The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. When this happened, how did it affect the Jews?

A. This development, in itself, did not affect the Jews,
especially at the beginning, for the Jews were accustomed to
the fact that, whatever happened to the population as a
whole, happened to them as well.  But already during the
year, or year and a half, prior to that, there were various
occasions when rumours and cases of minor alarm spread
amongst different sections within the community.

Q. Rumours concerning what?

A. Rumours concerning the preparation of various measures by
the Germans against the Jews.

Q. Did you believe these rumours?

A. As I have said, it was a matter of degree - there were
people who were more prone, those who had had more practical
experience of the manifestations of anti-Semitism, who
tended more to believe such rumours.  On the other hand, the
more settled sections - one could also say those who were
more assimilated - were not easily inclined to give them

Q. In September of that year, what became apparent?

A. Naturally, something different happened to each one,

Q. What happened to you?

A. My assessment was that the security of the Jews in
Denmark depended on the general situation.  It had become
known on various occasions from quite reliable sources, that
the government of Denmark had made it clear to the Germans
in the most unambiguous terms that they regarded the Jewish
Question as one of the basic criteria for non-interference
by the Germans in the affairs of Denmark.  Hence, it was the
very existence of the Danish Government that gave us this
justified feeling of security, at least in the beginning.
To a certain extent this was also linked with the
personality of the King.  There were certain legends about
what the King did or said; in this respect, although it was
known that they were not always authentic, and even when it
emerged that in reality they were not correct, they
nevertheless represented the true nature of the King's

Q. When was the rounding-up operation by the Germans against
the Jews actually carried out?

A. On the night of 1 October 1943, the Sabbath eve, and the
following day.

Q. Did the Germans manage to preserve the secrecy of their
designs until that day?

A. On the Tuesday of that week, 28 September 1943,
information was received which originated with the German
controller of shipping affairs in Copenhagen, Duckwitz.

Q. And where was the information received?

A. He gave the information to the leader of the Social
Democratic Party, to Bohl, who had still been Prime Minister
in the previous year, to Hedtoft, and to Hansson, both of
whom had been Prime Ministers.

Q. And what was the information?

A. The information was accurate and well-based. The
information was to the effect that the rounding-up would
take place on the Sabbath eve and on Saturday night of that
week.  Through this advance information, we gained three
days that enabled us to carry out steps that were actually
decisive for the operation, for it is clear that the
subsequent rescue was not accomplished all at once; it took
two or three weeks, but in most cases people managed to find
a hiding place.

Presiding Judge: I did not follow who was the person who
passed on the information - a German or a Dane?

Witness Melchior: A German, the German in charge of shipping
affairs in Denmark.

Q. On whose behalf was he in charge?

A. On behalf of the German authorities.  His name was
Duckwitz.  He was appointed after the War to be the first
ambassador of Bonn in Denmark, and he is, today, Director of
the Department for Eastern Europe in the Foreign Ministry in

State Attorney Bach:  What did you do when you received this

Witness Melchior: The leaders of the Social Democratic
Party, by themselves and through their representatives, got
in touch with the Jews.  It was on that same Tuesday, in the
afternoon.  Even then there were Jews who refused to
believe.  But they were given to understand that the Danish
people, who received the information, had a great deal of
confidence in their source, and even those who were simply
unable to digest the information that something of this kind
could happen in our midst were forced at least to adopt the
precautionary measures that were required.  The matter was
particularly grave because the following day, Wednesday, was
the eve of Rosh Hashana.  Formal notification was,
therefore, given in the morning by my father in the
synagogue, to the effect that the Rosh Hashana services were
cancelled, and the Jews were advised not to be found in
their homes during the coming days, and to wait for matters
to develop.

Q. Tell me, Mr. Melchior, this rumour surely did not only
reach you, but certainly the non-Jewish sector in Copenhagen
as well?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you personally experience a certain attitude towards
the Jews in regard to this question and in connection with
the danger to which they were exposed?

A. Definitely.  The news spread at a speed which is
difficult to imagine, bearing in mind that there was no use
of technical means of communication or anything like that.
For example, on the following day, my last day in
Copenhagen, when I went, amongst other places, to the
university, in order to return a number of books and to
leave messages for my professors, I was approached by two
students whom I used to greet at the entrance, but who did
not take the same courses as I did; they came up to me
separately and on their own initiative said to me, in more
or less the same words: "Look, we know who you are, we have
heard all kinds of rumours, we don't know how true they are,
but in case there is anything at all which you think we can
reasonably do for your sake, or in general, you should know
that our names are such and such, our address you will find
in the university register, and you can get in touch with
us, as may be needed."  This happened twice, within the ten
minutes that I spent, altogether, at the university.

