Jewish Refugees Play Extras in Film About Escape From Denmark
Oct. 23, 1990
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ For three of the Danish film extras playing Jewish refugees waiting to be shipped to safety in Sweden, the scene gave them an eerie feeling of deja vu.
Oskar Kaznelson and his wife, Bella, and Hans Goldstein were among 7,200 Jews smuggled out of German-occupied Denmark in small boats to neutral Sweden under the noses of the Gestapo during the autumn of 1943. Another 464 members of the community were not so fortunate. They ended up in a German concentration camp.
Forty-seven years after their dramatic night escape, the Kaznelsons and Goldstein once again were being bundled into fishing boats, standing by to make the risky 10-mile dash across the Oeresund strait to the Swedish coast.
But this time they were only playing a scene in a movie, and the gun- wielding youths hustling them below decks were actors playing Danish resistance fighters.
''A Day in October'' began filming at the end of September and is to be finished in November. The script was largely inspired by Leo Goldberger's book, ''The Rescue of the Danish Jews - Moral Courage Under Stress,'' and is being done in English.
For the Kaznelsons, their roles brought back memories of their own flight from Denmark in September 1943 when they were smuggled out of Copenhagen.
Oskar and Bella Kaznelson were engaged to be married when on August 28-29 1943 there was growing civil unrest in Copenhagen and the Germans took over. The couple fled Denmark on Sept. 12, paying the equivalent of about $1,000 each to be smuggled to the Swedish port of Malmoe.
''When we got to the Swedish side, the first thing that happened was that we were thrown in jail,'' said the 71-year-old Kaznelson. It wasn't until Oct. 1, 1943 that Sweden began accepting Jewish refugees from abroad.
After they became legitimate refugees, Oskar joined the Danish Brigade, a group of refugee Danish military officers, policemen and resistence fighters. Bella went to her parents in Gothenburg. They returned to Denmark on liberation day May 1, 1945. Bella is now a dental assistant, and Oskar is sells equipment for the building industry.
Goldstein, now a public accountant, came to Denmark from Vienna in 1938. His mother died in Auschwitz, his father survived one of the camps and went to the United States. Goldstein escaped to Sweden by boat, spent two weeks in a refugee camp there and returned in June 1945. He had intended to go to Palestine, but was prevented at the time because of the political situation in the area. So he married a Danish woman and settled down in this country.
''The movie is basically the story of a young Danish resistance fighter who falls in love with a Jewish girl who is being pursued by the Gestapo,'' said Damian Slattery, the American screenwriter.
The fictional plot is set against the authentic historical backdrop of occupied Denmark, he said.
Goldberger's book contains contributions by American and Danish historians and witnesses of the events in Denmark in 1943. He is the Danish-born son of the former cantor of the main synagogue in Copenhagen, and escaped with his family during the October boat lift.
''The Danes made a fantastic effort. They stood together, they were deeply offended by the deportations and they were able to say what they thought about the Germans,'' Goldberger said.
D.B. Sweeney (''Gardens of Stone,'' ''Eight Men Out'') plays the Danish underground leader, and actress Kelly Wolf portrays Sara Kublitz, the hunted girl. Wolf co-starred in ''Triumph of the Spirit,'' about the plight of Jews in war-torn Europe. Daniel Benzali and Tovah Feldshuh play her parents.
The movie is directed by Kenneth Madsen, a Dane who has won a Clio Award for his commercials and is making his feature film debut. It is produced by Just Betzer, who made the Academy Award-winning ''Babette's Feast,'' and French videomaker Philippe Rivier.