't round up doctors on their first embarkation in Budapest, as the context of my post makes clear; I never said that Jewish doctors weren't eventually rounded up.
David also says he learned nothing new from my post. Does that mean he reads the emails among members of our Chicago legal team suing the Hungarian banks and railway? I can't see how else he would have known about some of the litigation details I was free to disclose here. I suggest to David that he might try to be more cautious in impugning his own credibility in this Forum.
Holocaust Reductionism? Response to Anthony D'Amato
(David Pike, France
08/25/12 4:57 AM)
In replying to my post of 23 August, Anthony D'Amato (24 August) has changed his own wording.
His original post (19 Aug.) ran: "Those [prisoners] who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the tracks."
His new wording today runs: "Naked bodies were tossed out of cattle cars when they came to a stop during the day."
This applies to SS convoys in general, not just in Hungary. My essential point was that the SS did not toss bodies out on to the tracks because the bodies would be found, and the entire Endlösung was designed to leave no relic in its wake.
I confined myself to that single point and to the matter of the doctors, which again was not a point confined to doctors in Hungary.
Nor did I say that I "learnt nothing" from Anthony's post. I read all his post, and learnt a lot! I haven't examined the case of the Chicago team and the Hungarian banks, but I have taken part in France in the prosecution of the SNCF and attended the trial, as well as publishing the German account of how well the SNCF was running in France even after D-Day.
As to whether I have impugned my own credibility, as Anthony suggests, I will have to leave it to the readers of my seven books on the Holocaust.
JE comments: David Pike's posting is the 28,000th to enter the WAIS archives--and I am happy this honor has come to David, Prof. Hilton's countryman, collaborator and friend going back 50 + years. Who, I wonder, will be the 30,000th? At the rate we post, this milestone should occur sometime next spring.
- Hungary and the Holocaust; Miklos Horthy (George Krajcsik, USA 08/23/12 4:35 AM)
I wish to add to JE's comments that Hungary was never held accountable through reparations for the atrocities committed there during WWII against its Jewish citizens. (See David Pike's post of 22 August.) Miklos Horthy, Hungary's regent (1920-1944), writes in his book Ein Leben für Ungarn, that Hungary was a refuge to Jews from all over Europe before and even during WWII, to almost up to the German occupation in March 1944 when the Arrow-Cross Party, an anti-Semitic Nazi party, with the help of occupying German forces, took over.
Fascist and Nazi factions were part of the Hungarian parliament during Horthy's reign, but Horthy strongly opposed any of their anti-Semitic attempts until October 15, 1944, when he resigned. The Hungarian people, in large measure, helped Jews escape persecution. On a personal note, my parents hid my aunt and and her mother, who were both Jews, for over a year in a small secret partition in the attic in Budapest, József Kőrút 63, very much like in The Diary of Anne Frank. I was six years old at that time and was told that auntie and her mom had left for Baden, Austria, their birthplace (which of course was not true). Helping Jews escape persecution was common.
J.F. Montgomery, the American ambassador to Hungary, notes in his book The Unwilling Satellite that Hungary was in a peculiar position during WWII. It's possible a country can be on the "right" and the "wrong" side in a war simultaneously. Hungary, fighting against the Soviet Union, supported Hitler (wrong side) and at the same time--now having a clear view of the Soviet Union's imperialistic aims, of keeping Eastern Europe in colonial dependency for over 40 years--fighting the Soviets, Hungary was on the right side. When the Soviet Union joined WWII (after having taken part of Finland and the Baltic States) and then with Germany partitioned Poland, the wish of Europeans, according to Montgomery, was to "achieve peace without victors and vanquished." That didn't happen!
These and perhaps a whole lot of other considerations saved Hungary from paying reparations for the Holocaust.
JE comments: My thanks to George Krajcsik for sharing this story of his parents' courage. I should clarify, however, that I was paraphrasing Anthony D'Amato's words of 19 August when I wrote that Hungary was never held accountable for Holocaust crimes. See Anthony's original post:
During the course of the summer we've scrutinized a number of WWII-era political leaders. Might it be time to re-examine Horthy? He was a conservative, staunchly anti-communist, who largely protected Hungary's Jewish population through 1944. Yet the Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre of 1941 occurred under Horthy's watch, and is considered the first large-scale slaughter of Jews during the entire war. The Jewish deportees were not, apparently, Hungarian citizens:
Rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary?
(Henry Levin, USA
08/23/12 11:04 AM)
In response to George Krajcsik (23 August) what do WAIS members know about and how do they interpret the present rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary?
JE comments: Good question. I especially hope that our Hungarian-born colleagues, George Krajcsik and Istvan Simon, will comment.
Rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary?
(John Heelan, UK
08/24/12 5:14 AM)
Henry Levin (23 August) might be interested in ""Anti-Semitism in Hungary," published by the Jewish Centre for Public Affairs (http://jcpa.org/article/anti-semitism-in-hungary/ ), based in Jerusalem and also known as the "Jewish Centre for Community Studies" of Baltimore.
JE comments: The report mentions the far-right, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party Jobbik, which received 17% of the vote in the 2010 national elections. What do WAISers know about this party?
- The Holocaust: A Family Story (Continued) (Istvan Simon, USA 08/19/12 8:55 AM)
It is not true, as JE wrote on 18 August, that my parents were the only Holocaust survivors in our family. My older brother, who was 2 years old when the war ended, survived unharmed. My Aunt Liliana, who helped keeping him alive by giving up most of her food rations to feed my brother, also survived. Another aunt, Elizabeth, came back from Auschwitz and survived, though both would be dead by the time I was 6 years old. Aunt Liliana committed suicide. Aunt Elizabeth died of ovarian cancer, possibly caused by medical experiments performed on her at Auschwitz. Another aunt, Lujza, survived with her husband and two children. A third child was murdered by the Nazis. Another aunt, Irene, survived unharmed, for she had been smart and immigrated to America in the 1920s. This on my father's side.
On my mother's side, my uncle George survived largely unharmed. He was taken to Hungarian labor camps, but did not suffer as much as my father at the hands of the Germans.
My father never talked about how life was at the Heinkel factory. So I could not describe the experience to JE. My father almost never talked about the Holocaust, or what happened to him personally. Bits and pieces sometimes told by my mother, is all I ever heard, and it is what the stories that I retell here are based on.
I'd say that our family is fairly typical of what happened to Jewish families in Hungary. But some families were hit much harder. One of these that I knew about was a dear relative, Maca (pronounced Matza), who had been a professional-level pianist before the war. She often came to our home, and I always loved her. She was always kind to me, and always brought some delicious food for me. She listened to me play the violin, and sometimes would play something on our piano. Her whole world collapsed by the cruelty of the Nazis. Her two handsome teenagers were both murdered, and her husband too. She alone survived. But could not cope with the tragedy of her life. She could not continue what would have been a brilliant career in music. She carried the pictures of her two boys everywhere, and wrote poignant comments to "them," and her husband too. The last I saw her, I told her, Maca, I will bring you to live with us in Brazil, as we were leaving Hungary shortly. It is the last I saw her. Unable to handle the pain of her existence, she killed herself sometime after.
I am not sure what exact relationship I had to Maca.
The tragedy of the Holocaust is brought to life in my opinion by these kind of personal stories. Otherwise it is too abstract, and the enormity of it will be lost.
JE comments: Sorry for the error, but I am very happy to have been mistaken about the fate of Istvan's family. At the same time, Istvan's story underscores the sad fact that the post-Holocaust trauma was too much for many survivors to bear.
- Christian X, Denmark, and the Holocaust (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/17/12 4:00 AM)
Denmark is my spiritually adopted country.
In Italy there was no nearby country to send Jews to. So the Italians hid them in their homes, harbored them, and fed them for the duration of the war. Ilana Rovner, a good friend, was one of those who spent the war years in an Italian basement. She is now a Judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
JE comments: I'd welcome a note from Roy Domenico on the role of non-Jewish Italians in harboring their Jewish compatriots during the Holocaust. It's a story that's been told before, but I bet Roy could add some interesting details.
Remember that some 300,000 Polish Jews survived the war. As a percentage of the prewar Jewish population it's a very depressing number, but in absolute terms it far surpasses Denmark and Italy combined. There were many very brave Christian Poles who risked their lives to help their Jewish countrymen and women.
Italy and the Holocaust
(Roy Domenico, USA
08/18/12 4:13 AM)
In response to JE's request of 17 August, a huge amount of scholarship has been devoted to Italy and the Holocaust, and it remains a very difficult subject. However, I personally am always moved upon discovering stories of astonishing bravery and compassion from that period. How could anyone not be?
Briefly, Mussolini began a campaign of persecution in 1938. Despite a few anti-Semites in the Fascist movement (most notably, the one-time Party secretary Roberto Farinacci, who acted as a sort of alter ego to the Duce and who, by the way, had a Jewish secretary), Mussolini's decrees had few if any ideological roots--Jews were overrepresented in the Party until the campaign--and the decrees were clearly done to please Hitler. As one colleague put it, the Duce would sell his mother for fifty cents. The campaign has been described as one of harassment--and it was loaded with hypocrisy and graft. One of my professors was in Naples in 1939 and was in a crowd preparing to board a liner to return to the US when all the hubbub stopped for a few minutes as a band struck up patriotic songs and a motorcade pulled up for VIP treatment. Apparently it was the son of the former (Jewish) Prime Minister Sydney Sonnino, who was being kicked out of Italy. The Neapolitan Fascists, however, turned it into a big sendoff with full honors in order to send a not very warm signal to Rome. Regarding the War, volumes of material detail the efforts of Italian soldiers to save Jews from Italy's Nazi allies in Greece and occupied France.
