Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

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Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz (29 September 1904, Bremen – 16 February 1973) was a German diplomat. During World War II he served as an attaché for Nazi Germany in occupied Denmark. He tipped off the Danes about the German's intended deportation of the Jewish population in 1943 and arranged for their reception in Sweden. It is estimated that he prevented the deportation of 95% of Denmark's Jews in the resulting rescue of the Danish Jews.

Early life[edit]

Duckwitz was born on 29 September 1904 in Bremen, Germany[1] to an old patrician family in the Hanseatic City.[2] After college, he began a career in the international coffee trade.


From 1928 until 1932 Duckwitz lived in Copenhagen, Denmark. In November 1932 he met Gregor Strasser, the leader of the leftist branch of the German nationalistic Nazi Party, in Bremen. Over the course of their conversation Duckwitz found that "elements of Scandinavian socialism [were] connected with nationalistic feelings" and subsequently decided to enroll in the party. On 1 July 1933 he joined the Nazi Party's Office of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. Over the course of his tenure he became increasingly disillusioned by Nazi politics. In a 4 July 1935 letter to Alfred Rosenberg, the head of the office, he wrote, "My two-year employment in the Reichsleitung [i.e. executive branch] of the [Nazi Party] has made me realize that I am so fundamentally deceived in the nature and purpose of the National Socialist movement that I am no longer able to work within this movement as an honest person." Around the same time the Gestapo (secret police) made its first notes on Duckwitz after he sheltered three Jewish women in his Kurfürstendamm apartment during a local anti-Semetic Sturmabteilung event. He later wrote that during this time period he became "a fierce opponent of this [Nazi] system".[3]

He eventually left the Office of Foreign Affairs to work for the Hamburg America Line shipping company. In 1939 the Third Reich assigned him to the German embassy in Copenhagen as a maritime attaché.

Rescue of the Jews in Denmark[edit]

After 1942, Duckwitz worked with the Nazi Reich representative Werner Best, who organized the Gestapo. On 11 September 1943 Best told Duckwitz about the intended round-up of all Danish Jews on 1 October. Duckwitz travelled to Berlin to attempt stopping the deportation through official channels.[4] That failed and he flew to Stockholm two weeks later, ostensibly to discuss the passage of German merchant ships. While there, he contacted Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson and asked whether Sweden would be willing to receive Danish Jewish refugees. In a couple of days, Hansson promised them a favourable reception.[citation needed]

Back in Denmark on 29 September, Duckwitz contacted Danish social democrat Hans Hedtoft and notified him of the intended deportation. Hedtoft warned the head of the Jewish community C.B. Henriques and the acting chief rabbi Marcus Melchior, who spread the warning. Sympathetic Danes in all walks of life organized a mass escape of over 7,200 Jews and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives by sea to Sweden.[5]

Duckwitz lived in Frieboeshvile Lyngby Hovedgade 2, Kongens Lyngby.

Duckwitz, apparently assuming that he had done everything he could and possibly fearing exposure to the Gestapo, went back to his official duties.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

After the war, Duckwitz remained in the German foreign service. In 1955-1958 he served as West German ambassador to Denmark and later as the ambassador to India. When Willy Brandt became Foreign Minister in 1966, he made Duckwitz Secretary of State in West Germany´s Foreign Office.[citation needed] After Brandt became Chancellor, he ordered Duckwitz negotiate an agreement with the Polish government. Brandt's work culminated in the 1970 Treaty of Warsaw.[3] Duckwitz worked as Secretary of State until his final retirement in 1970. On 21 March 1971 the Israeli government named him Righteous Among the Nations and included him in the Yad Vashem memorial. He died two years later, aged 68.

In popular culture[edit]

Duckwitz was portrayed by Patrick Malahide in the film Miracle at Midnight.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Frye, Amelia. "G. F. Duckwitz and the Citizens of Denmark". Archived from the original on 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  2. ^ "Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz Righteous Among the Nations". Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  3. ^ a b Weser Kurier 2013.
  4. ^ Frye, Amelia. "G. F. Duckwitz and the Citizens of Denmark". Archived from the original on 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  5. ^ Denmark, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,