Miracle Across the Sound/ How Denmark Rescued Their Jewish Population In 1943

Miracle Across the Sound/ How Denmark Rescued Their Jewish Population In 1943

Miracle Across The Sound

by Christine Egbert 

In its final (and most virulent strain) Anti-Semitism is once again pandemic. On the rise across Europe, Asia, and even in the United States, Anti-Semitism infects governments, universities, media, and many Christian denominations. Since Israel’s unprecedented rebirth in 1948, this ancient rivalry (traced to Ishmael’s jealousy of Isaac and Esau’s hatred of Jacob) now masquerades itself as anti-Zionism.

But Islam’s goal to wipe Israel off the map is not the subject of this article. Instead, I hope to inspire you with some amazing, yet little-known, history of an occupied country during WWII that saved 7,000 of its 7,500 Jews over the month of October in 1943.

Denmark’s Inspiring History

Denmark’s remarkable history inspired me to write my historical novel titled, Miracle Across the Sound (soon to be published by Little Roni Publishing). My novel dramatizes the selfless actions of ordinary Danes who stood up to EVIL, thwarting Berlin’s plan to round up Denmark’s Jews in a surprise raid set to commence at midnight on October 1st, 1943, on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. 

We are fast approaching a time when many of us will be put to a similar test, and as Scripture declares, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! Thus, Denmark’s awe-inspiring history must be told! That is why I wrote “Miracle Across the Sound”.

But there is another reason I wrote this novel. It wanted to introduce a new Hebrew Roots sub-genera to historical Christian fiction, in which Jewish characters understand that Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua, was and is Jewish … and that He did not come to start a new religion. I pray many of you will read my novel and pass it on, but in the rest of this article, I want to focus on some of the history woven into my novel’s storyline.  

Denmark’s Righteous Gentiles

In 1939, Germany signed a nonaggression 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 entered 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 and placing them in ghettoes, Denmark’s Parliament fired one of its police chiefs for suggesting that Denmark do likewise. Only firing that police chief didn’t go far enough. So the Danish Parliament, adamant about civil and religious freedom, took the matter one step further and wrote a resolution condemning ghettoes as inhuman. Knowing this bit of history should make it easier to understand what happened in Denmark, three years after it was occupied by the Germans.  

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 were and had been an integral part of who Danes were. It defined them.

An example of their boldness occurred one afternoon at a song fest in Gjorslev, when a bold college student, right 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 anthem caused the Reich’s dignitaries to practically fall out of their seats. When the students stood, the Zionist flag was unfurled, then the students belted out the lyrics to Hatikvah, the song destined to later become Israel’s national anthem.

The international press dubbed Denmark “Hitler’s pampered canary.” But while individual Danes showed bravery singing Hatikvah right under Nazzi noses, Denmark’s Parliament submitted to Germany’s “policy of negotiation.” On farms and in factories, Danes provided Hitler’s war machine with food and munitions. What else could they do? With no mountains for the resistance to hide out in, Danes fought back the only way possible, through strikes and sabotage. Both were up in the summer of 1943. Hitler was fit to be tied. After three years of German occupation, he finally demanded that Denmark’s Jews be rounded up and sent to a concentration camp. 

On August 29, 1943, Berlin prohibited public gatherings. They enacted a curfew and censored the press. Firearms and explosives had to be surrendered before September 1st. Everyone still in possession of them, as well as all saboteurs, were to be executed. Germany would no longer tolerate harassment of Danes who cooperated with Berlin. Special tribunals were set up to deal with any infringements of the new laws. 

Parliament Resigns

When the Danish Parliament resigned, refusing to meet Berlin’s new demands in 1943, Germany enforced martial law. To implement Hitler’s “Final Solution”, plans for rounding up all of Denmark’s Jews in a surprise raid on Rosh Hashanah were put into place. Hitler’s plan might have worked had it not been for one heroic German named Georg F. Duckwitz.

George, the head of German shipping, who had lived in Copenhagen for over a decade before the occupation, first heard about the planned raid from Germany’s civilian administrator in Denmark, Dr. Werner Best. Agonizing about the raid for weeks, George knew he had to do something. But what?

As soon as the ships destined to take Denmark’s Jews to a concentration camp docked in the harbor, George knew he must act. With only twenty-four hours to go, he hurried to where the Social Democrats were meeting. There, into the ear of Hans Hedtoft, he whispered, “The disaster is upon us. Ships are in the harbor. They’ll round up the Jews at midnight on Rosh Hashanah.” Thus, the miracle began to unfold.