Of course, on September 8, 1943 everything fell apart. Italy collapsed and the German occupation began--with Mussolini as puppet ruler. Then the roundups and deportations began. Still, the numbers show just how many Jews were sheltered and saved all across Italy. One illustration is Delasem. The Fascists had allowed the creation of the Jewish Delasem organization to assist the large number of refugees in Italy. In September 1943 the organization was abolished on paper but kept alive by underground Jews working closely with Catholic priests and monks--and it stayed in business until 1947.
Finally, a personal note. I met the Israeli diplomat and scholar Sergio Minerbi a few years ago at a conference, and he saw that I was working on the Catholic mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, and he told me about his meeting with him. Minerbi was a native Roman (he moved to Israel after the war). During the Nazi occupation of the city (September 1943-June 1944), the teenaged Minerbi was sheltered by the Marists at the Leo the Great Institute in the capital. I believe the head of the school, don Alessandro di Pietro, received the "Righteous Gentile" honor. At one point, I'm not sure if it was at the school or at a brief period of hiding in Tuscany, the brothers accepted a group of Jewish teenagers--including Minerbi--and were allocating each of the bedrooms (cells). As they went down the row, the group stopped at one door, opened it and found La Pira who was also sheltered there--the Nazis were after him, too. "Pardon me, Professore," said the brother, "I forgot you were in here. We'll go to the next room." La Pira wouldn't hear of it--insisting that his room be given to the children while he would go outside and sleep in his car for the duration of his stay. La Pira died in 1977 and the Church has since beatified him.
JE comments: I'm grateful to Roy Domenico for these fascinating anecdotes. There must be countless other stories of heroism from wartime Italy.
- Poland and the Holocaust; Jan T. Gross's *Neighbors* (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/18/12 4:34 AM)
I am glad to hear that Denmark is Anthony D'Amato's spiritually adopted country (17 August).
JE is certainly correct about the number of Polish Jews who survived.
But for a particularly vivid view of Poland's renowned anti-Semitism, I recommend
Jan T. Gross's remarkable book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community
in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton UP, 2001). Gross recounts in detail the horrifying story
of how on a summer day in 1941, half of this Polish town murdered the other half--some
1600 Jewish men, women and children. He quotes an armed Polish soldier who said,
"it's a scandal that a Pole does not have the civil courage to hit a defenseless person."
Of course, the Poles were not alone. Gross cites a common saying among Jewish DPs:
"Germans would never forgive the Jews for what they had done to them."
JE comments: Polish anti-Semitism, as well as the complicity of many Poles in the Holocaust, will forever be a controversial topic within Poland. Poles today resent that they have been unduly singled out by historians such as Gross, and held in contrast against the record of other occupied nations (especially France). Remember Pres. Obama's "Polish Death Camps" gaffe from earlier this summer.
The German occupation of Poland was far harsher than in France, Italy, and Denmark, and everyone was forced into a grim struggle for survival. Such a Hobbesian environment, while not justifying the atrocities described by Gross, nonetheless makes the individual acts of Polish heroism even more significant.
- Poland and the Holocaust (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/18/12 5:27 AM)
I am sorry to have to add to JE's "depression" (see his comments to Anthony D'Amato's post of August 17), but of the Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust (somewhat less than 300,000), only about 70,000 were in Poland, survivors of the death camps or members of the Polish army. The largest contingent came from the Soviet Union, survivors of the 300,000 who fled east when Germany attacked Soviet-occupied Poland, in June 1941. So the actual percentage of those "rescued" is much lower than the 10%, which is often the figure given.
Indeed, "many brave Christians...risked their lives to help their Jewish countrymen and women"--as they did in every country where Jews were under siege--but the reason it was so easy for the Nazis to carry out their "final solution" in countries like Poland was the tradition of hate that ran long and deep. Both the pre-WWII Polish government and the Catholic Church stoked the fires of anti-Semitism, resulting in frequent pogroms throughout the country. This, sadly, was a return to the long tradition of the life of Jews in Poland during their ca. 800 years there. And as if all that were not enough, on July 4, 1946 (!), the pogrom in Kielce was just one obscene reminder of this long tradition. On that day the Jewish community center was attacked by a mob of townsfolk, which included members of the local government forces of the People's Republic of Poland, who were responding to yet another in the long history of blood libels. The violence led to the killing of about 40 Jews. Was it any wonder the Nazis built their death camps almost exclusively on Polish land?
And for Anthony D'Amato, who has adopted Denmark as his spiritual country (Aug 17), don't give up entirely on your fellow Italians. Though the Nazis and their over-zealous Italian fascists allies were murderous to helpless Jews wherever they could find them, in the north, along the French border, local villagers displayed heroic bravery and compassion as they hid stateless Jews who escaped the Nazi roundups in southeastern France. These villagers were fearless and tireless in their efforts to feed and shelter refugees from Vienna, Berlin and other exotic places. Also, during the time the Italian army was in charge of that sector of France, they were famously generous and protective of these stateless Jews. It was only after the Nazis took over that life became dangerous and the refugees fled north and east into Italy. Knowing of Anthony D'Amato's wide reading, I hope he will forgive my presumption if I recommend a book he has already read, but just in case, I suggest Susan Zuccotti's Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Their Flight through France and Italy (Yale, 2007). Her other books on Italy and the Holocaust are also worth reading. There he may find himself a bit more "spiritually" Italian.
JE comments: See my comments to Paul Levine's post from earlier today (18 August). I am not convinced by the argument that the Germans built so many death camps in Poland because of an inherent (Christian) Polish anti-Semitism. It was due to where the Jewish population centers were--as well as the Nazi attitude that saw all Poles as Untermenschen.
Recall, as well, that some Polish cities (Bialystok, which we visited in July, comes to mind) were majority Jewish in 1939. The Jewish population of Lublin was almost 50%. To speak of "Polish anti-Semitism" reinforces the notion that only a Christian can be a true Pole, rather analogous to the old portrayal of Spain's "Reconquest" period as a struggle between Spaniards and Muslims/Moors.
Poland and the Holocaust (Cont.)
(Gilbert Davis, USA
08/22/12 4:39 AM)
This is what may be the final post on the topic re: Poland and the Holocaust, etc., because there seems too little interest in all this, though I still want to say something about the apologetics Alain de Benoist engaged in with his response about saving 75% of the French Jews.
I had hoped someone else--especially someone with wider knowledge of modern Polish history than I have--would join in on this stalled discussion of the role of the Polish government and Catholic Church in the destruction of their Jewish population, but so far no takers. So, let me add a few more details, especially as they respond to John Eipper's doubts, "To speak of ‘Polish anti-Semitism' reinforces the notion that only a Christian can be a true Pole, rather analogous to the old portrayal of Spain's 'Reconquest' period as a struggle between Spaniards and Muslims/Moors" (18 August). Setting aside his arguments by analogy, the first part of JE's observation is exactly what the interwar Polish government contended and put into practice through a variety of discriminatory, anti-Jewish laws.
Formed in 1919, the Republic of Poland, in signed treaties with the Allied powers, promised 1) to guarantee the civil and political equality of its minorities, 2) to protect these citizens' rights, and to guarantee all its minorities the right to their own educational, religious, charitable, and social institutions. But these guarantees were only half-heartedly implemented, and by 1934 completely renounced. During its twenty years of independence, for example, Polish universities and professional schools introduced a numerus clausus system for Jews, and increasing government economic control led to discriminatory regulations and restrictive practices that succeeded in impoverishing an already marginalized Jewish community. This wave of anti-Semitic legislation, brutal pogroms (which had been going on throughout Poland since the end of WWI), and the government's policy of "evacuating" the Jews from Poland, made Jewish life precarious at best; and if that were not enough in 1938, Polish citizenship was withdrawn from Jewish residents abroad.
As for the role of the Catholic Church, its leaders were hardly more generous, the most outspoken ones downright dangerous in reinforcing a long tradition of active anti-Semitism. This history is a sad and depressing one that is better told and summarized in at least these two places:
As for the placement of the death camps on Polish soil I would agree with JE that the Nazis had little regard for the Poles and had plans for them, making them little better than slaves; but the Nazis also did not want unnecessary disruption to their plans from uncooperative locals. As the discussion of the Danish heroic actions in saving their Jewish citizens (as well as in different ways with the Finns and Bulgarians), the Nazis wanted as little disruption as possible and when they came upon serious resistance they backed off, or in the case of Denmark appeared to turn a blind eye. That's why death camps were placed where they were, and at great expense to the already strained Nazi transport system. How much simpler it would have been to turn Mauthausen (Austria) into a death camp to handle those 210,000 murdered Austrians and Germans, not to mention the 450,000 Hungarians close at hand. Or perhaps it could have been Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, or Dachau (Germany). But fears of the reactions from the surrounding communities made these choices unsafe and potentially disruptive.
Of the two death camps off Polish soil, Risiera di San Sabba (Trieste), run exclusively by Germans on Italian soil, the crematoria was quickly shut down after ca. 3000 Jews were murdered. Jasenovac (Yugoslavia) was used by Croatians to murder Serbs (latest estimates 50,000), though Roma (ca. 16,000), and Jews (ca. 13,000) also perished there.
All this is a reminder to us that a governments, its churches and society cannot isolate, stigmatize, and promote hate of a people without serious consequences. And when the truth is known and the damage assessed it is too late to cry foul at being held responsible for those actions.
As a postscript, let me add that today in Poland among young people and serious academics there is a wonderful thing going on: Departments of Jewish Studies have sprung up all over the place to meet the students' interests in studying the Jewish communities that once flourished among them. Graduate degrees are being awarded, and students are learning Yiddish and Hebrew to be able to read the texts left behind; synagogues are being restored or rebuilt and turned into town libraries or museums of the lives of this community. Much more is being done, all of it an amazing story, inspiring indeed.
