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Why it is so important for a free people to be armed? Why will you never find the Professor unarmed? Over the Labor Day weekend, Paul sat and watched “Auschwitz: the Nazis and the Final Solution” a BBC series detailing the socialist genocide committed during World War II. You may be surprised at what you were not taught in school.
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Topics Covered During This Episode:
- Liberal Fascist Professor gets new job – Ex-Mizzou Professor Melissa Click, Fired Over Protest Clash, Gets New Job
- Recommended Reading: Auschwitz; the Nazis and the Final Solution – http://amzn.to/2caqJHQ
- French govt rounded up jews, British surrendered Jews, Danish Heroes Saved the Jews
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A University of Missouri assistant communications professor fired after interfering with journalists and police during student protests nearly a year ago has a new job with a university in Washington state.
Melissa Click, whose profile now appears on Gonzaga University’s website, has been hired to a one-year lecturer job in the undergraduate communication studies department at the private Catholic school in Spokane.
Click’s firing by Missouri in February followed run-ins with police during October 2015 protests in Columbia and with two student journalists weeks later on the campus, including a videotaped confrontation in which she called for “some muscle” to remove a student videographer from the protest area.
That video went viral, and more than 100 Missouri lawmakers, mostly Republican, called for her ouster. Click later said she regretted her actions but insisted her firing was unfair.
Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of Gonzaga’s College of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement to Missouri media outlets that Gonzaga officials were aware of Click’s recent past but, after a national search, deemed her “the most qualified and experienced candidate for the position.”
Click “has excellent recommendations for both her teaching and scholarship, which includes an extensive record of publication,” Mermann-Jozwiak wrote. “We are confident she has learned much from her experiences at the University of Missouri and believe she will uphold the rigorous standards of academic excellence demanded of Gonzaga faculty and students.”
Messages left Sunday with Click by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.
Last year’s Missouri protests, spurred by what activists said was university administrators’ indifference to racial issues, led to the resignations of the president of the four-campus university system and the chancellor of its flagship campus in Columbia. Their resignations came after members of Missouri’s football team threw their support behind the protesters and threatened not to play unless the situation was resolved.
Before being fired by Missouri, Click was charged with misdemeanor assault over her November confrontation with the student videographer. But a Columbia prosecutor ultimately agreed to drop the case if Click completed community service.
In May and June, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich (head of the SS Sicherheitsdienst, or SD), Fritz Sauckel (who organized the employment of forced labor for the German armament factories) and Adolf Eichmann (the SS official in charge of Jewish Policy), visited Paris.
In June and July 1942 the French administration in charge of the Jewish question in France was replaced by a German one. As a result, French anti-Jewish policies were exacerbated. At dawn on the 16th of July, 1942, some 4,500 French policemen began a mass arrest of foreign Jews living in Paris, at the behest of the German authorities.
Over 11,000 Jews were arrested on the same day, and confined to the Winter Stadium, or Velodrome d’Hiver, known as the Vel’ d’Hiv, in Paris. The detainees were kept in extremely crowded conditions, almost without water, food and sanitary facilities.
Within a week the number of Jews held in the Vel’ d’Hiv had reached 13,000, among them more than 4,000 children. Children between the ages of two and 16 were arrested together with their parents.
Among those detained were Jews from Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia. Though many Jews had been forewarned of the danger, they had assumed the deportation would only target men, as they had in the past; consequently, women and children did not go into hiding.
In the week following the arrests, the Jews were taken from the Winter Stadium to the concentration camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande in the Loiret region south of Paris, and to Drancy, near Paris. At the end of July and the beginning of August, the Jews who were being detained in these camps were separated from their children and deported. Before deportation, each prisoner’s head was shaved, and his or her body was subjected to a violent search.
Most of the deportees were sent to Auschwitz and murdered. More than 3,000 babies and children were left alone in Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande. At the end of August and during the month of September these children were deported alone, among adult strangers, in sealed railway wagons, to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
In the two months that followed the Vel’ d’Hiv arrests some 1,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz every two or three days. By the end of September 1942 almost 38,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz from France. In 1945 only some 780 of them remained alive.
