Stamp of approval ...
Swedish Ambassador H E Magnus Hellgren (left) receives a souvenir sheet of Israeli stamps commemorating the Danish Rescue Operation from Werner Bachmann
Photo by Eva Taylor
In October the Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Magnus Hellgren, most graciously hosted our Herzliya ESRA event. Werner Bachmann gave us a moving account of how he and his family, in October 1943, were among the 7,220 of Denmark’s 7,800 Jews who, under cover of darkness, were spirited away in small fishing boats across the sea to neutral Sweden, where they were warmly received. This was 75 years ago.
Werner presented Ambassador Hellgren with a 1973 Souvenir sheet of Israeli stamps commemorating the Danish Rescue Operation – signed by the then Postal Minister, Shimon Peres – to thank him for hosting us and to thank Sweden for what they did in 1943.
Werner told us that the Germans had invaded Denmark in April 1940. As Germany needed the Danish farm produce to feed their army, and in order to keep this going “peacefully”, much to the invaders’ annoyance, they had to leave the Jews to continue their lives as before. When their military situation deteriorated, Hitler gave the order to transport all the Danish Jews to the camps. The Danish Resistance quickly organized fishing boats to rescue as many Jews as they could and to sail them to Sweden to safety. Unfortunately, 464 Danish Jews were captured and deported to Theresienstadt transit camp. However, the Germans had to promise the King to allow the Danes to send them food and clothes, which they did. The result was that at the end of the war over 99% of the Danish Jews had survived the Holocaust.
After the war, the Jews returned to Denmark and their homes. The Bachmann family and very many others found their homes were intact with all their belongings as they had left them.
Even though I knew the history of this period, it was a very different feeling to hear this story told by someone who actually experienced this awful traumatic time as a small boy.