Prior to The 19th Century, the only way Jews could enter Norway was with a "Letter of Protection", because Danish control limited the amount of Jewish entry. In The 1840's, the situation changed when a Norwegian liberal poet, Henrik Wergelang, argued for the admission of Jews into the country, and The Parliament eventually agreed. After emancipation in 1891, there were only some 650 Jews in the country, mainly in Oslo and Trondheim. By 1920, there were 1,457 Jews in in the country, and when Norway was invaded by Germany in 1940, 1,800 Jews were living in Norway. All but 200 of them were Norwegian citizens. When the army surrendered and the state was taken over by the collaborationist government led by Vidkun Quisling, Nazi demands for Anti-Jewish legislation were accepted and implemented quickly. In 1942, when The Germans requested that Norwegian Jews be sent to Nazi concentration camps, the government complied by sending 770 Jews. 760 of them were killed in death camps. The Norwegian underground succeeded in smuggling 930 Jews across The Swedish Border to safety. After the war, 800 Jewish survivors were joined by Displaced Persons, especially invited by The Norwegian Government. In 1996, after revelations in the media and public pressure, The Ministry of Justice appointed a commission to examine the issue of restitution of Jewish property confiscated by the Quisling regime.
Today, The Mosaiske Trossamfund (Mosaic Community) represents The Jews of Norway. There is one rabbi in Norway, who officiates at the synagogue in Oslo and who also supervises the kosher food shop in the capital. Shechita in Norway is prohibited so kosher meat is imported from Denmark. Besides for the prohibition of shechita, there are no other restrictions on Jewish life. B'nai B'rith and WIZO are present, and there is also a Jewish magazine. An old age home was built in 1988. In The Ostre Gravlund Cemetary, there is a Jewish war memorial. There is a second synagogue in Trondheim. It is the most Northern synagogue in The World and houses a museum.
Until The Late 1700's, there were no Jews in Sweden, because it was under the influence of The Lutheran Church which was opposed to Jewish settlement. In 1774, Aaron Isaac from Mecklenburg, became the first Jew admitted into the country. The emancipation of Jews in Sweden was a slow process. At first, Jews had limited rights, because they were designated a "foreign colony". The restrictions were gradually lifted in The 1800's, and in 1870, The Jews were fully emancipated, although ministerial office was closed to them until 1951.
The emancipation of Swedish Jewry led to the growth of the community. In the beginning of The 1900's, many Eastern European Jews found refuge in Sweden. In the years preceding World War II, Swedish Jews were alert to the dangers facing Jews to The South, but Sweden's hostility towards the acceptance of refugees prevented many Jews from finding safety there. From 1933 to 1939, 3,000 Jews were accepted into Sweden, and another 1,000 were allowed to use Sweden as a point of transit. By 1942, when the intensity of Nazi brutality began to reveal itself, and Germany's military fortunes deteriorated, The Swedish Government had a dramatic change of heart and allowed many Jews and other refugees into the country.
900 Norwegian Jews came to Sweden in 1942, setting a precedent for the rescue of Danish Jewry in October 1943. At that time, some 8,000 Danish Jews, almost all of Danish Jewry, escaped to Sweden on scores of fishing boats and other small seacraft. The remarkable efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat based in Budapest, have been given considerable attention in Sweden, and are a source of national pride. In 1997, The Swedish Government established a committee to investigate the issue of Nazi gold transferred to Sweden during the war.
Today's Swedish Jewish community is primarily composed of descendants of pre-war refugees and of Holocaust survivors who arrived after the war. It also includes refugees who fled Hungary in 1956 and others who left Poland in 1968. In recent years, Sweden has become home to Jews leaving The Former Soviet Union.
Sweden has an Official Council of Jewish Communities and many international Jewish groups such as WIZO and B'nai B'rith are represented. Stockholm has three synagogues and two rabbis. One of the synagogues is the imposing Great Synagogue which was built in 1870. Synagogues are also operating in Gothenburg and Malmo. Because of the law prohibiting shechita, kosher meat is imported from Denmark and readily available in Stockholm and Malmo. Stockholm boasts several kosher shops. The Jewish Museum in Stockholm is the only one of its kind in Scandinavia.
Jewish settlement in Finland dates back to 1825. The first Jews in Finland were Jewish conscripts in The Russian Army during the Russian occupation of Finland in The 19th Century. After their discharge from the army, many stayed in Finland. These Jews were later joined by others from Russia, Poland, and Lithuania. There were still severe restrictions, but they ended after Finland's independence in 1917. In The Late 1930's, admission was granted to about 250 Jewish refugees from Central Europe.
In World War II, Finland was allied with Germany, and Finnish troops fought against The Soviet Union in an effort to regain the territory it lost in The Russo-Finnish War of 1939-1940. Despite Finland's alliance with Germany in World War II, Finland was a safe haven because the goverment refused to hand over Finnish Jews to The Nazis. When Himmler demanded that Finnish Jews be turned over, Prime Minister Rangell is reported to have said that the Jews of Finland were decent people and loyal citizens whose sons fought in the army like other Finns. Fulfilling their obligations as loyal citizens, Finnish Jews answered the call to arms. 23 of them lost their lives in the fighting, and most are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Helsinki. In gratitude for their heroism and loyalty in Finland's darkest hour, the country's leader, Marshal Mannerheim, paid a visit to the synagogue in Helsinki and presented the Jewish community with a wreath which is preserved to the present day as one of the most treasured heirlooms of Finnish Jewry.
