Preben Munch-Nielsen

Preben Munch-Nielsen

Born: June 13, 1926

Snekkersten, Denmark

Preben was born to a Protestant family in the small Danish fishing village of Snekkersten. He was raised by his grandmother, who was also responsible for raising five other grandchildren. Every day Preben commuted to school in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, about 25 miles south of Snekkersten.

1933-39: There were very few Jews in Preben's elementary school, but he didn't think of them as Jews; they were just his classmates and pals. In Denmark they didn't distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, they were all just Danes. By fifth grade, Preben and his classmates heard rumors of a German military build-up. But later, in 1939, his parents said that Hitler had promised not to invade Denmark, which made them feel relatively safe.

1940-42: Occupation. In April 1940 Preben arrived in Copenhagen, where he saw planes overhead and German officers in the street. He joined the resistance as a courier, but he became more involved in October 1943 when the Gestapo began hunting down Danish Jews. They began to help Jewish refugees. They hid them in houses near the shore and brought them to waiting boats at an appointed time. Under cover of darkness, they took up to 12 Jews at a time across the straits to Sweden. The four-mile trip took about 50 minutes.

Preben helped transport 1,400 refugees to Sweden. He fled to Sweden as well in November 1943 when the Germans seized the Danish government. Preben returned home in May 1945.

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