Announcing 2014 U.S. Multiculturalism Study Trip

September 10, 2014 · Posted in TTS News, TTS Programs, Upcoming Events · Comment 

2014 U.S. Multiculturalism Study Trip
November 2 – November 8, 2014
New York City

 A joint project of Thanks To Scandinavia and the major schools of journalism of the Scandinavian Countries

The 2014 U.S. Multiculturism Study Trip to New York for Scandinavian students of journalism aims to increase transatlantic understanding on the people-to-people level. Thanks To Scandinavia recognizes that the issues of immigration and integration have become increasingly important, and sometimes contentious, in Scandinavia and hopes that providing an active understanding of the U.S.’s experience with diversity – both positive and negative – will be interesting and highly relevant to Scandinavian journalism students, the future opinion makers in society.

 This trip will focus on issues of diversity in the U.S. including ethnicity, religion, culture, international relations, and media using New York City’s experience as the “melting pot of America” as the backdrop for discussion. The trip will introduce students to ethnic and religious community representatives, and to people who deal with diversity on an academic level and in practical terms in the political, educational, media and other systems.  Applicants are encouraged to review last year’s itinerary, included, for a better understanding of the types of programs and meetings that will take place during the trip.

About Thanks To Scandinavia:

Thanks To Scandinavia, founded in 1963 by Danish entertainer Victor Borge and New York attorney Richard Netter, is a scholarship organization that has funded thousands of students from the Scandinavian countries, and more recently from Bulgaria, to study in the United States and Israel.  It was founded to express lasting gratitude to the ordinary individuals who performed extraordinary acts of courage by saving their Jewish brethren during World War II.  In 2001, Thanks To Scandinavia became an institute of AJC (; its funding is independent and it retains its own board. For more information about the foundation, please visit

Date: November 2-8, 2014 in New York City, NY, USA

Cost: Thanks To Scandinavia will cover the cost of flights (as long as booked before a certain date), hotel, and most meals and transportation within New York. Students will be responsible for a $300 registration fee, transportation to/from their local airport and the New York airport, some meals and pocket money for the trip. If students wish to come to the US earlier than November 2 or leave later than November 8, they will be responsible for any additional travel and hotel costs.

Eligibility: Applications are accepted through select schools of journalism in Aarhus, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Volda. The trip is open to students in their last year of an undergraduate program as well as graduate students.

Application deadline: Monday, September 15, 2014. Applications should be submitted directly to TTS at

Application Materials: Student applications should be in English and include the following materials in the order listed:

1. Application form

2. Resume

3. Official transcript of undergraduate work and graduate work, as applicable (with unofficial translation into English)

4. 1,000-1,500 word original essay on why you want to join this trip, what you hope to get out of the program, and what you intend to do with what you learn.

5. Reference letter preferably from a professor or professional associate.

Applications will not be considered complete without all of the above materials.

Questions: Contact Kelly Ramot, Executive Director of Thanks To Scandinavia, at

Meet TTS Music Therapy Fellow Julie Mangersnes

June 29, 2014 · Posted in TTS News, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events · Comment 

Julie Mangersnes

The vestibule at the Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in New York is open and inviting, as is the person I am about to meet. Julie Mangersnes is warm and friendly with classic Nordic features. As she moves through the hallways of the hospital, on her way to rounds, it becomes apparent that she is well known and well liked within these walls.

Julie is a Thanks To Scandinavia Music Therapy Fellow at The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York.  

The decision to become a music therapist came to her rather easily. When Julie worked as an assistant in a nursing home, one of the patients with Alzheimer’s loved music.  Julie used to sing the patient’s favorite song as often as she could.  As the disease progressed, the patient started to lose her verbal capacity, however she was remained capable of singing and repeating the lyrics of the song perfectly. This caught Julie’s interest and she decided to study music therapy.

Music therapy has been known across the ages.  In the Bible, David’s harp soothed Saul’s dark soul.  Apollo is the ancient Greek god of music and of medicine. It is believed that Aesculapius cured diseases of the mind by using song and music. Plato and Aristotle both taught that music affected the soul and emotions. Live music was used in hospitals after both World Wars as part of the treatment program for recovering soldiers. In World War II, music therapy was recognized as a medical discipline.  Music therapy has existed in its current form in the United States since post World War II, when the first undergraduate degree program was established.