JE comments: One also sees many US, Canadian and Israeli Jewish tourists in today's Poland--there were a couple of busloads of them staying in our Bialystok hotel in July. Also, the Yeshiva in Lublin, once Europe's largest, is being renovated as a Jewish cultural center.
Did the interwar Polish government have anti-Semitic elements? Undoubtedly. But I am uncomfortable with any suggestion that the Holocaust had an element of Polish complicity. The matter boils down to this: would there have been any death camps had Germany not invaded in September 1939? And did the German occupiers of Poland ever care for the wishes or sympathies of the Polish people? Moreover, how could the Polish government have had a role in the destruction of its Jewish population, if after 1939 there was no Polish government (except in exile)?
Finally, perhaps no single individual tried harder to stop the Holocaust than the (Christian) Pole, Jan Karski:
The above article is very informative. I've just learned, for example, that Poland was the only occupied nation where death sentences were imposed on the entire families of citizens found assisting Jews. Still, over 6000 Poles have been named Righteous Among the Nations.
Poland and the Holocaust
(Edward Jajko, USA
08/27/12 1:39 AM)
A comment or two on the recent postings about how various countries of Europe participated in the Holocaust, and especially about Poland.
Pre-war, post-war, during the war, whenever and wherever, anti-Semitism was, is, and always will be wrong and reprehensible. It is inexcusable. But so is the statement of Gilbert Davis (Aug. 18) that "the reason it was so easy for the Nazis to carry out their "final solution" in countries like Poland was the tradition of hate that ran long and deep ... Was it any wonder the Nazis built their death camps almost exclusively on Polish land?"
As JE pointed out, in response to Paul Levine (also Aug. 18), "The German occupation of Poland was far harsher than in France, Italy, and Denmark..." Poland was the country invaded first by the Germans, in massive ground attacks and wave after wave of aerial bombardment. The German war machine was able to operate with near impunity while Poland's supposed allies in Western Europe, who had treaty obligations to come to Poland's defense, did nothing. Two weeks into the war with Germany, Poland was invaded from the East by Hitler's new friend, Stalin, intent on a land grab and on avenging the Polish-Soviet War of 1920.
(At least Poland was able to acquit itself well in its short defensive war against Germany. The Germans, when they got to march back home singing "Ade, Polen," took back with them some 18,000 dead.)
The point was made in one of the postings about how Jews were saved in some other European countries--I'm not going to bother searching for the reference--and that this happened because of the assistance, tacit or otherwise, of the local governments that remained in power. Well, in Poland, the legally constituted government had to flee into exile, first to France, then to the UK, so as to maintain a semblance of Polish sovereignty. In the meantime, the victorious Germans wiped the country off the map--again--with all of Poland that had been taken by the Germans under military occupation and authority. All authority over Polish lands, those that the Soviets had not stolen, was in German hands. Walk around Warsaw even today and you will see plaques on the walls marking places where X number of civilians were murdered by the "Hitlerowcy," Hitlerites.
JE noted on Aug. 14, in response to Istvan Simon, that "ninety percent of the 3.3 million prewar Jewish population [of Poland] was murdered." There is no excuse or explanation for any act of murder, whether because of anti-Semitism or otherwise. But may I dwell a moment on this statistic? Three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans. I repeat: Three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Germans. Where is the true anti-Semitism? Which nation, which people, can be accused of anti-Semitism? The massacre at Jedwabne, other similar events pale in comparison with the basic fact that three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans.
Recall please also that death in the German extermination camps was not reserved exclusively for the Jews. Gypsies, homosexuals, minorities, and others died in the various camps. And more than two million Polish Catholics and other Christians--"ethnic Poles"--died in the camps. One out of four Catholic priests, one out of four scientists, one out of five schoolteachers--all died in a systematic campaign to kill off particular elements of society. This does not include the million or more Poles who died as a result of the Soviet occupation. In six years of war, a modern, 20th century nation lost some 20% of its population--a figure reminiscent of the medieval Black Death--thanks to the Germans and Russians, the Nazis and Soviets.
JE made a point in a response to a posting that the extermination camps were in Poland because that was where the largest population of Jews existed, indeed then the largest population of Jews in the world. The territory was also designated to be cleared of all subhuman elements--not just Jews but all other Poles as well--for the new Lebensraum. All of us vermin had to be cleared out to make way for the master race.
Why was this community so large? Could it have been that in the 800-odd years of its existence, ever since Jews were invited into Poland to escape persecution in German lands, their numbers flourished and grew?
I followed much of the discussion about the Holocaust and how it was handled in various European countries. I didn't read everything, because one can only take so much. But I noticed an interesting and, to me, frankly disturbing shift in meanings. In a couple of the postings, various countries--Denmark, Finland, etc.--were mentioned as were the comparatively low numbers of Jews deported from those countries. The reasons were given as citizens who helped the Jews, assistance groups, non-compliant local governments. Then on Aug. 14, Anthony D'Amato wrote, thanking Alain de Benoist for reading and correcting his postings. His paragraph 3 shows the semantic shift:
"3. Alain quotes my statement, 'Puppet Vichy was more vicious toward French Jews than Hitler was toward German Jews.' Alain corrects me by saying that the proportion of French Jews who became victims of the Holocaust was lower than in other occupied countries. He could have strengthened his own case against me by mentioning Poland, where the extinction rate was close to 100%..."
This is apples and oranges, comparing two entirely different situations. Not comparative levels of anti-Semitism, but totally different regimes, with completely different circumstances.
As indeed is the case with Denmark, Finland, and the other countries that have been discussed, with the exception of Hungary. Poland, as noted above, was divided by Germany and Russia. The lands under German rule were not in the hands of Polish civilian government but under German military rule. Poland has historically been the victim of its geography. If there is anyone who doesn't believe in unfortunate geography, look at a map of France and Belgium and read all the names that are so familiar from WWI and WWII. Why are they familiar? They were on or in the way of invading forces. So has been Poland, stuck between Germany and Russia.
Nevertheless, as JE reminded us in a recent posting, what city in Europe rose twice against the Germans? First, there was the ill-fated Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This month, we commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, one of the great battles of WWII, and sadly, the forgotten battle, when a couple of hundred thousand Polish volunteers tied down a German army and held it tied down for four months. The fighters waited in vain for help from London and from the Soviet force that sat across the Wisla river, in Praga, waiting for the Germans to eliminate the non-Communists. If any WAISers have visited Warsaw and have wondered why the city looks like it does, it is because, in addition to the damage inflicted in the 1939 attack and during the next several years, the Germans were so angered by the 1944 uprising that, after its defeat, they deliberately and systematically burned and dynamited much of the remainder of the city, saving only those areas in which their own forces were billeted.
I recall that much was made in early postings in the WWII thread (previously entered under USSR/Russia) about the work of Bletchley Park, the role of the RAF in the Battle of Britain, and even Gen. De Gaulle. I am happy to mention that the German Enigma code was first cracked by Polish mathematicians, who took their results by immensely difficult routes to the UK. Likewise, the Polish airmen of the RAF 303 Squadron and others made a significant and perhaps essential contribution to the Battle of Britain. And, with all respect to Gen. De Gaulle, it should be remembered that free Polish forces formed one of the largest elements of the Allied armies. Some sources say the Poles were the fourth largest force, others the fifth, others the sixth or seventh. They notably fought at Monte Cassino and elsewhere in Europe and in the Middle East. But, thanks to their country's being sold out by the Yalta agreement, no Polish forces marched in the grand parade of representatives of supposedly all fighting forces that was held in London in 1946.
To get back to the original subject: there is a strange anti-Polonism that I find hard to understand. Of course, I am a Roman Catholic Polish American, not a Jew. But I have studied and learned Hebrew and managed a major Judaica collection in a world-class Ivy League university. I trained Jews who worked for me in cataloging and other aspects of librarianship, while I in turn learned much from them. I even taught one Jewish assistant, fluent in Hebrew, the rudiments of Yiddish. I have dealt with Judaica faculty in two major universities and with Jewish book dealers in the US, Israel, and other countries, as well as numerous scholars in Jewish, Biblical, and Religious studies, and with major donors to a Judaica program. I participated in mounting a months-long exhibition of Judaic materials in the library I worked in, that included materials ranging over four thousand years of history, important manuscripts, and the rich holdings of historical materials that my library had collected from its founding in colonial times. Yet I note that that Ivy League university for which I worked in the 1970s and early 80s also had had a "numerus clausus," and that the admission of Jews was restricted until relatively recent years.
I find Gilbert Davis's and Paul Levine's feelings difficult to accept. We are, of course, on opposite sides of ethnic, religious, and historic fences. I'm not going to convince them and this posting will probably just add fuel to the flames. It is curious, however, that the State of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany are moderately good friends. The BRD paid reparations to Israel over many years and to a certain extent the slate was wiped clean. (The DDR always claimed to be the "good" and real Germany, and never admitted any guilt or responsibility, and always avoided payment of any reparations--which, in any event, would likely have been worthless.) But animus towards Poland and Poles remains. Yitzhak Shamir, former prime minister of Israel who died recently, infamously said 20 or more years ago that Poles take in anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. But I have to repeat here what I said above: Three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans. To me, and I dare say to most Poles, that is the most important fact. It is not an excuse for anything that Poles did; it is not by way of an attempt to explain anything away. It is simple, bald fact. Three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Germans. Some two million other Poles were murdered by the Germans.
