Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bo Lidegaard

Bo Lidegaard is the editor in chief of the leading Danish newspaper Politiken and the author of several books on modern history. He served as a diplomat in the Danish Foreign Service before joining the Office of the Danish Prime Minister as Ambassador and Permanent Undersecretary of State tasked with responsibilities corresponding to those of National Security Advisor. He later led the team preparing the 2009 United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen. He is one of the most respected and widely read Danish historians, and his work has focused on U.S.-Danish relations in the twentieth century, as well as on the modern Danish welfare state. He lives in Copenhagen.

Lidegaard's new book, Countrymen, is about the escape of Danish Jews from Nazi persecution in September and October 1943. It is a unique history about a unique exemption from the Holocaust. The great majority of the Danish Jews managed to escape.

The book is cast in 14 chapters covering each one day. They are all based on documentation written that day, reflecting the concerns, actions and feelings of both the refugees, of the Nazis and those of the surrounding Danish community. By keeping so close to real time in 1943, the book reflects all the uncertainty, doubts and anxiety of those who lived through those crucial days.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Lidegaard's reply:
Madeleine K. Albright's Winter in Prague, which covers much of the same ground as Countrymen, yet seen from Czechoslovakia and London. Albright writes masterly about the dilemmas facing the fragile Czech state facing Nazism and she has the courage and integrity of not passing easy judgments on the politicians and bureaucrats facing impossible choices. Her book has been an inspiration for an account from Denmark dealing with similar hard questions.
Learn more about Countrymen at the Knopf website.

The Page 99 Test: Countrymen.

--Marshal Zeringue