We often hear about the brave people who, during World War 2, risked their own lives in order to transport the Danish Jews and members of the resistance movement to safety in neutral Sweden.
But we rarely hear their names. This memorial stands in Snekkersten south of Elsinore, Denmark.
The text on the stone reads:
Brave aide of refugees
H. C. THOMSEN
* 18-9 1906 in Thisted
+ 4-12 1944 in Neuengamme
The land you can see in the background is Sweden, only a few miles away – so near and yet so far.
During the first three years of the occupation, the Danish authorities collaborated with the German occupying forces. In return, Danes had it relatively easy despite the war and even the Jews were left alone. But by the summer of 1943, it was becoming impossible to keep up the pretense. Sabotage against the German forces was becoming more and more common and the government found it harder and harder to comply with German demands.
On August 29, 2943, the German authorities officially took control with Denmark and shortly after they tried to arrest the Jews. But German attache Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz warned the Jews, and most of them managed to flee to Sweden. This also established many of the routes by which members of the Danish resistance later fled the country.
But sadly, not all got out in time. Even some of those who had helped others escape, failed to escape themselves.
The memorial reminds us that the heroes of World War 2 were not just “heroes” – that they were people who had names and lives and families.
You can read more about the Great Danish Escape and the “Thomson route” here.