Gilbert Davis, writing on Aug. 18, advised that Anthony D'Amato, who professed Denmark as his spiritual country, not give up on Italy. He mentions instances of Italians harboring and protecting Jewish refugees. I mentioned above the German military march "Ade, Polen." I have a copy of that march on one of three or four CDs of authentic German military music from WWII that I bought a few years ago in Rome, in an extraordinarily well-stocked and very busy Fascist book store. There were two floors of books on Fascism and fascists and on modern history, politics, and economics. There was also a display of CDs--a shelf of Italian fascisti albums and various rather vicious looking German ones, some of which I bought. I have been able to listen to only a couple of songs, but it's too horrible to hear those actual soldiers of the day singing. (One or two of the songs, including "Ade, Polen," were used by the Hoover Institution for an archival display on the war.) Fascism is legal and alive and well in Italy. So much for Italy and spirituality.
JE comments: A most eloquent and thorough response from Edward Jajko. Poland is still maligned for WWII and the Holocaust, despite its bravery and sacrifice. No nation suffered more during the conflict, and its suffering continued for another 40 + years afterwards. In some very tangible ways, as Ed points out, it continues still.
Poland and the Holocaust
(Cameron Sawyer, Russia
08/27/12 11:27 AM)
Everything which Ed Jajko writes (27 August) agrees with what I know about Poland in WWII. I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea. Just to name one data point contrary to this idea--the Polish Pope John Paul II, bringing to the papacy his own experiences in wartime Poland, did more towards building a relationship of trust and amity between Catholics and Jews than any other Christian in the history of Christianity. Besides that, Poland, despite the viciously harsh occupation by the Nazis, quite unlike the Nazi occupation of Denmark, maintained an entire organization to save Jews, the Zegota, which according to the Holocaust Research Project, was the only government-financed organization in Europe set up to save Jews (see: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/revolt/zegota.html).
The underground Polish Home Army imposed the death penalty on Poles who blackmailed or betrayed Jews to the Nazis (ibid). And of all of the Europeans honored as Righteous Among the Gentiles by Israel, the greatest number are Poles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righteous_among_the_Nations). This record is all the more remarkable considering the incredible suffering the Poles themselves were enduring under Nazi occupation, something quite unlike what was experienced by the Danes, the French, or the Dutch. In my opinion, the rescue of the Danish Jews during a lax occupation under the eyes of Nazi soldiers who did nothing to stop it, with the tacit approval of the Nazi commandant, is simply not comparable, to the heroism under incredible conditions and risk of certain death displayed by so many Poles in rescuing Jews from the Nazis (which of course takes nothing away from how wonderful it is, that the Danish Jews were all rescued).
And no country suffered in the war like Poland, caught literally between the two main combatants, Germany and the Soviet Union, and subject to the most vicious ravages of the Nazis and Soviets alike, who raped, pillaged, and slaughtered Polish civilians who were entirely helpless due to the early collapse of the Polish government, ravaging the entire haunted Polish land, eventually resulting in the extermination of 16% or more of the population of Poland, more than any other country in WWII. Despite this, the Poles managed to put a quarter of a million soldiers in the field against the Nazis and fight from beginning to end of the conflict. The Poles definitely did not "make the Final Solution easier" in any way, and like Ed, I found Gilbert Davis's comment to be quite inaccurate.
JE comments: I cannot be impartial when it comes to Poland, but I am grateful to Ed Jajko and Cameron Sawyer for their thoughts of today. I wonder how instrumental Jan Gross's book Neighbors has been in informing the rise in anti-Polish sentiment vis a vis the Holocaust?
Poland and Anti-Semitism
(Henry Levin, USA
08/28/12 6:15 AM)
I think that JE's conclusion and the descriptions by Ed Jajko and Cameron Sawyer (27 August) are well-meaning, but incomplete. Forty years ago my wife told me about her education in Colegios de Monjas (Catholic Nuns' Schools) in Spain. She had been taught in every school and grade that the Jews were Christ-killers and took the blood of Catholic children for their rituals (the blood libel). One child who had heard that Jesus was a Jew asked about this and was punished severely and as an object lesson for telling a vicious lie.
I had a bunch of Polish neighbors and colleagues at that time, who all went to Catholic schools in Poland in the 1950s. They all reported the same pattern of school teachings. If Jews were mentioned, it was always that they were evil and treacherous and murdered our Lord.
I am sure that there were many heroic and decent Poles as JE, Ed Jajko, and Cameron Sawyer maintain. But, I think that you will find that the overall climate about Jews was toxic and largely based upon religious teachings (my understanding is that all Polish schools taught religion on the basis of these official views of the Church regarding Jews). When Jews returned from the concentration camps to their Polish villages, they were attacked. There are a number of sources on these issues that should be referred to before you conclude with such a sunny summary of behavior and tolerance.
The Jews were historically treated as outsiders in Poland, and I have checked many sources on the web. Read, in particular, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz by Princeton professor Jan Gross.
JE comments: Aldona just told me that during her public school education in the 1970s and '80s, there was no religious component whatsoever. It may have been different in the '50s. The Socialist school system tended to be one of neglect or denial when it came to Poland's Jewish past. Aldona only learned years later about her city's (Lublin) vibrant Jewish culture prior to the war.
We've mentioned Prof. Gross's writings a couple of times on WAIS, and I wondered how much he's contributed to the common belief that Poland was and is particularly anti-Semitic. Wikipedia reports that Ghetto Uprising commander Marek Edelman and Michael Schudrich, Poland's Chief Rabbi, have questioned Gross's interpretations. Edelman, who passed away in 2009, is considered one of the most heroic Poles of modern times.
Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism
(John Heelan, UK
08/31/12 7:15 AM)
Henry Levin wrote on 28 August: "The overall climate about Jews was toxic and largely based upon religious teachings (my understanding is that all Polish schools taught religion on the basis of these official views of the Church regarding Jews)."
Not so in the UK. As a cradle Catholic, my preschool was in a convent, my primary school was linked to the local Catholic Church, as was my secondary school in which the teaching staff were mainly priests and we had our own chapel at which we attended services each week. The headmaster was a canon of Westminster Cathedral. I do not recall the "blood libel" or "Jews killed Christ" being taught at any time in those 10 years or so, nor in the subsequent 20 years of being a regular churchgoer. So either the "official views regarding Jews" did not exist by then or they did not permeate the UK.
JE comments: I'm reluctant to reveal the age of individual WAISers, but I'm quite sure John Heelan's early schooling was prior to Vatican II. It would appear that Catholic education was markedly different in the UK and Spain during this time. During my semester in Granada in 1985, I heard the "Christ killer" trope hurled at Jewish friends more than once. The accusers, however, were from the older demographic.
I find it strange that we've been focusing on Polish anti-Semitism, when there's Spain. Perhaps the latter case is too historically remote. Or too obvious... (?)
Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism
(Paul Pitlick, USA
08/31/12 1:15 PM)
I grew up in Southern California, and went to Catholic schools up to and including a graduate degree, both in California and the Midwest. My experience mirrors John Heelan's (31 August), but I'd go a little further. Jews were rarely mentioned, neither positively or negatively. The Romans killed Christ, and Catholics were the chosen people--and there wasn't any need for the Jews in either discussion!
JE comments: The Protestant version always blames the Romans, too: "He suffered under Pontius Pilate..."
Catholic Education, Anti-Semitism, and a (Fictional?) Christ
(Anthony D`Amato, USA
09/01/12 7:18 AM)
"The Jews killed Christ" is the worst calumny in the history of the world.
So why don't scholars in general, and/or Jewish scholars in particular, disseminate recent scholarship supporting the thesis that Jesus Christ was a fictional character and not a real person who walked the Earth?
Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries (2001)
Robert M. Price, The Christ-Myth Theory and its Problems (2011)
John W. Loftus, The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (2010)
Also: Google "Was Christ a real person." The first item that comes up, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live" has an essay and an extensive bibliography under the headings "Bookstore" and "Library." There are many other entries on both sides of this issue.
JE comments: This is a controversy that goes to the heart of Western civilization--the Christian and Muslim religions, for starters. Isn't it commonly accepted and cross-referenced that Christ is a historical figure, whether or not one believes in His divinity?
I'm scheduled to sit in on a Bible in History class at Adrian College next week. I'll float this question to my colleague, Dr. Scott Elliott, who's spent his career studying the historical Christ.
- Poland and the Holocaust (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/28/12 4:55 PM)
I was moved by Edward Jajko's passionate defense of Poland and the Holocaust (27 August).
But I was puzzled when Cameron Sawyer added later that day: "I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea." Let me just quote from one authoritative source, Lucy Davidowicz's The War Against the Jews: 1933-1953 (1975):
"The republic of Poland had come into being in 1919, after its representatives has signed a treaty with the Allied powers, promising to guarantee the civil and political equality of its minorities, to safeguard their rights as citizens, and in addition, to extend to all minorities the right to establish their own educational, religious, charitable, and social institutions. From the start these guarantees were never fully implemented, and in 1934 they were completely renounced. Pogroms marked the inauguration of Poland's independence and were a recurring phenomenon in the twenty years of independent Poland. Universities and professional schools introduced a numerus clausus system for Jews. The government's growing control of economic life was accompanied by discriminatory regulations and restrictive practices the succeeded in impoverishing the Jewish community. The rise of Nazism in Germany and, following Marshal Pilsudski's death in 1935, Poland's accelerating fascist course brought near-disaster to the Jewish community. A torrent of anti-Semitic legislation, brutal pogroms, and an official government policy of 'evacuating' the Jews from Poland overwhelmed them. In 1938 laws were enacted withdrawing Polish citizenship from Jews resident abroad."
That was Poland then. I'm sure Poland now is another country.
In the 1980s I lectured at Polish universities several times and encountered only traditional Polish courtesy and hospitality.
