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Jews have lived in Denmark since 1622, when King Christian IV invited them to migrate from the Netherlands to his country. Enjoying civic rights and the friendship of the rulers, they concentrated chiefly in the capital city, Copen­hagen. Danish Jews engaged widely in commerce, and a number of them attained wealth and influence. By the 18th century, leading Danish Jewish families had established close ties with the world of secular Danish culture.
The Jewish community of Denmark was the largest in the Scandinavian countries but small in proportion to the general popula­tion. Nevertheless, Jews of Denmark have played a significant role in that country’s culture, especially in literature, art, science, music, and the world of finance.

During World War I, Copenhagen served as a haven for many refugees from Eastern Europe. But on April 9, 1940, the Germans occupied Den­mark and attempted to persecute the Jews there. Both the government and the people of Den­mark protested and succeeded in preventing the maltreatment of their Jewish neighbors. In 1943, when the Danish people learned of Gestapo plans for the deportation and extermination of Danish Jewry, they organized a rescue plan: all Danish Jews were secretly gathered at the ports and smuggled in ships and boats to Sweden. Both the Swedish and Danish governments supported this humanitarian operation. As a result, the Germans seized no more than 467 people who were de­ported to Theresienstadt. What became known as “Little Dunkirk” was the only organized non-Jewish rescue operation during the Nazi period.

After the war, virtually all Danish Jews who escaped to Sweden were repatriated. Today, there were 6,500 Jews living in Denmark, more than 90% of whom lived in Copenhagen, the seat of the country’s only Jewish congregation. Danish Jews were active in the textile industry, publishing, and book selling. A Jewish elementary school in Copenhagen has existed since 1850, offering general as well as religious education. The Danish Jewish community was pro-Zionist and actively interested in Israel affairs.

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