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Countrymen is extraordinary. I will not soon forget this epic of decency, this saga of humanism saving lives. The idea of humanism has been under attack for so long now, as false and sentimental and impotent, as insufficiently radical to make a difference, that it is stirring to be given a grand example of the opposite case—of a clear, muscular, brave, and effective humanism, and in the whole of a society. Bo Lidegaard's moving and meticulous book is itself an expression of the idealism that it documents.”
–Leon Wieseltier

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Bo Lidegaard is the editor in chief of the leading Danish newspaper Politiken and the author of several books on modern history. He served as a diplomat in the Danish Foreign Service before joining the Office of the Danish Prime Minister as Ambassador and Permanent Undersecretary of State tasked with responsibilities corresponding to those of National Security Advisor. He later led the team preparing the 2009 United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen. He is one of the most respected and widely read Danish historians, and his work has focused on U.S.-Danish relations in the twentieth century, as well as on the modern Danish welfare state. He lives in Copenhagen.

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22 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
In-depth historical treatise on a special moment during WW II. 22. August 2013
Von Esther Schindler - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
Many years ago I was told how, during the German occupation of Denmark, the king refused to comply with the Germans' demands to make Jews wear the star-of-David. And he did so, the story goes, by wearing a Jewish star himself, and the whole country wearing stars in support of the Jewish population.

As it turns out, that isn't exactly what happened. But the actual history is almost as impressive, because Denmark DID save its Jews from the Nazis in World War II. And Bo Lidegaard tells us every detail of that history.

This is another book in which I'd like you to ignore my star rating, because its value is based more on your expectations than mine. I confess that my interest in the subject was superficial, at least in comparison to the information supplied. It's like asking someone, "How was your day at work?" and getting a two-hour answer when a few paragraphs would satiate your curiosity about the topic. However, I certainly cannot fault the author for doing a conscientious detailed job!

Still, I learned quite a bit about Denmark's role during World War II, and how hard the community and the government (or what was left of it) tried to keep themselves a separate and independent entity. For example, the populace was encouraged to comply with the Germans but to give them a cold shoulder socially. And the key in supporting the Jews was not a matter of appreciating the religion (there were only 7,000 Jews in the country to begin with) but the perception of Denmark's independence and, kind of, "You ain't the boss of me."

The what-happened-when history -- including quite a bit of information about the politicians who behaved mostly-honorably -- is interspersed with excerpts from diaries kept by Jews during the time they had to hightail it out of Denmark and into Sweden. That lends a personal fillip to all the reference material.

The end result is that the author recorded a moment of valor and grace in a time when such qualities were so often absent. "The crucial point is that the refugees could count on their countrymen and engage friends, colleagues, and neighbors, as a matter of course, in their efforts to find a way out," writes Lidegaard. "Not even necessarily those who were known to be involved in the armed resistance... Rather, a wide circle of ordinary citizens took their first step into defiance by helping fellow citizens. They did so because they perceived the impending action as an attempt to break the spine of the society they felt part of."

If you are expecting a Bill Bryson-esque overview of Fun Facts About The Nazis, this is bound to be disappointing, because Lidegaard goes into a lot of historical depth with plenty of sources and relevant tangents. And I think you have to be REALLY interested in getting the entire story to find the book a page-turner. But if you do want all the facts at your fingertips, Countrymen is an excellent reference that'll suit the need.
14 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Important but ponderous (3.5 stars) 23. September 2013
Von J. Green - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
In the history of Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews there aren't many happy stories. Usually the best we can manage is a family hidden in the attic or an individual who slipped away. But the case of Denmark, where 7,000 Danes were Jewish, stands out even if it doesn't start very promisingly.

When Germany attacked in April 1940, Denmark's leaders didn't believe the country was strong enough to resist. Instead of putting up a fight, Denmark became an occupied country that still retained some semblance of self-government - a situation most Danes found humiliating. And given Germany's record of persecution against Jews, Danish leaders did everything they thought possible to avert a roundup of their citizens. Yet when it finally came on October 1, 1943, the people themselves managed to help nearly all the Jews to escape to Sweden. Out of 7,000, only a few hundred were captured by the Germans.

Given that I am one quarter Danish (my grandmother and her parents emigrated around 1900) I really looked forward to this history. And it's an inspiring story of how the Danish people helped their "countrymen" escape what everyone knew was a death-sentence. The risks people took were very real and dangerous, and neighbors even cared for the property of the refugees (instead of the opportunistic looting that generally happened in other places). The book focuses mostly on the Hannover and Marcus families - two sisters - as well as their father, but other sources and stories are included as well. I found it especially interesting how people knew what the Germans were doing to the Jews (not always in vague or general terms!) and yet they still found it hard to believe it would happen in Denmark, instead trusting in the "honor" of the occupation forces. And yet, if it hadn't been for some information leaks, the number who escaped might have been small.

Unfortunately, it's also a very ponderous book that can easily overwhelm an otherwise eager reader at a snail's pace. Frequently accounts of the same event are quoted at length from multiple sources, giving a more complete view of the events but also dragging on for pages with little gained. As such, it may be a scholarly work, but made it hard for me to engage as an ordinary reader. I found the book interesting *while I was reading it,* but it was difficult to find much enthusiasm to pick it up again *in between* readings. Nonetheless, this is an important story, and one I am glad to know but I can't in good conscience give it more than 3 stars ("just okay"). (Oh, and that story about King Christian and the people all wearing Jewish stars in a show of solidarity? It's just a story.)
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An compelinging, heart-wrenching account of a nation's heroism 11. August 2013
Von William Courson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
Denmark had been under German occupation since 1940, but as late as 1943 - through a combination of unimaginable courage, crafty diplomacy and naked dissimulation - the government of that kingdom managed to remain more or less intact, in control of its population, territory and organs of administration, including its police and armed forces.

Denmark had managed to maintain its neutrality under a seeming and widely criticized patina of appeasement: while allowing the Germans into the country, it firmly resisted Nazi representation in its councils of government. But by 1943, the German occupiers had reached the limits of their tether, their patience at an end: Denmark was theirs, and its Jewish population was to be deported and exterminated in the man-made hells that spotted the eastern half of the European continent.

Knowing this to be the case, the aging King Christian X and his stalwart prime minister, Thorvad Stauning, collaborated with the country's citizenry to save their 7,000 fellow Danes who happened to be Jewish from certain death at the hands of their Nazi occupiers Over fourteen days - from Sunday, September 26th to Saturday October 9th, the great mass of the Danish people "spontaneously" came together to help, hide and protect their Jewish friends and neighbors - neighbors who were suddenly refugees - and smuggle nearly the whole of Denmark's Jewish community out of the country in trains, planes, automobiles and boats and into safety in neighboring Sweden.

Shockingly, until the publication of Bo Lidegaard's "Countrymen" there has been no definite history written of this amazing episode, a singular bright spot in the horrors of World War II Europe.

This book is compelling, truly a page turner: an incredibly engaging epic of the decency of ordinary human beings saving the lives of their fellows at often great risk to themselves. "Countrymen" is well-written and thoughtfully organized, filled with detailed information and chronicling the experiences of the Germans, the Danes themselves, their government and king, and the Jewish Danes and those non-Jewish Danes married to them. A wonderful, uplifting story that gives one hope for the human species.
8 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
When Human Decency Triumphed 6. August 2013
Von R. Schwenk - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
Denmark shares with Bulgaria the distinction of preserving over 99% of their Jewish populations during the Holocaust years. Bo Lidegaard explores how and why this happened in Denmark. With the help of newly available diaries, he reconstructs a day-by-day account, giving us a genuine picture of what it was like for those seeking to escape. He also lets us eavesdrop on Danish government officials as they struggle to minimize the damage.

Denmark chose not to resist the German invasion in April 1940. As a result, she kept her government intact. Seeing the Danes as fellow Aryans, the Germans wanted Denmark to be a model for other cooperating Aryan nations. This policy mitigated the effects of the occupation on ordinary Danes and minimized the number of German troops and police required. Meanwhile, Denmark served as a source of food for the Reich and as a route through which Norwegian iron ore was imported.

It was not until September of 1943 that the Germans turned their attention to Denmark's Jewish population. All along, the Germans realized that this step would alienate the whole country. The Danes had made it clear that no distinction was to be made among its citizens based on religion or ethnicity.

When the round-ups actually began on October 1st, many Jews had been forewarned and went into hiding among their fellow citizens. They could subsequently make their way to any of the dozens of harbors along the Danish coast and make their way by boat to Sweden. As a rule, the refugees could count on support from gentile Danes and a warm welcome in neutral Sweden.

The diaries are quoted at length, giving the reader a vivid account unfiltered by hindsight.

The book also explores why Denmark was so different from other occupied or cooperating countries. Why was the German effort so half-hearted? Why were the Danes comparatively immune to anti-Semitic propaganda? How was it possible for Denmark to affect even the treatment of already-deported Jews? (Many survived the war in Theresienstadt.)

The Third Reich provided humanity with a moral test that we largely failed. Countrymen tells the story of simple humanity triumphant.

See Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust for another perspective.

Listen to Fred Small's song Denmark 1943 on I Will Stand Fast for a moving summary of this story.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
This book was an enjoyable learning experience for me! 31. Juli 2013
Von feemeister - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts ( Was ist das? )
This is a scholarly work detailing the Danish government during the German occupation. It contains a lot of information on the responsible men in the government at the time and the things they tried to do to stop The Final Solution in Denmark.

The people of Denmark were a very democratic nation and they walked the walk. They were on the verge of rebelling against the Germans if the Jews were rounded up. The Germans actually listened to them. They were very dependent on the food supplies and the Danish farmers and didn't want to get them riled up, and diminish their supplies. They consequently listened to the wishes of the people more than they did in other countries. (With the exception of Bulgaria, where the people and the King also were very emphatic that they were to leave their Jews alone, which the Nazis actually did. According to the book, 1 percent of the Jews in Bulgaria and Denmark were killed, as opposed to all the way up to 90 percent in other countries. These were the two countries where the people were up in arms at anyone trying to harm anyone in their populace, be they Jewish or anything else. They were always Bulgarians and Danes first in these countries, before they were anything else, and this was the view of the people and their governments and their kings.)

The Nazis did not come in and bulldoze the population and the Jews in Denmark, as they did in Poland and so many other countries. The Danes were able to keep their own government fairly intact under the Nazi overlordship, and were given a certain amount of respect. The German in charge, Werner Best, was pretty much tapdancing back and forth between Himmler and the government in Denmark, trying to make both sides as happy as possible, and keep the cooperation of the Danes. (Lying the whole time of course!) (There was a lot of info on Best, and he was a very interesting character!)

The day finally came when they DID make their roundup of the Danish Jews, which they had tried to keep secret. It had really gotten out though and most of the Jews were gone. The Germans in charge there were not nearly as gung ho on rounding them up and killing them as were most of the SS. These were not the types I have read of in so many other books who totally enjoyed torturing and killing the Jews, as well as others in the populace. I think they played a huge part in the success of so many people being able to leave in time. In Denmark they did not go kick the doors in to round them up. They knocked on the doors, and couldn't do anything if no one answered. This in itself helped many of the Jews who had not already left. They also did not confiscate the property of the Jews in Denmark. Truly amazing!

This was all very interesting information which I had not known about previously. I really enjoyed the Danish King, Christian. He did not like the fact that a few Danes had volunteered to fight in German uniforms, ''and he did little to hide his contempt when a high-ranking German representative in August 1941 went to see him to give official thanks for the Danish contribution. According to his diary notes, he responded by declaring that 'anyone could volunteer and I would recommend using those doing so in the front lines. They had chosen themselves to fight there, and it would save your own troops.' '' OUCH!!! (This one really cracked me up!)

The Swedes were wonderful and volunteered to take any of the Danish Jews that would come over there. This was an attitude that was sorely lacking during WW2. There were times the Germans would have sent the Jews to other countries had they wanted them, but no one did. I was stunned that our country had not volunteered to take the Jews they wanted to cast off. But the Swedes offered and took many people.

There are stories running through the book of different families and how they were able to get out of the country, and the things they went through. There were some who died trying, and there were some suicides of people who gave up before even trying to leave the country. There were lots of pictures throughout the book of the different people talked about, along with a good bit of info/bios with the pictures, that were beautifully done.

A very good book full of information and detailing the problems encountered by the Nazis and the Germans, the Danes themselves and their government and king, and the Jewish Danes (as well as half and quarter Jewish Danes and Jews married to Danes)!
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