But even then Polish colleagues told me tales of recurrent anti-Semitism during the Communist regime.
JE comments: It would be instructive to compare the treatment of the Polish Jewish population prior to independence--in Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary--with the situation of the 1930s. (I mean the Jewish population in the region comprising today's Poland.) I'm pretty sure that those under Russian control pre-1919 fared the worst. Although the 1930s paled in comparison to the '40s, these were times of egregious anti-Semitism throughout much of the world.
Perhaps this is too personal a topic for me, but I'd like to renew Edward Jajko's eloquent appeal of 27 August, to stop singling out Poland for Holocaust crimes. Poland was victimized more than any nation during the war, and few others were as heroic.
- John XXIII and Catholic-Jewish Relations (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/31/12 1:26 AM)
I would like to respond to Cameron Sawyer's August 27 post, wherein he writes, "I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea." I suggest he have a look at either (or both) of the articles I included in my August 22 post, or better yet make a bibliographical search of the literature. That will turn up more than enough books and articles to convince any fair-minded reader.
As for Pope John Paul II's considerable efforts to build a "relationship of trust and amity between Catholics and Jews," I certainly agree. But the real credit for changing the Church's teachings about Jews goes to Pope John XXIII, who called for the Second Vatican Council in January 1959, a short three months after his election. Sadly, he didn't live to see the work done, but his influence was alive in the Council's adoption of Nostra Aetate, which finally absolved Jews, living both in the time of Christ and today, of responsibility for the death of Christ. As the document says: "True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." Would that Church officials had been as passionate and determined in carrying out this teaching as John XXIII was in ending this long-held, dangerous slander. As his heroic work saving European Jews during WWII clearly indicates, this reform held great importance to him.
JE comments: John XXIII's papacy lasted slightly less than five years, but he was ill from September 1962 through his death in June 1963. He was probably the most energetic modernizer of the RC Church in modern times. I won't go into matters of doctrine, but one can assume the Church would look different today if John had lived another five or ten years.
- Poland and Anti-Semitism (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/29/12 2:33 AM)
In response to Edward Jajko (27 August), the confusion in this discussion of the fate of Polish Jews has been fueled by something other than what characterizes the usual, thoughtful WAIS postings. Perhaps we are being driven by that old political maxim, "Where you come out on a subject depends on where you went in." But to be accused of being a Polish hater because I summarized the Polish government's legal behavior toward Jews between 1919-39 and also supplied two articles summarizing the church's actions and inactions regarding the growing anti-Semitism during these years, surprises and disappoints me. But in the end I have not changed my speculations, drawn from these facts and sources, supplemented by a whole lot of reading ranging from Raul Hilberg to Timothy Snyder.
Let me begin by saying how much I admire Edward Jajko for his many achievements as a librarian, mentor and scholar of Judaica. But yet I find nothing in his response--nor in Cameron Sawyer's later post, of which I will have more to say at another time, after I have finally cut the grass--has changed my mind. The central point of my August 18 and 22 posts was that the contrast between Poland (one could add Hungary, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, etc.) and those other countries that either rescued their Jews or simply would not comply with Nazi demands to give them up, is that the people and governments of these countries were not poisoned by years of publicly accepted anti-Semitism, be it from the church or officialdom.
Now, I have been very careful to recognize that individuals and even clandestine groups risked everything to save friends, neighbors, and downright strangers. These people are the real heroes in this sordid chapter of human degradation; but no amount of individual heroism can offset what was being done in plain view. The government was indifferent to the many, many pogroms that went on throughout the interwar years; loss of Jewish lives and property was freely tolerated. Add to this a church that not only knew what was going on before 1939, but either kept silent, thereby forfeiting its moral authority, or worse yet added its voice to the rampant anti-Semitism.. In the face of all this, what were ordinary citizens to think about these unholy, outcast people in their midst? All that was required was the agent to do the bloody deed.
So that readers will not miss my main point, let me remind them that only the scale of such potential disasters has changed in the West. In Israel today we are seeing the makings of a mini version of this in the unholy behavior of nine Israeli teenagers who attempted to lynch an Arab youth in Jerusalem earlier this month. Where did these young people get the idea that such behavior was acceptable, if not from the pronouncements of too many Israeli leaders, not only in the Knesset but in religious life as well? One could also add to these outrages the many unprovoked attacks settlers have launched against their Arab neighbors. Though these examples are on a minor scale, compared to the actions we are discussing (though hardly minor to the young man who was lynched), they show the same symptoms of learned behavior. Now the Israeli government will be launching a large-scale education program to overcome all the damage done by some of its leaders in the court of public opinion.
JE comments: One question that forever sticks in my mind concerns the concentration camp Majdanek, which is just outside the center of Aldona's native city, Lublin. It is clear to me that the residents of Lublin knew what was happening in the camp. Of course, given the horrors of the Nazi occupation of their city, they were powerless to do anything about it.
May I raise a hypothetical? Let us suppose that Poland's government of the 1930s had been every bit as philo-Semitic as it had been seven or eight centuries earlier. Given the harsh German occupation of WWII, would this have made any difference in terms of lives saved?
Next in this thread is a note from Istvan Simon.
- Poland and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 08/29/12 2:52 AM)
I am honored to be Ed Jajko's friend. I have great admiration for his deep knowledge of Semitic languages, and his magnificent character as a human being.
On the subject of the Holocaust and Poland (see Ed's post of 27 August), I think that there is both good and bad to say. Perhaps more good than bad. I start out with the good:
The first Polish name I want to honor here is that of Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II. I quote from Wikipedia:
As a boy, Wojtyła was athletic, often playing football as goalkeeper. During his childhood, Wojtyła had contact with Wadowice's large Jewish community. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła often played on the Jewish side. "I remember that at least a third of my classmates at elementary school in Wadowice were Jews. At elementary school there were fewer. With some I was on very friendly terms. And what struck me about some of them was their Polish patriotism." Wojtyła's first, and possibly only, love affair was with a Jewish girl, Ginka Beer, who was described as "slender," "a superb actress," and "having stupendous dark eyes and jet black hair."
There is no doubt in my mind that Karol Wojtyla was a great man, and that on the subject of the Holocaust his heart was on the side of the righteous, and grieving and sympathetic for the Jews that were being massacred by the Nazis.
The second Polish name I want to honor here is that of Jan Karski, the Messenger from Poland.
Karski's services for the Jews were honored by Israel. A man of extraordinary dignity and great intelligence, Karski was smuggled in and out of a death camp, so he could relate to the Allies what he had seen. As a messenger for the Polish resistance to the Allied authorities, he tried his best to make the Allies aware of the industrialized murder that was being perpetrated by the Nazis at the death camps. He met Anthony Eden, President Roosevelt, Felix Frankfurter, a pompous Jewish lawyer advising President Roosevelt, and many other authorities. His testimony in the documentary "Messenger from Poland" is perhaps the most touching I have ever seen on the subject of the Holocaust.
When he told Felix Frankfurter that Jews were being systematically murdered in the death camps, Frankfurter told him: "Mr. Karski, I am unable to believe you." Karski, indignant, replied, "Are you calling me a liar?" To which Frankfurter replied: "I did not say you are a liar, just that I am unable to believe you."
Perhaps we should not be too harsh on Frankfurter, for the truth of the death camps was so horrible that it defied credibility. Nonetheless, Frankfurter comes off as an ass, for the character of Karski should have been obvious to him from his demeanor alone, and there were independent reports about the Holocaust to which he should have been privy as a member of Roosevelt's government.
When he met President Roosevelt, the President said to him: "Mr. Karski, we shall prevail in this war."
When he met some other authority, I forget who it was, he asked Karski: "Mr. Karski, isn't it interesting that Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years? Why do you suppose that is?"
The documentary "Messenger from Poland" is a terrible indictment of the Allies for apparent indifference to the fate of the Jews. It should be required viewing of everyone with an interest in these matters.
The third Polish name I would like to honor here was the subject of a beautiful movie called The Pianist. It tells the moving story of survival of a Jewish pianist,
... in war-time Poland. Szpilman survived thanks to the help of Catholics who had known him prior to the Nazi invasion. They hid him in safe houses, fed him, (not always--at one point the man that was supposed to deliver his food stole the money instead). But nonetheless, Szpilman survived.
The full horror of the cruelty and debasement of human beings that took place during the war and the Holocaust, is brought home in the movie, and in Szpillman's book, when an SS officer finds Szpilman, asks him to play the piano, and then gives him shelter, clothes, and food in the final days of the war in Poland. As the Russians liberate Poland from the Nazis, the SS officer that helped Szpilman survives, falls into Russian hands and becomes a prisoner of war. Though Szpilman tries his best to exonerate him, he never returns to his family. The officer dies at the hands of the Russians.
Now for the bad. One of my best friends is a Polish Jew who grew up in Brazil like I did. He was born in Tashkent, during the war, where his parents had fled from Poland to escape persecution. Most Polish Jews I knew complained bitterly of the anti-Semitism they encountered in Poland. There is some proof of this, in spite of the many righteous Poles that acted honorably, like the names I mentioned above. Ed Jajko himself mentioned an event in his post that is partial testimony of this anti-Semitism that did exist in Poland.
Poland resisted the Nazis' initial brutal invasion and valiantly fought the invading Nazis. The Germans suffered 18,000 dead, as Ed Jajko already pointed out. But the valiant resistance of the brave Poles was smashed by the Nazis in the first example of Blitzkrieg that the world had ever seen in only a few days of brutal relentless combat. The technologically superior and ruthless Nazi force prevailed over the Poles with inferior resources except in their bravery and heart.