There are growing numbers of certified music therapists all over the world today. In the U.S. there are about 5000 certified music therapists and in Norway there are currently about 450 trained music therapists, where music therapy in the medical context is less developed, and has traditionally been connected to educational and community settings, mental health centers, and institutions for more mature adults.

The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine, founded in 1994, focuses on treating the whole person— body, mind and spirit. Julie says that “in addition to using music to improve physical symptoms, we want to assess each patient’s mind-body connection, and learn how the mind is affecting the body and vice versa, to better address coping-mechanisms, physical, emotional, cognitive, developmental, social and spiritual needs of the person. We work with patients across the life span, from premature infants in the NICU to people recovering from surgery to end-of-life care.”  As a research fellow, Julie has been part of a research protocol in chemotherapy with Joanne Loewy and Dr. Gabriel Sara.

Coming from Norway, “a different cultural background has been a challenge, knowing how to apply the right formula. I needed to build a repertoire. It so happens that I meet a lot of Spanish people at the hospital, so there may be a request for Spanish music for example, in which case I do my homework and develop culturally and spiritually a different approach.  I once had a Jewish patient who only wanted to listen to Hebrew music. I was told my Hebrew pronunciation was excellent! All these experiences open up for opportunities in so many ways.”

As part of Julie’s fellowship at The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Julie has had the privilege of working with the best in the medical field, including researchers, scholars and interns.  “The Louis Armstrong Center is unique, as is the quality of the team that works here. The Center has positioned itself internationally as a leader in the field and plays a prominent role in relation to the progress being made in music therapy within medical contexts”, says Julie, who has recently accepted a position in a prominent hospital in Norway.

“The program has unquestionably strengthened the knowledge and understanding of the role of and principles of a therapeutic approach, having had this unique and selective training opportunity. It is my hope that I will be able to make valuable contributions in the field in future research in Norway. It will furthermore allow me to pursue a PhD one day.”

“Finishing this year at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, I will have become better prepared for the challenges in my new position at the University hospital in Oslo, in particular research skills and experience that will allow for advancing the discipline. I am so grateful to the director of the program, Dr. Joanne Loewy, and for my Thanks To Scandinavia scholarship, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity.”

Article by Liv Grimsby

TTS’s trip to Israel for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders – Day 4

April 10, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized, Upcoming Events · Comment 

April 10th, 2014

Day 4 of the mission highlighted the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The group travelled to Ramallah to meet with a Palestinian business leader and later with members of the Palestinian peace process negotiating team.

We then returned to Jerusalem to hold discussions with two Members of the Knesset (Parliament); one from the coalition and one from the opposition, and a leader of the settler movement. We received fascinating, different perspectives from everyone.

The day concluded with a late-night trip to the Old City of Jerusalem (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and a tour of the Western Wall tunnels. It would be easy to assume that this would be the final piece in a long day of discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s most complicated issues. After all, the status of Jerusalem quite frequently appears in conversations about the challenges for a lasting agreement. In many ways, it has become a symbol of the conflict.

But it wasn’t. Rather, walking and touching the history of Jerusalem – from the First Temple to today – demonstrated that there is so much more to the city and the country than conflict. There is a story spanning thousands of years that relates to almost anyone – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and more. In many ways, it is a tale of Western civilization and a reminder, as one participant said, that “there’s far more to this place than politics.” For some, it was their first trip to the Old City, but it probably won’t be their last.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange or  Thanks To Scandinavia.

Editor’s Note: Joshua Goodman, Communications Director, AJC’s Transatlantic Institute is in Israel with AJC’s Thanks To Scandinavia and Project Interchange Seminar for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders and is blogging about the delegation’s experiences. The seminar marks the 9th collaborative effort between AJC’s Project Interchange and Thanks To Scandinavia institutes.

TTS’s trip to Israel for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders – Day 3

April 10, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized, Upcoming Events · Comment 

April 9th, 2014

One cannot develop a complete understanding of Israel without learning about the country’s Arab minority, which makes up nearly 20% of Israel’s total population.