Currently, there are 1,200 Jews in Finland. 900 of them are in Helsinki, the capital, and 200 in Turku. In recent years a number of Jews from The Former Soviet Union, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe found sanctuary in the country.
The Central Council of Jewish Communities in Finland is the leading communal body. The community's outstanding priority is the preservation of the Jewish heritage, including fighting assimilation. A sense of Jewish indenity among the young generation is preserved. They are encouraged to experience Jewish life in Israel. The community helps other Jews in the newly independent Baltic states across the sea to The South of the country, particularly in Estonia.
There are Orthodox synagogues in Helsinki and Turku. Kosher food is available and there is a kosher butcher. There is a Jewish day school in Helsinki and a Jewish kindergarten. The community also operates a Talmud Torah and a home for the aged.
Anti-Semitism has not been a serious problem in Finland but there have been a number of isolated incidents that have raised concern including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, swastika daubings, and threatening telephone calls to members of the Jewish community.
Formal relations were established between Israel and Finland in 1948. The community has demonstrated fervent love for Israel. During The War of Independence, the Jews of Finland sent 29 volunteers, proportionally the largest contingent of any Diaspora community. Since 1948, 723 Finnish Jews have immigrated to Israel.
The leading sites in Helsinki are the synagogue, the adjacent community center and the Jewish cemetery where a section is devoted to the Jews who fell in The Finnish Army in The Russo-Finnish and Continuation Wars.
The Jews were first allowed to settle in Denmark in 1622, earlier than any other Scandinavian country. The community began to grow, mainly from immigration from Germany. In 1684, the Danish king allowed the foundation of the unified Jewish community of Copenhagen, and in 1849, The Jews were granted full citizenship, earlier than in many other European countries.
In The Early 1900's, many refugess arrived from Eastern Europe. Denmark also welcomed refugees from Nazi Germany. When The Germans conquered Denmark and ordered The Jews to be handed over, in 1943, the Danish resistance managed to save about 90% of the Jewish population, by arranging boats to take them to safety in neutral Sweden. All together, 5,191 Jews, 1,301 people of part Jewish parentage, and 686 Christians married to Jews were secretly transported to Sweden. However, some 472 Jews were captured and deported to the transit ghetto of Theresienstadt, and 49 lost their lives there. After the war, most of The Jews returned and the Jewish community was reconstituted.
In 1968, 2,500 refugees from Poland, victims of a Communist Party witch hunt, settled in the Copenhagen area. There are currently 8,000 Jews in Denmark. Most Jews reside in Copenhagen. There are also small communities in Odense and Aarhus.
The great majority of Danish Jews are Ashkenazim with roots in Central and Eastern Europe. Although intermarriage has taken its toll, Jewish life has been bolstered by the arrival of Jewish immigrants, particularly from Israel and from other European countries. Moreover, in recent years, children of some of the refugees from Poland, with tenuous Jewish links, have begun to take an active part in communal life. Since 1948, 1,320 Danish Jews have emigrated to Israel.
The central body is Det Mosaiske Troessamfund i Kobenhavn (The Mosaic Congregation in Copenhagen). Most of the Jewish organizations and institutions have their offices in The Jewish Community Center. Det Dansk Zionistforbund (The Danish Zionist Federation) is the leading Zionist body. B'nai B'rith and WIZO have chapters in the community, as does Bnei Akiva. There are three homes for the aged, run in cooperation with The Copenhagen Municipality.
The Caroline Jewish Day School, founded in 1805, has an enrollment of some 300 pupils, about half the Jewish children in the 6 to 16 year old age group. There are also two Talmud Torahs and three kindergartens. Since 1989 strong cultural ties have been established with the Jewish communities of the Baltic states.
A Jewish newspaper, Jodisk Orientering is published in Copenhagen and a quarterly, Israel, is published by Det Dansk Zionistforbund. Other publications cater to the needs of youth. The royal library in Copenhagen is an important repository of Judaica and houses the famous Biblotheca Simonseniana, as well as a Jewish department.
The Great Synagogue in Copenhagen was completed in 1833. It was designed by one of Denmark's most famous architects, Gustav Friedrich Hechst. It is an important site and the seat of The Chief Rabbinate. There is also another Orthodox synagogue which maintains a mikveh. The city has a burial ground dating back to 1693 and another, consecrated in 1886, that is the site of a monument to the 49 Danish Jews who perished in Theresienstadt. In The Liberty Museum, there is a special section devoted to the resistance movement and a section dealing with the persecution of The Jews.
Kosher food is readily available, and Denmark exports kosher meat to Sweden and Norway, where shechita is not permitted. There is a kosher hotel in Hornbaek.
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