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Jews of Copenhagen, Denmark

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  • Klara Tixell (1929 - d.)
    [ ]
  • Betti Ruben (1897 - 1974)
    Parcels of KindnessRelief Packages Sent by Jews in Denmark to Their Brethren in Germany ■ “On 9 April 1940, I was awoken to a tremendous roar. The thunderous noise came from squadrons of German warpla...
  • Abraham Leon Ruben (1895 - 1944)
    Leon Avraham Ruben [ ] [ ] Leon Avraham Ruben was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1895 to Julius and Sara. Prior to WWII he lived in Copenhagen, Denmark. During the war he was in Copenhagen, Denmark. ...
  • Rebecka Rivka Friedman (1914 - 1993)
    My mother, Becky (Rivka, née Sterling) , was born and raised in Denmark. She was the granddaughter of Yocheved Sterling (Szterling), the sister of the Chidushei HaRim, the first Gerrer Rebbe. She and h...

In 1622, King Christian IV invited    Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and Hamburg to settle in Gluckstadt on the Elbe estuary (then in Denmark). While these Jews were granted economic and religious freedom, Ashkenazim from Germany were subject to many restrictions. In 1684, the unified Jewish community of Copenhagen was established by ordinance of King Christian V. Civic equality was eventually granted to Jews in 1814, and by 1849 they had attained full citizenship.

Only a small number of Jews resided outside Copenhagen. Remnants of now-defunct provincial communities can still be found in ten Danish towns. The two oldest Jewish cemeteries were established approximately 300 years ago in Fredericia and Nakskov.

While Jews in Denmark were initially active in the seventeenth century in trading and manufacturing they also gained prominence as financiers and jewelers for the royal family.

1700 - 1800's

As the Enlightenment reached Denmark in the late 18th century, the king instituted a number of reforms to facilitate the integration of Danish subjects into the larger society. Jews were allowed to join guilds, study at university, buy real estate, and establish schools. The early 19th century saw a flourishing of Danish-Jewish cultural life, and a number of Jews rose to prominence, including the art benefactor and editor Mendel Levin Nathanson, the writer Meïr Aron Goldschmidt, and the founder of the newspaper Politiken, Edvard Brandes.


In the early 20th century, pogroms in Eastern Europe, the Russo–Japanese War in 1904, and the Russian Revolution led to an influx of several thousand Jewish refugees into Denmark, of whom approximately 3,000 settled permanently in the country. With the advent of Nazism, a small number of Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia also found sanctuary in Denmark in the period before the German occupation.

Although Denmark was occupied by Germany in April 1940, the Danish monarch and the Danish government remained in the country and the Jews generally lived unmolested.  In 1943, with a German roundup of Jews imminent, about 90 percent of the Jewish population was spirited to safety in neutral Sweden. All in all, 5,191 Jews, 1,301 people of part-Jewish parentage, and 686 Christians married to Jews were rescued. Four hundred and sixty-four Jews were rounded up and deported to Theresienstadt, and 49 perished there.

After the war, the Jewish community was reconstituted. In 1968, 2,500 refugees from Poland, victims of a Communist Party witch-hunt, settled in the Copenhagen area. Today, the Jewish community of Denmark is the second largest in Scandinavia (after Sweden).


Israel and Denmark maintain full diplomatic relations. In Jerusalem, a boat-like monument was erected on the 25th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry, and a school was named in Denmark's honor. Many cities and towns in Israel have a street or square commemorating the heroism of the Danes. Moreover, one of the prominent items on display in Yad Vashem is a small boat that was used to ferry Jews to safety in Sweden.

On Israels Plads in Copenhagen there is a monument from Eilat stone with an inscription in both Danish and Hebrew, a gift of the people of Israel. Denmark's Queen Margrethe II was the patron of the 1993 events marking the 50th anniversary of the rescue operation of Danish Jews. Source

Notable Individuals

  1. Victor Bendix, composer, conductor and pianist
  2. Susanne Bier, film director
  3. Kim Bodnia, actor
  4. Harald Bohr, mathematician and footballer (Jewish mother)
  5. Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel Prize (1922) (Jewish mother)
  6. Victor Borge, entertainer
  7. Edvard Brandes, politician, critic and author
  8. Ernst Brandes, economist and editor
  9. Georg Brandes, author and critic, father of Danish naturalism
  10. Marcus Choleva, Chief executive officer of KFI.
  11. Meïr Aron Goldschmidt, author and editor
  12. Heinrich Hirschsprung, industrialist, art patron (Den Hirschsprungske Samling)
  13. Arne Jacobsen, architect & designer
  14. Martin Krasnik, journalist
  15. Arne Melchior, politician and former Transport Minister and Minister for Communication and Tourism
  16. Bent Melchior, chief rabbi of Denmark
  17. Marcus Melchior, chief rabbi of Denmark, father of Arne Melchior
  18. Michael Melchior, rabbi and Israeli politician
  19. Ivan Osiier, seven-time Olympic fencer
  20. Lee Oskar, harmonica player, member of War
  21. Herbert Pundik, journalist
  22. Raquel Rastenni, jazz and popular singer
  23. Edgar Rubin, Gestalt psychologist
  24. Dan Zahavi, philosopher


Rescue of Danish Jews from Hitler

When Alexander Bodin Saphir's Jewish grandfather was measuring a high-ranking Nazi for a suit in Copenhagen 75 years ago he got an important tip-off - the Jews were about to be rounded up and deported. It has often been described as a "miracle" that most of Denmark's Jews escaped the Holocaust. Now it seems that the country's Nazi rulers deliberately sabotaged their own operation. . . . Continued BBC
Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, 
Trade Attaché to the German Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1943. A member of the Nazi party, Duckwitz was sent as a Trim Attache to the German Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. When Duckwitz learned that the Nazi occupying government was planning to deport Danish Jews, he alerted the Danish government and made a clandestine trip to Sweden to arrange a safe haven for the Jews.
The Danish underground in turn implemented the rescue of more than 7,000 Danish Jews. As a result, 99% of Danish Jews were hidden in neutral Sweden, where they survived the war. Source