Jewish museum of Copenhagen

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The Jewish museum in Copenhagen is located right next to the Danish Royal library which is located on the small island called Slotsholmen where you also find the Danish parliament and the Supreme Court plus several other museums. If you are visiting Copenhagen this small islands is one of the places you will be going to explore so if you want to know a bit of the Jewish history of Denmark you can go inside this fairly new museum from 2004.

The museum tells the 400 years of history of the Danish Jewish community. The first Jews in Denmark came when King Christian IV started inviting wealthy Jews to Denmark in 1616 to help the commerce of the Danish cities. The Jews was under the direct protection of the king giving them special rights to keep their religion during a time when everybody else had to be members of the Danish Lutheran church.

The first Jews came from northern European cities like Amsterdam and Hamburg but also some came from Sale in North Africa and France. Later more Jews were allowed in but it was a requirement they had some money and unlike other Danes the Jews were not entitled to any help from the government in case of poverty – not that the help for the poor back then were very high. So the Danish Jewish community had an interest in only allowing new Jewish immigrants if they could be self-sufficient – otherwise the Jewish community would have to provide for them.

The Danish Jewish community was pretty well integrated into the Danish society by the beginning of the 20 century and it was generally a pretty well off community probably thanks to the old requirement only to allow wealthy immigration who could contribute to the Danish commerce. But at the beginning of 20th century a new immigration began – Jews arrived from Eastern Europe – most were supposed to continue to USA but 3,000 stayed behind in Denmark. This put some stress on the Jewish community which wasn’t actually too happy with the sudden inflow of poor Jews.

Before the second world war many Jewish refugees left Germany – the Danish government did not accept any German refugees including Jewish refugees. But there was the possibility for some Jews to get a temporary working permit to do agricultural work. Around 4,500 came to Denmark during the 1930s and most left for Palestine during the following years.

A special section of the museum is dedicated to the pride of the Danish effort during the Second World War. The Danish Jews were allowed to live freely in Denmark even during the German occupation until October 1943. During the 2nd October the German occupying forces tried to round up all the Danish Jews to send them to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Luckily the Jewish community in Denmark had been forewarned possibly by Danish politicians who had gotten the information from high placed German officials.

Thanks to the warning only 281 were captured under the first action – in the following days more members of the Jewish community were captured and in the end 472 Jews were deported to Germany. But 7,220 Danish Jews and about 700 none-Jewish husbands and wife’s were helped to safety in Sweden by the small Danish resistance movement and Danish fishermen who sailed across the waters to safety in Sweden.

The museum gives a decent amount of information about the Jewish community so it is worth a visit if you got the time when you are visiting the area around the parliament anyways.

When you get to the museum you will unfortunately notice that after many years of living in safety in Denmark the Danish Jewish community is now a possible target of attacks. So there is most likely a police presence in front of the museum.


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