• Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson



Janna Warberg Schou, (1917-1999), was a young woman when she decided to travel to Hamburg in 1936. Being a free soul, an artist belonging to a family of artists, she was not interested in the extremitiesof politics. People were her interest. Her motivation was her great interest in the Jewish people and her concern for the situation of the Jews in Germany.

Janna stayed with the Zeckendorf family in Hamburg,an elderly mother Nita (Helenita) with two bachelor sons, Kurt and Arnold. Janna fell in love with Kurt Zeckendorf, an eye specialist, who was 26 years her elder. We do not know the nature of Jannas relationship with Kurt, but in letters to one another they write affectionately about their trips and mutual interests, as well as future plans. But all plans came to an abrupt end when Kurt was arrested by the SS in August 1936. He was deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranieburg near Berlin. Here he was mutilated at the hands of the Nazis, so severely that he ended up in a hospital where he died in January 1937.

With no-one to talk to about her loss, Janna continued her travels to Germany, assisting Jews in moving their assets and valuables to Denmark in the process of getting out of Nazi-Germany. She also stayed in contact with Arnold Zeckendorf, the surviving brother of Kurt. She visited him three times before the outbreak of the war. They corresponded regularly from 1936 to 1942. All the letters were kept by Janna and are a unique source to the deterioration of the living conditions of Jews in Germany. Every step of humiliation can be followed until Arnold chose to take his own life to avoid deportation to Theresienstadt in the summer of 1942.

In 1940, Janna met Dr. Stefan Glücksman in Copenhagen. Stefan, who was a young Jewish historian from Warsaw, had come to Denmark in 1939 to attend summer courses in Danish. He fell madly in love with Janna. Janna was unable to return Stefan’s affection, and as she revealed to her sister Ina in 1941, she had “still not been able to forget K[urt] Z[eckendorf], despite all efforts”.

Another blow was inflicted upon Janna’s young life, when Stefan Glücksman was arrested by the Danish authorities in 1941. In 1940-41 the Danish authorities made great efforts to please the Nazi occupants and even offered them stateless Jewish refugees for deportation, in whom the NS-occupants in Copenhagen had no real interest. The German authorities were reluctant to accept sending these people to Germany, but finally did so due to repeated contacts by the Danish authorities. Besides anti-Semitic tendencies in the administration of refugees, the authorities also viewed Jewish refugees as a potential financial burden. These events coincided with the Danish industries benefiting greatly from exporting their goods to Nazi Germany.

Janna did everything she could to prevent Stefan Glücksman’s deportation. After the Danish Ministry of Justice decided to deport him, and the Gestapo in Flensburg made it possible, he was imprisoned in Flensburg to be transported later to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen and onwards to the notorious Gross-Rossen, an SS-camp and quarry in Silesia, where he was killed in November 1941.

Janna witnessed the Nazi horrors more closely than most Danes. Although she was an open and talkative person, she was never willing to reveal her wartime experiences. But she left behind the correspondence with her Jewish friends. They are an exceptionally important source for history, which is now in the process of being published.



Vilhjálmsson, V. Örn. (2009). Janna. Rambam. Tidsskrift for jødisk Kultur Og Forskning, 18(1). Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/rambam/article/view/105326