It’s kind of a crazy time in the world right now. Almost no one alive today can remember the last time the word “pandemic” was applicable to our everyday lives.
With so many people at home right now, I know everyone is looking for something fresh to do with their time. And many parents are looking for ways to educate their children and keep them engaged.
Let me tell you about a lesser-known gem available on Disney+.
A made-for-TV movie from the 90s that tells the incredibly inspiring story of how the Danes saved over 90% of their Jewish population from the Holocaust during WWII.
Yes, you read that correctly. Over 90% of the Danish Jewish population was saved during WWII thanks to the incredible efforts of the Danish people.
This happened over 80 years ago and it still feels like good news.
And it happened in the course of just a few weeks.
The year is 1943, and the German occupying government is planning to crack down hard upon the Jews. They will round up over 7,000+ Jews on the night of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). They will stamp out the Jews in Denmark as they have so many other countries in Europe.
It is a brilliant plan…a plan destined to fail.
Word reaches the Danish people, and an act of God takes place over the next several days.
It’s an incredible story, the central characters created to tell this story are Dr. Karl Koster and his wife Doris (Mia Farrow), teenage son Henrik, and daughter Else.
Through the eyes of Dr. Koster we understand the incredible efforts and coordination that took place among every member of the Danish population to save their Jewish friends and neighbors. People of all walks of life came together and provided hiding places, money, transportation, and information to protect the lives of Danish Jews.
Through the eyes of Henrik we experience the young Danish Resistance and their fearlessness in facing down the evil the Nazis presented.
Through the eyes of Doris we feel the fear and strength of a woman who has to walk the line of caring for her neighbors while carrying the weight of protecting her family as well.
Through the eyes of Else we understand what it must be to be a child growing up in a terrifying time.
It’s inspiring. It’s beautiful. It’s encouraging.
The same historical event is the setting for the classic book by Lois Lowry Number The Stars where a young Danish girl and her family save their Jewish neighbors. I highly recommend the book as well.
So many countries failed to protect the Jews. We find stand-out heroes in every nation who stood up and said “No” when everyone else said nothing. But to see an entire country of people who not only worked together but were so completely successful is something else entirely. What might have happened if other nations had done the same thing?
Thousands upon thousands of people exist in the world today because those 7000+ Danish Jews were saved. They are a living testimony to the righteous courage of the Danes and their efforts to protect their fellow human beings. Not only were most of the Jews saved, but only 500 Jews were caught by the Nazis and taken to a ghetto. Out of those only 51 died.
When the Jews returned to Denmark after the war had ended the Jews found that their friends and neighbors had also protected their homes and businesses for them so they would have something to return to.
To quote a line from the history article I have included in the links, historian Leni Yahil said the Danish Jews were protected by
“a living wall raised by the Danish people in the course of one night.”
This is life as it should be. This is brotherhood. This is God’s heart. And it is something we can all learn from today, whatever our circumstances or difficulties are.
War is plague just as coronavirus is a plague. Hatred is a plague, and hatred and evil killed millions of people during WWII. It’s important to recognize the heroes and find stories where good men and women decided that doing nothing was not an option.
We are not fighting Nazis today. That word gets thrown around a lot in the media and by ignorant people who have no idea what Nazis actually were. This movie tells the true story of Nazis, and the people who opposed them. And it does it well.
To sum up, I’ll quote a beautiful speech from the movie that is delivered by Georg Duckwitz. He truly was an ally in this situation and shared information with Danish people that allowed them to outwit the Germans and save the Jews.
At the end of the movie when asked why he, a German, did what he did, Duckwitz replies with this beautiful speech that we can all learn from.
I came to this country (Denmark) as a young man, ambitious, a little homesick as young men are, and the Danes welcomed me. And some of them were Jews. It’s easy to persecute the nameless and the faceless, but these people are not faceless to me. I could have walked away…but…you know, a man must live with himself a long time. And if he can do something to ease a little of the terrible ache in this world…he must. I love Denmark. It’s my home now, and when your home is on fire you want to save it. That’s all it was. My home was on fire. Miracle At Midnight
In these days where we feel like the world is upside down and we do not know what to expect, we can learn so much from the beautiful Danish people and how they responded to their time of crisis.
*Parental warning, this movie contains shooting, at few on-screen deaths, implied suicides (a shadow of a hanging man’s legs is shown on the wall), and blood from injuries. Characters are shown being terrified and in danger. A young man and woman lie down in the woods (fully clothed) and pretend to be making out to distract German soldiers. Some characters are separated.
This movie can spur on so many lessons. If you are looking for a neat way to educate and engage your children, I highly recommend this movie. I will include a few links to get you started.
This movie is a gem about a story that I hope none of us ever forget.
Check it out on Disney+ today!
And here are few resources to get you started!
Number The Stars on Amazon by Lois Lowry!
A Rescuer in Copenhagen Georg Duckwitz
Miracle At Midnight on Disney+
The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer
Why 90% of Danish Jews Survived the Holocaust on history.com
Rosh Hashanah at museumofthebible.org