Jørgen KielerBMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1530 (Published 27 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1530
- Ned Stafford
Jørgen Kieler was at home in the early hours of 28 April 2013 when he learnt that the Museum of Danish Resistance in central Copenhagen was on fire.1 His first thought was for the safety of the artefacts inside—artefacts that tell the stories of Danes who resisted their country’s occupation by Nazi Germany during the second world war.
Kieler, 93 years old at the time and a former research director of the Danish Cancer Society, believed that his presence at the scene of the fire was necessary. He ordered a taxi to take him there.
As a young medical student in the early 1940s, Kieler had joined the Danish resistance. He became a leader of the resistance group Holger Danske and helped Danish Jews escape to neutral Sweden by boat. After his capture in 1944 by the Gestapo, during which he was wounded by gunfire, he was sentenced to death. At the last minute, however, he was instead sent to concentration camps in Germany, where he endured physical torture, mental cruelty, forced labour, and starvation. He later said that, had he known what awaited him at the camps, he would have preferred execution.
After arriving by taxi at the museum, Kieler spoke with firefighters. He hoped that they could save all the artefacts, but he was especially concerned about three “execution stakes” that during the war had been pounded into the ground …