Hi everyone! My name is Cassidy Trussoni and I am a sophomore history major from Genoa, WI.
In the last few days, we’ve had the opportunity to meet two inspiring women who shared pieces of their family history with us. Tove and Charlotte both had family members who were directly involved in the Danish flight in October of 1943. This flight included almost all of the Danish Jews fleeing their homes as refugees after being informed of the upcoming Nazi raid. There was approximately 7,000 Jews in Denmark before the raid and 1,700 left for Dragør in hopes to find a safe place in their neighboring country, Sweden. We were able to visit the dock earlier this morning where Jews loded boats to travel to Sweden. Our class explored this unique area and gained a better understanding of the importance of the small fishing village where different flights occurred.
The first story we heard after our arrival in Copenhagen was from an elderly woman named Tove. During this difficult time, Tove was left behind by her Jewish mother to live with a Christian family, where she would stay until after the war. As Tove spoke about this, I continued to think about how hard it would have been to leave behind your child and be alone in an unfamiliar country. Another part of Tove’s story that has resonated with me is when she mentioned the people of the community that she was staying with during the war. She stated that many people knew that some of the children like herself were Jewish but that they never turned them in or spoke about it to anyone. I think that the people of the town felt responsible to keep the Jews safe.
When comparing Østergaard’s article “Swords, Shields, or Collaborators” to our firsthand experience, we are able to comprehend the reason the Danish community was able to help their Jewish neighbors. In the article, he brings up the idea that individuals are capable of great things when they share a common value and political culture with someone else. This mentality is seen both in the article and in this situation.
The second woman we had the privilege of meeting was our tour guide, Charlotte. Her story came as a surprise as we all expected it to be just a tour of the city of Copenhagen. The story of her family was extremely moving. Her grandmother and father left for Sweden like most Danish Jews did during this time. However, her grandfather stayed behind to fight with the Nazi resistance. He stole a Nazi uniform, and was recognized as a Jew by a former village member in the German headquarters. He was sent to Auschwitz where he eventually died.
Interestingly enough, she shared with us that her father and grandmother left on a boat named "Elizabeth" from Dragør in 1943. This boat is the only Danish rescue boat left in Denmark as the others have been given to museums such as USHMM and Yad Vashem, or chopped up without realizing their significance. In our search for the boat today, we asked several individuals who reside in the village where we could find the boat in the harbor. Of the nine individuals we asked, only two knew what we were talking about. This came as a surprise to me that not many people know about it after the prominent role it played in the Holocaust for the Danish Jews. Unfortunately we were not able to see it today because of it being taken out of the city for resoration. Because of the lack of importance that the boats held at the end of the war for the Danish people, "Elizabeth" is the only boat still in the water and the final rescue boat remaining in Denmark.
These stories displayed the significance of these villages to the people of Denmark. I have had an amazing trip and have felt extremely moved from all of the stories that have been shared and sites we have seen. The group will be leaving for home early tomorrow morning and I look forward to sharing my experiences with family and friends.