Why was Denmark an exception?

No single reason explains why the German occupiers agreed not to pursue the usual discrimination and elimination process in Denmark.

The German authorities argued to headquarters in Berlin that an attack on the Danish Jews would arouse the anger of the population and cause the breakdown of the Danish cooperation policy. Calm and stable cooperation was crucial. The Danes had accepted the terms of the occupation and attempted to the best of their ability to live up to the German demands. However, cooperation also meant that the Germans might give concessions.

The Danish government would under no circumstances accept any special measures against Jews. This viewpoint was repeated over and over. Here the government was in accord with the vast majority of the Danish population. The question was put to the test in November 1941. The stormy public reaction after Denmark signed the Anti-Comintern treaty, which called for combating the Soviet Union and international communism, made it absolutely clear that anti-Jewish measures would not only trigger protests, but also the opposite of cooperation: active resistance.

Reality thus lay behind the threat when both the Danish government and the German authorities referred to the strength of popular opinion. During the summer of 1943 unrest broke out in Denmark. A wave of sabotage, strikes and guerrilla campaigns against German soldiers swept the country. The Allies had won the psychologically crucial victory at El Alamein and Stalingrad had not fallen. The Danes believed that the collapse of the German regime was imminent and were thrilled at the prospect of an Allied invasion. The Danish authorities lost control of the masses. Berlin issued an ultimatum on August 28 to the Danish government, demanding martial law, curfew regulations and the death penalty for sabotage. This was promptly rejected by the Danish government and a united front of all the political parties. In the early morning of August 29, the general in command, Hermann von Hanneken, proclaimed that the military had assumed executive power and declared a state of martial law. The Danish government and parliament resigned, the king was put under house arrest, and the soldiers and officers of the Danish army and navy were interned.

With the collapse of the policy of cooperation in August 1943, the road was cleared for a roundup to make Denmark judenrein [cleansed of Jews]. However, Werner Best still attached great importance to cooperation with the Danish authorities, now under the leadership of the permanent secretaries of the ministries, and pursued the strategy of securing stable delivery of provisions to Germany with a minimum use of military or police resources. The Germans did not have a free hand on the issue of the Jews in Denmark. Nazi ideology
could therefore yield to practical results.


Space and spaciousness

- an exhibition about Jews in Denmark

The exhibition is a broad story of Jewish life in Denmark and focuses on co-exixstence and indentity through 400 years. Read more...

Openings hours

The museums is currently closed due to renovations. 
We expect to reopen at the end of August or the beginning of September.