|Gilleleje is, besides a wonderful seaside resort and summer cottage area, also known for being one of the most important escape centres for the Danish Jews, who sought refuge in Sweden during the Second World War.
This wasn’t entirely without problems. The greatest tragedy took place in the loft in Gilleleje Church, where the Germans surrounded around 100 Danish Jews and took the to concentration camps in Germany.
The Great Escape – Denmark
Thousands of Danes fled to Sweden in october 1943 across the Sound. Many from Gilleleje, Elsinore, Snekkersten and Espergærde.
The Escape Across the Sound
Before October 1943
Shortly after the occupation the German occupying power banned travels between the Scandinavian countries. It was necessary to apply for a visa, which the Danes were to administer, but under German control. At the same time a Danish coast police was established to patrol the eastern Danish waters from Hundested in the north to Gedser in the south. The Danish marine was to control the adjacent waters.
From when Denmark was occupied April 9th 1940 to August 1943 only few refugees came from Denmark to Sweden. Partly because of the relative peaceful circumstances in Denmark, but also because of Sweden´s restrictive refugee policies. It appears from Swedish police reports that the Swedish policy of neutrality towards the strong and victorious Germany meant that they often sent the refugees back to Denmark.
The Coast Police
Vendepunktet (Overskriften skal oversættes til engelsk)
After a series of intense events August 29th 1943 in connection with the resignation of the Danish government and the internment of the Danish military, the number of refugees in September increased to 609, of which 61 were Jews. The rest was first and foremost military persons, resistance people, stateless persons, policemen, but also some unemployed and adventurers, who fled from the blacked out and restriction-ridden Denmark.
Flygtningestrømmen vokser (Rubrikken skal oversættes til engelsk)
The internment of the Danish army, the hostage-taking and the increasing tit-for-tat murders led to a marked increase in the refugee stream to Sweden in the course of the month of September. A number of artists and intellectuals, among them quite a few Jews, began to see the writing on the wall and arrange the crossing to the neutral Sweden.
The nuclear physicist Niels Bohr crossed September 30th, the same day as the architects Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen escaped from Skodsborg together with girlfriends and a fifth party, Herbert Marcus, who was also an oarsman. The boat had been collected by a Falck van in the Bagsværd Lake, as it was prohibited to have smaller vessels less than five kilometres from the coast. It was a dramatic crossing in an overloaded boat, which was unsuitable for that type of transport. Arne Jacobsen was of Jewish origin, and Poul Henningsen was on the list of the tit for tat murders, but he did not know that at the time. They both reached Stockholm, where they spent the rest of the war.
October 2. 1943: The Mass Escape of the Danish Jews
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The Hunts for The Jews
The night between October first and second 1943 the Germans started a hunt for the Jews in Denmark with the object of sending them to the concentration camp Theresienstadt in the protectorate Bohemia-Moravia, the present Czech Republic. Officially the Germans explained in the daily press that the Jews were to blame for the disturbances in August. In order to compensate they simultaneously released the disarmed Danish soldiers.
The result was that 234 Jews were apprehended. The raid had follow ups in October and November, where an additional 190 Jews were apprehended. They were deported and 53 of them died in the camp. Most of them old and sick.
Concentration Camps in Europe
Sverige ändrar inställning
In the light of the events in August the Swedish state re-evaluated its policy of neutrality. October 2nd Sweden announced publicly that they would receive the Danish Jews as refugees. In close cooperation with – especially the Scanian authorities and administration, a number of privately based, illegal escape routes along the entire Zealand east coast were established.
The Civilian Resistance
The persecution of the Jews became a turning point for many Danes in their attitude towards the German occupying power. The close integration of the Danish Jews in the Danish society meant that the racial policy of Nazism offended the sense of justice of many Danish citizens. A larger number of the population now resisted actively; often citizens, who had no affiliation with the existing part of the resistance movement, who mostly were connected to the Communist Party and the Dansk Samling party.
In Copenhagen the students went on strike and some of them organized a collection of money, which came to very large sums: Approximately 1 million kroner, which in 1993 correspond to 20 million kroner.
Thousands of Jewish fellow citizens from Copenhagen made for the Sound coast, where there was total chaos for the first few days with regards to the organisation of this migration. Escape routes sprung up and at first without mutual connections.
In Stockholm the Danish architect, Ole Helweg took the initiative for a meeting with the Swedish foreign minister and Ebbe Munck, who was the representative of the Danish resistance movement in Sweden, and with the help of Jewish circles in Sweden a boat was provided, which sailed from Malmo and this became the beginning of the Danish-Swedish refugee service, which was to sail 367 trips with refugees.
Very different people started separately or in groups to organize escape routes from the metropolitan area to the Swedish coast. Most came over from Copenhagen itself, but also from Gilleleje on the north coast and Snekkersten south of Elsinore were for a period of time became veritable escape centres.
Vellykket redningsaktion (Rubrik oversættes til engelsk)
The result was that the vast majority of Denmark´s, approximately 95% 7000 Jews in the course of October crossed over to safety on the other side of the Sound. Approximately 2-3000 directly from Copenhagen, where 80% of the Jews lived.