En mangelfuld fortælling
A story lacking in information
In 2010, the University Press of Southern Denmark published the results of historian Lone Rünitz’ long-term project on the history of the Jugend-Aliyah children in Denmark in a book entitled Diskret Ophold (Discrete Stay). The book is mainly an account of the Danish aspects of the Jugend-Aliyah work, including interesting stories of some of the refugee children.
Hardly any effort has gone into explaining the Danish contacts with the European network of the brave women and men, who engaged in the rescue of Jewish children, the Kinderstransporte and in Zionist youth work. More than 90 % of the literature used by Rünitz in her book is Danish and many of the new central presentations on the Jugend-Aliyah seem to be unknown to her. One of the driving forces of her work seems to be a rather unjust criticism of the organizers of the Jugend-Aliyah aid and Jewish organizations in Denmark.
The book has severe gaps in its attempts to cover the history of the Jugend-Aliyah in Denmark. The Kinderlager in Horserød north of Copenhagen, a summer-camp organized by Jewish organizations and the Zionist movement in Berlin with among others the B’nai B’rith in Denmark is hardly mentioned in the book.
The present article is an attempt to fill these gaps. Many of the children in the Horserød summer camps were later Jugend-Aliyah children in Denmark. The immense effort of Norbert Wollheim, the main organizer of these camps should have been mentioned in a book on the Jugend-Aliyah in Denmark. However, his name and work is totally absent in Diskret Ophold.
Another major player in the history of the Jugend-Aliyah in Danmark was Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, a Dutch woman who was one of the main organizers of the Kindertransporte and rescuer of Jewish Children to Palestine and Britain from 1938 to 1940. She probably rescued about 10,000 people during WWII. Mrs. Wijsmuller-Meijer is not mentioned in Diskret Ophold, although she travelled from Amsterdam to Berlin and Copenhagen in 1939 to 1940 to negotiate visas and travel opportunities for Jewish children in, through and out of Denmark. She arranged for the air-lift of 49 Jewish children out of Denmark in early 1940.
The story of Mrs. Wijsmuller-Meijer has, until the present article, never been told in Denmark, while the story about a Nazi, George Ferdinand Duckwitz, whose efforts for the Jews of Denmark we only know of from his own self-contradicting accounts, has been sanctified by a Danish historian using dubious historical methods (see Rambam 15/2006).
The omission of Mrs. Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer’s name and efforts from a book on the relief work for Jewish refugees in Denmark is a continuation of the present trend in Danish WWII research, where the victims are less interesting than the motives of the Danish authorities, who victimized them. The rescue of the Danish Jews is seen as a direct consequence of the collaboration policy of the Danish authorities.