FP: Are the Danes really the happiest people in the world as shown by several surveys?
Berdichevsky: It depends. Many surveys claim that but they base their definition of happiness on the many entitlements of social welfare, national health insurance and unemployment benefits includingmaternity and paternity leave but as even Shakespeare was aware of when he had Marcellus comment in Hamlet that ”There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” Act 1, scene 4, 87–91. Many observers question the results and mention poignantly that Denmark’s high suicide rate – among the highest in Europe and approximately equal to the suicide rate in the United States (11.9 vs. 11.8 per 100,000 population according to Wikipedia on line) should make people question these studies and avoid any smugness. One doesn’t see all too many smiling faces on an average gloomy winter day. What is significant is that fewer Danes are couch potatoes – an extraordinary number of cultural, social, and sports activities keep people engaged and avoid the “idle hands are the Devil’s plaything” mentality.
FP: How have Danish-Americans fit into the USA’s cultural geography?
Berdichevsky: Danish-Americans form a proud yet modest community (no contradiction). Unlike most Americans of Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish descent, Danish-Americans were less likely to establish cohesive ethnic settlements of their own. While the other Scandinavian immigrants tended to congregate with their own countrymen, the Danes spread out nationwide and comparatively quickly disappeared into the “melting pot”. A large preponderance of the Danish immigrants were single men who searched for brides among women of other national origins and subsequently they were more likely to use English and teach English to their children avoiding the appearance of mono-ethnic or “ghetto” communities. Among names of prominent Danish-Americans (born in the U.S. of full or partial Danish ancestry including those born in Denmark who became U.S. citizens) are Gutzon Borglum (sculptor who designed and carved the monumental heads of four American Presidents on Mt. Rushmore), Victor Borge, Lloyd Bentsen (unsuccessful candidate for Vice-President, 1988), Buddy Ebsen (actor), Lauritz Melchior (opera singer),Viggo Mortensen (actor), Veronica Lake (actress), Lady Bird Johnson, Jacob Riis (photographer) and the late Ted Sorenson (speechwriter and co-author with President J. F. Kennedy of “Profiles in Courage”).
FP: Who are the most well-known and important individuals you chose for the section on “Great Danes”?
Berdichevsky: Hans Christian Andersen whose collected “Fairy Tales” are, after the Bible, the world’s most translated literary work, Danish-American humorist Victor Borge, philosophers Søren Kierkegaard, “Out of Africa: author Karen Blixen, the present Queen Margrethe II, Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr, astronomer Tycho Brahe, Arne Jacobsen, the “Father of Danish Design”, engineer and poet Piet Hein, clergyman N.F.S. Grundtvig, and politician Arne Sørensen.
FP: Does Denmark present a successful example of Jewish assimilation?
Berdichevsky: By and large yes. Denmark of the mid-nineteenth century set a marvelous example in human relations and brotherhood based on mutual respect. It was possible because a small minority had seen how it was incumbent upon them to win the respect of their neighbors. In today’s topsy-turvy world, Denmark and other nations are struggling to maintain their noble traditions and culture in the face of provocation from a militant minority of Muslim immigrants that seek to impose its will and culture/religion on the majority. Although a few researchers have examined the question, “How did the Jews disappear from the Danish provincial towns?”, the evidence does not provide a clear explanation. There was clearly no discriminatory legislation after Jews were granted full civil equality by a special ordinance issued on March 29, 1814 although some craft guilds prohibited non-Christians from becoming apprentices to learn the particular skill. It is clear that some Jews left the provincial cities towards the end of the 19th century to settle in Copenhagen where they died. It may well be that others emigrated to the Danish West Indies (today’s U.S. Virgin Islands) to pursue their business interests or back to their places of origin in Schleswig-Holstein but the main reason is probably that they intermarried (without formal conversion) or just opted out from participation in Jewish community affairs.
FP: Why has Integration of the Muslim immigrant community been so difficult?
Berdichevsky: The Muslim minority of immigrants and their children/grandchildren has come to feel increasingly emboldened to act beyond the law under the influence of several imams who helped fan the flames of confrontation and distorted the cartoon controversy to exert their influence. Saudi money is apparent in the plans to construct a major mosque in Copenhagen. In the bustling Nørrebro neighborhood one can see how a major traffic thoroughfare reserved for bus traffic only and where parking for motorists was strictly forbidden, has been expropriated as a No-Go area for “ordinary citizens” (i.e. the non-Muslim majority). The lane along a stretch of the neighborhood’s major thoroughfare, Nørrebrogade, has been taken over by parked cars that are utilized by shop owners (all Muslim) to store their wares (predominantly fruit and vegetables) or simply expropriated by “passers-by” who have illegally parked, knowing full well that the Danish police and parking officials will not uphold the law against Muslims. This is nothing less than the existence of a separate law for those who now constitute a parallel culture under protection of their own Sharia law that are off limits to all others. Similar neighborhoods amounting to Muslim ghettoes exist in other cities. It is no secret that the voting behavior of Muslim immigrants supports the Leftwing parties that have done their utmost to turn Denmark into the model of what is called a “multi-cultural society” but which more and more resembles a mosaic of segregated neighborhoods. Moderate Danish Muslims who objected to the campaign of demonstrations and boycotts against Denmark during the “Cartoon Crisis” were threatened and ostracized.
FP: Has the Danish-German border issue been finally and fully resolved?
Berdichevsky: Yes. The pro-Danish movement to ‘return’ South Schleswig to Denmark that flowered briefly after World War II was nipped in the bud. The ‘core’ Danish minority population today in South Schleswig is much stronger than it was in 1920 and 1939, In recent local elections, the SSW (Danish Minority Party in South Schleswig) increased its share of the vote to regain strength and even attracted some voters who are the descendants of German refugees from the lost areas in the east that were annexed by Poland and Czechoslovakia after 1945. They identify with the Danish minority and feel that the program of the SSW speaks more closely to their social and economic interests than the German political parties. Both the German and Danish governments signed solemn agreements after World War II regarding their respective minorities guaranteeing them free rights to organize socially, culturally and politically and that their own self-identity could not be questioned, challenged or “tested”. What had been a conflict lasting centuries and a major issue even as recently as in 1945-50 has been put to rest. It makes a fascinating story.
FP: Norman Berdichevsky, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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