Hans Hedtoft warned C.B. Henriques, the head of the Jewish Community, and Dr. Marcus Melchior, the acting chief Rabbi. Word spread throughout Copenhagen, where most of Denmark’s Jews lived. Only those too old or too sick to leave, and those unwilling to believe an atrocity of this magnitude could happen in Denmark, refused to hide. Jews were sheltered by friends, by neighbors, and many by total strangers who refused to allow evil to triumph.

At midnight, on October 1st, jackbooted S.S. men kicked in every Jewish door. Only a handful were found. Then, over the month of October in 1943, ordinary Danes, miraculously smuggled nearly all of Denmark’s Jews across the sound, into neutral Sweden with the help of the resistance.  

Denmark’s Lutherans

In Germany most Lutherans were part of the problem. But not so in Denmark. In Denmark Lutherans provided the solution. They loved their Jewish neighbors as themselves, not merely in word but in deed. One Lutheran pastor stored a TORAH scroll in the basement of his church until after the war. And on Sunday, October 3rd, pastors in every Lutheran church throughout Denmark read a letter from the pulpit denouncing Germany’s roundup of the Jews.

By the end of October 7,000 of Denmark’s 7,500 Jewish citizens had been smuggled across the Sound into Sweden. Only 500 Danish Jews were deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. All but 51 of those deported survived the Holocaust and returned to Denmark after the war.

How Did This Miracle Happen?

It happened because Danish officials and citizens refused to give up. They pressured the Germans to allow them to send care packages to their Danish Jewish citizens, and just like the unjust judge in Yeshua’s parable, Germany acquiesced.

I could go on and on with inspiring tidbits of all that happened, but I’ll stop here, hoping you’ll be moved to learn more, to go to Amazon and order Miracle Across the Sound. I will close with a short excerpt from the novel that involves Niels Bohr, one of the physicist who worked with Einstein in the Manhattan Project.  


“Niels Bohr remained adamant. “I don’t care! I’m not leaving until this matter is concluded.”

“But, Niles,” Professor Lindemann, Churchill’s personal consultant, pleaded, “your plane is waiting! You must fly to London now! It’s why we smuggled you out of Denmark.”

“I’m quite aware of why I’m here, but this must take precedence.” 

“Why are you worried about Jews when Hitler could develop an atomic bomb at any moment? Do you want tyranny to rule the planet?”

Unmoved by the tirade, Niels put on his glasses then unfolded his newspaper. “Get me an audience with King Gustav and we’ll go.” 

“But you’ve already met with the Foreign Minister. What more can you do?”

“The Foreign Minister is a fool. I must speak to the King.”

“But Einstein is expecting you in Manhattan in two days.”

“He can wait.”

“We can’t protect you here! You could be kidnapped . . . assassinated . . . you must leave Stockholm today!” 

“Get me an audience with the King,” he repeated from behind his newspaper, “and I will.”

Drawing an exasperated breath, Lindemann turned on his heels. “I’ll see what I can do.”


Early the next morning, King Gustav entered his conference room. Niels Bohr rose quickly. Observing protocol, he bowed from the waist. “Thank you for granting me this audience, Your Majesty.”

“My aides tell me you’re quite a stubborn fellow.”

“I’m a Dane, Your Highness, and half Jewish. I must do all I can under these circumstances.”

“Do you plan to stomp your feet until you get your way?”

Niles smiled. “Would you prefer that I hold my breath, your Majesty?”

The King laughed. “Please don’t! Just sit and make your request.”

“Offer asylum to Denmark’s Jews.”  

“But I have . . . Germany turned me down.”

“Announce it to Denmark, to the world! Run it as a headline in every Swedish paper.”

The King frowned. “You expect quite a lot.”

“I’m not finished, your Highness.”

“Why am I not surprised?” the King said, no longer smiling. 

“Broadcast it every hour. Denmark’s Jews must be assured they have a haven in Sweden.”

“That’s out of the question! We’re neutral, remember! Hitler would be furious.”

“Damn Hitler! Damn your neutrality! You’re the King! Act like it! The Reich is going to lose this war. What will you do then?” A dreadful silence filled the space between them. Niels had gone too far. Face burning, he was about to apologize when the king suddenly rose.

“Very well . . . consider it done!” the King said, and left the room.