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Denmark Mulls Apology for Deporting Jews

Long-held views about countries' actions during World War II are being challenged by findings this week that Liechtenstein's royal family used Nazi camp labors and Denmark and Iceland deported Jews to Germany.

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It's unclear whether Jews deported by Danes died in Nazi death camps

A new official Danish study reveals that authorities in the Scandinavian country deported at least 19 Jews to Germany during World War II despite warnings that they might be killed, Danish media reported Sunday.

The revelations are so serious that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was considering issuing an official apology for the country's treatment of Jews during the war.

"We are talking about a dramatic and dark chapter in Europe and Denmark's history. An official apology might be in order," he wrote in an email to Danish daily Politiken, which published details of the government-commissioned study.

Officials knew about persecutions

The study, which has yet to be completed, reveals that the deportations were authorized between 1940 and 1942 by high-level justice ministry officials in occupied Denmark without pressure from Germany, Politiken reported.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen vor dem Gipfel in Kopenhagen

He is considering an apology

"The officials knew perfectly well that the Jews were being persecuted and locked up in terrible conditions in ghettos and concentration camps, and that the Nazis wanted to do away with them," Lone Runitz of the Danish Institute for International Studies, who headed the study, told the paper.

Although Danish attorneys warned the officials that the deportations were a matter of "life or death", Runitz emphasized however that there is no proof they knew of the German plan to murder all Jews.

More collaborators than initially thought

The Danish government commissioned the study on the country's treatment of Jews during World War II after Icelandic historian Vilhjalmur Oern Vilhjalmsson indicated in 1998 that wrongdoings may have been committed.

The study challenges long-held Danish images of a small, occupied nation valiantly helping Jews to escape to Sweden and actively resisting the Nazis, both of which did happen. It follows a controversial book last year which sought to prove that Denmark had far more Nazi collaborators than most Danes believe.

Iceland also deported Jews

Meanwhile, Iceland has become embroiled in the issue. The government said Wednesday it did not see the point of apologizing for the country's deportation of Jews to Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II.

"To whom should the Icelandic government apologize?" asked Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson's press secretary, Steingrimur Olafsson.

The Icelandic stance is causing controversy only weeks after Iceland came under fire for fast-tracking an immigration procedure for Bobby Fischer, despite virulently anti-Semitic comments by the former world chess champion.

Documents in Iceland's Ministry of Justice show that it was policy not to admit Jews - many of whom were refugees from Germany - to Iceland from the early 1930s.

Nine Jews were deported from Iceland throughout the 1930s until 1939, when a policy of liberalization began, aided by Britain's occupation of Iceland in 1940.

"I'm of the opinion that one should be very careful about apologizing for things that happened long ago and for decisions made in the mood of the times," Olafsson said. "When apologizing, there should be good reason for doing so."

Looking for excuses

Icelandic parliamentarian Kolbrun Halldorsdottir said that the prime minister was looking for excuses not to apologize.

"Of course no one blames the current government for things that were done in the past," she said. "It would only be a formality to issue the statement that looking back this government is sorry for things that were done by its predecessors. It should be such an easy task but, like the song goes, 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word.'"

Historian Thor Whitehead, an expert on Jews in Iceland, said he believed that it is "of great importance that we try to learn from the horrors of the twentieth century."

"I believe that the deportation of Jewish people is a shameful part of our history," he said.

Among incidents featuring in Whitehead's research, British occupying forces once saved a mother and son that the Icelandic government wanted to deport to Germany in 1940.

Bobby Fischer controversy

Asyl am Ort seines Triumphs

Causing a headache for Iceland

The controversy comes only shortly after Iceland's parliament, the Althing, voted in favor of granting chess player Bobby Fischer (photo) citizenship, which allowed him to settle in Iceland on March 25 instead of being extradited by Japan to the United States, where he is wanted for breaking an embargo against the former Yugoslavia by playing there.

He immediately embarrassed his hosts by making anti-Semitic comments at a news conference: "The Jew-controlled United States is evil. They talk about the axis of evil. What about the allies of evil? What about the US, England, Japan, Australia and so on? These are the evil doers."

There were calls for Fischer to be prosecuted under Iceland's "hate speech law" which prohibits mocking, insulting, threatening or slandering anyone based on their race, religion, ethnicity or national origin. But the general committee of the Icelandic parliament dismissed

the complaints.

There are no official counts for the number of Jews in Iceland, but the Office of Immigration estimates it to be very low. There are no official groups representing Jews in the country.

Liechtenstein 's Nazi connection

And on Wednesday, an official investigation into Liechtenstein's World War II history found that forced labor from a Nazi concentration camp worked on estates owned by the royal family in Nazi-occupied Austria at the time.

The report, by six historians from Austria, Israel, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, cleared the tiny Alpine principality of serving as a refuge for looted gold or Jewish assets.

The probe was commissioned by Liechtenstein's government in 2001 after the World Jewish Congress claimed the principality became a haven for money and works of art plundered by the Nazis.

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