Fishing Boat to Freedom

The Fellowship  |  April 20, 2021

Fishing boat of Henry and Ellen Thomsen
Fishing boat of Henry and Ellen Thomsen

Henry and Ellen Thomsen worked as innkeepers in the Danish fishing 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 served as the meeting place for the Danish fishermen who carried out the rescue operations. But more Jews escaped the Nazis than the fishermen could carry.

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

Despite that arrest and ongoing Nazi persecution, 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 the Nazis murdered Henry Thomsen 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.

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