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Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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Henry Christen and Ellen Margrethe Thomsen-With Fishing Boats to Sweden

Henry Christian Thomsen and his wife Ellen Margrethe were innkeepers in the village of Snekkersten near Elsinore in north Zeeland. An estimated 1,000 people left for Sweden through this point. The Thomsens were active members in the resistance and their inn became the hub of the clandestine route to Sweden. It was the meeting point for the fishermen who transferred Jews in their boats and the fleeing Jews were sheltered in the inn or directed by the Thomsens to other lodging. When the number of Jews increased, Thomsen got a boat and made several runs to Sweden himself.

Henry Christen Thomsen
Credit: Yad Vashem, “Henry Christen and Ellen Margrethe Thomsen-With Fishing Boats to Sweden” www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/christen-thomsen

The village population supported the rescue operation and many contributed to its success. However there were also exceptions. During the first days a pro-German resident of Snekkersten informed the Danish police in Elsinore that he had seen a group of Jewish refugees getting into a boat. The police came and arrested the refugees, but after driving a short distance and once they were out of sight of the collaborator, the policemen stopped their car and told the Jews to go back to the Snekkersten inn where they would be helped. Thomsen was assisted by many other residents of the village and environment, among them the doctor, Jorgen Gersfelt. He acted as chauffer, driving the Jews to overnight shelters and to the boats, and many refugees were staying at his house until they could board a boat.

Thomsen was interrogated by the Gestapo, who suspected him of being involved in the smuggling of the Jews, but no evidence was found against him. He continued to be very active in the underground and was arrested again in August 1944 and sent to Neuengamme Concentration Camp in Germany, where he perished four months later. He was 38 years old.

In 1968 Yad Vashem conferred the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Henry Christian Thomsen and his wife Ellen Margrethe.

Supported By: Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany