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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


The Music of Life and Hope:

"October 1943 – The Rescue"

Bicentenary of the Scottish Jewish Community
30 October 2017
Klezmerduo: "October 1943 – The Rescue"

SCoJeC's 2017 very popular klezmer programme came to an end with a very special event in Newton Mearns synagogue: Klezmerduo, a klezmer band from Denmark, came to perform a unique storytelling and music event as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Ann-Mai-Britt Fjord, who plays the accordion, and Henrik Bredholt, soprano saxophone, hammered dulcimer, penny whistle, and Jew's harp, first discovered klezmer when they were travelling around the world as street musicians. They thought they were just playing popular Danish songs till an elderly man told them how nice it was to hear klezmer. This event triggered their journey into discovering Yiddish music, which they have now been playing for thirty years.

They also accidentally stumbled upon the mostly undiscovered history of how most Danish Jews escaped the Holocaust, when the vicar of a small town where they were playing offered to tell them the story. Their curiosity whetted, they decided to do their own research, and collected stories, many of which they told at the event, wrapped in beautiful tunes of klezmer.

The story of the escape of the Danish Jewry is an extraordinary tale of humanity. There were about 8000 Jews in Denmark when the Nazis occupied it in 1943. They planned to raid Copenhagen during Rosh Hashanah and send the Jews to work camps, but Danish politicians immediately alerted the Jewish community and told them to hide. Ann-Mai-Britt and Henrik told many individual stories of personal bravery and self-sacrifice – one man was asked by a tram driver why he'd left work early, and when he explained and said he didn't know where he could go, the driver immediately offered to hide him and his family.

Klezmerduo: "October 1943 – The Rescue"

When it became clear to the Nazis that most Jews had escaped, they had to somehow leave the country for neutral Sweden, which was ready to accept them, and that meant they had to cross the sea that was controlled by the German navy. Again, many stories were told about the efforts of the Danish people to help. One prize-winning kayaker took 12 people to Sweden hidden inside his kayak, one at a time. Fishermen used a powder invented by a Jewish scientists who had already escaped to prevent the Nazis' dogs detecting human scent.

Unfortunately not everyone was saved, and Ann-Mai-Britt and Henrik also told the stories of those who were unable to flee or were betrayed. But after the war ended, 89.5% of Danish Jews returned.

Ann-Mai-Britt said she fell in love with klezmer because it never hits any darker notes without offering a solution. "For me, this is the music of hope." As she put it, "it is possible to cry with one eye and laugh with the other". The audience joined in the singing and applauded the many unsung Danish heroes, and the evening ended with a performance of L'chaim, to celebrate life, and the living and human kindness that can never be extinguished.

One member of the audience contacted us immediately after the event to say "I don't have the words to describe it. It was a very moving story which was a privilege to hear in word and music. It made a deep impression. Thanks also for the warm and friendly hospitality."

And another told us "As a lifelong klezmer addict, I have to confess that the evening was as magnificent an experience as any I have ever enjoyed."

We are grateful to the Scottish International Storytelling Festival for sponsoring this event, and to the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust for their support for this event.


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438