We Share the Same Sky

 

Chapter V: I Didn’t Even Ask His Name
In this episode, we learn about the heroic efforts of the rescue of the Danish Jews. The story is told through the eyes of Hana, Bent Melchior (the former chief rabbi of Denmark), and a family in Southern Sweden whose lives continue to be impacted by the rescue mission.
Learning Objectives:
  • Understand the factors leading to the Danish rescue of thousands of Jews.
  • Reflect on the personal and institutional factors that lead members of a society to act as upstanders.
  • Make connections between the behavior of Danish and Swedish people during the Holocaust and the behavior of people today in response to the current migrant crisis.
About Chapter V Photo Series
Jews were safe in Denmark until 1943. At that point in the war, the Germans made a plan to round up all of the Jews in Denmark and deport them to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp not far from Prague. But, a German officer leaked the plans to the Danish community and in just a few weeks, a rescue mission saved 95% of the Jewish population. At this time, Hana was working for a banker’s family. A stranger came for her one day and told her he would take her to safety. She was taken by bike through the countryside to a church by the coast of the Baltic Sea. From there, she was hidden underneath herring and along with 19 other people began what would become a perilous night lost at sea. By chance, they managed to get to Sweden and found refuge.
  • “One day, a young man I had never seen before, and never after, comes to the banker and he says, “Do you have a Jewish servant here?” The banker says, “yes, little Hana.” And, he came and says to me, “Do you have a bike?” I said yes. He says, “Get on the bike and follow me.” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony. <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti / Denmark, 2017 “One day, a young man I had never seen before, and never after, comes to the banker and he says, “Do you have a Jewish servant here?” The banker says, “yes, little Hana.” And, he came and says to me, “Do you have a bike?” I said yes. He says, “Get on the bike and follow me.” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony.

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti / Denmark, 2017
  • “I followed him to a fishing village, to a church. The minister of the church took me up to the bell tower. I was told to wait for the signal and cover my ears when the church bell was rung.” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony. <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti / Denmark, 2017 “I followed him to a fishing village, to a church. The minister of the church took me up to the bell tower. I was told to wait for the signal and cover my ears when the church bell was rung.” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony.

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti / Denmark, 2017
  • “We ran to the beach. We hid in the sand under the upside down rowboats. Then we got the signal and ran from the upside down rowboats to the fishing boat which was supposed to take us to Sweden. The fisherman wanted some financial compensation for bringing us to Sweden. I knew he would not take me. “I have no money,” I said to him, turning my pockets inside-out. “I didn’t ask you did I,” he said. “Hop on board.”” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony. 

The boat became lost at sea for 19 hours and it was by chance that the refugees sailed to the safe shores of Sweden. When they reached the shore, they were terrified because they didn'’t know which country they had arrived to. Had they come to any country but Sweden, they almost certainly would have been killed. So they stayed quite a distance from the shore until a local fisherman came to their rescue.

This photograph is of the Baltic Sea seen from the exact spot in Southern Sweden where Hana’s refugee boat came to shore. If you look into the water, you will see a boat. It is about the same distance away from shore as Hana’s boat was during that terrifying day in October of 1943. <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2015 “We ran to the beach. We hid in the sand under the upside down rowboats. Then we got the signal and ran from the upside down rowboats to the fishing boat which was supposed to take us to Sweden. The fisherman wanted some financial compensation for bringing us to Sweden. I knew he would not take me. “I have no money,” I said to him, turning my pockets inside-out. “I didn’t ask you did I,” he said. “Hop on board.”” - Hana to Rachael during her testimony. The boat became lost at sea for 19 hours and it was by chance that the refugees sailed to the safe shores of Sweden. When they reached the shore, they were terrified because they didn'’t know which country they had arrived to. Had they come to any country but Sweden, they almost certainly would have been killed. So they stayed quite a distance from the shore until a local fisherman came to their rescue. This photograph is of the Baltic Sea seen from the exact spot in Southern Sweden where Hana’s refugee boat came to shore. If you look into the water, you will see a boat. It is about the same distance away from shore as Hana’s boat was during that terrifying day in October of 1943.

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2015
  • When Hana told Rachael her story, she mentioned that she happened to be on the same boat as a famous Danish rabbi named Marcus Melchior and that he was there with his family; a number of his children were in their teens, just like Hana. So, when Rachael went out to retrace Hana’s story, she made contact with one of those teens, Bent, who was now in his 80s and a famous rabbi himself. When they first met, Bent told Rachael that he was still friends with the son of the fisherman who helped the refugees when their boat came to the Swedish shores. Since first meeting in 2015, Rachael and Bent have become very close friends. <br/><br/>Photo by Erika Lantz, co-producer of <i>We Share The Same Sky</i>, 2019 When Hana told Rachael her story, she mentioned that she happened to be on the same boat as a famous Danish rabbi named Marcus Melchior and that he was there with his family; a number of his children were in their teens, just like Hana. So, when Rachael went out to retrace Hana’s story, she made contact with one of those teens, Bent, who was now in his 80s and a famous rabbi himself. When they first met, Bent told Rachael that he was still friends with the son of the fisherman who helped the refugees when their boat came to the Swedish shores. Since first meeting in 2015, Rachael and Bent have become very close friends.

    Photo by Erika Lantz, co-producer of We Share The Same Sky, 2019
  • This is Per Arne, the son of the Swedish fisherman who helped rescue the stranded Danish refugees in 1943. Per Arne is partly responsible for the rescue. He was the one who spotted the boat as in sat still on the sea by the shore. He knew that seeing a boat in the water was an unusual sight during the war and ran to tell his father. As Bent says, “He really did a good deed without knowing he did a good deed.” <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016 This is Per Arne, the son of the Swedish fisherman who helped rescue the stranded Danish refugees in 1943. Per Arne is partly responsible for the rescue. He was the one who spotted the boat as in sat still on the sea by the shore. He knew that seeing a boat in the water was an unusual sight during the war and ran to tell his father. As Bent says, “He really did a good deed without knowing he did a good deed.”

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016
  • This is the home in Beddingestrand, Sweden that is owned by the fisherman’s family who helped Hana and the other refugees when their boat found refuge in Sweden. It is the same home that Hana walked into in October 1943 after being lost at sea. An array of international flags that hangs outside of their home can be seen as a visual representation of how inclusive this family remains to those from other countries. <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016 This is the home in Beddingestrand, Sweden that is owned by the fisherman’s family who helped Hana and the other refugees when their boat found refuge in Sweden. It is the same home that Hana walked into in October 1943 after being lost at sea. An array of international flags that hangs outside of their home can be seen as a visual representation of how inclusive this family remains to those from other countries.

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016
  • A self portrait of Rachael overlooking the exact spot in Southern Sweden where her grandmother’s refugee boat came to shore in 1943. <br/><br/>Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016 A self portrait of Rachael overlooking the exact spot in Southern Sweden where her grandmother’s refugee boat came to shore in 1943.

    Photo by Rachael Cerrotti, 2016