Germany occupied Denmark in April 1940. The Danish government remained in place, and despite the Occupation, daily life continued more or less normally for most Jewish families in Denmark during the first few years of the Second World War.
In January 1942, prominent Nazi leaders met outside of Berlin to determine the fate of European Jews, including Danish Jews.
While Jews throughout Europe were loaded onto cattle cars and shipped to concentration camps, Danish Jews weren’t affected until October 1943. The Danish government had resigned in August of that year, and there was no longer a buffer between the occupying Germans and the Danish people.
The Danish Jewish community was tipped off that the Germans were about to round them up, and in early October 1943, ordinary Danes and the Danish Resistance managed to smuggle over 7,000 Jews from Denmark across the water to neutral Sweden using fishing boats and other vessels.
Yet over 470 Jews were arrested before they could escape, and most of them were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is currently the Czech Republic. Despite being treated slightly better than Jews from many other countries in the camp, of the 470 Danish Jews, 51 died in Theresienstadt.
“Goodbye Theresienstadt” is the story of six Danish Jews who were children during the war and sent to the concentration camp.
The six individual stories are intertwined, with each survivor telling of their family’s failed escape and of the journey by ship and cattle car to Theresienstadt. Now in their seventies and eighties, the six then travel together back to the concentration camp to tell of the horrific conditions, and of how they were rescued in the final weeks of the war.
It is a poignant, dramatic story about survival amidst hopelessness, told firsthand by survivors from their childhood perspective.
Directed by Carl Otto Dethlefsen and Jonatan Jerichow