The French reactions to the arrest and deportation of Jews varied between active collaboration with the Germans, indifference, and empathy toward the persecuted Jews. Most of the civil administration and the French policemen who had been allocated to conduct the arrest collaborated with the authorities. A minority, however, tried to aid Jews in escaping, either by turning a blind eye toward escapees, or by actively aiding such escapes and providing Jews with hiding places.
Many elements within French society – leading figures in the Church, the press and the underground – expressed revulsion at the events and protested against them. Public condemnation of the arrest and deportation of Jews was primarily sparked by the difficult sight of women arrested along with their babies. This negative public sentiment found its way into the official reports of governmental authorities and even the police.
The Vel’ d’Hiv round ups, organized by the French authorities and carried out by French policemen, became engraved in French national memory as a symbol of the responsibility of the regime and the French nation for the Holocaust of the Jews of France.
It was 10.30 in the morning on Sunday 30 June 1940 when a German aircraft flew low over Guernsey airport, it circled and landed. Clutching a revolver, the pilot walked cautiously into the deserted administration building.
The absence of people unnerved him, suddenly a British aircraft roared overhead and he ran out back to his plane, leaving his revolver on a table. In the afternoon another German aircraft landed, this time three officers walked across the tarmac. One of them reclaimed the revolver, whilst another approached a policeman and in perfect English asked him to fetch the island officials. The Nazi occupation of part of the British Isles had begun.
In Jersey the arrival of the invader was equally un-dramatic. Just a fortnight earlier Whitehall had ordered the Channel Islands to be demilitarised and had carried out elaborate voluntary evacuation plans. The majority of established Jews resident in Jersey left the island before June 1940.
An incomplete list of many of those who had left the island was compiled by Clifford Orange the Chief Aliens Officer and sent to the German authorities on 6 January 1942.
The Passport Office lists show that many members of the families named by Orange renewed their passports in the months leading up to the Occupation. The last to do so was Rose Rachel Feldman who obtained her new passport on 15 June 1940. The passport office closed on 27 June 1940.
It was not considered wise to tell the Germans of this decision in case it should be taken as an invitation to march in immediately. Only after a German air attack had killed 38 civilians was the news broadcast that all British forces had left the Channel Islands.
Aware of the iminent arrival of the Nazis, the majority of the Jewish population had already escaped to the British mainland. Only a small number of Jews were left behind. As a result, twelve registered on Jersey, and four on Guernsey.
Among the first things the German conquerors did was to hasten to the telephone exchange and disconnect the lines to England.
The island newspapers were issued free, their front pages carrying proclamations from the Commandant ordering a curfew between 2300 hours and 0600 hours, the handing-in of weapons, and the surrender of soldiers on leave, the suspension of sales of spirits and petrol and forbidding the use of boats without permits.
German soldiers were now marching into the two capitals St Helier and St Peter Port heartily singing the Horst Wessel song, while the islanders watched silently and sadly.
On Sark, feudalism’s last outpost, the Dame Sybil Hathaway, received two officers at the Seigneurie with calm courtesy, making sure they had to walk the whole length of a large room to meet her. One said, “You are not afraid?” to which Mrs Hathaway answered in her excellent German, “Is there any need to be afraid of German officers?”
Not all fared as well as Mrs Hathaway, for the Jews of the Channel Islands things were going from bad to worse.
Persecution of the Jews begins
The registration process, was the beginning of a systemized persecution, first all Jewish businesses had to display a sign stating the shop was “Jewish owned or “Jewish Undertaking”, then the business was subsequently “Aryanised” and turned over to non-Jews.
The Channel Island authorities in particular Bailiff Alexander Coutanche cooperated throughout this entire process, and to a great extent he even administered much of it.
The Third Order
‘The Third Order’, registered in the Royal Courts of Guernsey on 17 June 1941 and of Jersey on 31 May 1941 as Regulation and Order No 307, redefined those persons considered to be Jewish.
Any person having at least three grandparents of pure Jewish blood shall be deemed to be a Jew. A grandparent having belonged to the Jewish religious community shall be deemed to be of pure Jewish blood. Any person having two grandparents of pure Jewish blood who:
(A) … belongs to the Jewish religious community or who subsequently joins it; or
(B)… is married to a Jew or subsequently marries a Jew; shall be deemed to be a Jew.
