‘Resistance and Rescue’ Depicts the Bravery of Danes Who Helped Jews Flee from the Nazis
By Kirby F. Smith Sixteen-year-old Ketty Riskin first heard the rumor as she walked around her native Copenhagen in September 1943: The Nazis, who occupied Denmark at the time, would soon be taking action against Danish Jews. Ketty’s parents had been active in the Communist Party, and it was from the Communists that word of the imminent roundup of Jews began to spread.
The next few days proved to be harrowing for the family. A member of the Danish Resistance movement—identity unknown— provided a hiding place in a private home in a village about 30 kilometers north of the city. The Riskins were to stay there until they could be placed on a ship to Sweden.
When the family arrived at the darkened home, however, no one was there to meet them. Beginning to feel desperate in the fast- fading autumn light, they decided to find an inn for the night. They located one but were told by a Dane, whom they met on the street, that the Germans were occupying it and suggested they go elsewhere. When they found a second inn, the owner said there was no vacancy. He was about to turn them away when his daughter said the Riskins could stay in her room, which they did.
The next day, showing admirable courage but feeling very much at risk, Ketty’s mother took the train back to Copenhagen, where she tracked down their Resistance contact. After she explained what had happened, a new location was found, and the family was transported there...by taxicab! Within a few days, the Riskins were placed on a ship that took them to Sweden and out of harm’s way.
There’s much more to this story, and those interested in hearing it should come to the Arthur Ross Gallery at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, when Ketty Riskin’s son, Jan Schwarz, who teaches Yiddish language and literature at Penn, will speak on “The Rescue of Danish Jewry: A Personal Account.”
His talk is one of two that are scheduled to accompany “Resistance and Rescue,” the current gallery exhibition of 43 black-and- white photographs by Judy Ellis Glickman. The show evokes the people and scenes
involved in that dangerous rescue operation staged in 1943 when the Danish people conspired against the Nazi occupiers in support of their fellow citizens and Jewish refugees.
The Danish people—including its monarchy and elected govern- ment—constituted the only occu- pied democratic nation in Europe to save nearly its entire Jewish community from annihilation.
The exhibition’s guest curator, Cas Stachelberg, said that Glickman has produced a body of photographs that record the remarkable flight of the Jews out of Denmark. “Her powerful images depict the rescuers and the rescued, historic sites in Denmark and Sweden, and the concentration camps where the less fortunate were taken,” he said. “The photographs bear witness to the heroism and bravery of the Scandi- navian people and the horror and brutality of Hitler’s Final Solution.”
“I was given the opportunity to travel in Denmark and to meet, interview and photograph Danish resistance leaders, rescuers and survivors,” said Glickman, who recently became a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. “These extraordinary people shared their individual experiences and led me to the actual sites where the events of 1943 unfolded. The Danish people have become a source of hope for me, a force of goodness in a world that went mad.” Photograph by Judy Ellis Glickman “Jens Moller, Fisherman and Rescuer”: an image from the exhibit The other lecture will take place in the gallery at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, former foreign minister of Denmark, will discuss “Is History Repeating Itself in the New Europe? How Do We Ensure Freedom and Security for All?” All 43 photographs were taken within the last seven years. They include images of sites throughout Scandinavia and Europe, and portraits of the people who were involved in the rescue. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief descriptive passage relating the history of the location or a personal account of the events. The exhibition is sponsored by the Arthur Ross Gallery Exhibition Fund; Hillel of the University of Pennsylvania; the “Thanks to Scandinavia” Scholarship Fund, New York; and the Interfaith Council on the Holocaust. One footnote: In 1948, Ketty Riskin met Henning Schwarz, a Polish Jew and Holo- caust survivor, and eventually married him. They are alive and well in Copenhagen, according to son Jan. The exhibition at the Arthur Ross Gallery will run through Oct. 1. The show is traveling to more than 30 venues throughout the world.
ALMANAC September 5, 1995