Gerda Valentiner-Denmark-Teachers Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust
Gerda Valentiner was a teacher who was active in the Danish resistance during the German occupation, participating in the transfer of Denmark’s Jews to Sweden. During the fateful weeks in October 1943 when the deportation of the Jews of Denmark was planned, she collected Jewish children from their parents and took them to her home, waiting for the right moment to transfer them to the coast, from where they would be taken to Sweden.
She not only risked her life for the sake of those children, but also manifested great sensitivity and respect for her protégés’ religious observance. When she realized that some of the children adhered to the Jewish dietary laws and therefore only ate bread, she bought new dishes and food that they could eat.
Moritz Scheftelowitz told Yad Vashem that Gerda Valentiner was his sister’s teacher, and that one night in late September 1943, she came to his parents, Ester and Reuben Scheftelowitz, to warn them of the impending danger. A few days later, Moritz and his sisters, Dora (later Diamant) and Rita (later Felbest), moved to Gerda’s home and stayed with her until she managed to arrange their transfer. Two attempts to leave the country failed, but they succeeded on the third attempt. They left by fishing boat from a location 10 km. north of Copenhagen and after a troubled night’s journey, reached Landskrona, Sweden.
Asked about her wartime endeavors, Valentiner modestly said:
“I only did what many Danes did, nothing special. We thought it perfectly natural to help people in mortal danger.”
After the war Valentiner took a leave of absence from her teaching job, and volunteered as a social worker for two years in the Jewish refugee camps in Germany and Austria. In 1971, when she was 68 and retired, she came to Israel for a year in order to see the country and to learn Hebrew.
On July 28, 1968, Yad Vashem recognized Gerda Valentiner as Righteous Among the Nations.