The group met with Mohammad Darwashe, the Director of Planning, Strategy and Shared Living at Givat Haviva, to learn about the challenges and opportunities in integrating this important segment into Israeli society – education, equal rights and security. As with many things in this region, the situation is complicated. But despite the many perceived challenges, Darwashe noted a number of important steps taken by Israel to improve the situation.

One fact that struck the group was the decision to increase the police presence in the Arab communities, building more stations and hiring Arab police officers. Among the many positive effects of this decision was an 800% increase in the number of reports of domestic violence by women. At first, this might appear as a negative fact, but the reality is that it shows a confidence in the police that they can help protect the rights of women. This trust in the police is not a common reality for many minority communities throughout the world. Indeed, one participant remarked “you are doing much better than Europe” on this front – a recognition of a common problem and perhaps a lesson learned.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange or Thanks To Scandinavia.

Editor’s Note: Joshua Goodman, Communications Director, AJC’s Transatlantic Institute is in Israel with AJC’s Thanks To Scandinavia and Project Interchange Seminar for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders and is blogging about the delegation’s experiences. The seminar marks the 9th collaborative effort between AJC’s Project Interchange and Thanks To Scandinavia institutes.

TTS’s trip to Israel for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders – Days 1 & 2

April 10, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized, Upcoming Events · Comment 

April 8th, 2014

AJC’s Project Interchange educational trips try to provide participants with a human perspective of Israel, allowing them to connect on a personal level. This year’s seminar with Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders, hosted by Thanks To Scandinavia, began that process right from the start.

The group, which is comprised of participants from DenmarkSweden and Finland, began their seminar by meeting with Tal Keinan, the founder and CEO of KCPS Clarity, a global investment firm in Tel Aviv. Tal spoke about Israel’s economic challenges and successes. But he also provided his personal perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as former fighter pilot and formation commander in the Israel Air Force. Tal articulated the very difficult challenges the Israel Defense Forces face in avoiding civilian casualties because terrorists launch rockets from schools and hospitals. He stressed the high moral standard that Israel’s military holds itself to and that it is second to none in the world.

These arguments were not new to the group as they are made regularly by Israel’s spokespeople. What was different was that Tal could make such assertions from personal knowledge, as someone who has flown these missions and personally faced these situations where there were no good options. Hearing the emotion in his voice and seeing the strain of such experiences in his face added a personal dimension to argument and allowed the group to personally connect it. This session helped the group gain a better understanding of Israel’s perspective in a most complicated conflict.

Anyone who follows the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether in great detail or tangentially has heard of the rocket attacks on the Israeli city of Sderot. This degree of awareness has rarely translated into a sense of understanding of daily life for Sderot’s residents.

One highlight on Day 2 for the Scandinavian leaders seminar was a trip to the beleaguered city of Sderot. Less than one kilometer from the Gaza border, Sderot has absorbed the brunt of the rockets launched from Gaza. The group met with Colonel Kobi Harush, head of security for the city, at a police station that also serves as a depot for rocket shells. When told that the shells they were seeing were a mere sample of what has been shot at Sderot on a consistent basis for the last 14 years, the delegation members reacted with great surprise. Think about it – 14 years of constant threat. And seeing the evidence first-hand only underscored the point.

What perhaps struck the group the most was the constant reality of the threat throughout the city: shelters in every home, playground, and school. The strongest image were bus stops that double as bomb shelters. This is the case throughout Sderot, and it emphasized the constant and imminent threat that everyone faces. When one has 15 seconds or less to hide from the rockets, it is necessary to have safe havens everywhere. That is not a normal notion to Europeans and shouldn’t be a daily reality for anyone. Seeing it first-hand, according to one participant, “really got under my skin.”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Thanks To Scandinavia or Project Interchange.

Editor’s Note: Joshua Goodman, Communications Director, AJC’s Transatlantic Institute is in Israel with AJC’s Thanks To Scandinavia and Project Interchange Seminar for Scandinavian Political and Opinion Leaders and is blogging about the delegation’s experiences. The seminar marks the 9th collaborative effort between AJC’s Project Interchange and Thanks To Scandinavia institutes.