Poland was brutally subjugated and the Jews were herded into the terrible inhumane conditions of the Warsaw ghetto. Almost as soon as the Jews were imprisoned there, the Jewish resistance and the Polish resistance established valuable channels of communication. Weapons were smuggled into the ghetto by children and others. They were then hidden and the uprising that were to come organized. All of this is of course part of the good in this account. Then the Warsaw ghetto uprising happened. From April 19, 1943, to May 16 1943, an extraordinarily unequal fight took place. On one side the Jewish resistance with little more than its wits and courage but desperately determined to give the Nazis what they deserved. On the other side a well-equipped army whose deathly equipment was only matched by its ruthless hatred of the brave souls fighting it with their nails and teeth.
Wikipedia gives the German casualties at 16 dead and 85 wounded--but these are German figures and I wonder if they can be believed. For the Jews, about 13,000 killed and about 57,000 deported, again German estimates. Frankly, I don't believe the low German death casualties. They must be off by at least a factor of 20. Just my feeling of what must have happened when people ready to die fight evil with the determination of lions.
Now for the bad about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Polish resistance did everything it could to help the Jewish resistance. But the general population of Warsaw was coolly indifferent to the Jews that were being massacred in the uprising. No doubt they hated the Nazis, but because of anti-Semitism in Poland they were relatively passive during the month of ferocious combat in the Ghetto.
JE comments: The very few survivors of the Ghetto Uprising (such as one of my heroes, Marek Edelman) were hidden by members of the Resistance on the "Gentile" side of Warsaw.
To Istvan Simon's list of heroes, I would also like to add Janusz Korczak, physician, children's book author and founder of a Warsaw orphanage. "Pan Doktor" was offered his freedom in 1942, but he chose instead to accompany his beloved orphans to their deaths in Treblinka:
- Poland and the Holocaust; Jason Francisco (John Recchiuti, USA 08/22/12 5:21 AM)
With regard to the WAIS thread on Poland and the Holocaust: Jason Francisco, a student of mine in 1985, now professor of photography at Emory University, has been engaged in a Holocaust and memory project for three years. Here is some of his work. It may be worth simply scrolling down the page to examine his photographs in quick order and then returning, where you find interest, to his text:
JE comments: When I visited John Recchiuti in Alliance, OH ten days ago, he introduced me to Jason Francisco's haunting photographs of Poland. I'm grateful that John has now shared Jason's work with WAISdom. The written comments are every bit as moving as the images.
- Denmark and the Holocaust (Alain de Benoist, France 08/17/12 3:39 AM)
Istvan Simon (15 August) related the nice story about the Danish King Christian X which would explain why most of the Danish Jews survived the Holocaust: "When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a yellow star, Christian X went on his daily horseback ride wearing a yellow star. This gesture galvanized Danish Society."
This story is today universally recognized as an invention. It is just a myth, to use Holger Terp's words (16 August): "The story of the king and yellow star is a myth." Moreover, "the Germans never imposed the yellow star marking on Denmark" (John Eipper, 15 August). In France, the Germans did not require the infamous yellow star marking in the Southern zone, prior to its invasion in November 1942.
The story about the King and the star was certainly popularized by Leon Uris in his famous novel Exodus. But it was invented before, namely in the offices of the National Denmark America Association, where a handful of Danish nationals has opened a propaganda unit called "Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy," which published a bulletin called The Danish Listening Post. This group hired Edward L. Bernays, "the father of Public Relation and Spin," as a consultant (see Bernays' autobiography, Biography of an Idea. Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel, Simon & Schuster, 1965). Whether Bernays was himself the inventor of the story about the Danish King is not known.
The reasons why 99% of the Denmark Jewish population fortunately survived the Holocaust are certainly numerous: mass-scale support from the population, help from the Resistance, absence of anti-Semitism in Denmark, etc. The particular conditions of the German occupation of the country have also to be considered. When Denmark was occupied by the Wehrmacht on 9 April 1940, King Christian X chose to remain in power, unlike most heads of State under Nazi German occupation, along with the Danish Parliament (which resigned on 29 September 1943). It is known that Nazi Germany wanted to make occupied Denmark appear like a "model protectorate."
The personal role played by the Reich Plenipotentiary (Reichsbevollmächtigter) Werner Best also has to be considered. A senior General SS and Security Police leader, who was previously posted in Paris, Best, born in 1903, was the top German civil authority in Denmark from November 1942 to May 1945. He was a very strange character who seems to have belonged to some "oppositional" faction inside the SS. When Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported on October 1943, he showed for whatever reason some reluctance to obey the orders. According to the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, "there is evidence that in Denmark Best sought to sabotage Himmler's orders concerning the implementation of the ‘Final Solution.' Only 477 out of more than 7,000 Danish Jews were finally rounded up by the Nazis who were forbidden by Best to break into Jewish apartments. Pre-warned, the majority of Danish Jews were able, with help, to escape to Sweden and safely."
According to the Danish Jewish Museum (Dansk Jødisk Museum), "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 [...] The available German police force was not put into action against the flight of the Jews after the roundup on October 1. Persecution of the fleeing Jews and coast patrolling was only assigned to a small group of Gestapo men."
Werner Best was sentenced to death by a Danish court in 1948, but his sentence was reduced to 12 years in prison, in part due to his ambiguous role in the roundup of Jews, and he was granted a clemency release in August 1951.
An interesting and very long (700 pages) biography of Werner Best was published some years ago by Ulrich Herbert: Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft, 1903-1989, Dietz, Bonn, 1996. There is also a French translation.
The book written by Richard H. Weisberg, Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France (NYU Press, New York, 1996), quoted by Gilbert Davis (15 August), is much more interesting for jurists than for historians. The author is himself a professor of constitutional law at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, and has been deeply involved in the "Law and Literature movement." The French edition of his book (Vichy, la justice et les Juifs, Editions des Archives contemporaines, 1998) is not a simple translation: some parts of the content have been substantially changed, there are 8 chapters instead of 10, etc.
JE comments: Most interesting. The proximity of neutral Sweden should also be stressed as a factor which enabled so many Jewish Danes to survive.
Werner Best is certainly one of the more enigmatic Nazi figures--somewhat Schindler-like, although I cannot imagine a sympathetic film on an SS officer ever coming out of Hollywood.
Denmark and the Holocaust; Response from Prof. Leo Goldberger
(John Eipper, USA
08/29/12 2:01 AM)
Leo Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of New York University and editor of The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress, NYU Press, 1987, sent me this response to Alain de Benoist's post of 17 August. I am pleased to share Prof. Goldberger's comment with WAIS:
The Danish government resigned on August 29, 1943, not in September.
The idea that Dr. Werner Best belonged to an "oppositional faction within the SS" needs some sort of source evidence--as does the notion that he was somehow "Schindler-like." To the best of my knowledge, Best was a committed and very ambitious opportunistic Nazi who did not refrain from the double-play, pleasing both his bosses in Berlin while also trying to secure the cooperation of the Danes--after all the Germans needed the Danes for food and other important supplies.
What is missing in Alain de Benoist's account of Denmark during the occupation years is the role of Ferdinand Duckwitz, the German Naval official and a close confidant of Best's, who strongly objected to Best's impulsive telegram to Hitler on September 8, 1943, which initiated the plans for the round-up of the Danish Jews--and which he subsequently attempted to undo with the help of Duckwitz.
And while I agree that the proximity of Sweden played a major role in the success of the rescue, I might also add that the inter-service rivalry (as between the SS and the Wehrmacht) also played a significant role, as did the rage of many Danes at the inhumanity shown by the Germans in picking on their Danish-Jewish friends and neighbors---who, after all, had done absolutely nothing against the Germans. In the absence of King, government, and Danish police enforcing the edict against opposition to the Germans, they simply expressed their individual protest and rage against the German occupiers by helping their neighbors, whether Jew or not.
JE comments: Leo Goldberger grew up in Denmark and escaped as a youth in October 1943. Prof. Goldberger's Wikipedia biography gives additional information on his fascinating life and research in psychology:
One small clarification: I was the one, not Alain de Benoist, who drew the parallel between Werner Best and Oskar Schindler. It's perhaps inevitable that any Nazi who saved some Jewish lives will be compared to OS.
Finally, I just noted that August 29 (1943), the day the Danish government resigned, was 69 years ago today. Quite uncanny.
Great to hear from Leo Goldberger.
Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943
(Holger Terp, Denmark
08/29/12 12:45 PM)
Leo Goldberger (29 August) wrote that the Danish government resigned on August 29, 1943.
This is not correct, legally or historically. All sources say that the coalition government submitted its resignation to the King ... and ceased to work.
The Department Chiefs Regime / Departementchefsstyret continued the Danish state's functions until Liberation.
The resignation application from the coalition government was never acted upon by the King, with the result among other things, that the ministers' salaries were paid up to and including the Liberation.
JE comments: Is Holger saying that the government resigned, but the King never allowed them to?
What would be the best English translation of Departementchefsstyret? (I think) I've found several options on the Internet, such as "High-Ranking Civil Servants' Regime."
Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943 (Continued)
(Holger Terp, Denmark
08/30/12 6:55 AM)
Following up on my comments of 29 August, the resignation of the government is one of the many still unexplored mysteries of the German occupation of Denmark.
Under normal circumstances--and according to the the Constitution--the Danish king should automatically accept a government's resignation, and call general elections. The Constitution Art. 15 states that the government must either resign or call an election if a majority in parliament says it lacks confidence in the Prime Minister. During or after the 1920 Easter crisis, King Christian X dismissed the Zahle government. Subsequently, the King promised to respect parliamentarianism as customary law and not to be active in policy. Denmark since 1901 has been formulated as negative parliamentarianism, meaning a government shall resign when there is a majority in parliament against it.