Q. These were people you did not know?

A. We used to greet each other at the entrance, whenever we
met.  We used to see each other during the three years of my
studies until then.

Q. And now, please tell me, when the rounding-up was carried
out, what were its results?

A. The results were proportionately - clearly for those who
were affected it was not something light - but
proportionately the results were very poor.  As far as I
remember, a total of 472 persons were seized.

Presiding Judge: Out of how many Jews in Copenhagen?

Witness Melchior: Out of roughly 7,700 in the whole of
Denmark.  Those who were caught were sent to Theresienstadt.
In Sweden, where the rest of us were, it was known that the
interest of the Danes did not cease with the deportations.
On the contrary.  In 1944 there was a delegation in the name
of the King, in order to find out what their situation was.
It was known that they received the parcels sent to them by
government offices in Denmark.  And as far as I know, this
was the only group of Jews who were not subjected to acts of
violence during their internment.  There was a kind of
paradox in the fact that, in 1944, when the Danish police
was disbanded and a large number of Danish policemen were
exiled to Buchenwald, Neuengamme and Neusandez, where many
of them died from torture, these Jews from Denmark remained
alive.  In Theresienstadt about fifty of them died, but
there was not even one case of the use of physical violence.
A large number of those who were deported were elderly
people, because - amongst other reasons - the evacuation of
the old age homes had, somehow, not succeeded.

State Attorney Bach: While talking of old people, did you
know a woman by the name of Texiere?

Witness Melchior: Yes.

Q. A woman about 102 at that time?

A. Yes.

Q. This is of some importance in connection with documents I
will be submitting.

Presiding Judge: A Jewess?

Witness Melchior: A Jewess of Spanish descent.  She shared a
room with my grandmother in the old age home.  It was my
habit to go there once a week.

Q. This woman was not caught?

A. No.  She hid herself.  There were cases of individuals
who concealed themselves in Copenhagen and remained there
all the time.  There were also two Jews who remained there
more or less officially.  One of them was Prof. Warburg, the
King's physician, and the other was the Director of the
State Bank.

State Attorney Bach:  Mr. Melchior, how did you personally

Witness Melchior: We took a decision that night, the night
preceding the Wednesday, that the family - which then
consisted of our parents and five children - would travel to
the home of a Christian minister, an acquaintance of my
father's in one of the country towns.  On Wednesday morning,
I went out, in order to warn some of our people who we knew
were relying on the fact that nothing would happen, and that
actually in the last few days my father had been assured by
the heads of Danish government offices that no danger
existed.  Quite early in the morning I left on this mission,
and my brothers, after being in the synagogue with my
father, went out for the same purpose.  In the course of my
rounds, I talked to an acquaintance who mentioned that he
had an opportunity to cross over, that very day, by boat to
Sweden.  This was still at the trial stage, and there was as
yet no knowledge of the drastic development of a movement of
this kind in the coming weeks.  We discussed among ourselves
whether it was, indeed, advisable that we five persons
should set out together for the same place.  But, on the
other hand, we thought it would comfort all of us if we knew
what was happening to the others.  I therefore returned
home.  At 12.30 we were supposed to leave by train.

Presiding Judge: Where did the minister live?

Witness Melchior: In one of the country towns, about 80
kilometres from Copenhagen.  I arrived home.  We had packed
only the most essential articles, a tooth brush,
phylacteries and so on, in order not to arouse special
attention.  I came home and spoke about this possibility.
At that time, since one could not become reconciled to the
fact that there would really be persecution in Denmark, this
was then still thought to be a very questionable matter, if
not exceedingly risky.  But we reached the conclusion that
something was going to happen, that, nevertheless, it would
be a good thing if someone were to succeed in crossing over
to Sweden, and possibly there he could try to take action
and to organize some kind of operation.

State Attorney Bach:  How did you get there?

Witness Melchior: After I had parted in the afternoon from
the members of my family at the railway station, I left on a
boat the same night.  In a small boat where, apart from the
two fishermen, there was place for three people.  I crossed
in the course of two and a half hours.  They were completely
unprepared for this.  The fishermen were afraid that the
Swedes would confiscate the boat and asked us to jump into
the water about 300 metres from the shore.  This is what we
did.  The Swedes were also not so ready for such a step.
They had no place to take us to, except to the police
station.  And we remained there, standing all night in our
wet clothes, until we could find a solution in the morning.