Meet the 2013-2014 TTS Scholars

November 19, 2013 · Posted in TTS News, Upcoming Events · Comment 

Thanks To Scandinavia offers dozens of scholarships annually to Scandinavian and Bulgarian students pursuing study in the United States, in recognition of those who rescued Jews during World War II and in an effort to spread lessons of courage and humanity, and to build bridges between people, among future generations.

Candidates are nominated based on excellence in their fields by Scandinavian affiliates and by endowed institutions in the United States, including Columbia University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and University of Oklahoma.

This year, we are honored to be able to fund the studies of 12 exceptional students. Below are their stories.


Thomas Bååth Sjöblom is a first year PhD student in Mathematics at Cornell University. He has a master’s degree in Computer Science and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, both from Chalmers University of Technology. He is originally from Sweden.


foto Kirsten Brogaard Pedersen is a Danish journalist. She has worked as a reporter, editor and producer at  various Danish media outlets including the National Danish Broadcasting Company. Currently she is  studying International Affairs at the New School. She travelled with TTS to the US in 2009 and Israel in  2010.




Mariya_Dimitrova_Photo1_2_  Mariya Dimtrova is a joint Thanks To Scandinavia and Fulbright Scholar from Bulgaria, pursuing a Master’s      degree in International Business and Economic Law and a Certificate in International Arbitration and Dispute    Resolution at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Law at  King’s College London, after which she worked in a private law practice and an in-house legal department. Outside  her studies, she is very engaged in social and charitable work. She has worked with the UN World Food Program  Youth Office in London to establish a society at her university to raise awareness of hunger issues in the least  developed countries and organized a number of campaigns to raise funds for Haiti following the destructive  earthquake in 2010. She has also worked with a charity to help build and maintain schools in India and Malawi and  has volunteered at a London depot to distribute food to centers for vulnerable groups.



Kristoffer Gredsted  Kristoffer Agner Gredsted is a 26-year old Danish student currently enrolled in the LL.M. program at the  University of Chicago Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Law from the University of  Copenhagen, Denmark. Alongside his studies he has worked at the Center for Political Studies, a think-tank, and the  Danish Institute of Arbitration.




Christopher Gronberg Christopher Gronberg, originally from Stockholm, Sweden, is a PhD candidate in Policy Analysis and  Management at Cornell University.  He is working specifically in the areas of family policy and sociological  demography where his interests lie within the intersection of in economic development and transitions into  adulthood.  Prior to joining the PhD program at Cornell, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Human Geography and  a Master’s degree in Demography from Stockholm University, Sweden.   During his undergraduate training, he also  managed to spend two terms at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada working with demographic health among  indigenous populations.   His academic interests typically overflow into his private life as he is invested in  community participation to further teenager’s understanding of sexual health and rights.



Katrine Jensen Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a Danish journalist who, at a very young age, excelled in writing investigative  journalism to such a degree that her articles on several occasions were published on the front page of one of the  leading national Danish morning papers. This gave rise to her stories headlining Danish media in both print, TV and radio. As a consequence, several of the issues she has addressed have been discussed in the national parliament of Denmark. Although she has covered quite a few political issues, her main focus has been writing about the arts – literature in particular. She is now pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Columbia University.




 Krista Johansson, Photo for the Bio- TTS 2013Krista Johansson is currently working towards a joint doctoral degree in philosophy at The New School (NYC) and the University of Helsinki (Finland). Her dissertation is on Nietzsche’s philosophy of the body. As a graduate from the Deutsche Schule Helsinki,and having lived in Germany, Ecuador as well as Spain, Krista loves traveling, meeting new people and practicing the five languages she speaks. When Krista isn’t writing, talking, enjoying music, swimming, or dancing – she paints.



Silviya-Mateva pic Silviya Mateva is currently enrolled in the Doctoral program at the University of Oklahoma and she studies  organ with John Schwandt.  Ms. Mateva is a Music Theory Graduate Assistant and her duties include teaching  freshman aural skill classes.  She was a finalist in the Poister and Rodland organ competitions for the spring of  2013, and a finalist in the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition (selected from a pool of 100  internationally), summer of 2013.  Born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Ms. Mateva started studying piano at the age of  seven.  She studied organ with Velin Iliev before coming to the US in 2005.  In 2008 Ms. Mateva received her  Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance (summa cum laude) from Stetson University’s School of Music,  where she was a student of Boyd Jones.  She completed her Master of Music degree in Organ Performance and  Literature at the Eastman School of Music in 2010, where she studied with Hans Davidsson.



