The response of the Danish Lutherans to Hitler's 'Final Solution'

These past weeks I have been delving into the writings of Martin Luther – specifically his attitude toward Jews – and to what degree German Lutherans supported Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.  There is much to be said about this and, I regret to report, most of it is shameful to criminal.

There was, thankfully, a shining, brilliant and courageous exception:  The Danish Lutherans:

The failure of the “action” enraged Hitler and Himmler alike; Eichmann was dispatched to rectify the situation. The Germans started and extensive hunt for the hiding Jews. The whole Danish population was risking their lives to shelter and save their compatriots. On October 3, the Danish Lutheran bishops sent a letter to the German Officials, and the letter read in all churches stated:

We will never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, according to God’s promise to the Chosen People of Israel. Persecution of the Jews conflicts with the humanitarian conception of the love of neighbors and the message which Christ’s church set out to preach. Christ taught us that every man has a value in the eyes of God …Persecution conflicts with the judicial conscience existing in the Danish people, inherited through centuries of Danish culture. …We respect the right to religious freedom and to the performance of the divine worship according to the dictates of conscience.

Notwithstanding our separate religious beliefs we will fight to preserve for our brothers and sisters the same freedom we ourselves value more than life. The leaders of the Danish Church clearly comprehend the duties o law-abiding citizens, bound to maintain the right and to protest every violation of justice. It is evident that in this case we are obeying God rather than man.”

The response of the Danish population, and all the Danish institutions was unbelievable. The underground newspaper Free Denmark, wrote:

The persecution of the Jews has hit the Danes in the sorest point of their conception of justice;…. The episodes of the last two nights have to us become a part of Denmark’s fate, and if we desert the Jews in this hour of their misery, we desert our native country.

Pastor Ivar Lange, made a comment after reading the Bishop’s declaration: “Politics must not be discussed here, because it is punishable. In spite of this, I tell you that I would rather die with the Jews than live with the Nazis.” As a result of the timely warning and the help of the Danish people 8000 Jews temporarily escaped the Nazis and ding everywhere; in hospitals under assumed Christian names, in garages, in attics of friends of strangers, in Churches, and in the woods, but they were not out of danger. The Germans started a massive manhunt, they were patrolling the shore areas and all boats were ordered out of the water, with the exception of fishermen’s boats. The problem was how to get the Jews out of the country, to a safe haven in Sweden.

Photowalk - Kronborg Castle by Silas Dich.


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