Miracle Across The Sound
by Christine Egbert
In its final and most virulent strain, Anti-Semitism is once again pandemic. It’s on the rise in Europe, in Asia, and in the United States on college campuses, and shockingly in main-line Christian denominations.
In our twenty-first Century, politically correct parlance this ancient hatred for the Jewish people is now referred to as anti-Zionism. But I’m not here to expound on how Islam is fanning the flames of anti-Semitism. Most of my readers are quite aware of this growing menace. Instead, today I want to inspire you. That’s right, inspire you with some little-known history.
Did you know that during WWII, there was one small, occupied nation that saved 7,000 of its 7,500 Jews over the month of October in 1943? That country was Denmark.
Denmark’s incredible, but little known, history inspired me to write a historical romance novel titled Miracle Across the Sound, available through Amazon.com and Kindle. The introduction says this:
While Flem and Liesel’s love story is fiction, the greater love story—a story of ordinary Danes and their love for their fellow man—is pure history. Miracle Across the Sound dramatizes the selfless actions of ordinary folks, from ambulance drivers to Lutheran pastors. Courageous men–men like George F. Duckwitz, head of German shipping, and physicist Niles Bohr–stood up to evil and gloriously shouted, “No!” in October of 1943. Their awe-inspiring history must be told, and that is why I have written Miracle Across the Sound.
But there is one other reason I wrote this novel. I wanted to write a Christian novel in which at least a few characters understood that the Jewish Messiah did not come to start a new religion.
While the bulk of this article you are about to read will focus on the historical facts I wove into its storyline, at the very end of my article, I will include an excerpt from the book which recounts the role renowned physicists Nile’s Bohr played in this magnificent tale of love and valor.
NOW HERE IS THE HISTORY
Denmark’s Righteous Gentiles
In 1939, Germany signed a non-aggression pact with King Christian, who foolishly failed to fortify Denmark’s border with Germany–not that it would have done much good if he had. Then, in the wee hours of April 9, 1940, German paratroopers rained from the sky. At Langelinie Pier, German soldiers docked, and at 4 a.m., Hitler’s troops marched into Jutland.
Denmark’s Army engaged in a brief skirmish, while the Royal Guard defended Amalienborg Castle. Thirteen men died, twenty-three were wounded, and the Danish Navy did nothing.
The King knew that resistance would be suicidal. Denmark, unlike its mountainous neighbors, was flat. Fighters would have nowhere to flee, nowhere to hide. So the King surrendered. But while the Danish Parliament was entering into a policy of negotiation with their German occupiers, Denmark’s merchant seamen acted heroically. Instead of sailing to neutral ports as they had been ordered, the merchant seamen sailed away to join the Allied Forces.
Thus began Denmark’s occupation. Not very glorious. But the finish of a race is far more important than its start. And to understand what changed three years later, during the fall of 1943, one must know some Danish history.
Denmark Had No Ghettoes
As far back as 1690, while most of Europe was persecuting Jews, Denmark’s Parliament fired one of its police chiefs for merely suggesting that Denmark do likewise and put them in ghettoes. Only firing the man wasn’t enough. The Danish Parliament, adamant about civil and religious freedom, took the matter one step further. They wrote a resolution that condemned ghettoes as inhuman. Knowing this bit of history should make it easier to understand what happened in Denmark three years after it was occupied.
While Jews in all the other German-occupied lands sat rotting in ghettoes, stripped of their humanity, or dying in concentration camps, Denmark’s Jewish citizens for the first three years of the occupation had retained all of their civil rights. Civil and religious rights had been an integral part of who the Danes were. It defined them. An example of their boldness happened one afternoon at a song fest in Gjorslev, when a bold college student, under the noses of the Gestapo, requested audience participation for two national anthems. The first was Denmark’s own—no surprise there. But that second one caused the Reich’s dignitaries to practically fall out of their seats.
When the students stood, the Zionist flag was boldly unfurled, then they belted out the lyrics to Hatikvah, the song that would later become Israel’s national anthem. In the international press, the Danes had become known as “Hitler’s pampered canary.”
But while the Danes showed bravery in such matters, they also complied with their Parliament’s policy of negotiation with Germany. They worked hard on their farms and in their factories to provide for Hitler’s war machine–at least on the surface, they did.
Without fighters hiding out in non-existent mountains, Danes resisted the only way possible, through strikes and sabotage, and both were up in the summer of 1943. Hitler was fit to be tied, and he demanded that Denmark’s Jews finally be rounded up and sent to a concentration camp.
On August 29, 1943, Berlin demanded there be an end to all Danish resistance. Public gatherings would now be prohibited. A curfew was to be enacted and press censorship imposed. Firearms and explosives must be surrendered before September 1st. All those found in possession of them, as well as all saboteurs, would be executed. Harassment of those Danes who cooperated with the Germans would no longer be tolerated. Special tribunals to deal with the infringements of these new laws were established.
When the Danish Parliament resigned, refusing to meet Berlin’s latest demands, Germany enforced martial law. To implement Hitler’s “Final Solution”, plans to round up all of Denmark’s Jews in a surprise raid was set to commence on Rosh Hashanah.
