Sunday 26 February 2017

Jorgen Kieler: Danish Resistance Fighter & Underground Newspaper Publisher

Danish underground newspaper courtesy

Danish physician Jorgen Kieler, along with his sister Elsebet Kieler, published the Frit Danmark or Free Denmark, an illegal newspaper circulated amongst the resistance in the Second World War.
While the Danes retained their radios, they still relied heavily on the news published in Frit Danmark, one of 600 different underground papers.  At its height, the Danish Resistance included 45,000 members.

Kieler helped dozens of Danish Jews avoid extermination by the Nazis.  In the Fall of 1943, rumour had it that the Gestapo was going to round up all of Denmark's Jews.  Kieler worked with the Resistance to co-ordinate the escape of Danish Jews.  In the dark of night, they met at the docks where they boarded fishing boats, cargo boats and any available, seaworthy vessels to cross the water to neutral Sweden.


The Danish Resistance sabotaging the Nazis courtesy 

Ordinary citizens like Kieler played a vital role in the escape.  There were obstacles to surmount, however.  First of all, to secure a place on an evacuation vessel could cost as much as $9,000 a head in today's dollars.  Second of all, the Gestapo became suspicious of activity around the harbours; eighty Jews were arrested in one escape attempt.  Therefore, the fleeing Jews had to be hidden while the preparations took place:  some were "admitted" to hospitals under false names; others took cover in churches; still others hid in holiday homes by the sea.  The crossing was rough.  Pregnant women found it particularly difficult.  The man in charge of one boat knew nothing about navigation.  When the passengers reached land, they realized they were right back where they started at the Danish docks.  All told, at least 7,500 Jews made it to safety in Sweden.

Jorgen Kieler was captured in 1944 and sent to a concentration camp where he remained for the duration of the war.  Upon liberation, he continued his medical studies in the United States.  He took on the fight against cancer just as passionately as the one against the Nazis.  In 1980, he became the director of the Danish Cancer Research Institute, tackling the disease just as passionately as he tackled the Nazis.  Kieler wrote books about both the German occupation and concentration camp syndrome.

Note:  Read Resistance Fighter:  A Personal History of the Danish Resistance Movement, 1940-1945 by Jorgen Kieler.

Danish Jews escape in the dead of night to Sweden courtesy 

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