According to popular legend, King Christian X chose to wear a yellow star in support of the Danish Jews during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. In another version, the Danish people decided to wear a yellow star for the same reason. Both of these stories are fictional. In fact, unlike Jews in other countries under Nazi rule, the Jews of Denmark were never forced to wear an identification mark such as a yellow star. However, the legend conveys an important historical truth: both the King and the Danish people stood by their Jewish citizens and were instrumental in saving the overwhelming majority of them from Nazi persecution and death.
Sources: Michael Berenbaum. The World Must Know (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993), p. 158.
Ellen Levine. Darkness Over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews (New York: Holiday House, 2000), p. 28.
Robert Rozett, and Shmuel Spector. "Denmark." In Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York: Facts on File, 2000), pp. 186-187.
Vilhjálmsson, Vilhjálmur Örn. "The King and the Star." In Denmark and the Jews, edited by Mette Bastholm Jensen and Steven L.B. Jensen (København: Institute for International Studies, Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 2003), pp. 102-117.
In June 1942 Hans Scholl, age 24, and Alexander Schmorell, age 25, both medical students at the University of Munich, founded the "White Rose," an opposition group established to resist the Nazis. They were later joined by Hans's 22-year-old sister Sophie, 24-year-old Christoph Probst, and others.
The members of the White Rose were outraged that educated Germans went along with Nazi policies. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets and painted slogans like "Freedom!" and "Down With Hitler!" on walls of the university. The last White Rose leaflet, which the Scholls scattered in the entrance hall of the University of Munich on February 18, 1943, aroused a particular stir. The leaflet declared that "The day of reckoning has come, the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyranny that our people have ever suffered." The building janitor saw Hans and Sophie distributing this flyer and reported them to the Gestapo. They, along with Christoph, were arrested. Within days, all three were brought before the People's Court in Berlin. On February 22, 1943, in a trial that lasted only a few hours, they were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Only hours later, the court carried out that sentence by guillotine. All three faced their deaths bravely, Hans crying out his last words, "Long live freedom!"
Later that same year, other members of the White Rose -- Alexander Schmorell (age 25), Willi Graf (age 25), and Kurt Huber (age 49) -- were tried and executed. Most of the other students convicted for their part in the group's activities received prison sentences.
Further information about the White Rose group can be gained through the following sources:
In what has become known as the Rosenstraße Protest, a group of non-Jewish Germans defied the Third Reich and saved their spouses or “Mischling” children from deportation through a weeklong, non-violent demonstration.
Before dawn on Saturday, February 27, 1943, the Gestapo began a massive action to arrest and deport the last Jews remaining in Berlin. Pulled from their jobs and homes or snatched off the streets, these Jews were herded into trucks that took them to pre-designated assembly points. After the initial collection, the Nazis weeded out one group selected to be housed at a separate location: Jews married to non-Jews and children from these intermarriages (“Mischlinge”). They were separated in an attempt to mislead their families into believing that they would not suffer the same fate as the others.
As word spread that their spouses and children had been arrested, many Germans, mostly women, rushed to the holding site at Rosenstraße 2-4, a local Jewish community center. The small crowd quickly grew into a throng of family members demanding to speak to or see their loved ones. Determined to prevent their deportation, the protesters yelled, chanted, or simply kept their presence on the street, even in the face of threatened gunfire. As a day of protest lengthened to a week and the crowd on Rosenstraße expanded to the thousands, news of the demonstration spread throughout the country and eventually, to the international press.
In an effort to alleviate this public relations nightmare and to prevent further protest, Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, ordered the release of the prisoners at Rosenstraße on March 6, promising, however, to resume the deportations in a few weeks. This declaration proved only partially true. Though the roundup of Jews continued and Goebbels declared Berlin “Jew free” in May 1943, intermarried Jews were permitted to remain with their families. Goebbels even initiated the return of a group of thirty-five intermarried Jews who had previously been deported to Auschwitz. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Himmler’s deputy in charge of the Reich Security Main Office, followed this with an order not to deport intermarried Jews at all and to release those in custody not held on criminal charges.
The Rosenstraße Protest aroused the kind of public unrest and turmoil that tested the tenuous wartime morale in Germany, a risk the Nazi regime was not willing to take again. Although actions against intermarried Jews returned periodically, and some fell victim to the “Final Solution,” thousands did survive, including those released from Rosenstraße. The protest there remained, however, the first and only open demonstration to prevent mass deportations from Germany.
Source: Nathan Stoltzfus, Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstraße Protest in Nazi Germany (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996).
Since 1963, a commission at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, has been charged with the duty of identifying and honoring the “Righteous Among the Nations,” those persons who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. This commission has gathered evidence on incidents of rescue and carefully scrutinized the witness statements and supporting documentation for each case to determine who should be granted this title. Specific criteria guide the work of the commission, but at minimum, an individual must have risked his or her life, or professional and civil status, in order to assist or aid Jews. To date, over 20,000 individuals have been named “Righteous Among the Nations.”
The Rescuers’ Wall on the second floor of the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition lists the names of the “Righteous Among the Nations” as provided by Yad Vashem. As detailed above, decisions about who is declared “Righteous” are made solely by Yad Vashem, and all evidence in support of these decisions is held there. Therefore, for the most current listing of Righteous, or for background information on the honored rescuers, contact Yad Vashem’s “Righteous Among the Nations” Program.
For more information about rescuers and about those honored as Righteous, see the Library bibliography “Rescuers.”
Latest update: January 14, 2008