Dansk samarbejdspolitik - tysk jødepolitik


  • Arthur Arnheim


The German occupation in 1940 was a so-called peace occupation, i.e. without preceding war. The Germans declared that they would not interfere with Danish internal affairs. Denmark’s diplomatic representative operated until German capitulation in 1945. The foundation for collaboration between the Danish government and the German occupational force was hereby created. The Danish foreign minister, Erik Scavenius, led a policy that aimed to adjust Denmark to German plans of a Europe under German leadership. Early on, collaboration was accompanied by crises often followed by rumors that Germans wanted to take action against Jews in Denmark. Meanwhile, Danish politicians let the Germans understand that taking action against Danish Jews would mean to sever the diplomatic ties between the two countries. After a crisis in 1942, Hitler sent Dr. Werner Best as superior and authorized diplomatic representative. Best was a leading Nazi ideologist who had previously been appointed high positions in the security agency, SS, and Gestapo. His policy in Denmark aimed at keeping the country calm so that important food export to Germany could take place unperturbed. Increasing incidents of sabotage executed by the resistance movement and a revolt by the people in August 1943 resulted in German military taking over power and declaring martial law. Best had lost his powerful position but quickly regained his strength. He suggested to Berlin to use martial law to arrest and deport Danish Jews. Hitler accepted the plan. Subsequently, Best initiated different damage control activities with the mission of subduing the Danish people. In particular, he feared a new Danish revolt. He told an employee with good contacts among Danish politicians that personally he would not mind if the Jews escaped to Sweden. Three days before action was planned to take place, he leaked to the same employee that it would happen on the night between October 1st and 2nd, 1943. The Danish reaction to the persecution of the Jews was different than Best had imagined. A broad cross section of the Danish people undertook a rescue operation that in two weeks brought approx. six thousand Jews to safety in Sweden. Among other things, the operation was unique because it was spontaneous and without any central management. Germans arrested and deported approx. five hundred Danish Jews and took them to Theresienstadt. Best told the Danish public authorities that here the Jews had self-government and lived under proper conditions. In the time that followed, the Danish administration among other things posed several questions to the Germans about people that had been deported by mistake and asked if they could be sent home. They also sent a request for a visit by Danish Red Cross and others. In late October, Best traveled to Berlin to obtain an answer for the Danes. A few days later, Adolf Eichmann came to Copenhagen officially to discuss “details” with Best. Everything suggests that they also met to plan the Danish visit. Theresienstadt would be turned into a “Potemkin village” so that Red Cross could report that Jews were well and lived under proper conditions. This propaganda trick was successful. In a telegram with three items, Best dictated how the Danish requests should be met. The last item has been misinterpreted, so that it has generally been held that there was an agreement that said that Danish Jews should not be transported to Auschwitz. However, there is no trace to suggest such an agreement. That Danish Jews avoided being sent to extermination was most likely the result of Gestapo categorizing them as “prominent”, meaning Jews who were known and followed by people abroad. Gestapo had decided to save them until the final phase of the extermination procedure.




Arnheim, A. (2021). Dansk samarbejdspolitik - tysk jødepolitik. Rambam. Tidsskrift for jødisk Kultur Og Forskning, 26. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/rambam/article/view/127657