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Danish Jews, Israelis Mourn King Frederik Ix; Was Friend of Jews

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Danish Jews joined their fellow citizens in deep mourning this weekend for King Fredrik IX who died Friday night at the age of 72. In an emotional sermon at the main synagogue yesterday, Chief Rabbi Bent Melchior eulogized the late king who, like his father Christian X who died in 1947, was a sincere friend of the Jewish people. Rabbi Melchior wished the successor to the throne, Queen Margrethe II, a long life and success. Israeli Ambassador Moshe Leshem visited the Royal Palace to sign the mourning book. The Israeli flag was flown at half mast over the Embassy.

The grief of the Jewish community was more profound than usual over the passing of a titular head of state. The death of King Frederik inevitably recalled his stance during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in World War II when, as Crown Prince, he followed the example of his father and appeared publicly with a yellow Star of David on his chest. He was the first of thousands of Danish non-Jews to wear the symbol as a badge of honor after King Christian donned it as a gesture of solidarity with Denmark’s Jews who were ordered by the Nazis to wear the star.

It was during the reign of King Christian that the Danish populace smuggled most of the country’s 7,000 Jews to safety in Sweden when they learned of Nazi plans to deport all Danish Jews. The Crown Prince, an officer in the Danish Navy, was a close personal friend of the late chief rabbi. Dr. Marcus Melchior, He regularly visited the Copenhagen synagogue during the worst days of the Nazi occupation and openly chatted with the assembled Jews.

The King of Denmark is forbidden by the Danish constitution from playing a political role or making political statements. The late King Frederik never made official statements on the Middle East conflict. But persons close to the Royal Court told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that in private and speaking as a “plain citizen,” King Frederik always expressed great sympathy and understanding for Israel.

Two events of significance to Jews occurred during his reign. After 1967, Denmark admitted thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland when an anti-Semitic campaign was initiated by the Warsaw government. Most of them are still here. Under King Frederik, Prof. Stephen Hurwitz, a Jew, was appointed the first ombudsman of Denmark, the official mediator in complaints of citizens against the civil service. Prof. Hurwitz pioneered the office and made it into a model institution since copied by Britain, Israel and other countries.

The new Queen of Denmark, the daughter of King Frederik, is a keen archaeologist and as such is highly interested in Israel. Neither the Queen nor her husband, a former French diplomat, ever visited Israel but both are known to be friendly toward the Jewish State.

(In Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir expressed today at the Cabinet meeting Israel’s condolences to the Danish people and the royal family in their bereavement at the death of King Frederik. Israeli papers today recalled the friendly attitude the late King revealed towards the Jews during the Nazi occupation and his personal help to save them from the hands of the Nazis.)

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