In doubtful cases any person who belongs or has belonged to the Jewish religious community shall be deemed to be a Jew. The order prohibited Jews and Jewish owned businesses, not in the hands of an administrator, from carrying out many economic activities including, wholesale and retail, hotel and catering, insurance, navigation, dispatch and storage, guides, banking and money exchange, and businesses not in thehands of an administrator, from carrying out many economic activities including, wholesale and retail, hotel and catering, insurance, navigation, dispatch and storage, guides, banking and money exchange, and businesses concerned with dealings in apartments, land and mortgages.
Further, no Jew was to be engaged as a ‘higher official or as an employee who comes into contact with customers’ and Jewish employees should ‘be dismissed and replaced by non-Jewish employees’.
Managing administrators, authorised to sell holdings and shares, could be appointed to administer holdings in limited liability companies and shares belonging to Jews and Jewish undertakings.
No compensation was to be paid for losses incurred by Jews as a result of carrying out the order and no compensation was to be paid for dismissing a Jewish employee without notice. Infractions were punishable by fine and imprisonment ‘unless a more severe penalty is otherwise prescribed’.
There was a determined effort by the Germans to show their best side for propaganda purposes. The harsher treatment of France was not to prevail here. British goods that still remained in the shops were bought up by the Germans, who were unused to seeing so many luxuries. These stocks could not of course be replaced.
Singing “God Save the King” was a serious offence, yet no attempt was made to remove the “royal crest” from the courthouse. Newspapers were strictly controlled, printing the news according to Dr Goebbels. The editors left the curious Germanic English in news stories so that nobody would be deceived.
At first it was possible to listen to the BBC until later, when radio sets were confiscated. From then on many Channel Islanders risked imprisonment, deportation and even death to hear the BBC news on hidden radios.
Deportation of the Jews of the Channel Islands
In April 1942 on the Island of Guernsey, the first deportation began. Three women; Auguste Spitz, Marianne Grunfield, and Therese Steiner, were ordered to pack their bags and were forced onto a ship headed for the French mainland.
Ernest Plevin, a Police Clerk Sergeant in Guernsey during the Occupation, remembers:
‘… Guernsey Police were ordered to advise specified Jews to report to Police Headquarters. I was to instruct them to pack their bags and report to the designated German authority. I remember – well – Therese coming into the office, where I conveyed to her the instructions given to the Guernsey Police by the German Military Authorities. Therese became extremely distressed, bursting into tears, and exclaiming that I would never see her again.”
In a subsequent letter Plevin added:
‘The relationship between deportees and Guernsey Police, was always, to my knowledge, good. Police involvement in deportations was rarely more than carrying out orders given by the occupying forces – such as conveying a message to the deportee. At no time were the Guernsey Police permitted to enter the White Rock area”.
The night before their deportation Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz visited their friend Elisabet Duquemin, a fellow registered Jewish refugee from Vienna. Elisabet Duquemin remembered:
“They had a paper with them from the Germans that they had to report the next morning to be taken away to France and were in a terrible state of anxiety. They borrowed a suitcase from me and I never saw the poor girls again”.
Reverend Douglas Ord confirmed their state of anxiety:
‘When I last spoke with her [Therese Steiner] she had Orders to go to France. She was in great distress and seemed to feel that her feet were now set upon her Via Dolorosa. I did what I could to comfort her but what can you say or do”?
On July 20th of the same year the three women were caught up with a large transport to Auschwitz and their subsequent fate is unknown. It is believed they were sent to the gas chambers having been chosen with the initial selection upon arrival.
A British intelligence report from August 1945 states:
When the Germans proposed to put their anti-Jewish measures into force, no protest whatsoever was raised by any of the Guernsey officials and they hastened to give the Germans every assistance. By contrast , when it was proposed to take steps against the Freemasons, of which there are many in Guernsey, the Bailiff [Alexander Coutanche ] made considerable protests and did everything possible to protect the Masons.
The remaining Jews on the Channel Islands were deported in February of 1943 sent to internment camps in France and Germany. Of course while the authorities in the Channel Islands helped the Germans deport the Jews, they had no certain idea on what their fate would be.
It was clear however that no matter what their inevitable fate, their persecution under the Germans would most certainly be “unpleasant”, yet they did nothing to prevent the deportations.
The Normandy landings in 1944 heralded the final phase of the of the islands’ German occupation. By August St Malo surrendered and the islands’ supply routes were cut off.
For the next eight months, the local population and the 28,000-strong German garrison went close to starvation. Liberation finally came when an Allied task force headed by HMS Bulldog arrived off St Peter Port, Guernsey on 8 May, 1945.
A declaration of unconditional surrender was signed the following day.
This magnificent book states its central argument in its title. Danish Jews survived Hitler’s rule in World War II, when other European Jews did not, because Danes regarded their Jewish neighbors as countrymen. There was no “us” and “them;” there was just us.
When, in October 1943, the Gestapo came to round up the 7,500 Jews of Copenhagen, the Danish police did not help them to smash down the doors. The churches read letters of protest to their congregations. Neighbors helped families to flee to villages on the Baltic coast, where local people gave them shelter in churches, basements, and holiday houses and local fishermen loaded up their boats and landed them safely in neutral Sweden.
Bo Lidegaard, the editor of the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, has retold this story using astonishingly vivid unpublished material from families who escaped, and the testimony of contemporary eyewitnesses, senior Danish leaders (including the king himself), and even the Germans who ordered the roundups. The result is an intensely human account of one episode in the persecution of European Jews that ended in survival.
The story may have ended well, but it is a complex tale. The central ambiguity is that the Germans warned the Jews and let most of them escape. Lidegaard claims this was because the Danes refused to help the Germans, but the causation might also have worked in the other direction. It was when the Danes realized that the Germans were letting some Jews go that they found the courage to help the rest of their Jewish community escape. Countrymen is a fascinating study in the ambiguity of virtue.
The Danes knew long before the war that their army could not resist a German invasion. Instead of overtly criticizing Hitler, the Social Democratic governments of the 1930s sought to inoculate their populations against the racist ideology next door. It was in those ominous years that the shared identity of all Danes as democratic citizens was drummed into the political culture, just in time to render most Danes deeply resistant to the Nazi claim that there existed a “Jewish problem” in Denmark.
Lidegaard’s central insight is that human solidarity in crisis depended on the prior consolidation of a decent politics, on the creation of a shared political imagination. Some Danes did harbor anti-Semitic feelings, but even they understood the Jews to be members of a political community, and so any attack on them was an attack on the Danish nation as such.
The nation in question was imagined in civic terms rather than ethnic terms. What mattered was a shared commitment to democracy and law, not a common race or religion. We can see this in the fact that Danish citizens did not defend several hundred communists who were interned and deported by the Danish government for denouncing the Danish monarchy and supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact. The Danes did nothing to defend their own communists, but they did stand up for the Jews.
The Danish response to the Nazis illuminates a crucial fact about the Holocaust: the Germans did not always force the issue of extermination where they faced determined resistance from occupied populations. In Bulgaria, as Tzvetan Todorov has shown in his aptly titled book The Fragility of Goodness, the Jews were saved because the king of Bulgaria, the Orthodox Church, and a few key Bulgarian politicians refused to assist the German occupiers.
Why did a similar civic sense of solidarity not take root in other countries? In Holland, why did 80 percent of Dutch Jews perish? And what about France: why did liberty, equality, and fraternity not apply to the citizens driven from their homes by French police and sent to deportation and death? These questions become harder to answer in the light of the Danish and Bulgarian counterexamples. One possible explanation is that the German occupation’s presence in Denmark was lighter than in either France or Holland.
The Danes, like the Bulgarians, kept their king and maintained their own government throughout the occupation. Self-government gave them a capacity to defend Jews that was never possible in the occupied zones of France or Holland.
Both the Danish king and the Danish government decided that their best hope of maintaining Denmark’s sovereignty lay in cooperating but not collaborating with the German occupiers. This “cooperation” profited some Danes but shamed many others. The Danish population harbored ancestral hostility to the Germans, and the occupation reinforced these feelings. The Germans, for their part, put up with this frigid relationship: they needed Danish food, and Danish cooperation freed up German military resources for battle on the Eastern Front, and the Nazis wanted to be liked. They wanted their “cooperative” relationship with Denmark to serve as a model for a future European community under Hitler’s domination.
