During World War II, in defiance of their German occupiers, the people of Denmark saved nearly the entire Jewish population of their country. Gerda III – a wooden work boat built in 1926 to re-supply offshore lighthouses – was just one of the boats used to secretly ferry Danish Jews to safety in unoccupied Sweden. In 1989 an act of Danish Parliament donated the Gerda III to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Today, she is docked at the Mystic Seaport Museum and cared for by longtime volunteer Howard Veisz. Veisz’s connection to the Gerda III is not accidental: his father was also forced to flee from the Nazis, escaping from Berlin to Bolivia before reaching the US and returning to Europe as part of the D-Day invasion forces.
The Museum held a conversation with Veisz and screenwriter Damian Slattery, whose 1991 film “A Day in October” tells the story of the Danish rescue. The discussion focused on the Gerda III and Henny Sinding Sundø, the 22-year-old Danish lighthouse worker who helped rescue more than 300 Danish Jews, and who is the subject of Veisz’s 2017 book “Henny and Her Boat: Righteousness and Resistance in Nazi Occupied Denmark.” The program is available to watch below.