By Dr Max Lawson
Although reticent by nature, a few words are in order about my attachment to Denmark and all things Danish. I taught for six years at the International People’s College in Elsinore (of Hamlet’s Castle fame) which is on the sea coast
about an hour’s drive north of Copenhagen. On weekends I took students on excursions. One particularly poignant one was to Gilleleje, the most northern point on the island of Zealand and the closest crossing to Sweden, twenty minutes by boat. Gilleleje, like Elsinore itself further south, was one of the escape centres to Sweden.
I took the students to the local ,village church in Gilleleye, which had a large loft or attic in which Jews were hidden, pending their escape to Sweden. Indeed they could see Sweden from a large porthole window. One group were betrayed either by a Danish informer or simply the Germans picked up loose gossip around the town. Another group that did not make it were the elderly Jewish residents of a
nursing home – they were overlooked.
In all 481 Danish Jews were deported to the Eesienstadt (north of Prague). From this “model” concentration camp many were deported to Auchwitz but the Danes were allowed to stay, a promise the Danish authorities had obtained from
Werner Best, head of the German occupation of Denmark.
The retelling of this extraordinary event in October, 1943 can be found here.