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We rememeber October '43

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YOU must make the difference

79 years ago – in October 1943 – Denmark was occupied by Germany. The policy of cooperation had broken down two months earlier, and on 28 September 1943 Germany had ordered that Danish Jews should now suffer the same fate as Jews everywhere in German-occupied territories. Danish Jews were to be deported to the concentration camps across Europe. The date of the action was set for the night between 1 and 2 October 1943.

Rumours spread in the Jewish community and measures for escape were quickly taken. Danes from all walks of life were involved in helping the Danish Jews to safety in Sweden. During October 1943, some 7000 Danish Jews managed to escape, not least thanks to the spontaneous popular movement that arose in those days. This popular movement was united by opposition to the occupation, opposition to anti-Semitism, xenophobia and persecution of minorities, and the obvious wrongness of the deportation of Danish Jews.

Danish civil society

Although 79 years have passed, today it is still worth remembering October ’43. We must remember the Danish Jews who had to flee head over heals, and we must remember those who did not manage to escape and were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. We should also use this day to remind ourselves that human rights are still under pressure in many parts of the world and that their protection – and that of society’s most vulnerable – is not something we can take for granted. Not even in 2022. We should remember October ’43 because it showed us what a strong civil society can achieve together.

It wasn’t the state or organisations that rose up against the oppressors from one moment to the next to help neighbours, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. It was ordinary citizens. It was people like you and me.

Humanity in Action works to strengthen human rights, active citizenship and personal responsibility. We do this with the experience of October 1943 as our foundation and with a strong civil society as our aim. To quote Chief Rabbi Bent Melchior (1929-2021), who fled with his family to Sweden 79 years ago:

“I think the moral is to follow your conscience. If you feel that something needs to be done, don’t say that someone else will do it, do it yourself. You have to make the difference.

-Bent Melchior from the film Voices in the Void“.

To commemorate the solidarity shown by Danish civil society to Danish Jews during October 1943, each year we award a travel grant specifically to support work on refugee, minority and human rights issues today.

Read about the Humanity in Action Travel Grant here – currently open for applications.

Hannah Spliid – Mitzvah

About the October ’43 Travel Grant

Each year Humanity in Action Denmark awards DKK 30,000 to young students or professionals working on refugee and/or minority protection issues in either the academic, social, political or practical fields. The travel grant is made possible by funds raised through an art auction, with works donated by Hannah Spliid, Bjørn Nørgaard and Peter Brandes, among others.

Hannah Spliid on her work Mitzva: “Learn from yesterday. Live today. Make an effort for a better tomorrow. If not then, when? My children are my personal miracle, which happened when their grandfather was rescued from occupied Denmark one October night.”

Read more about the artists and the art auction behind the Travel Grant here.

The Humanity in Action Denmark Travel Grant is open for applicants. The deadline for applications is 1 December 2022. Read more about the Travel Grant here.