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Preben Munch-Nielsen

Snekkersten, Denmark

Preben was born to a Protestant family in the small Danish fishing village of Snekkersten. He was raised by his grandmother, who was also responsible for raising five other grandchildren. Every day Preben commuted to school in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, about 25 miles south of Snekkersten.

1933-39: There were very few Jews in my elementary school, but I didn't think of them as Jews; they were just my classmates and pals. In Denmark we didn't distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, we were all just Danes. By fifth grade, my classmates and I heard rumors of a German military build-up. But later, in 1939, my parents said that Hitler had promised not to invade Denmark, which made us feel relatively safe.

1940-42: Occupation. In April 1940 I arrived in Copenhagen, where I saw planes overhead and German officers in the street. I joined the resistance as a courier, but I became more involved in October 1943 when the Gestapo began hunting down Danish Jews. We began to help Jewish refugees. We hid them in houses near the shore and brought them to waiting boats at an appointed time. Under cover of darkness, we took up to 12 Jews at a time across the straits to Sweden. The four-mile trip took about 50 minutes.

Preben helped transport 1,400 refugees to Sweden. He fled to Sweden as well in November 1943 when the Germans seized the Danish government. Preben returned home in May 1945.

 

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