I can’t pinpoint the exact time when I became fascinated by the Scandinavian actors during the Holocaust years, 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) http://www.thankstoscandinavia.org/ 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 of mine at the University of Miami Law School.
Today, Thanks to Scandinavia is an Institute of the American Jewish Committee http://www.ajc.org/ , the leading global Jewish advocacy organization that has forged close working ties with such international groups as the Consular Corps of Miami.