The government's resignation application of 1943 was never debated in parliament and elections were not called for in August-September 1943. The general election on March 23, 1943 was the only election during the occupation.
What actually happened at Amalienborg in the days after 29 August 1943 is still a mystery.
JE comments: How independent was the Danish parliament during occupation? I know very little about this topic, but I sense it was given a good deal of governing power, perhaps more than any other nation under German control. Is this an accurate interpretation?
- on Departementchefsstyret; Comment from Leo Goldberger (John Eipper, USA 08/31/12 2:01 AM)
Leo Goldberger (Prof. Emeritus, NYU) sent this note in response to Holger Terp's post of 29 August:
Needless to say, I could readily have provided a detailed historical account of the political, constitutional and legal contexts within which the break between the German occupiers and the Danish government took place on August 29th 1943, but it would require a much more systematic exposition than I was prepared to do in a brief posting. But whether or not the "break" is to be characterized as a resignation is essentially the sort of polemical nitpicking that, in my view at least, is of little import in a brief and essentially a more general discussion. To simply dismiss my claim as "not correct" is pretty high-handed.
JE asked me in a personal note to explain the Danish "Departmentchefsstyret," brought up in Holger's post.
They were the permanent non-political (i.e. civil service) department heads of the various ministries, who since August 29th had looked after the day-to-day business of government as an interim measure after their politically appointed ministers had resigned en masse. In the course of September an arrangement emerged, with the approval of the Danish political parties and the acquiescence of the Germans , whereby these permanent department heads, 26 in all, were authorized to serve as the de-facto government. While each department head was responsible for his own department, they held frequent joint meetings to discuss such issues and problems as they arose, and the director of the foreign ministry, Nils Svenningsen, conducted all the negotiations with the Germans though Dr. Werner Best, so as to keep the Germans as remote from the Danish administration as possible. This state of affairs continued until the end of the war.
I hope this clarifies what is meant by Departmentchefsstyret.
JE comments: Once again, my thanks to Leo Goldberger for contributing to our conversation. The Departmentchefsstyret seems to have been the ultimate government-by-technocrats system. Were all 26 of the "chefs" prosecuted, or at least discredited, after the war, or did any of them manage to continue at their posts?
Leo Goldberger on the Danish Departmentchefsstyret after WWII
(John Eipper, USA
09/01/12 8:24 AM)
On 31 August, I asked: "The Departmentchefsstyret seems to have been the ultimate government-by-technocrats system. Were all 26 of the 'chefs' prosecuted, or at least discredited, after the war, or did any of them manage to continue at their posts?"
Leo Goldberger responds:
I doubt whether any of the department heads were "prosecuted" after the war. Remember their effort in keeping a semblance of a Danish government going after August 29, 1943 had been sanctioned by the representatives of the Danish political parties. Even the Danish resistance movement and its political leadership, which was in principle opposed to the "policy of negotiation," reluctantly approved as well. (In the absence of a willingness by either the departing government or the King--who was under self-imposed house arrest after Aug. 29--to form a new government, the alternative was far worse than a technocratic but Danish one: namely, a total German take-over!) Thus, at the end of the war, all that happened was that Nils Svennigsen (1894-1985)--a diplomat and the most significant of the technocrats--was in some sense temporarily "demoted" by the immediate post-war government as head of the foreign office and assigned to the lesser post as ambassador to Sweden (1945-1950). He was reinstated as the head of the foreign office by 1951 and served for some 10 years in the next, the H.C. Hansen, government. Later (1961-64), he served in London as the Danish ambassador. Also note that these department heads were all civil service employees and could not readily be fired without serious cause.
JE comments: Svennigsen is a fascinating example of political resilience and longevity. Once again, my thanks to Leo Goldberger for joining us in this conversation.
Leo Goldberger on the Rescue of the Danish Jews
(John Eipper, USA
09/02/12 6:49 AM)
Leo Goldberger (Professor Emeritus, NYU) has sent this followup to our discussion of the 1943 rescue of Denmark's Jewish population:
Having now had a chance to read some of the earlier WAIS postings related to the rescue of the Danish Jews, of which I was one, I want to make a few additional comments to the ones I already made this past week. I trust this will not overburden the topic too much [not at all--JE].
First (re: Holger Terp's post of 16 August), let me point out that the number of Jews saved was slightly over 7000, not 5600 as Holger would have it. I have no idea what his possible source might have been.
Secondly, Holger's assertion that it was the help from the medical profession that was most instrumental in our rescue is a bit of an overstatement. There were actually hundreds, if not a few thousand, volunteers who came to our aid in various ways, providing hiding places and contacts with fishermen, drawn from every sector of life--teachers, professors, students, journalists, policemen, pastors, businessmen and of course, also many physicians and nurses who were in a strategic position to hide several hundred in their hospitals and use ambulances (and famously even a mock funeral procession!) to transport us to fishing villages along the coastline. On that score, I was indeed pleased to see Holger's mention of the brave members of the Women's League for Peace and Freedom, one of whom (Fanny Arnskov by name) in fact helped my own family in our desperate hour of need--as I have detailed in my personal account elsewhere.
Thirdly, in response to Paul Levine's cogent comments and resurrection of Henry Kamm's New York Times informative article on the occasion of the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of our escape in 1993, I would suggest that the reasons for the successful exodus is less of a mystery than he seems to think. With the flock of younger Danish historians with access to both Danish and German archival material, it now seems pretty clear that the main reason for the success--in addition to the spontaneous and courageous help we received from friends, neighbors and total strangers and the broadcast by Swedish radio, already on October 2 (the night of the intended roundup) assuring a welcome to its shores--was that unbeknownst to all of us (Jews, "rescuers," and the paid fishermen alike), the Germans essentially had closed their eyes to our escape. There was hardly any pursuit of Jews after the first night, and those caught helping Jews were not really given much of a punishment, barely a slap on the wrist. Once Dr. Best's goons--his SS men assisted by Danish Nazis who showed them the way to our homes--had caught some 480 Jews and sent them off to Theresienstadt, he was satisfied to wire Berlin declaring Denmark "Judenrein." Clearly, Best's priority was to ensure the maintenance of a peaceful and workable relationship with the Danes, while also furthering his ambition to trump General v. Hanneken, his rival, for German leadership in Denmark, an aim which he not only accomplished, but which in the end also played a role in lessening his prison sentence.
Finally, I wanted to share a reference to a recent book, entitled Nothing To Speak Of by Sofie Lene Bak, a historian and researcher employed by the Danish Jewish Museum. It documents the wartime experiences of the Danish Jews, including new data on the 200 children who were left behind by their parents as they fled to Sweden. It also details the experiences of what life as a refugee was like for the Danish Jews in Sweden. Published by Tusculanum Press (www.mtp.dk). In the USA it is available through the University of Chicago Press. It is a very informative, touching and richly illustrated book.
JE comments: When Leo Goldberger has the chance to do so, I'd like to know more about his experience in Sweden during the period immediately following the rescue. Wikipedia says that he emigrated to Canada soon afterwards.
Did the heroic Raoul Wallenberg have anything to do with Sweden's willingness to take the refugees, or was he already in Budapest by late '43?
Rescue of the Danish Jews; Denmark vs. Norway in WWII
(Istvan Simon, USA
09/03/12 5:21 AM)
I am very pleased to read Leo Goldberger's recent contributions to WAIS. Professor Goldberger's specialty is a subject dear to not only my heart, but probably also of every Jewish heart. The Danes are a magnificent example of generosity, courage under stress, and humanity.
Let me be also be the first to pose a question to Professor Goldberger. Danes and Norwegians are very close ethnically, and their languages are also quite similar. What then in your opinion explains the difference in behavior of the Danes and the Norwegians during World War II ?
the percentage of Jews murdered by the Nazis in Norway was about 45%, whereas all sources seem to agree that in Denmark it was less than 1%.
I attributed this difference to the leadership of Christian X, the Danish King, as well as of course the magnificent generous character and valor of ordinary Danes. But I assume that the generous character and valor of ordinary Norwegians is probably pretty similar to their Danish brothers and sisters. Werner Best may not have been as harsh as Norway's highest Nazi authority, yet the Danes spontaneously offered the most courageous support to save their Jews, and the Nazi collaborators in Denmark must have been a tiny minority, while in contrast, Norway had Quisling.
JE comments: A very interesting question. Norway, with its long coastline exposed to the North Sea, was far more vulnerable to Allied naval attack than Denmark--this may have had something to do with the Nazis' heavier hand in Norway. Or perhaps it was Norway's heavy water--essential for German nuclear research. One presumes that had the Germans really wanted to, they could have found a Quisling equivalent for Denmark.
- More on the Rescue of the Danish Jews (Holger Terp, Denmark 09/03/12 6:02 AM)
In response to Leo Goldberger (2 September), I was using a somewhat simplified description of the rescue of the Danish Jews; sorry.
I actually have two sets of German figures on the number of Jews in Denmark 1933-1943.
Translated from the Danish:
1) "I cannot help but refer to the Wannsee Protocol, which was endorsed by a group of the Third Reich's most powerful men during a conference in a villa on the Wannsee outside Berlin on 20 January 1942. The purpose and outcome of the conference was the development and adoption of the said Protocol, the contents of which initiated the start of the genocide of the European Jews. The protocol determines the number of European Jews to be 11 million, including 3.5 million in Russia. According to the statement, there were 5600 Jews in Denmark and 1300 in Norway."
Sofie Lene Bak: Not Something to Talk About--Danish Jews' War Experiences 1943. 1945 Edition. Danish Jewish Museum.
Ikke noget at tale om--Danske jøders krigsoplevelser 1943. 1945 Udg. af Dansk Jødisk Museum.
