Dr. Sofie Lene Bak, University of Copenhagen

Oral Histories of Hidden Children in Denmark during the Holocaust: Narratives, Identity and Trauma

20 May 2021 at 17.30-18.30 (Finnish time) online

Denmark is the celebrated exception from the horrors of the Holocaust with 98% of the Jewish population surviving persecution, the vast majority in exile in neighboring Sweden. Thanks to the help of their fellow countrymen, approx. 8000 Jews were rescued across a narrow strait to neutral Sweden in October 1943, in an operation affectionately referred to as “little Dunkirk”. In this keynote lecture, I will unfold an Oral History project that uncovered a repressed aspect of the beloved story. Not everyone made it to Sweden: A minimum of 160 Jewish children were left behind in Denmark, when their parents made the desperate flight. These hidden children constitute 10% of all child victims of persecution in Denmark and 20% of the toddlers between 0 and 5 years of age. Yet, the project was much more than a historical discovery. A silence that had prevailed for six decades was broken, and a group of people was given a new identity and a new narrative about their lives. The discovery forced me to consider headfirst a range of methodological and ethical aspects of oral history.

The guest lecture is part of the Internordic workshop Contemporary Jewry in the Nordic Countries: History, Identities, and Practice arranged at Åbo Akademi University by the research group Boundaries of Jewish Identities in Contemporary Finland (Minhag Finland) financed by the Polin Institute for Theological Research.

Sofie Lene Bak (b. 1973) is Associate Professor in History at Copenhagen University, Denmark, and former curator at the Danish Jewish Museum. She is author of several books, articles and papers on Memory, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, most prominently: Nothing to speak of: Wartime experiences of the Danish Jews 1943-45 (2012) and Oral History i Danmark (in Danish) (2016).

The lecture is given online, please sign up for the lecture no later than Monday 17 May to get the Zoom-link by sending an email to: minhag@abo.fi