Carol Rittner, Distinguished Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, R.S.M, is an academic, an activist, a liaison to the United Nations, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and a nun.
Rittner, a Distinguished Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, has dedicated her life to understanding the circumstances that allowed the Holocaust to occur.
Books about the rescue of the Danish Jews exist; many take a big-picture approach or are told from the refugees’ point of view. But few focus on the Danish rescuers themselves.
"The Elsinore Sewing Club," a new book by Danish journalists Søren Gulmann and Karina Søby Madsen, fills this gap.
The Elsinore Sewing Club was the codename of an underground group that ferried Jewish refugees from the Danish coastal town of Elsinore to the safety of Sweden. The group, whose name was just a ruse to fool the Nazis, had four main members: Erling Kiær, a bookbinder; Thormod Larsen, a police detective; Ove Bruhn, a police clerk; and Børge Rønne, a newspaper journalist. Of the 7,200 Jews that successfully fled Denmark during the rescue of the Danish Jews, the Sewing Club saved about 10 percent of them.
THE ELSINGORE SEWING CLUB
The Elsinore Sewing Club (Helsingør Syklub), was a Danish organization established in 1943 which covertly transported Danish Jews to safety during the Nazu occupation of Denmark. The town of Helsingør (known as Elsinore in English) was only two miles away from Sweden, across the Øresund, from the Swedish city of Helsingborg. This allowed the transport of refugees by local boats.
The group, under an innocuous code name, formed amongst friends in Elsinore. The members combined their skills and resources to find vacant housing, fishing boats, and rationed gasoline to help Jewish refugees from across Denmark. They primarily used small fishing boats, with occasional successes in using a mining ferry, a stolen larger boat, and a speedboat the club purchased with donations.
After the flow of Jewish refugees stopped, the club remained active ferrying resistance members and downed Allied pilots to Sweden. The club was forced to dissolve when it was betrayed by informers, and leader Erling Kiær was sent to a concentration camp in Germany.
The members of the club all survived the war, and revenge was taken against the informers. One informer was then throttled and dumped overboard during a boat trip to Sweden, while the other was machine-gunned during dinner in his apartment.
A Different Story: About a Danish Jewish Girl During World War Two
There were eight children in the family, and Maya (Emilie) was the youngest. The family had lived in Denmark for many generations, and they were the onlyJews in a small, sleepy village outside Copenhagen.
Maya tells us about her life at home and in the fairytale garden, about her brothers and sisters, granny and nanny, and even the chimney sweep. Then World War Two breaks out, and Maya’s story becomes the marvelous tale of the rescue of Denmark’s Jews, and their escape to Sweden.
We follow Maya and her family on the dangerous voyage across the sea, and stay with them in Sweden until the end of the war. More than 70 years have passed since that wondrous escape, and many children, as well as adults, have never heard of it. They have heard about the Holocaust and its horrors, but not about how one single country decided it would not abandon its Jewish citizens to their fate. And that is what makes this story so moving-and so different.
Emilie Roi was born in Denmark. In October 1943, at the age of seven, she and her family fled the Germans in a fishing boat to neutral Sweden. After the war, they returned to Denmark. This book tells her story.