This is the source I used in the WAIS post:
"Conference Protocol p. 6
1. The following took part in the conference on the final solution of the Jewish question, held on 20 January, 1942, in Berlin, Am Grossen Wannsee No. 56/58:
2) Denmark 5924."
Census data 1920-1930, referenced from: Ruppin, A.: Sociology of the Jews. Berlin: 1930-31. In: Olsen, Albert: Anti-Semitism and Racial Dogma in Modern German Politics, 1933, p 25-27.
In Danish: Folketællinger 1920-1930 refereret fra: Ruppin, A.: Sociologie der Juden. Berlin: 1930-31. I: Olsen, Albert: Antisemitisme og Racedogme i moderne tysk Politik, 1933 s. 25-27.
The historians and the sources do not match.
Displacement of people in the Nordic and Baltic countries in the 1940s: "In the early 1930s the first German refugees started arriving in Nordic countries. But many were turned away and shamefully refused asylum. By the beginning of the 1940s there were about 5,900 German refugees, many of them Jews, in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. During World War II as many as 70,000 children were evacuated from Finland to Sweden for safety, and some 44,000 Norwegians and 18,000 Danes received refuge in Sweden."
The Fate of the Jews of Denmark
"The figures are eloquent, only 284 Jews were arrested on the night of 1 October, of whom 50 were released and only 202 embarked in the Wartheland. They were mostly people who were too old to hide from the police. Casual arrests in the next few days brought the number to 477, but more than 6,000 full Jews and 1,376 half-Jews were smuggled into Sweden in fishing boats between 26 September and 12 October 1943."
See also: Danish Resistance during the Holocaust. [Guest Publication] Hans Holmskov Schlüter. Copenhagen.
From the Holocaust Encyclopedia:
"Over a period of about a month, some 7,200 Jews and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives traveled to safety in Sweden, which accepted the Danish refugees. Boat transports did not stop once the Jewish refugees were safely in Sweden: some continued to bring members of the underground resistance movement to Sweden or smuggle Swedish intelligence agents into Denmark."
"The day after Dr. Best asked Berlin to send a ship to Copenhagen, to accommodate at least 5000 Jews from the Greater Copenhagen area. Jews from Funen and Jutland could be transported by train. Furthermore, he stated that according to the available material there were 1,673 Jewish families in the metropolitan area, in the rest of the country around 33 families and 1,208 persons were emigrants from Germany. In addition approximately 110 Jewish families who no longer belonged to the Jewish Religious Community."
["Dagen efter anmodede dr. Best Berlin om at sende et skib til København, der kunne rumme mindst 5000 jøder fra det storkøbenhavnske område. Jøderne fra Fyn og Jylland kunne borttransporteres med tog. Desuden oplyste han, at der ifølge det foreliggende materiale befandt sig 1.673 jødiske familier i Storkøbenhavn, i det øvrige land ca. 33 familier, samt 1.208 personer, der var udvandret fra Tyskland. Dertil kom ca. 110 jødiske familier, der ikke længere tilhørte det jødiske troessamfund."]
Source: Aktionen mod de danske jøder oktober 1943. Rasmus Kreth og Michael Mogensen, Gyldendal, 1995.
JE comments: I'm somewhat confused, but the sources do seem to disagree on the number of Jewish Danes rescued. Might the discrepancy have to do with the distinction (see above) between "full" and "half-" Jews? What is really important, in my view, is that "only" a few hundred of Denmark's Jewish citizens suffered the horrors of deportation to the camps.
More on the Rescue of the Danish Jews, from Leo Goldberger
(John Eipper, USA
09/04/12 6:31 AM)
Leo Goldberger has sent this reply to the 3 September posts of Holger Terp and Istvan Simon:
I trust everyone is enjoying this Labor day weekend.
Let me quickly straighten out the mixed bag of numbers sent in by Holger:
1. John Eipper was quite correct in the assumption of the heterogeneity of the Jews included as "Danish Jews" in the various citations. Below I cite the most authoritative sociological breakdown of the Jews living in Denmark in April 1940, as reported by Julius Margolinsky (the long-time official Jewish Community librarian and archivist):
Old-establish Jewish families 1,431 persons
20th-Century immigrants 3,112
Refugees (i.e. "stateless") 1,376
As all of these persons were (or at least assumed they were) at risk in the Nazi round-up and practically all Holocaust historians, including the most recent Danish one, Sofie Lene Bak, have treated the sub-groupings as a total unit, 7,220. Similarly with the Wannsee Conference estimate of Norway's Jews as only 1,300; in fact, there were a total of 2,100 Norwegian Jews. (As I recall, the policy of the fate awaiting the so-called "mischlings" had not yet been settled at Wannesee. It was still considered ambiguous in the case of Denmark's Jews and may, in part, be the reason for the discrepancy in the numbers.)
2. On the interesting question (posed by Istvan Simon on 3 September) of why the difference between Norway's loss of almost half its Jews vs. the successful rescue of the Jews in Denmark, it is important to keep in mind that Norway declared war on Germany--a fact that many in Denmark had wished their King and government would also have done--instead of their immediate (humiliating) capitulation and a "policy of negotiation" that some Danish patriots viewed as close to "collaboration." (From my own perspective, I am convinced that it was this very "policy of negotiation" that allowed us, Danish Jews, to live without the imposition of the by the Nuremberg Laws, at least until until August 1943--unlike the situation in Norway with its gradual persecution of its Jews.)
The Norwegian King (Haakon VII), unlike his older brother, the Danish King Christian X, steadfastly refused to capitulate and acted quickly to relocate the royal family and government cabinet to the northern parts of Norway, called for the mobilization of Norwegian troops, and vehemently rejected the German's demand that the Norwegian fascist Vidkun Quisling, leader of the tiny political "Unity" party, be appointed prime mister. In any case, the Germans, disillusioned with Quisling's inability to from a functioning and cooperating government (similar to the Danish one), installed the tough Reichskommissar Josef Terboven instead--who, later, as a sort of consolation prize, granted Quisling the token tile of "prime minister and president." After the war, Quisling was of course tried for treason, among other charges against him, and executed on 24 October, 1945.
While the Norwegian King and his governmental entourage fled to England on June 7, 1940 on the British-dispatched HMS Devonshire, and with Norway surrendering a few days later, they continued their governing in exile. From London they continued throughout the war to serve as a vital rallying voice for the significant resistance movement and inspired many Norwegians to join the Allied forces abroad and to save as many as some 1000 Jews at home, by hiding them or getting them over the mountains into neutral Sweden.
No, rather that cast blame on King Haakon for the loss of so many Jewish lives in Norway (some 772 were deported to Auschwitz in 1942 and only 34 survived), the blame must be squarely directed at Quisling and his more than cooperative Norwegian police force who did the bidding of and acted as willing henchmen for Terboven, jointly with the Gestapo and SS troops. This fact must itself be viewed in the context of a long history of Norwegian wariness toward Jews, if not also outright prejudice/discrimination. It was not until 1852 that the Norwegian constitution finally changed to permit Jews from living in Norway, without special Royal dispensation. And the story has not yet ended...increasingly there are reports of a growing anti-Semitic atmosphere in present-day Norway, sometimes in the guise of ant-Israel attitudes, but also, more troubling, a fairly direct linking of anti-Jewish with anti-Muslim sentiments--despite their significant differences in their manifest cultural integration.
- More on the Rescue of the Danish Jews (Holger Terp, Denmark 09/03/12 6:02 AM)
- Rescue of the Danish Jews; Denmark vs. Norway in WWII (Istvan Simon, USA 09/03/12 5:21 AM)
- Leo Goldberger on the Rescue of the Danish Jews (John Eipper, USA 09/02/12 6:49 AM)
- on Departementchefsstyret; Comment from Leo Goldberger (John Eipper, USA 08/31/12 2:01 AM)
- Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943 (Continued) (Holger Terp, Denmark 08/30/12 6:55 AM)
- Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943 (Holger Terp, Denmark 08/29/12 12:45 PM)
- Poland and the Holocaust (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/28/12 4:55 PM)
- Catholic Education, Anti-Semitism, and a (Fictional?) Christ (Anthony D`Amato, USA 09/01/12 7:18 AM)
- Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism (Paul Pitlick, USA 08/31/12 1:15 PM)
- Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism (John Heelan, UK 08/31/12 7:15 AM)
- Poland and Anti-Semitism (Henry Levin, USA 08/28/12 6:15 AM)
- Poland and the Holocaust (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/27/12 11:27 AM)
- Poland and the Holocaust (Edward Jajko, USA 08/27/12 1:39 AM)
- Poland and the Holocaust; Jan T. Gross's *Neighbors* (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/18/12 4:34 AM)
- The Holocaust: A Family Story (Continued) (Istvan Simon, USA 08/19/12 8:55 AM)
- Rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary? (John Heelan, UK 08/24/12 5:14 AM)
- Hungary and the Holocaust; Miklos Horthy (George Krajcsik, USA 08/23/12 4:35 AM)
- Holocaust Reductionism? Response to Anthony D'Amato (David Pike, France 08/25/12 4:57 AM)
- Holocaust Reductionism? A Clarification (David Pike, France 08/23/12 4:16 AM)
- Ancient Rome, Soccer and Pall Mall (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/22/12 2:32 PM)
- Holocaust Reductionism? (David Pike, France 08/22/12 4:17 AM)
- Hungary and the Holocaust (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/19/12 6:49 AM)
- Czechoslovakia and the Holocaust; a Family Story (Istvan Simon, USA 08/18/12 5:49 AM)
- Denmark and the Holocaust (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/17/12 3:24 AM)
- Denmark and the Holocaust (David Gress, Denmark 08/15/12 8:14 AM)