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Countrymen [Paperback]

Bo Lidegaard
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 2014
The literally extraordinary story of how Denmark saved its Jews from the Nazis in World War II.

In the entire ghastly history of the Holocaust, only two "good" stories stand out, and this is one of them. Denmark, under German Occupation, but with its king and government intact, did something no other country in Western Europe even tried to do. Knowing that German command was coming in 1943 to round up their Jews (there were 7,000 of them) for deportation to the camps, they said no. The king, his ministers, and parliament were all in agreement--those 7,000 people were theirs, they were Danes who happened to be Jewish, and nobody was going to assist in their roundup and certain death. While the government used its limited but formidable powers to maneuver and to impede matters in Berlin, the warning went out to the Jewish community that crisis was at hand.

Over fourteen  days, assisted, helped, hidden, protected by ordinary people who came together spontaneously to the aid of their countrymen, who were suddenly refugees, an incredible 6,500 Jews out of the 7,000 total escaped--smuggled on big boats, little boats, fishing boats, anything that floated--to Sweden. 

The bare facts of this exodus have been known for decades but astonishingly, no full history of it has ever been researched or written. The refugees kept diaries, letters, and family accounts that have now been brought together and form the basis of this riveting work. After a powerful historical introduction, the book follows the story on a day-by-day basis. We watch and share the heart-stopping experiences of real people during those fateful two weeks from September 26 to October 9, 1943. This is a story of ordinary glory, of simple courage and moral fortitude that shines out in midst of the terrible history of the twentieth century.     
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books Export (6 Mar 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1782391452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782391456
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,676,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The rescue of the Danish Jews is surely one of the most extraordinary - and genuinely moving - stories of the last century... A tremendously stirring book --Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

Based on contemporary diaries written by a number of Danish Jews, Lidegaard has written of exactly how the escape of two families was planned and carried out, hour by tense hour. It is as exciting as any spy thriller --Richard Overy, Sunday Telegraph

Magisterial... The story Lidegaard tells of how Danes, from the top bureaucrats, Church leaders and police officials down to the humblest fishermen, helped the Jews escape when the Germans tried to deport them to concentration camps in October 1943, is indeed astonishing and heart-warming. --Ian Buruma, Guardian

Lucid, compelling and scrupulously fair... Combines all the immediacy of personal drama with an unerring sense of the wider implications of Denmark's achievement --David Crane, Spectator

Magnificent... Bo Lidegaard has retold this story using astonishingly vivid unpublished material from families who escaped, and the testimony of contemporary eyewitnesses, senior Danish leaders (including the king himself), and even the Germans who ordered the roundups. The result is an intensely human account of one episode in the persecution of European Jews that ended in survival. --Michael Ignatieff, New Republic

Countrymen is extraordinary. I will not soon forget this epic of decency, this saga of humanism saving lives. The idea of humanism has been under attack for so long now, as false and sentimental and impotent, as insufficiently radical to make a difference, that it is stirring to be given a grand example of the opposite case - of a clear, muscular, brave, and effective humanism, and in the whole of a society. Bo Lidegaard's moving and meticulous book is itself an expression of the idealism that it documents. --Leon Wieseltier

I absolutely loved this book. It's a great story, both heartening and human, which tells of how some Germans behaved better than expected, and shows how decency can prevail in the hardest of times. It's a book to be recommended to anyone who has a deeply cynical view of human nature, but also to anyone who wants to see how people can behave brilliantly and how political and moral norms can hold against extremism, bullying, violence and threats. --Julia Neuberger

This is a tense, inspiring story of the resistance to oppression by a united people --Booklist --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Bo Lidegaard is a Danish historian, author and editor-in-chief of the daily broadsheet newspaper Politiken. He has been awarded some of the highest of Denmark's national honours for his writings. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to get into. 24 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Hard going at the beginning, took a while to get into. Hence the 3* rating. Once passed the initial 'slog' is quite interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A First-class Read 24 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Of the wartime generation, I am interested in the experiences of people in Occupied Territories, and how they survived and coped with the Nazis. An occasional visitor to the several Scandinavian countries, I appreciate the pride in wartime achievements, and enjoy books dedicated to the theme.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an e excellent book! 6 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is first rate. A must read for everyone interested in the Holocaust. Very well researched and written. One of the best books I have read about the Holocaust.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 4 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A wonderful tale, not well-known. The Danes should be commended for their moral strength and courage.
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