Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943: My Grandfather Was One of Them

Seventy years ago today, my Jewish grandfather David Huda escaped to neutral Sweden in the bottom of a fishing boat. He went off from Gilleleje in Northern Seeland in the middle of the night with eight others. The rescue was beautifully organized, and seven thousands Danish Jews got away during October 1943. 
Denmark has always taken pride in the fact that we saved 92% of our Jewish citizens. However, one of many reasons we were so successful was actually because of the Germans. Most of them weren't interested in catching the Jews, since there wasn't much anti-semitism to play into in Denmark. So the Wehrmacht made the  calculation that prosecuting the local Jews only would create more trouble in a country that finally had started to fight back against the German occupation.
Two weeks after my grandfather escaped, my Christian grandmother, uncle, and mother followed from Kalkbrænderihavnen in Copenhagen. My half-Jewish Mom was ten years old in October 1943, deadly scared that Gestapo or the German soldiers were going to find them. But everything went smoothly. They met up with my grandfather in a refugee camp in Molle, Scania (Skåne) and stayed in seven different places in Sweden until Denmark was liberated in May, 1945 by British and American soldiers.

Before the war, my family lived in Kibæk in rural Jutland. My grandfather was the only Jew in the  area, and definitely the only Christian Jew since he had been forcibly converted when he arrived from Palestine in 1906. 

In early 1943, my grandfather joined a small resistance group that hid English agents in their barns. He also was crazy enough to befriend a soldier from Vienna at the same time. Call it intuition because the German-Austrian soldier ended up helping my grandfather escape in October 1943. 
In 1998 I told David Huda's amazing life story in Drømmeren fra Palæstina (The Dreamer From Palestine). It was my first best seller in Denmark and was later translated into French as Le Reveur de Palestine (Gaia Editions, 2005). One day I hope it will come out in English and in many other languages as well.
Needless to say, I miss my whole family like crazy these days. They all survived the Second World War, but one of them died in June 1945. That story you can read as well in Drømmeren fra Palæstina. You can download the ebook (ebog) here from Arnold Busck in Danish.
My novelized biography from 1998 (Lindhardt & Ringhof) came out in five editions. The book sold out a long time ago, but it was re-released as an audiobook last year. You can download the Danish audiobook here and listen to it immediately
I presented the French edition at the book festival Litterature Europeenne Cognac in France in 2006. I still count that as one of my greatest moments as a novelist.  You can still buy the French edition from Gaia Editions on Amazon.

 My mother Marie Søndergaard Huda in Dalarne, Sweden in late 1944. 
My grandmother Marie Angelique Søndergaard Huda and my mother half a year before the German occupation. 

 David Huda wrote his own life story in 1950 called Fra Haifa til Hammerum Herred. Funnily enough, my novelized biography from 1998 was much closer to the truth than his own autobiography, because my grandfather chose to leave out some of the most dramatic and painful events. I put them in which was important to my mother as well.
I partly based The Dreamer from Palestine on his book, my mother's recollection, and most of all, my own imagination. There were so many holes and half-truths in my grandfather's story that I used it as a template to write an epic novel about one of 20th century Denmark's first immigrants. But I'm still loyal to what actually happened in Safed, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Kibæk, Herning, Copenhagen, and Sweden during my maternal granddad's 82 years on planet earth.
God bless you David, Erik, Marie, and Marie. I hope you read this blog wherever you are.