Did He Read the Book?

(Reply to journalist Bent Blüdnikow’s review of my book in the national Danish newspaper Berlingske 4th. of June 2015.)

It did not come as a surprise when Bent Blüdnikow’s review of my book Udsigt til forfølgelse. Det danske udenrigsministerium og de europæiske jødeforfølgelser 1938-1945 // With a View to Persecution. The Danish Foreign Ministry and the Persecution of the European Jews 1938-1945 was not that great. It was placed in the usual category of being moralizing and a typical Danish interpretation of the occupation period. Unfortunately 2/3 of the book is not reviewed at all. That is the sections on the Danish diplomats’ knowledge of the persecution of the European Jews. The gained an extensive knowledge of all the steps in the persecution process from definition to deportation. The mass murder was at the latest acknowledged in the summer of 1943, but the scope of genocide remained unknown. However, since 2/3 of the book was missing from the review I wondered if he had even read it?

The review instead centers on how the occupation in Denmark should be viewed. The newspaper Berlingske often has the same angle on this, which corresponds to the views of the journalist Bent Blüdnikow. This one-sided focus blocks for a more nuanced critique of the book’s main subject the Danish Foreign Ministry’s knowledge and take on the greatest persecution of a minority in Europe in recent time. The title of the book is of course selected as try to analyze the views on the discriminatory measures against Jews. The stripping of basic civil rights, the plunder, and the many deportations from most of Europe. Fortunately, other reviews of the book (national newspaper Politiken and on historie-online) included several passages on the Danish knowledge on one of the darkest chapters of recent European history.

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Journalist Bent Blüdnikow at the same raises some points of critique. Some of which, I will reply to here.

Firstly the journalist finds it problematic, that I mainly use the Danish Foreign Ministry’s archival material. The main sources are from the Foreign Ministry’s Archive, but if I was reviewing the book, I would probably have some attention to the subheading – The Danish Foreign Ministry etc. This should serve as indicator for the main source of archival material. Afterwards an article from the Danish-Jewish periodical RAMBAM is pointed to, and concluded as missing from my sources. The article is written by Silvia G. T. Fracapane, who was friendly enough to point me in that direction, but unfortunately the book had come too far along in the publishing process to be included. However, the person – Marie, mentioned in the article, is also present in the Foreign Ministry’s archives. The inclusion of the article would not have changed the overall conclusions.

The journalist often criticizes that victims are only mentioned by first name, which according to Bent Blüdnikow doesn’t happen in the rest of the world. However, the explanation is rather simple. The Danish Law forbids passing on such information if the file is not more than 75 years old. If I do that I risk 6 months in prison. I still wonder how it can be a point of critique in a book review to stay within the boundaries of the law.

Several times the choice of research literature is characterized as one-sided, which probably stems form the fact that the researchers used represents viewpoints, which are not shared by the journalist. However, it is hard to find Danish researchers who share the viewpoints of the journalist.

The review ends with a row of rhetorical questions that have the purpose of questioning the validity of the book: ”Who controlled these decisions and why? The fear of Germany was great factor, writes the author [me], but how? Was it just an expression of the collaborative policy that the ministry’s director, Nils Svenningsen, was a follower of, or did other factors play a role? Did it matter that two of the Ministry’s bosses were hardened Nazis? A fact Bjerre doesn’t even mention.”

Most of the book is actually about the abovementioned questions. Needless to say the Danish Foreign Minister, and later also Prime minister, Erik Scavenius had the decisive role. And then there is the accusation about the two Nazis in the Foreign Ministry. They are mentioned in the book on page 51 and in a footnote in chapter 9 (footnote 17). That is one of the reasons why I am still in doubt – did Bent Blüdnikow even read the book?

 

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