Nina Öhman is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a Barbara and Edward Netter Scholar and her work has also been supported by fellowships from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation examines the historical shifts in female gospel music traditions and their influence in American popular music. Her research interests include African American music with a focus on sacred genres, popular music, and gender-related themes as expressed in the contexts of local performance practices and global culture industries. Additionally, her thematic interests include American jazz and jazz around the world, cultural studies, social entrepreneurship, intellectual property rights, and cultural policy.


Jaakko Takkinen Jaakko Henrik Takkinen is a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a  Fulbrighter and a Thanks to Scandinavia Scholar studying the interrelatedness of religious beliefs and    healing, particularly in the context of Buddhism and traditional Tibetan medicine. Jaakko received his BA  from the Institute for Asian and African Studies, and MA from the Department of World Cultures at the  University of Helsinki. In addition to his focus on medical practice and religion, Jaakko’s interests include  intercultural communication, global health and journalism.



Eirik Torsvoll 2 Eirik Torsvoll is a Norwegian graduate student of international affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and  Diplomacy, Tufts University. There, he specializes in U.S. foreign policy, security studies, and the Asia-    Pacific. Before starting his graduate studies he completed a bachelor’s degree in political science at the  University of Oslo, worked as a trainee at the Norwegian Consulate General in Houston, Texas, and as an  information officer at the Norwegian Atlantic Committee in Oslo. Eirik is both excited and honored to be a  Thanks To Scandinavia Scholar. His interest in political mass violence and genocide in the 20th century  comes in addition to his current studies, and was sparked by Professor Bernt Hagtvet’s class on this topic  at the University of Oslo.


Kim Wall, originally from Sweden, is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in journalism and international affairs at Columbia University. Kim received her undergraduate degree in International Relations at London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) in 2011 and worked in political analysis in diplomatic settings in India and Australia prior to moving to New York. Kim also has a strong interest in China and has most recently worked as a journalist in Beijing and Hong Kong. Upon graduating, Kim aspires for a career in foreign affairs reporting, with particular focus on politics, society and culture in Asia.


AJC Praises Obama Visit to Stockholm Great Synagogue

September 12, 2013 · Posted in Uncategorized, Upcoming Events · Comment 

September 4, 2013 – New York – AJC praised President Obama for visiting the Great Synagogue of Stockholm today during a stopover in Sweden. The President delivered a heartfelt speech, celebrating Rosh Hashanah and recalling the courageous legacy of Raoul Wallenberg. He demonstrated deep solidarity with Sweden’s Jewish community, as well as with the Wallenberg family, who still seek definitive answers to his mysterious disappearance, at the hands of the Soviets, 68 years ago.

“President Obama’s visit to Stockholm’s Great Synagogue was an important act of solidarity with a Jewish community that has faced challenges, including a few acts of violence, in recent years,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“We will stand against anti-Semitism and hatred, in all its forms,” President Obama declared in his Great Synagogue speech. “And we will choose to instill in the hearts of our own children the love and tolerance and compassion that we seek.”
AJC also praised Obama for his remarks on Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who during World War II entered Nazi-occupied Hungary and issued false passports to save tens of thousands of Jews from almost certain death. Wallenberg was at the time employed by the U.S. War Refugee Board, which initiated the rescue effort.

Through a joint effort of Hungarian-born Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife, Annette, and AJC, Wallenberg was granted honorary U.S. citizenship in 1981. Obama pointed out that Wallenberg “is one of only a few individuals ever granted honorary U.S. citizenship.”

AJC, cited by the late Cong. Lantos as the first Jewish group to advocate on behalf of Wallenberg, has long called on the U.S. government to step up efforts to solve the mystery of what happened after his arrest in January 1945, by Soviet security services, and subsequent disappearance.

