History of the Jews in Denmark

The Jewish community of Denmark constitutes a “small” minority of about 6,000 persons within Danish society.

The number might be a lot higher if those who don’t identify as jews and those with jewish fathers only are included.

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Medieval Danish art contains depictions of Jews—visibly wearing pointed hats—but there is no evidence that any Jews actually lived in Denmark during that time. With the conclusion of the Danish Reformation in 1536, Jews along with Catholics were prohibited entry into Denmark.

The first known settlement on Danish territory was based on a royal dispensation. When the industrious Christian IV founded Glückstadt on the river Elbe in today’s Schleswig-Holstein, in 1616, and it initially threatened to founder, he decided, in 1619, to allow one Jewish merchant, Albert Dionis, to settle in the town, in hopes of ensuring its success.  This dispensation was extended to a few other Jews, and in 1628, their status was formalized by being promised protection, the right to hold private religious services, and maintain their own cemetery. Albert Dionis gained special status within the Danish royal court, apparently as a source of credit for ambitious projects. Gabriel Gomez, who also attained status, persuaded Frederik III to allow Sephardic Jews to reside in Denmark while conducting trade. At that time, Ashkenazi Jews, in contrast to the Sephardim, were forbidden to enter unless they were specifically granted letters of safe passage, and were subject to considerable fines if caught without the required documents; nevertheless, many of the Jews who settled in the kingdom in the coming years were Ashkenazi.

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Following the costly Thirty Years’ War, which created a fiscal crisis for the Danish crown, Frederik III proclaimed absolute monarchy in Denmark. To improve trade, the king encouraged Jewish immigration. The first Jewish community was founded in the newly established town of Fredericia in 1682, and in 1684 an Ashkenazi community was founded in Copenhagen.

By 1780, there were approximately 1,600 Jews in Denmark, though all were admitted by special permission granted only on the basis of personal wealth. They were subject to social and economic discrimination, and for a brief period in 1782 they were forced to attend Lutheran services. But they were not required to live in ghettos and had a significant degree of self-governance.

Danish West Indies 

Jews began settling in the Danish West Indies in 1655, and by 1796 the first synagogue was inaugurated. In its heyday in the mid-19th century, the Jewish community made up half of the “white” population. One of the earliest colonial governorsGabriel Milan, was a Sephardic Jew.

Location of Danish West Indies

Jews began settling the colony in 1655, and by 1796 the first synagogue was inaugurated. In its heyday in the mid-19th century, the Jewish community made up half of the “white” population. One of the earliest colonial governorsGabriel Milan, was a Sephardic Jew.

Like many of the early Danish West Indies governors, Milan’s term was short and stormful, as he disagreed with the Danish management on several issues. He was called to Denmark after less than two years and executed after a lengthy trial.

After a fair, impartial trial Gabriel Milan was found guilty and condemned to lose his property, honor, and life, and his head and hand were to be put upon a stake. A royal pardon saved him from the last grim disgrace, and at dawn on March 26, 1689, he was beheaded on Nytorv Square in Copenhagen.

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The anti-Jewish riots in Copenhagen in September 1819

As the Jewish enlightenment reached Denmark in the late 18th century, the king instituted a number of reforms to facilitate integration of Jewish subjects into the larger Danish society. Jews were allowed to join guilds, study at the university, buy real estate, and establish schools.

The Napoleonic Wars and the disastrous Gunboat War brought about a complete emancipation of Danish Jews (while, in contrast, events in Norway resulted in a constitutional ban on Jews entering Norway). Still, there were severe antisemitic riots in Denmark in 1819 lasted several months, though without any known fatalities.

Frederik VI lost in 1813 and in the years that followed almost all the popularity he had built up. The loss of Norway and national bankruptcy, both as a result of participation on theFrench side of the war, was not good, given that the war was lost and the aftermath nowhad to be made up.

In order to save the Empire’s finances, the King got the help of Jewish money changerswho in addition to interest managed that everyone in Denmark of the Jewish nation should be included as full Danish citizens, just with the slight difference that they had another religion. People resented. The King was called the Jewish King. It came to violent riots against the Jews. 

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Illustration of the Synagogue Krystalgade 12 Copenhagen from around 1899

The Great Synagogue of Copenhagen is a landmark building, designed by the architect G. F. Hetsch.

Anti-Jewish anger was revived again, when there in 1830 was laid the firstfoundation stone for the synagogue in krystalgade in Copenhagen.

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As in many other societies, increasing integration accelerated assimilation of Jews into mainstream Danish society, including higher rates of intermarriage. In the early twentieth century, events such as the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, and the series of Russian revolutions, led to an influx of approximately 3,000 Jewish refugees into Denmark.

The new arrivals changed the character of Danish Jewry significantly. More likely to be socialist Bundists than religious, they founded a Yiddish theater and several Yiddish newspapers. During World War I, in 1918, the World Zionist Organization set up a central office in Copenhagen in order to present the claims of the Jewish people at the Paris peace conference. These proved to be short-lived, however, and Denmark closed its door to further immigration in the early 1920s.

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King Christian X became the subject of a persistent urban legend according to which, during German occupation, he donned the Star of David in solidarity with the “Danish” Jews. This is not true, as “Danish” Jews were not forced to wear the star of David. However, the legend likely stems from a 1942 British report that claimed he threatened to don the star if this was forced upon Danish Jews. 

