Ellen Nielsen, Denmark

In 1941 Mrs. Ellen Nielsen, a widowed fishmonger on the Copenhagen docks, hid two Jewish brothers in her home with her six children while she arranged their escape with local fishermen. As a fishmonger, Mrs. Nielsen was ideally situated to link the fishermen with the Danish Underground. She helped over a hundred refugees escape to Sweden. At one point, she hid over thirty in her house at the same time. She also hid Underground saboteurs.

In December 1944, the Gestapo arrested Mrs. Nielsen. For three months in Vestre Prison, she refused to name her contacts. She was moved to Frøslev and then Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. The commandant summoned her and said that since she was so good at transporting Jewish children, she would be transporting Jewish children in the camp. Her job was to carry Jewish babies to the gas chambers and, after they were gassed, to the crematorium.

When she refused to continue with this task, she was put in line for the gas chamber. Twice she saved herself by bribing a guard with items from a Red Cross parcel. The third time she had no bribe to offer. It was while she waited in line, naked and resigned to death, that German soldiers told her that she was now saved, because Heinrich Himmler had just agreed with Count Folke Bernadotte to ship Danish concentration camp prisoners to Sweden for internment.

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