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A Fishing Boat to Freedom

Thomsen family's fishing boat (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Henry Christian and Ellen Margrethe Thomsen

Henry and Ellen Thomsen were innkeepers in the Danish village of Snekkersten when World War II overtook the European continent. With the Nazis threatening Denmark, the Thomsens became early members of the underground resistance.

In October of 1943, information leaked that the Nazis planned to deport the Jews of Denmark, meaning certain death for members of the Danish Jewish community. The Thomsens eagerly decided to help as many Jews as they could escape to safety in Sweden.

The Thomsens' inn became the meeting place for the Danish fishermen who carried out the rescue operations. But soon the number of Jews escaping the Nazis became too great for the fishermen to carry them all.

In order to help more Jews escape, Henry purchased a small fishing boat and began to ferry Jews to Sweden himself. Soon, though, he was arrested by the Gestapo, who were forced to let Henry go as they had no solid evidence against him.

Despite having already been arrested and still being on the Gestapo's radar, Henry continued to do his good work, sneaking Jews from Denmark to Sweden. The Gestapo again arrested him and sent him to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he was murdered on December 4, 1944.

Because of their selfless actions — actions which cost Henry his life — Yad Vashem named Henry and Ellen Thomsen Righteous Among the Nations in 1968.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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