Humanity in Action Commemorates Rescue of Danish Jews with Conference, Two Books, Photography Exhibit, Seminar, and Website

From September 30 to October 2, 2013, Humanity in Action Denmark held a major conference in Copenhagen, published two books and displayed a photography exhibition to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the flight and rescue of Danish Jewry in October 1943. 

Entitled "Civil Society: Reactions to the Holocaust," the conference explored the different ways that European and American societies responded to the Holocaust with a special focus on Denmark's unique experience. Over 150 participants attended from many different countries. The conference featured public discussions with renown European and American scholars as well as a visit to the fishing village of Gilleleje, from which many thousands of Jews fled to Sweden. This is also the place from which over 80 Jews were arrested and deported to Theresienstadt.

The October '43 conference concluded with a special performance at the Royal Danish Theatre in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and with remarks by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and former Chief Rabbi of Denmark Bent Melchior. The evening also featured performances by the Royal Danish Orchestra and Opera Chorus.

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View the program from the performance at the Royal Danish Theater >>

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Read Executive Director Judith S. Goldstein's Closing Remarks >>

Taking inspiration from other Humanity in Action programs, the conference sought to draw lessons about how the histories of resistance and rescue during the Second World War relate to the responsibility of civil society and the protection of minorities today. Conference speakers included Richard Breitman (USA), Ulrich Herbert (Germany), David Cesarani (UK), Ronald Leopold (Holland), Konstanty Gebert (Poland), Sofie Lene Bak and Bo Lidegaard (Denmark).



The October '43 conference coincided with the release of Civil Society and the Holocaust: International Perspectives on Resistance and Rescue, a new book from Humanity in Action Press published in both English and Danish. Edited by Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Bank and Anders Jerichow, the volume includes essays written by many of the conference speakers:  Sofie Lene Bak (Denmark), Konstanty Gebert (Poland), Anthony Georgieff (Bulgaria), Ulrich Hebert (Germany), Annette Wieviorka (France), Richard Breitman (USA), Bob Moore (UK), Ronald Leopold (The Netherlands), Karin Kvist Geverts (Sweden), Oula Silvennoinen (Finland), Irene Levin (Norway) and Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Bank (Denmark). Translations were provided by Paul Larkin. 

Humanity in Action is pleased to share free digital copies of Civil Society and the Holocaust. To purchase a hardcopy of the volume in English, please contact Humanity in Action. To purchase a hardcopy of the volume in Danish, please visit Syddansk Universitetsforlag.

In addition, Humanity in Action Denmark published Oktober 43, a comprehensive new collection of sources on the fate of Danish Jews during the Nazi occupation. The volume is edited by Anders Jerichow and published in Danish. Oktober 43 compiles both historical and contemporary sources on the persecution of Danish Jews, including the political considerations and decisions of Germany, Denmark and Sweden during the War, the rescue mission across the Oresund strait and Sweden's reception of many refugees. 


Humanity in Action also held an exhibition of photographs by Judy Ellis Glickman at the Politiken Gallery about resistance in Denmark and other European countries during the Second World War. The presentation of this exhibition, which has been shown in over 150 locations in the United States, France, England, Denmark and Israel, is one of the several approaches used by Humanity in Action to educate the public about its goals and mission.

Taken in Denmark, Germany and Eastern Europe, Glickman's photographs illuminate an important aspect of the European past in bold and illustrative ways. In particular, the history of the flight and rescue of Danish Jewry during the period of occupation, resistance and rescue in 1943 is a piece of the larger European response to Nazism and the Holocaust. Glickman's evocation of the experiences of Jews in Denmark provides a striking narrative of resistance set against the deadly background of the concentration and extermination camps in Eastern Europe. Humanity in Action thanks Politiken, Denmark's leading newspaper, for hosting the exhibition. 

Humanity in Action Denmark also held a seminar for Danish high-school teachers entitled “Holocaust and personal responsibility.” The purpose of this seminar was to give the teachers an insight into new and different ways of teaching the Holocaust in relation to civil society. During the seminar, the teachers were presented with, among others, a personal account of the escape from an October ’43 refugee, the newest research within the field of the Jewish escape to Sweden or deportation to Theresienstadt, and an international perspective on the teaching of the Holocaust presented by representatives from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the House of the Wannsee-Conference in Berlin.

The teachers were also introduced to Humanity in Action Denmark’s new educational material on October ’43: This website provides an introduction, materials and further reading on October ’43 and the Holocaust for a majority of the subjects taught at high school level. It also gives ideas as to how to work with the subject on an interdisciplinary level, a skill that is much focused upon in Danish schools. The material was made in corporation with high school teachers from all over Denmark, and was given a warm reception at the seminar. At the end of the day, the teachers left not only with Humanity in Action Denmark’s two new book publications, but also with new knowledge and inspiration.  

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