From very early on in this ambiguous relationship, the Danes, from the king on down, made it clear that harming the Jews would bring cooperation to an end and force the Germans to occupy the country altogether. The king famously told his prime minister, in private, that if the Germans forced the Danish Jews to wear a yellow star, then he would wear one too.
Word of the royal position went public and even led to a myth that the king had actually ridden through the streets of Copenhagen on horseback wearing a yellow star on his uniform. The king never did wear a star. He didn’t have to wear one, because, thanks to his opposition, the Germans never imposed such a regulation in Denmark.
When, in late summer in 1943, the order came down from Eichmann to the local German authorities in Copenhagen that they had to rid the city of its Jews, these authorities faced a dilemma. They knew that the Danish politicians, police, and media—that Danish society as a whole—would resist and that, once the cooperation of the Danes had been lost, the Germans would have to run the country themselves. The Germans in Copenhagen were also beginning to have second thoughts about the war itself. By then the German armies had been defeated at Stalingrad.
While the Gestapo in Poland and Eastern Europe faced the prospect of defeat by accelerating the infernal rhythm of extermination in the death camps, the Gestapo in Denmark began to look for a way out. The local Gauleiter, a conniving opportunist named Werner Best, did launch the roundup of the Jews, but only after letting the Jewish community find out in advance what was coming, giving them time to escape. He did get his hands on some people in an old-age home and dispatch them to Theresienstadt, but all but 1 percent of the Jewish community escaped his clutches. It is an astonishing number.
When Adolf Eichmann came to Copenhagen in 1943 to find out why so many Jews had escaped, he did not cashier the local Gestapo. Instead he backed down and called off the deportations of Danes who were half-Jewish or married to Jews. Lidegaard’s explanation for Eichmann’s volte face is simply that the institutions of Danish society all refused to go along. And without their cooperation, a Final Solution in Denmark became impossible. Totalitarianism, not to mention ethnic cleansing and ethnic extermination, always requires a great deal of collaboration.
When they got wind of German plans in September 1943, the Danish government resigned, and no politician agreed to serve in a collaborationist government with the Germans thereafter. After the roundups of Jews were announced, leading Danish politicians of different parties issued a joint statement declaring, “The Danish Jews are an integral part of the people, and therefore all the people are deeply affected by the measures taken, which are seen as a violation of the Danish sense of justice.” This is the political culture of “countrymen” with which Lidegaard explains the extraordinary determination—and success—of the Danes in protecting their Jewish population.
Such general support across Danish society seems to have empowered the Jews of Copenhagen. When the Gestapo came to search the Jewish community’s offices in September 1943, the community treasurer, Axel Hertz, did not hesitate to ask the intruders, “By what right do you come here?” The German in charge replied, quite candidly: “By the right of the stronger.” And Hertz retorted: “That is no good right.” Jews in Denmark behaved like rights-bearers, not like victims in search of compassion. And they were not wrong: their feeling of membership in the Danish polity had a basis in its political culture.
When the Germans arrived to begin the deportations, Jews had already been warned—in their synagogues—and they simply vanished into the countryside, heading for the coast to seek a crossing to neutral Sweden. There was little or no Jewish communal organization and no Danish underground to help them. What ensued was a chaotic family-by-family flight, made possible simply because ordinary members of Danish society feigned ignorance when Germans questioned them, while sheltering families in seaside villages, hotels, and country cottages.
Danish police on the coast warned hiding families when the Gestapo came to call, and signaled all-clear so that boats bearing Danish Jews could slip away to Sweden. The fishermen who took the Danish Jews across the Baltic demanded huge sums for the crossing, but managed to get their frightened fellow citizens to safety. When the Gestapo did seize Jewish families hiding in the church of the small fishing village of Gilleleje, the people were so outraged that they banded together to assist others to flee. One villager even confronted the local Gestapo officer, shining a flashlight in his face and exclaiming: “The poor Jews!” When the German replied, “It is written in the Bible that this shall be their fate,” the villager unforgettably replied: “But it is not written that it has to happen in Gilleleje.”
Why did the Danes behave so differently from most other societies and populations in occupied Europe? For a start, they were the only nation where escape to a safe neutral country lay across a narrow strait of water. Moreover, they were not subject to exterminatory pressure themselves. They were not directly occupied, and their leadership structures from the monarch down to the local mayors were not ripped apart.