In 2000, on the 55th anniversary of his disappearance, AJC issued a publication, The Wallenberg Mystery: Fifty-five Years Later, by Dr. William Korey, that detailed Wallenberg’s heroic efforts to save Jews, his relationship with the U.S. government, and the current state of knowledge about his disappearance into the Soviet gulag. A year later, AJC published another report by Dr. Korey with updated information, The Last Word on Wallenberg? New Investigations, New Questions.

“We encourage President Obama to press again for a full opening of all archives, so that investigators once and for all can solve the tragic mystery of what actually happened to Raoul Wallenberg – and why,” said Harris.

Go to press release.

Meaning of a TTS Scholarship: Interview with Kasper Laegring Nielsen

March 28, 2013 · Posted in TTS Programs, Upcoming Events · Comment 

Kasper Lægring Nielsen is a 2012-2013 Thanks To Scandinavia Rebild Scholar from Copenhagen, Denmark, currently working towards a Doctorate in Philosophy of Architecture at University of Pennsylvania School of Design. He was an external Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Copenhagen, and has a Master of Arts in Art History. Among other accomplishments, he has published in the Nordic Journal of Architectural Research. In an interview with TTS board member Liv Grismby, Laegring relates the “special reasons” that make his Thanks To Scandinavia scholarship so meaningful – “three members of my family were active in the Danish Resistance during the German Occupation of Denmark from 1940-45.”

Read more

Uppsala historian Paul A. Levine awarded Raoul Wallenberg Foundation medal

February 27, 2013 · Posted in Upcoming Events · Comment 

Interview by Liv Grimsby, TTS Board Member

Associate professor Paul A. Levine, historian and senior lecturer at Uppsala University, has been awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal commemorating the 100th anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth. Levine received the medal together with four others at a ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 23 October, 2012.

Paul Levine has spent many of his research years on Raoul Wallenberg’s work in Budapest 1944 and is one of Sweden’s leading authorities on the Holocaust. In 2010 he published a detailed study of Wallenberg’s short time in Hungary, Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest: Myth, History and Holocaust, a study that was translated into Swedish in 2011.
Read more

Rebecca Neuwirth’s remarks

February 1, 2013 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

January 24, 2013

Remarks at: “Rescue During the Holocaust: The Courage to Care – The Story of the Danish Jews.” A program hosted by the Department of Public Information, non-governmental organizations at the United Nations in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

24_Jan_NeuwirthThank you Maria-Luisa Chavez, and appreciation to your dedicated colleages who arranged this event, to Gail and Mackenzie and others. The UN, with its Department of Public Information in the lead, has arranged public commemorations of the Holocaust since 2006 in New York. Your efforts have been important to Jews around the world and to many others.

Thank you to those who took valuable time to be here, to the people working at the UN, to the NGOs who play a vital role in building a better society. I want to specially recognize my colleagues from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an organization that was deeply involved in rescue during the Second World War and in that takes care of Jews in need and others today. I also want to recognize Board members and Executive Director of Thanks To Scandinavia, and Rikke Borge, the daughter of the co-founder and Danish entertainer Victor Borge. Thanks To Scandinavia is dedicated to keeping alive this particular slice of history and working with a new generation to combat antisemitism and racisms of all kinds today.

Here is the story:

Nazi Germany invaded Denmark, it’s neighbor to the north, on April 9, 1940. After two hours of sporadic fighting, the Danish government – which felt it was no match for Nazi forces – surrendered.

Germany proceded to occupy Denmark. But its control of the territory was relatively lax, so different from the brutal reigns of terror that Nazis implemented in countries to its east. There was no major hunger in Denmark, no forced labor, no public massacres. Furthermore, Germany allowed the Danish government to retain sovereignty over most internal issues.

The Danish government made some concessions to its Nazi occupiers. It drew a line, however, at enacting discriminatory laws and actions against Denmark’s small Jewish minority. Most of the 7,500 Jews had lived in Denmark for generations and were well integrated into the society. The Nazis realized that forcing the issue would be highly unpopular and might threaten an otherwise unencumbered occupation.

The relationship between Denmark and Nazi Germany changed as the war continued and Germany’s initial successes started reversing in 1943. The Danish Resistence became more active and tensions flared. In August 1943, Germany dissolved the Danish government and proclaimed marshal law.

