The Holocaust: Swedish White Bus Rescue (April 1945)

Figure 1.--Here we see the the White Busses which rescued the Dnish Jews at Theresienstadt (April 15). Other Jews in the camp gave then addresses of relatives to write to telling them that they were alive and in Theresienstadt. We have, however, been unable to determine where the photograph was taken. Given all the bicycles, we think it may be after the busses crossed the Danish frontier. The background does not look like Theresienstadt. Nor would the children in the camps have bikes.

The Danish Jews in Theresienstadt were ultimtelu rescued by the 'White Buses' operation. This was a rescue operation headed by Count Folke Bernadotte and organized by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government (spring 1945). It was made possible even die-hard NAZIs could see the war was lost, even SS Commander Heinrich Himmler. In an effort to save his skin he tried to negotite the West, thinking he would not be held accountable for the millions murdered. He thus made a few humnitarian jestures. Count Bernadotte personlly negotiated with Himmler for the release of Scandinavian prisoners from the concentration camps. The Swedish nd Damish Governments worked together. The Danish Aid Corps arranged for cars and buses to transport the prisoners. The Operation as launched (March 1945) And many Himmler SS subordinate though it a good idea to appear helpful to the Swedes fearing Allied retribution. Himmler was acting on his own without Hitler's apptroval. Had he known, Hitler would have put a stop to it. The purpose of the White Busses was to rescue NAZI concentration camp inmates and transport them to safety in neutral Sweden. The objective was initially to save Scandinavian citizens, but as the effort evolved, it rapidly expanded to include citizens of other countries. Most of the concentration camps were the camps in northern Germany. The furthest the White Busses reached was Theresienstadt all the way south in Czechoslovakian (April 15). There they collected 423 surviving Scandinavian Jews--mostly Danes. The Germans turned over 425 surviving Danish Jews including a few babies born at the camp. [Goldberger] Also included in the group was a Danish boy had been deported from Berlin and a few Czech women had married Danish men in the camp. They were allowed to accompany them. Compared to the prisoners collected in other camps, the Theresienstadt Jews were in relatively good condition. The operation not only had the Germans to be concerned about. Trucks full of Jews were not safe anywhere in the Reich. Germany was in chaos and Allied planes were shooring anything that moved on the roads. The Theresienstadt White Busses were not shot, but other White Busses were. The buses reached the the Danish border (April 17). They were greeted with food, cakes and flags. The buses continued to Odense, where the passengers were able to rest for the night. The buses then continued on to Copenhagen, but as the Germans were still in control, they did not dare remain in Denmark. The former prisoners sailed to Sweden and safety. The initual idea was to save Sandnavian Jews. But eventually other Jews were saved as well. A convoy of White Buses rescued Jews at the Revansbück Concentration Camp. Among them were Polish girl Fredzia Marmur and her mother. They were put up in two quarantine camps: Tylösand and Strangnæs. Near the end, Hitler became aware of Himmler's disoloualty (April 28). By that time, however, he could no longer do nything about it and the White Bus jews were safe in Sweden. Denmark was finally liberated (May 5). The Theresienstadt Danish Jews were finally free to return to Denmark.


Goldberger, Leo. The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress (NYU Press: 1987).

Nielsen, Martin. Rapport fra Stutthof (Gyldendal, 1947).

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Created: 9:55 PM 10/23/2016
Last updated: 1:23 PM 10/18/2018