Scandinavia and the Holocaust years
WHO AM I TO TALK?
I can’t pinpoint the exact time when I became fascinated by the actors of the Holocaust years in Scandinavia, but for sure it began with Jewish-American friends asking about Finland. They knew I was a Swedish-speaking Finn, born and raised a Protestant in Helsinki, and that in itself seemed intriguing in South Florida where being an immigrant mostly meant being Hispanic.
Although I’m an international lawyer by training – not a historian – many of my friends still looked at me as a direct line to information about what happened to their Scandinavian landsmen during the Holocaust years, since I straddled more than one Nordic country. It was only natural, then, that my adopted hometown – Miami, Florida – with its large Jewish population, became the place where I was prodded to dig into a subject that at first was not much spoken about, but the more I learned about it, the more it took hold of me. And, I did have the advantage of being quite versant in all Scandinavian languages so I could delve into material that English-only readers could not.
Then, one day I got a letter in the mail asking me, as consul, for help in enlisting a local synagogue to commemorate the saving of the Danish Jews by having a temple in Miami repeat the sermon that the Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen offered in September, 1943 as a message to go underground.
This letter was from an organization called THANKS TO SCANDINAVIA (New York City) and it bore the signature of Victor Borge, that comedic fall-off-the-chair pianist from Denmark whom I had adored since I was a little girl in Finland.
In 1963 Victor Borge, who fled to America in 1940, and Richard Netter, a prominent NYC attorney, founded an organization that would perpetually honor the rescue of Scandinavian Jews by offering scholarships to students and teachers. As TTS says, the scholarships remain a “symbol of gratitude for the past and a concrete contribution to our common future.” I, myself, experienced such a scholarship-holder from Copenhagen who was a graduate student at the University of Miami Law School when I was there.
Today, Thanks to Scandinavia http://www.thankstoscandinavia.org/ is an Institute of the American Jewish Committee http://www.ajc.org/ This leading global Jewish advocacy organization was the first to see the purpose of my practical consular guide, The Foreign Consuls Among Us as the Miami office sought to develop close working ties with members of the Consular Corps of Miami. AJC officers knew of the need to not only understand the role of these foreign consuls but also to develop skills for interacting with them in a manner appropriate with the official position they hold. Their endorsement of my consular handbook has been particularly meaningful to me.