Conscience, Heroic Virtue, and Civil Disobedience in the Resistance to Evil

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Published : December 23rd, 2017
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Category : Crisis Watch

"A period of tension ensued, for the Danish population in general and its Jewish citizens in particular. Danish policy sought to ensure its independence and neutrality by placating the neighboring Nazi regime. After Denmark was occupied by Germany following Operation Weserübung on April 9, 1940, the situation became increasingly precarious.

In 1943, the situation came to a head when Werner Best, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark ordered the arrest and deportation of all Danish Jews, scheduled to commence on October 1, which coincided with Rosh Hashanah. However, the Jewish community was given advance warning, and only 202 were arrested initially. As it turned out, 7,550 fled to Sweden, ferried across the Øresund strait. 500 Jews were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. In the course of their incarceration, Danish authorities often interceded on their behalf, as they did for other Danes in German custody, sending food.

Of the 500 Jews who were deported, approximately 50 died during deportation. Danes rescued the rest and they returned to Denmark in what was regarded as a patriotic duty against the Nazi occupation. Many of non-Jewish Danes protected their Jewish neighbors' property and homes while they were gone."

Lidegaard, Bo. Guarding Denmark’s Jewish Heritage, The New York Times, 26 February 2015


"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

What is not mentioned in the videos below, and what is all too easily overlooked, is the protection and welcome and aid that Denmark's Jews received in Sweden, where they remained safely until the end of the war.

What is particularly troubling is when some look back, and in retrospect diminish what others may have done as not enough, as not pure enough, as not motivated in the right way.   To these we say, wait until you are faced with the same trial with the same stakes, and then come back and tell us how much better you have done.

Those who would enslave us wish us to believe that all men are created evil, and that there is nothing of fairness or justice in anyone's hearts.  They wish us to forget, to forget the actions of the Danish people, of the friends and family of Sophie Scholl in Munich, and of all the other actions of those who performed individual and organized acts of heroic virtue, most often unremarked and in quiet, in the face of ruthless, dehumanizing evil.

So therefore, they would have us think, we may all live and act as heartless swine, as they do.  After all, it's only human.   It is not.  It is the antithesis of the truly human.

We must not be silent in the face of such injustice, for anyone.
"It is always the soul that dies first, even if it's departure goes unnoticed. And it always carries the body along with it... Man is nourished by the invisible, man is nourished by that which is beyond the personal. He dies from preferring the opposite."

Jacques Lusseyran, Poetry at Buchenwald





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