Interesting question

Why did Jews in some countries – in particular in Denmark – fare better than in others? Bo Lidegaard’s heart-warming book solves a mystery

The short answer is that Christian X, Nils Bohr and a very large percentage of the Danish population turned out to be not just civilised human beings but mensch.

14 thoughts on “Interesting question”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    This is just the usual Guardian garbage.

    There are about 5 million Danes. There were about 30 million Poles. There were about 7,800 Danish Jews. There were about 3.3 million Polish Jews. So let’s say 10 percent of the population. As opposed to a figure so small we can ignore it.

    Of the 24,000 odd “righteous gentiles” recognised by the State of Israel, 6,394 of them were Poles. 22 were Danes. So let’s say three hundred times as many.

    3,200 Danes died in the war. 2,100 soldiers due to fighting. 1,100 due to collateral damage of said fighting. A quarter of a million Polish soldiers died fighting. About five million civilians died due to government action during the war. Another half a million starved to death. Denmark retained its own government. Poland was ruled by the German military.

    If anything, the heroism of the Poles was vastly greater because the costs were too.

  2. FFS, SMFS, what have those facts got to do with Tim’s point?

    For what it’s worth, the vilest anti-Semitic filth I’ve ever heard was from a Pole. Could that have some bearing on the matter?

    Anyway, it also seems to me likely that the Danish Jews gained not only from the character of the Danish gentiles, but also, surely,from the luck of which the Germans were assigned to rule them.

  3. So Much for Subtlety

    dearieme – “FFS, SMFS, what have those facts got to do with Tim’s point?”

    Because the Dane’s job was, I don’t know the right word. But it was not like the Pole’s job. The Danes had a very civilised administration. They had a tiny number of people to save. And they did it. Good for them.

    But that does not make them better people than the Poles. The Poles had a vastly greater – and more difficult as their Poles were very unassimilated – problem. Yet a quarter of all the people who Israel deems righteous were Poles. They risked being shot along with their entire families. Some rose to the occasion. Some did not. But you cannot compare the two. Or if you can, you cannot fairly compare it to the Pole’s disadvantage.

    “For what it’s worth, the vilest anti-Semitic filth I’ve ever heard was from a Pole. Could that have some bearing on the matter?”

    I am sure that there were and probably are anti-Semitic Poles. I doubt it has much bearing on it because the Poles were not masters of their fate. They did not choose these policies. But let us agree many of them did hate Jews. That made the job of those righteous ones all that harder – unlike the Danes – the risks greater and hence the goodness of those that did risk more than we can comprehend all the greater.

    “Anyway, it also seems to me likely that the Danish Jews gained not only from the character of the Danish gentiles, but also, surely,from the luck of which the Germans were assigned to rule them.”

    Certainly. The Germans were much better behaved in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe. The Danes risked little – and even then the sailors demanded money. The Poles would have been shot along with their entire family. Yet many still saved Jews.

  4. So Much for Subtlety

    dearieme – “to be fair, Tim didn’t.”

    And I didn’t criticise him for it. I do object to the Guardian banging on about their usual obsessions.

    There is no lesson from the Danish experience. There may be from the Polish one.

  5. Location, location, location. Smuggling Jews out of Denmark to neutral Sweden was relatively easy: at the narrowest point on the Sound, Sweden is only 4 km away, and IIRC the Sound even froze in winter.

    Smuggling Jews out of Poland (or for that matter Holland, which is an interesting comparison with Denmark) was another matter.

  6. The Danes, almost uniquely amongst the occupied countries, largely retained their pre-occupation government, including their king. This allowed many gestures of more or less passive resistance, such as solidarity with the (very small and well integrated) Jewish community.

    The reason the Danes were allowed to do this is because they decided there was no point in armed resistance to overwhelming German power. The Germans were satisfied with the Danish economic contribution to their war effort, and exercised control via the relatively gentlemanly Foreign Office, rather than the Gestapo/SS.

    I would suggest that the good fortune of Denmark’s Jews, as compared with those of, say, the Netherlands, should be attributed in part to such historical vagaries, rather than the notion that the Dane is inherently better than the Dutchman.

