A ceremony has been held in Denmark to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massive rescue of 7,300 Jews during the World War II.
The ceremony was led by Denmark Jewish community President Finn Schwarz at Copenhagen’s synagogue. Finn said that the rescue operation was “almost a miracle”. The mass evacuation was made to prevent the deportation of the Jews to a Nazi death camp. Undetected by numerous German patrol boats, the Jews were able to pass through a waterway in fishing boats to Sweden.
However, some were not as fortunate as they were unable to flee. There were about 481 elderly and sick Danish Jews that were left and deported to Nazi concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Out of the group, 53 died in the camp.
Despite the glorious tribute to the successful evacuation of Danish Jews during World War II, Finn remains depressed about the dwindling population of Jews in Demark. In an interview, Finn said that Denmark’s Jewish community has lost 25 percent of its registered members over the past 15 years. One of the main reasons is the anti-Semitism movements.
The current Jewish population in Denmark is 1,899, which is a significant decrease compared to 2,639 in 1997.
“For young people that are considering how to live their lives, it is of course tempting to choose to live in Israel or the United States, where to be Jewish is not considered something negative,” Finn said.
One of the hotly covered stories in Denmark is the story of Moran Jacob, a son of a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. The family has to move out of the neighborhood of Norrebro, Copenhagen due to threats and harassment of anti-Semitic followers.
“I hope my children can walk around in Norrebro without having to hide that they have Jewish parents and without being spat on and assaulted, but I’m beginning to doubt it,” said Moran’s father in an interview.
More disturbingly, the anti-Semitic incidents rose since 2009. The Jewish community of Denmark documented 40 anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, which is almost double from the number of cases recorded in 2009.
In an interview with EJP, Eva Boggild, Director of the cultural Danish Jewish magazine Goldberg, said that ‘’anti-Semitism is seen in verbal and physical threats, but also in the repeating discussions among politicians on banning circumcision and shechita, the religious ritual slaughter of animals.’’
‘’This makes it tempting for Jews to choose to move to a country where a traditional Jewish life is simply easier to maintain,’’ she told EJP.
But according to her, the phenomenon is also partly linked to the fact that the Jewish Community is defined only as an Orthodox Community.
‘’It has been suggested very often, that the community should and could be an umbrella organization for all the religious groups, handling the Jewish institutions such as the school, the old people’s home, the cemetery….’’ Boggild said. ‘’This would in my opinion make way for new members without forcing the existing members to change their way of living a Jewish life.’’