January 31, 2008

Presentation of the book Escape at the JCC of Manhattan

Professor Norman Poser’s family lived in Norway in 1940. By the end of the war, all but one were saved, unlike about a third of the Jews in Norway. Their stories of escape and rescue are told in the book ”Escape”, and were told by the author at the JCC of Manhattan, in an event co-organized by the IRWF, the JCC and the Consulate General of Denmark in New York.

One of the most remarkable stories is that of Mr. Poser’s grandmother. She was rescued by the Consul of Denmark in Norway, Hans Henning Schroeder, who granted her a visa to Denmark. ”Schroeder ‘coached’ my grandmother about what to say”, said Poser, ”he told her that since her husband died in Denmark and therefore had Danish and not Norwegian citizenship, according to the laws of the time, she was in fact Danish too”.

Freed from the prison where she was held with other Norwegian Jews, Poser’s grandmother went to Denmark with Consul Schroeder’s help, only to be rescued again in October 1943, as part of the large scale rescue operation that saved almost all Danish Jews.

Schroeder was later the Consul General of Denmark in New York.

”It is a great honor to be here as the current Consul General and to talk about and honor a former Consul General in New York”, said Ambassador Torben A. Gettermann, as he gave a historic overview of the political and social reality in Denmark during the Holocaust, including the famous rescue of Denmark’s Jewish population with the help of scores of non-Jewish Danes. Ambassador Gettermann shed new light on history, saying there are revisionist historians who claim some of the rescuers were driven not only by humanitarian principles, but also by financial interests.

Still, the Danish attitude towards its Jews during the Nazi occupation was remarkable and unique. ”People tend to think of Scandinavian countries as one unit”, said Professor Poser, ”when in fact there were great differences in the way Jews were treated during the Holocaust. While about a third of Norway’s Jews were killed, a higher percentage than most Western European countries, almost the entire population of Danish Jews was not only spared but actively saved by Danes.”

”It is amazing is that more than 60 years after the Holocaust”, we learn new stories of heroism and rescue, such as the story of Consul Schroeder”, said Abigail Tenembaum, Executive Director of the IRWF.