Cover image for A conspiracy of decency : the rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II
A conspiracy of decency : the rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II
Werner, Emmy E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. ; Oxford : Westview, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 212 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.D4 W47 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS135.D4 W47 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The people of Denmark managed to save almost their country's entire Jewish population from extinction in a spontaneous act of humanity - one of the most compelling stories of moral courage in the history of World War II. Drawing on many personal accounts, Emmy Werner tells the story of the rescue of the Danish Jews from the vantage-point of living eyewitnesses- the last survivors of an extraordinary conspiracy of decency that triumphed in the midst of the horrors of the Holocaust. A Conspiracy of Decency chronicles the acts of people of good will from several nationalities. Among them were the German Georg F. Duckwitz, who warned the Jews of their impending deportation, the Danes who hid them and ferried them across the Oresund, and the Swedes who gave them asylum. Regardless of their social class, education, and religious and political persuasion, the rescuers all shared one important characteristic: they defined their humanity by their ability to act with great compassion. These people never considered themselves heroes - they simply felt that they were doing the right thing.

Author Notes

Emmy E. Werner is a developmental psychologist and research professor at the University of California, Davis

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When the German army invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, the Danes quickly surrendered. King Christian remained on the throne, however, and most aspects of prewar civilian life remained intact for nearly three-and-one-half years of the subsequent occupation. Then, in late September 1943, when Denmark's 6,500 Jews were threatened with deportation, Danish resistance fighters began ferrying them to Sweden, where they were given asylum. Drawing on personal and eyewitness accounts, Werner chronicles the Danes' spontaneous outpouring of support for the Jews as well as efforts by the Swedes to provide the refugees with shelter. She also describes the plight of 461 Danish Jews sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp (and later released) and the liberation of Denmark in 1945. Elegantly written and thoroughly researched, this is an important work in the field of Holocaust studies. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although it doesn't bring previously undisclosed events to light, this history of the Holocaust in Denmark offers a wealth of first-person material, placed within a factually accurate, well-crafted text. The Danes gave a famously cold shoulder to the Germans when they invaded in 1940, and secretly evacuated 7,000 Danish Jews to Sweden when the Germans ordered them deported in 1943. Werner (Reluctant Witnesses), a developmental psychologist and research professor at University of California, Davis, uses accessible concepts (such as people of "good will") to convey what happened, and gives careful accounts of the roles of the Danish Lutheran church, the universities and the large Copenhagen hospital Bispejberg in speaking out against deportation, and mobilizing when it was imminent. Werner devotes a chapter to the refugees' actual passage northward, and a chapter to their reception in Sweden, where some found employment. More than 450 Jews were captured by the Germans and sent to Theresienstadt (the so-called "show place" concentration camp in Czechoslovakia); they were exempted from extermination as a result of tireless Danish lobbying. Werner includes their experiences, as well as those of Jews hidden in Denmark, and of members of the Danish resistance. She concludes by surveying various studies of rescuers and bystanders during the Holocaust, attempting to distill motivations for action or inaction. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Prologuep. 1
1 Shadows over Denmarkp. 7
2 Men of Consciencep. 27
3 A Matter of Decencyp. 43
4 Escape Across the Oresundp. 61
5 Refuge in Swedenp. 83
6 Sojourn in Theresienstadtp. 101
7 Turmoil in Copenhagenp. 123
8 Liberation and Homecomingp. 141
9 Getting on with Lifep. 155
10 "Whoever Saves a Single Life"p. 167
Selected Chronologyp. 183
Notesp. 185
Bibliographyp. 199
Indexp. 205