The newspapers in Copenhagen were free enough to report the deportations and thus to assist any Jews still not in the know to flee. The relatively free circulation of information also made it impossible for non-Jewish Danes to claim, as so many Germans did, that “of this we had no knowledge.”
Most of all, Denmark was a small, homogeneous society, with a stable democracy, a monarchy that commanded respect, and a shared national hostility to the Germans. Denmark offers some confirmation of Rousseau’s observation that virtue is most easily fostered in small republics.
Lidegaard is an excellent guide to this story when he sticks close to Danish realities. When he ventures further and asks bigger questions, he goes astray. At the end of his book he asks: “Are human beings fundamentally good but weak? Or are we brutal by nature, checked and controlled only by civilization?” He wants the Danish story to answer such questions, but it cannot bear such weight. There simply are no general answers to the question of why humans behave as they do in times of extremity. What Lidegaard’s story really demonstrates is that history and context are all. Denmark was Denmark: that is all one can truthfully say.
Lidegaard makes the argument, in his conclusion, that had resistance been as strong elsewhere in Europe as it was in Denmark, the Nazis might never have been able to drive the Final Solution to its conclusion. He writes:
Hatred of the different was not some primordial force that was unleashed. Rather, it was a political convenience that could be used as needed, and in most occupied territories the Nazis followed their interests in pursuing this with disastrous consequences. But without a sounding board the strategy did not work. It could be countered by simple means—even by a country that was defenseless and occupied—by the persistent national rejection of the assumption that there was a “Jewish problem.”
This strikes me as only half-right. Anti-Semitism was indeed not “a primordial force” that the Nazis simply tapped into wherever they conquered. Jews met different fates in each country the Nazis occupied—or at least the rates of destruction and escape varied. But it does not follow that what the Danes did other peoples could have also done. The Germans faced resistance of varying degrees of ferocity in every country that they occupied in Europe.
Where they possessed the military and police power to do so, they crushed that resistance with unbridled cruelty. Where, as in Denmark, they attempted a strategy of indirect rule, they had to live with the consequences: a populace that could not be terrorized into doing their bidding, and could therefore be counted on to react when fellow citizens were arrested and carried away.
One uncomfortable possibility that Lidegaard does not explore is that the Nazis sought a strategy of indirect rule precisely because they saw the Danes as fellow Aryans, potential allies in an Aryan Europe. This would explain why the Nazis were so comfortable in Copenhagen and so shaken by Danish resistance. The Poles they could dismiss as Untermenschen, and the French as ancient enemies; but to be resisted by supposed Aryans was perversely disarming.
Why else would a ferocious bureaucrat such as Eichmann melt before Danish objections to the arrest of Jews married to Danes? One paradoxical possibility is that the Nazis bowed to Danish protests because their delusional racial anthropology led them to view the Danes as members of their own family. To their eternal credit, the Danes exploited this imagined family resemblance to defy an act of infamy.
Countrymen is a story about a little country that did the right thing for complicated reasons, and got away with it for equally complicated reasons. It is a story that reinforces an old truth: solidarity and decency depend on a dense tissue of connection among people, on long-formed habits of the heart, on resilient cultures of common citizenship, and on leaders who marshal these virtues by their example.
In Denmark, this dense tissue bound human beings together and indirect rule made it impossible for the Germans to rip it apart. Elsewhere in Europe, by contrast, it was destroyed in stages, first by ghettoizing and isolating the Jewish people and then by insulating bystanders from the full horror of Nazi intentions. Once Jews had been stripped of citizenship, property, rights, and social existence—once they could appeal only to the common humanity of persecutors and bystanders alike—it was too late.
There is a sobering message in Lidegaard’s tale for the human rights era that came after these abominations. If a people come to rely for their protection on human rights alone, on the mutual recognition of common humanity, they are already in serious danger. The Danish story seems to tell us that it is not the universal human chain that binds peoples together in extremity, but more local and granular ties: the particular consciousness of time, place, and heritage that led a Danish villager to stand up to the Gestapo and say no, it will not happen here, not in our village.
This extraordinary story of one small country has resonance beyond its Danish context. Countrymen should be read by anyone seeking to understand what precise set of shared social and political understandings can make possible, in times of terrible darkness, acts of civil courage and uncommon decency.