Hitler’s plan might have worked had it not been for a heroic German named Georg F. Duckwitz. George had been living in Copenhagen for several years before the occupation, and was the head of German shipping.
He’d first heard about the upcoming raid from Germany’s civilian administrator in Denmark, Dr. Werner Best, and he’d been agonizing about it for weeks. He knew he had to do something. But what? Then, once the ships that would take the Jews away were docked in the harbor, George made his decision. He had just over twenty-four hours. He had to act quickly. So he hurried over to where he knew the Social Democrats were meeting. There, he whispered into the ear of Hans Hedtoft.
“The disaster is upon us. Ships are in the harbor. They will round up the Jews at midnight on Rosh Hashanah.”
Thus began the miracle. Hans Hedtoft warned C.B. Henriques, head of the Jewish Community, as well as Dr. Marcus Melchior, the acting chief Rabbi. Word of the deportation spread through Copenhagen, where most of Denmark’s Jews lived. Only those few unwilling to believe an atrocity of this magnitude could happen in Denmark refused to hide, along with those too old or too sick to leave their homes. Most went into hiding, sheltered by friends, neighbors, and by total strangers who refused to allow evil to triumph.
At midnight, on October 1st, when door after door had been kicked in by the jackbooted S.S., only a handful of Jews were found and arrested. Over the month of October in 1943, ordinary Danes, now aided by the resistance, miraculously smuggled the Jews across the sound, into neutral Sweden.
In Germany most Lutherans were part of the problem. Not so in Denmark. In Denmark Lutherans provided the solution, by loving their Jewish neighbors as themselves, not only in word but in deed.
One Lutheran pastor stored a TORAH scroll in the basement of his church until after the war. And on October 3rd, pastors in every Lutheran church throughout Denmark, read–from the pulpit–a letter denouncing Germany’s round up of the Jews.
By the end of October, 7,000 of Denmark’s 7,500 Jewish citizens had made it safely across the Sound. Only 500 Danish Jews were deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. And all but 51 of those sent to Theresienstadt survived the Holocaust. Why? Because Danish officials pressured the Germans with their concerns for the well-being of their Jewish citizens. They demanded that they be allowed to send care packages to the Danish Jews in the camp, and just like in Yeshua’s parable of the unjust judge, Germany acquiesced.
Although I could go on and on with inspiring tidbits, I will stop, in the hopes that you will go to Amazon and buy my book, Miracle Across the Sound.
Now here is that promised excerpt from the novel:
Niles Bohr remained adamant. “I don’t care! I’m not leaving Sweden until this matter is concluded.”
“But, Niles,” begged Professor Fredrick Lindemann, Churchill’s personal consultant in scientific matters, “the plane is waiting. You must fly to London. It’s why we smuggled you out of Denmark.”
“I am quite aware of why I am here, Fredrick. But this has to take precedence.”
“How can you worry about Jews when Hitler might develop an atomic bomb at any moment? Tyranny will rule the planet.”
Unmoved by the tirade, Niles donned his spectacles. “Then get me an audience with King Gustav. I’m not leaving Sweden until I speak with him.” Finished, Niles picked up the newspaper and began to read.
“But you’ve already met with the Foreign Minister. What more can be done?”
“It was a waste of time. I want to speak to the King.”
“But Einstein is expecting you in Manhattan in two days.”
“Let him wait.”
“We can’t protect you here. Every hour, every minute you delay places you at great risk. You could be kidnapped, assassinated. You must leave Stockholm right away.”
“Then get me an audience with the King. Those are my terms. Take them or leave them.”
With a hefty sigh, Professor Fredrick Lindemann turned on his heels. “I will see what I can do,” he said, and stormed out of the suite.
The next day, Niles Bohr rose when King Gustav entered. “Thank you for granting me this audience, Your Highness.”
“My aides tell me you are quite a stubborn fellow.” The King took a seat at the head of the table.
“What I am is a Dane . . . and half Jewish. I must do whatever I can under these circumstances.”
“You failed to mention a world renowned scientist. I suppose you assume that allows you to stomp your feet until you get your way.”
Niles grinned. “Would you prefer, Your Highness, that I hold my breath?”
“Sit and tell me what I can do for you.”
“Offer asylum to Denmark’s Jews,” Niles replied standing.
“I have already made that offer. Germany turned it down.”
“Forget Germany! Announce it to Denmark! To the world! Run it as a headline in every Swedish newspaper.”
The king remained silent for several seconds. “You certainly know how to make demands, I will give you that.”
“Ah, but I’m not finished.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
“I want you to broadcast it into Denmark every hour. The Jews there must be assured they have a haven to flea to.”
“It’s out of the question. Hitler would be furious. We are supposed to be neutral?”
“Damn Hitler, and damn your neutrality. You’re the King, act like it! The Reich is going to lose this blasted war, anyway. What will you do then?”
Again, there was a pause, longer than the last. Watching the King’s jaw, Niles feared he’d pressed him too hard. He was about to apologize when the king rose.
“Very well. Consider it done.”
Well, that’s it. Now please go to Amazon.com and order my novel, Miracle Across the Sound.