Presiding Judge: How did you get to these two fishermen?

Witness Melchior: It was like this: One of my friends, who
owned a business, had a secretary, and she was engaged to
one of the fishermen.

Q. Very well - so we know this, too.

A. This was the way in which matters developed.  Each one
knew someone who knew someone else.  People passed on
information about where others were to be found.  Sometimes
it was difficult to find out details as to where people
were, and when it was necessary to trace them, one had to
find out from one person about the location of the hide-out
of the other.  But since there was general cooperation of
all the organizations and institutions - state, private and
public - and individuals at all levels of the population, it
hardly ever happened, in fact, that something failed to
reach someone.

With regard to my parents, they would like to say that this
was accidental, but when something recurs many times, that
is not accidental.  It was simply that the son of that
minister was a student in Copenhagen and belonged to one of
the groups involved in these matters.  Through him we got to
know the place where my parents were concealed.  My parents
were transferred to a more southerly place, to the island of
Falster.  From there on they had quite a difficult passage.
Over there the bishops also dealt with the transport of my
parents and took an active part in their rescue.  But the
Danish police mainly, in certain instances, closed that part
of the shore from where the boats were to leave, as if they
were conducting a search for the arms of the underground,
but actually they only closed the approaches.  In many cases
ambulances proceeded with the Jews to the site on the shore
from where they were to board the boats, and so on.  The
boat transporting my parents was larger than ours.  They had
thirty people on board.  They had a difficult voyage - it
took them seventeen hours.  They arrived safely in Sweden,
about ten days after me.

State Attorney Bach:  Do you know anything about planned,
organized activity of the Danish underground to help the
Jews?  Were there, in fact, sporadic operations?

Witness Melchior: It was not sporadic, since it was going on
all the time.  The matter grew to such proportions that the
historian of the occupation of Denmark, Dr. Haestrup, whose
important work is not concerned with the Jews in particular,
records that the question of the rescue of the Jews and the
persecution of the Jews had at the time a double
significance: One was the development of illegal routes to
Sweden, and the second was that during the preceding three
and a half years of the occupation, there was not a single
moment when the population was united so closely together
behind the underground as it was at that time.  This found
its expression, for instance, also at the university.  There
were all kinds of grave occurrences.  Hence there was, for
the first time, a strike, by both the students and the
professors, for a period of three days, where the university
remained closed, both as a demonstration and because these
people were engaged in rescue activities.

Q. Were there also cases where the Germans discovered the
location of the boats, the sites where people boarded the

A. There were various instances.  There was one case, not of
the place from which the boat sailed, but of several scores
of Jews who concealed themselves in a particular place and
where someone informed the Germans of the location of the
hide-out.  This, in fact, was the exception that proved the
rule.  There were instances where German patrols arrived.
But, generally speaking, the implementation - especially
when one follows this trial and hears what happened - was
not severe.  Amongst other things - and this was naturally
not known at the time - they did not break down the doors of
apartments, except for one or two exceptional instances.

Q. Even at the time of the rounding-up, they did not, in
fact, forcibly burst into apartments where the residents did
not open the doors?

A. Generally no. But the Jews were not aware of this.
Hence, generally speaking, the Jews opened up - but there
was one family who had gone to sleep, and the next day the
neighbours told them that the Germans had been there during
the night.

Q. Did you arrive in Sweden with any possessions?

A. Without anything, in fact.  We all arrived, as I have
said, with the small items we packed: Apart from this, they
[the parents] sent one of my brothers to Copenhagen - this
was still before their departure - specially in order to
recover the King's letter which he had addressed to my
father on the night of 1 January 1943, expressing his joy
that no damage had been caused in the attempt to set the
synagogue on fire.

Q. Do you, perhaps, know the name of the head of the
Security Police and the SD of the Germans?

A. There were, at that time, two names in particular which
were mentioned - Pancke and Kanstein.  Apart from that it
was known that, at that time, Dr. Mildner came specially.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions to
the witness?

Dr. Servatius:  I have no questions.

Presiding Judge: Thank you very much, Mr. Melchior, you have
completed your evidence.

Presiding Judge: We shall adjourn now.  The next Session
will take place tomorrow morning, at nine o'clock.

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