News from Denmark

Commemoration of the rescue of the Danish Jews 75 years ago and Jewish life in Denmark today.


As it is well known around the world the Danes succeed to help most of their Jewish fellow citizens to escape the Nazis in October 1943 by shipping them to Sweden. The Danes looked upon the Jews living in Denmark as their fully integrated countrymen who despite their own religion, own traditions and rituals were as Danish as they themselves were. Therefore 95% of the Danish Jewish Community had in 1945 survived the war.

The Danish Jews got a warm welcome back in May/June 1945. Some could even go back to live in their own home, others were provided with a new home. In August 1945 the Jews could reopen the Synagogue. The priests from the nearby church took the Torah scrolls from their hiding place in the crypt and gave them back to be placed in the Aron Hakodesh inside the synagogue. This experience in the crucial days of World War II made the Danish Jews able to have good faith in their fellow citizens for being able to live as Jews in Denmark.

On 11th October 2018 this historical event 75 years ago was commemorated at the small fishing town, Gilleleje, and at the synagogue in Copenhagen in the presence of His Royal Higness Crownprince of Denmark, Frederik, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the President of Israel, Reuven Rivling and the President of World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder.

Except for the Crownprince – who did not give a speech, but was “only” present -, the abovementioned gave a speech at the Synagogue in Copenhagen in which they gave a different angel to this historic event 75 years ago and praised The Danish people for how they took care of their Jewish countrymen. This was expected, but what I found really important and remarkable was how they all expressed the importance of maintaining the right of the Jews to execute their traditions and rituals today. You probably know that the worldwide organization “Intact” has a very active branch in Denmark in order to ban circumcision! The Prime Minister promised to use all his power to avoid any changes in the right to execute own rituals. The Israeli President and the President of World Jewish Council both thanked the Prime Minister for his promise of not changing anything, and the President of the Danish Jewish Community expressed in his speech of thanking the prominent speakers how thankful we Danish Jews are for the rescue in 1943 but also how concerned we are for the possibility of being taken away the right of Jewish tradition by the Danes today.

This event was transmitted for 2 hours by a National TV and besides the prominent guests I have already mentioned for being present at the event there were also ambassadors, politicians, journalists and representatives of different religious groups. So, no one should doubt how thankful we Jews are for what happened 75 years ago in Denmark, but also how important it is that we can continue to live as Jews in Denmark – and in other democratic countries.

The Intact organization has managed to collect enough signatures for having a bill to introduce an age limit of 18 years, before the child/young man can be circumcised in the Parliament this winter. I’ll keep you updated how it goes. I am optimist and believe it will fall, and when it does, it will be harder in other European countries to introduce a ban of circumcision.

Dorrit Raiter

President WIZO Denmark

18.10 2018