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The Rescue of the Danish Jews

It is one of the great untold stories of World War II: In 1943, in the German occupied Denmark, the Danes find out that all 7,500 Danish Jews are about to be rounded up and deported to German death camps. The Danish people make their own decision: it's not going to happen ..


 


A True Heroine in Nazi Captivity

Ellen Nielsen is an unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved the lives of many refugees. She was one of the most dedicated and active workers in aiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Her courage enabled not only the survival of hundreds of Danish Jews but also of the generations of their descendants.

Mrs. Ellen Nielsen lost her husband, Christian Nielsen, in April, 1941, and supported her six children as a fishmonger on the Copenhagen docks, buying fish directly from the fishermen and selling it to passers-by.

During the first week of October 1943, while she was selling fish on the docks, she was approached by two young boys. They told Mrs. Nielsen they were Jewish brothers and asked her to help them escape the Nazis and find a fisherman who would take them to safety in Sweden.

As soon as she heard the story, she offered to hide the boys in her home while she arranged for a boat which would take them to Sweden. In a short time, the boys were safely across the sound in Sweden.

Through the fishermen, the Danish underground learned of Ellen Nielsen's act, and during the following weeks, over a hundred Jewish refugees passed through her home on their way to Sweden. At one time, Mrs. Nielsen had over thirty refugees squeezed into her small house. In addition she hid several saboteurs for the underground ..

In December 1944, Ellen Nielsen was caught by the Nazis, tortured and eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany as prisoner 94.315.

In the book Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses, edited by Vera Laska, the author tells how Ellen Nielsen was condemned to death and placed three times on the line leading to the gas chamber.

The first time she saved herself by bribing a guard with a bar of soap which she had received in a Danish Red Cross parcel. The second time she was able to do the same with the contents of another Danish parcel. The third time she had nothing left with which to bribe the guards. Waiting on the line, stripped naked, she was resigned to death.

Suddenly she was approached by Nazi guards who informed her she had been saved by an agreement between SS Heinrich Himmler and the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte to have all surviving Danish concentration camp prisoners shipped to Sweden for internment.

Ellen Nielsen was taken to Sweden just before the end of the war ..


She returned to Denmark immediately after WW2 and died November 26, 1967 - a true heroine.

 

 

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