  7. “rather than the notion that the Dane is inherently better than the Dutchman”: he is at pastries. And rape and pillage.

  8. @ SMFS
    Much (proibably most) of what you say is correct *but* it is irrelevant to Tim’s point. When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a Star of David badge, King Christian saw an opportunity to seriously obstruct persecution of the Danish Jews and took it at significant personal risk to himself. Thanks to his *pre-existing* personal status among his subjects most Danes followed his example.
    Poland had no king and most of its upper class had been murdered by Stalin (the officers at Katyn, the old ones mostly casually beaten to death) so there was no comparable opportunity in Poland but that does not alter Tim’s point that this was an example of one good man making a difference to history.

  9. So Much for Subtlety

    john77 – “Much (proibably most) of what you say is correct *but* it is irrelevant to Tim’s point.”

    Well I am not sure about Tim’s point but it is not irrelevant to the Guardian’s point.

    “When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a Star of David badge, King Christian saw an opportunity to seriously obstruct persecution of the Danish Jews and took it at significant personal risk to himself. Thanks to his *pre-existing* personal status among his subjects most Danes followed his example.”

    Sorry but what personal risk? They might have arrested him. But they probably wouldn’t have because they needed him. The *Poles* took the personal risks because they and their entire families would have been shot. Go home and look at your children and ask yourself if you would have risked them for some Pakistani immigrant in Bradford. Not in theory, as we all know we all would, but when it actually came down to it. Now ask yourself if you would wear a pink ribbon.

    “Poland had no king and most of its upper class had been murdered by Stalin (the officers at Katyn, the old ones mostly casually beaten to death)”

    Actually no. Stalin did not get into the majority of Poland until after 1944. So he did not have a chance to murder their upper class in anything other than the bit of Poland (which is to say Ukraine and Belorussia) that he controlled. Hitler murdered their upper class too. And they had no king, as you say.

    “so there was no comparable opportunity in Poland but that does not alter Tim’s point that this was an example of one good man making a difference to history.”

    He commented on the King, fine. But the Guardian didn’t stop there. They made an explicit comparison with other countries:

    Why did Jews in some countries – in particular in Denmark – fare better than in others?

    That is, they are continuing their obsession with what is wrong with anyone who isn’t a Nordic Social Democrat. That is unfair.

    john malpas – “is there any point to this raking over of old coals.”

    Everyone seems to think so. The Holocaust does quietly seem to provide no end of ways of people pursuing historic grudges. For instance the referring to the Death Camps as Polish. They were in Poland but they were not Polish. Some people seem to hold a grudge. Or linking the Holocaust to the Catholic Church. That one goes back a long way.

    dearieme – “Old King Cole lived in Britain not Denmark. Do keep up.”

    Wellington was born in a barn.

  10. SMFS: You have misrepresented the Guardian article completely – it goes on to answer the question you quote by reference to the different situations in Denmark, Holland, and Poland.

  11. @ SMFS
    However many lies the Grauniad publishes does not alter the truth, so it is irrelevant to Tim’s point.
    King Christian risked his freedom and life – you suggest that the Nazis would not have arrested or killed him because *you* think they needed him – they mostly used child puppet sovereigns in occupied kingdoms so a quiet assassination disguised a “natural death” would have suited them.
    I am not denigrating Poles – one of my childhood friends was the son of a Polish Battle of Britain pilot who was so low-key a hero that I didn’t learn how important the Poles were until after I grew up and left home BUT that is also irrelevant.
    FYI “White Russia” and Ukraine are NOT, by definition, part of Poland. If you are looking at the amount of the post-45 area of Poland occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, then you are working on a seriously false assumption. Stalin moved the Polish borders west displacing millions of Poles and forcing them to occupy territory that was part of Germany prior to 1939.
    Warsaw was in territory occupied by Germany but I reckon that Katyn made the numbers of the Polish upper class murdered by Stalin greater than the number murdered by Hitler – not that it is relevant to Tim’s point.

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