RESCUE AND REFUGE: The Holocaust in Denmark
Rabbi Bent Melchior – Keynote Holocaust Survivor speaker; Former Chief Rabbi of Denmark
Rabbi Bent Melchior was born in Germany in 1929. When Hitler came into power in 1933, the Melchior family moved back to Copenhagen, Denmark. Bent was 10 years old when the war broke out. After the Nazi invasion of Denmark in 1941, the Danish government refused to collaborate with the Nazis. In 1943, Bent’s father – Rabbi Marcus Melchior warned all Jews of an impending round-up, and encouraged them to hide or plan an escape. The Danish Resistance Movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark’s 7,800 Jews by sea to nearby neutral Sweden where they were received as refugees. Bent Melchior and his family were among them.
Through this mammoth effort, more than ninety percent of Denmark’s Jews were saved.
Rabbi Bent Melchior returned to Denmark in 1945. He volunteered as a soldier in the fight for Israeli independence, and then returned to Copenhagen where he received his PhD. He married Lillian Weissdorf in 1951, and they have four sons. He pursued his Rabbinical education in London in 1963. After his father’s death in 1969, he succeeded him as the Chief Rabbi of Denmark. He retired in 1996, and continues his humanitarian and charitable work both in Denmark and around the world.
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