Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid

Story and photos by Barbara Abraham

As Danny Kaye serenaded it –

 ‘And there she stands waiting for me
With a welcome so warm and so gay’

And there indeed she was – waiting for us – the last port of call on our Baltic Sea cruise; so it was with anticipation that I set off on my chosen tour of the city and its surroundings. Our guide introduced herself with a smile, and in perfect English she cordially welcomed us on board the bus, “I am Anette and I am about to introduce you to the highlights of our fascinating and interesting city.”

We set off, leaving the port area and entering the city of Copenhagen - a city with a long and rich history which commenced in the 11th century. On a tour of some four hours, I realized we would barely skim the surfaces of both past and present. However, Anette took us into her capable hands, and we saw the majority of the main sites and could sense the historical values of places such as the Christiansborg and Amalienborg palaces. We viewed it all from the outside, but as the bus made its way slowly through the picturesque streets Anette’s explanations began to enter my heart - and why?

“To our right we can see the Embassy of Israel,” she informed us; then some minutes later she asked the driver to slow down as we passed a small park.

The memorial service for Raoul Wallenberg

“Look - you can see a number of Israeli flags over there just beside the trees – there is a memorial service today for Raoul Wallenberg, who was responsible for saving thousands of Jewish people from death under the Nazis.”

Sensing that we were less than a handful of Jewish people on the bus and knowing that I was the only Israeli, I cautiously scrutinized the passengers’ facial expressions to see if there were any reactions. Nothing was obvious apart from the reaction of the keen photographers who gathered close to the bus windows. They recorded every mentioned sight of the tour – and more. As the bus began to move forward again, Anette continued with further explanations not only about Wallenberg, but also about the attitude and stance of Denmark’s King Christian the 10th, who isalleged to have claimed that if the Jewish people in Denmark had to wear the yellow star of Judaism, then so would all the Danish people. He assisted in funding the clandestine transportation of over 7,000 of the Danish Jewish Community to Sweden, which had had remained a neutral state during the Second World War.

We drove through the outskirts of the city, passing the colorful New Port (Nyhaven). The port is not new at all, having been constructed in the 1670s, and it is now a heritage harbor with a special atmosphere and a place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

We continued to the quaint and picturesque fishing village of Dragor. It was from there in 1943 that local fishermen used their small boats to smuggle Jewish people in the dark of the night over the sea to Sweden.

But now I want to turn to Anette, whose heartfelt explanations about the suffering of the Jewish people to a busload of non-Jewish people had so enthralled me. The last stop of the tour was beside the Little Mermaid statue, and when all the other participants rushed down to the waterside for photographs, I went over to thank her for her excellent guiding.

When I complimented her for broaching the subject of Jewish suffering under the Nazis, Anette smiled at me and declared “But I AM Jewish.” And I immediately added, “And so am I.”

 “Where do you live,” she asked.

 “In Israel,” was my reply.

She then answered me in perfect Hebrew so that we could speak in Hebrew!

After laughing and hugging one another I exclaimed, “You must have a story to tell and I would love to hear it.” 

 “I would love to hear from you too. My son is now living in Israel.”

She took out a visiting card and put it in my hand, and we asked one of the passengers to photograph us together before we mounted the bus to return to the ship.

I contacted her as soon as I returned home, and here is the story:

Hugs ... Anette de Florie (left) with Barbara Abraham in Copenhagen

Anette de Florie was born in Copenhagen of the Christian faith.

Anette was studying literature at university in Copenhagen; one of the books she read was the Diary of Anne Frank, and the memories of the story and the suffering of the Jewish people stayed in her mind. She was not fulfilled by her studies, and one day she saw an advertisement for a housekeeper in the home of the Danish Ambassador to Israel. She applied for the job and got it; so aged just 20, she entered a new world. The State of Israel in the late 70s – sun, palm trees, forested hills and desert - a mixture of scenery and an ambiance that was so different to that of Denmark, all made their way into her heart. Just as Yossi Maman did – the young man to whom she was drawn by the waves on Herzliya beach during one weekend of the High Holidays.

After nine months of work in the Embassy, she decided that she was going to share her life with him. She resigned from her job, began to study Hebrew and commenced the process of conversion. More than a year passed by and Anette was diagnosed with jaundice. She returned to Denmark to receive treatment, and Yossi followed her.  Copenhagen became home for her once more, and she was able to complete her conversion through the Danish Rabbinate. The young couple married and made their home there, although they often visited Yossi’s family in Israel. Within eight years of marriage she mothered three children, all of whom were initially educated at the Jewish elementary school in Copenhagen, before advancing to a mixed high school.

Anette and her husband ran a service business, but somehow she did not feel fulfilled by office work, so she decided to take a new path in life, and at 50 years of age she studied to become an official tour guide. She loves her work, and after finding that over the winter months there was very little tourism to Denmark, she added a new path – to accompany groups from her part of the world to Israel, and also on combined tours which added some days in Jordan to the itinerary.

Deep understanding and love for Israel is in her heart, and these sentiments have been passed on to her children. Presently her eldest son David is living here in a family apartment in Jaffa, and as a singer and musician, took part in the television program “A Star is Born” – and this is what he hopes his future is to be – an Israeli musical star.

Life holds many surprises, and so often this is through meeting people and hearing their life stories – and this is another one that I especially want to share with my readers.

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About the author

Barbara Abraham-Vazana

Barbara Abraham was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her studies include: Cours de Civilisation Francais, Sorbonne Paris; Queens University Belfast - B.A; Dundee University - Creative Writing cou...
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