Most individuals in occupied Europe did not actively collaborate in the Nazi genocide. Nor did they do anything to help Jews and other victims of Nazi policies. Throughout the Holocaust, millions of people silently stood by while they saw Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other "enemies of the Reich" being rounded up and deported. Many of these bystanders told themselves that what they saw happening was none of their business. Others were too frightened to help. In many places, providing shelter to Jews was a crime punishable by death.
In spite of the risks, a small number of individuals refused to stand by and watch.These people had the courage to help by providing hiding places, underground escape routes, false papers, food, clothing, money, and sometimes even weapons.
Denmark was the only occupied country that actively resisted the Nazi regime's attempts to deport its Jewish citizens. On September 28, 1943, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German diplomat, secretly informed the Danish resistance that the Nazis were planning to deport the Danish Jews. The Danes responded quickly, organizing a nationwide effort to smuggle the Jews by sea to neutral Sweden. Warned of the German plans, Jews began to leave Copenhagen, where most of the almost 8,000 Jews in Denmark lived, and other cities, by train, car, and on foot. With the help of the Danish people, they found hiding places in homes, hospitals, and churches. Within a two-week period fishermen helped ferry some 7,200 Danish Jews and 680 non-Jewish family members to safety across the narrow body of water separating Denmark from Sweden.
The Danish rescue effort was unique because it was nationwide. It was not completely successful, however. Almost 500 Danish Jews were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Yet even of these Jews, all but 51 survived the Holocaust, largely because Danish officials pressured the Germans with their concerns for the well-being of those who had been deported. The Danes proved that widespread support for Jews and resistance to Nazi policies could save lives.
There are numerous stories of brave people in other countries who also tried to save the Jews from perishing at the hands of the Nazis. Nearly 12,000 Jewish children were rescued by clergymen in France who found housing for them and even smuggled some into Switzerland and Spain. About 20,000 Polish Jews were able to survive in hiding outside the ghetto in Warsaw because people provided shelter for them in their homes. Some Jews were even hidden in the Warsaw Zoo by the zoo's director, Jan Zabinski.
August 29, 1943 - Danish Government Resigns
The Germans occupied Denmark on April 9, 1940. The Danes and the Germans reached an agreement in which the Danish government and army remained in existence. Despite the occupation, the Germans did not initiate deportations from Denmark. In the summer of 1943, with Allied military advances, resistance activity in Denmark increases in the form of sabotage and strikes. These actions, however, cause tension between the occupying German forces and the Danish government. In August 1943, the Germans present the Danish government with new demands to end resistance activities. The Danish government refuses to meet the new demands and resigns, after three years of German occupation. The Germans take over the administration of Denmark and attempt to implement the "Final Solution" by arresting and deporting Jews. The Danes respond with a nationwide rescue operation.