This article was written by the Danish Jewish Museum.
The Danish Jewish Museum is a state approved cultural history museum that tells the story of Danish Jewish life from the invitation by King Christian 4th in 1622 for Jews to settle in his realms until today. They lend more than 15 original artifacts that reflect on the role of Denmark and Sweden during the WWII.
The experience of the Danish Jews during the Holocaust can, broadly speaking, be categorized into three groups. The ones who successfully escaped to neutral Sweden, the ones who were arrested and deported to the Theresienstadt camp (by definition a ghetto), and the ones who managed to hide.
The objects, that the Danish Jewish Museum has contributed to the exhibition “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away” reflect these different experiences.
The most well-known part of the story is the rescue of the majority of the Danish Jews across the Oresund in October 1943. Around 7,000 people, like the Norden brothers who had to brave the crossing alone to be reunited with their parents, managed to escape and spent the rest of the war years in Sweden, before returning home to Denmark. However, not everyone was so lucky. 470 people were arrested and deported to Theresienstadt.
Agreements between the German and Danish government prevented the Danish Jews from being sent on to extermination camps and they later received care packages at first from a semi-private initiative supported by the Ministery of social affairs but later from the Danish Red Cross, containing warm clothes, like Ralph Oppenhejm’s wool sweater, and food. Despite these efforts, 53 of them perished in the camp including two babies born in captivity.
More families than previously assumed, however, did not take their children to Sweden with them. Presumably, the parents did not want to put their children through the dangerous crossing and an uncertain future as a refugee. At least 148 children, mostly under the age of 10, were instead hidden in Denmark under false identities, with non-Jewish relatives or even complete strangers.
The postcards that Jeff Ibo’s mother sent from Sweden to her son in hiding, remind us that being separated from their families during the most crucial years of their development, had deep psychological implications for many of these children.