Mystic Seaport is featuring GERDA III: Danish Lighthouse Tender

GERDA IIIBuilt in 1926 as a lighthouse tender, the Gerda III appears to be a common Danish workboat. But in October of 1943, she played a much more important role. The boat was used by Henny Sinding, the 19-year-old daughter of the boat’s manager, and a four-man crew to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Denmark.

The refugees were brought to a warehouse along Copenhagen’s waterfront and smuggled aboard the Gerda III, hiding in the cargo hold. The little vessel then set out on her official lighthouse supply duties, but detoured to the coast of neutral Sweden and put her “cargo” ashore. Although the vessel was regularly boarded and checked by German soldiers, the refugees were never discovered. The Gerda III rescued approximately 300 Jews, in groups of 10 to 15.

Henny Sinding and the brave crew were not part of the organized Danish resistance movement. Ordinary Danish citizens were outraged by the Nazi plan to deport Jews to the death camps. The Danish people mounted a spontaneous effort that saved more than 7,000 of their Jewish neighbors – almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark.

By an act of the Danish Parliament, the Gerda III was donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The vessel was restored to her wartime appearance, complete with neutral flags, by the J. Ring Andersen yard in Denmark. Mystic Seaport is proud to help care for the boat and exhibit her in the United States.

Holocaust Escape Tunnel

For centuries, the Lithuanian city of Vilna was one of the most important Jewish centers in the world, earning the title “Jerusalem of the North” until World War II, when the Nazis murdered about 95% of its Jewish population and reduced its synagogues and cultural institutions to ruins. The Soviets finished the job, paving over the remnants of Vilna’s famous Great Synagogue so thoroughly that few today know it ever existed. Now, an international team of archaeologists is trying to rediscover this forgotten world, excavating the remains of its Great Synagogue and searching for proof of one of Vilna’s greatest secrets: a lost escape tunnel dug by Jewish prisoners inside a horrific Nazi execution site.

Featuring our friends at the University of Hartford: Avi Patt and Richard Freund

To watch the full video, click here.