A period of tension ensued, for the Danish population in general and its Jewish citizens in particular. Danish policy sought to ensure its independence and neutrality by placating the neighboring German regime. After Denmark was occupied by Germany following Operation Weserübung on April 9, 1940, the situation became increasingly precarious.

In 1943, the situation came to a head when Werner Best, the German plenipotentiary in Denmark ordered the arrest and deportation of all “Danish” Jews, scheduled to commence on October 1, which coincided with Rosh Hashanah. However, the Jewish community was given advance warning, and only 202 were arrested initially. As it turned out, 7,550 fled to Sweden, ferried across the Øresund strait. 500 Jews were deported to the Theresienstadtconcentration camp. In the course of their incarceration, Danish authorities often interceded on their behalf (as they did for other Danes in German custody), sending food.

Of the 500 Jews who were deported, approximately 50 died during deportation. Danes rescued the rest and they returned to Denmark in what was regarded as a patriotic duty against the German occupation. Many of non-Jewish Danes protected their Jewish neighbors’ property and homes while they were gone.

Following World War II, many Danish Jews migrated to Sweden, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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According to the Jewish Community in Denmark, there are approximately 6000 jews in Denmark in 2018, 1800 of them being members of the Community. The majority of “Danish” Jews are secular, but maintain a cultural connection to Jewish life.

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Danish society has generally maintained a safe and friendly environment for its Jewish minority. There are three active synagogues in Denmark today, all in Copenhagen. The larger synagogue in Krystalgade is a Modern OrthodoxConservative community and is inclusive of its members, though follows a traditional liturgy. The Machsike Hadas Synagogue is an Orthodox synagogue, and Chabad also has a presence in Copenhagen. Shir Hatzafon is a Reform Jewish synagogue and community in Denmark.

In addition, there are two Jewish periodicals published in Danish: Rambam, published by Selskabet for Dansk-Jødisk Historie; and Alef, a journal of Jewish culture.

Contemporary “antisemitism”

As of 2012, tolerance toward the Jewish population in Denmark has become more tenuous due to increasing anti-Israel sentiment and hostility from a growing Muslim immigrant population now numbering over 250,000. In October 2013 it was reported that there has been an increase in anti-Semitism towards Jews living in Copenhagen. This report included a testimony of seven Jewish boys during a hearing in January 2013. The testimony revealed widespread physical and verbal attacks on Jews, mostly by Muslim immigrants.

In February 2014, the AKVAH (Section for Mapping and Sharing of Knowledge about antisemitic Incidents) published its Report on Antisemitic Incidents in Denmark 2013. The report described 43 antisemitic incidents that occurred in Denmark during the year, which included assault and physical harassment, threats, Antisemitic utterances and vandalism. According to the report, there was no change in the level of antisemitism in the country comparing to previous years.

The Jewish community in Denmark reported an increase in threatening messages and antisemitic assaults, caused by the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict,.

In August 2014, the “Carolineskolen”, a Jewish school, kindergarten and daycare complex in Copenhagen was vandalized as windows were smashed and antisemitic graffiti was sprayed on the school walls. The graffiti was political in nature and referred to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Prior to this event, school officials advised parents not to allow their children to wear Jewish religious symbols in public as a result of rising reports of antisemitic harassments in Denmark. The Jewish community in Denmark reported 29 incidents in connection with the conflict in Gaza.

In September 2014, a Danish imamMohamad Al-Khaled Samha, at a mosque run by The Islamic Society in Denmark, said in a filmed lecture that the Jews are the “offspring of apes and pigs”. In July 2014 Al-Khaled had stated “Oh Allah, destroy the Zionist Jews. They are no challenge for you. Count them and kill them to the very last one. Don’t spare a single one of them.”

On 15 February 2015, a shooting occurred outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen, and killed a Jewish man (who had been providing security during a bat mitzvah) and injured two police officers. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt laid flowers at the synagogue, and stated “Our thoughts go to the whole of the Jewish community today. They belong in Denmark, they are a strong part of our community. And we will do everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country.” The synagogue’s Rabbi, Jair Melchior, stated, “Terror is not a reason to move to Israel… Hopefully the [police] should do what they do, but our lives have to continue naturally. Terror’s goal is to change our lives and we won’t let it…We lost a dear member of the community and now we have to continue doing what he did, which was helping to continue regular Jewish lives in Denmark. This is the real answer to [this] vicious, cruel and cowardly act of terror.” Two months later, a window at a local Kosher-food store was smashed and an anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on a wall.

A review study published in 2015 by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy revealed that in a survey conducted in Denmark the number of antisemitic stereotypes among immigrants of Turkish, Pakistani, Somali and Palestinian origin were significantly more common (up to 75 percent) than among ethnic Danes (up to 20 percent). The survey, managed by the Institute for Political Science at Aarhus University, consisted of interviews with 1,503 immigrants, as well a 300 ethnic Danes.

In the Kundby case a Danish teenager became an enthusiast admirer of ISISIslamism, and Jihad, converted to Islam, and was convicted of acquiring bomb-making materials for her plan to blow up a Jewish school in Copenhagen.

In September 2017, soldiers from the Royal Danish Army were deployed to guard synagogues in Copenhagen to relieve the Police of Denmark which was increasinly occupied with gang-related shottings in the city.

Source

According to a statement from the national police, have special guard duties cost 99.6 million kroner. From 2015 to 2016

Danish police have spent 422,436 hours guarding the jews. February 2015 – February 2016.

According to wikipedia, Denmark have 10.570 police officers (2016)

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