Immediately thereafter, Germany decided that the so-called “Jewish Question” in Denmark could no longer wait and hatched plans to deport the country’s Jews.

Small groups of police were to fan out to Jewish homes in a surprise action, arresting and deporting Jewish men, women and children. The evening was set for October 1, 1943, which was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, a holiday when Jewish families were sure to be at home together. Trains were waiting to deport the Jews to Nazi camps, and then to grueling labor and death. It was a Nazi plan not dissimilar to those that had resulted in the mass murder of millions of Jews in countries all over Nazi-controlled Europe.

But in Denmark, something went wrong with the plan. And something went right with human courage and ingenuity.

It was a German diplomat, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, who exercised one of the first and most important acts of courage. Duckwitz leaked the plan to the head of the Danish Social Democratic Party, who shared the news with the leader of the Danish Resistance and the Jewish community. Rabbi Marcus Melchior warned his congregants and word spread like wildfire.

Jews fled from their homes. Many sought refuge with neighbors, who were willing to hide them and bear the risk to their own families in order to help. Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen disguised Jews as nurses and patients, and hid them in closets and basements. Other Jews hid in churches.

Thanks to the efforts of physicist Neils Bohr, Sweden agreed on October 2 that it would offer refuge to Danish Jews fleeing persecution.

Over the next weeks, Jews were hidden in trucks, buses taxis, and even, in a stroke of ironic humor and ingenuity, in hearses — and transported to coastal areas.

From there fishermen helped ferry over some 7,000 Jews and 600 family members to safety on Sweden’s shores. The action required hundreds of trips in small rowing and motor boats, most with a capacity of 12-14 people. German police caught some Jews, but many of them must have turned a blind eye – a small act of decency in its own right.

Some 500 Danish Jews did not flee or were caught – and they were sent to the Theresianstadt camp. The Danish Red Cross visited them and other Danish prisoners there, and many Danes sent packages. In part because of this attention and care, the overwhelming majority of Danish Jews in Theresienstadt survived the war.

And one other notable postscript: In Denmark, many of the Jews who returned found their properties, businesses, and even pets cared for by neighbors and friends and awaiting their return. This was so unlike the scene that greeted Jewish survivors in most other parts of Europe, where they found homes and goods pillaged and often antisemitism still rife.

To be sure, Denmark’s record was not a perfect one. The country could have taken in many more Jewish refugees than it did and saved countless more lives. There were Danes who sympathized with the Nazis and even volunteered to fight for Germany. And during the rescue, some Danes took advantage of the Jews’ desperation in order to enrich themselves, and some few betrayed Jews to Nazis.

Nevertheless, in a Europe full of darkness, hate and murder, the rescue of Danish Jews is a point of light. Or really, it represents many points of light – many individuals who chose to take risks, large and small, in order to help.


There were certainly historical realities at play – the lax occupation and the fact that the persecution of Jews came at a time when Nazi power was waning and therefore seemed beatable.

There were also cultural realities. Antisemitism was not common in Denmark before the war and Jews were considered fully part of Danish life. Even the Danish sense of humor, with its tendency to undercut authority of all kinds, might have inured Danes to the Nazi’s racist ideology.

It is worth contemplating these issues – but in the end, they merely describe the conditions that made the rescue possible.

In the final analysis, the rescue happened because thousands of individuals made active decisions to help the Jews and not to ignore them or to enable their persecutors.

If there is one idea that I’d like to convey, it is how easily the story of Danish Jews could have gone the other way and ended in mass murder rather than rescue. There is no doubt that the actions of specific individuals changed the course of history.

And one more thought: each act of bravery made a real difference. But together, they added up to more than the sum of their parts. With each act, the likelihood that others would join in the mass rescue action increased exponentially.

Just as mob psychology can bring an otherwise passive crowd to hateful and destructive behavior that the individuals in that crowd would never have been capable of on their own, so too we see in the Danish rescue that acts of decency and courage can create a sort of wave of goodness that in turn strengthens resolve, stimulates ingenuity and ultimately increases the chances that others will make the right choices and turn the tides to the good .

It’s an emboldening idea – then, and now.

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