Help build the Or HaTzafon Synagogue in Reykjavík

In memory of all the Jews whom Iceland closed her doors on in the 1930s, as well as those who were expelled from Iceland to Nazi-Germany - and honouring the few Jews who made it to Iceland, who never dared practise their religion due to prejudice in the Icelandic society, I seek support from Israeli based firms and others who support the state of Israel, asking them to support the building of the very first synagogue in Iceland, which I find appropriate to call the Or HaTzafon synagogue - The Reykjavík synagogue of the Northern Lights - Samkunduhús Norđurljósanna in Icelandic.

The numbers of Jews in Iceland is steadily growing. Jews with very different backgrounds settle in Iceland. Jewish tourists are also numerous in Iceland all year round. Seders and other religious gatherings have been held regularly in Reykjavík - in later years in co-operation with the Chabad movement. Now is the time for a synagogue in Reykjavík.

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(1) Otto Weg (Ottó Arnaldur Magnússon) a refugee from Leipzig, who despite his Ph.D. degrees never obtained a job in his field in Iceland. The University of Iceland, which was lead by two Nazi sympathising deans took care of that (2) Hans Mann (Chanoch ben Zelig/Hans Jakobsson), nearly got expelled from Iceland together with his mother (3) Helena Lea Mann. Olga (Mann) Rottberger (4), Hans Mann´s sister and Helena´s daughter was expelled from Reykjavík, Iceland with her husband Hans Rottberger(5) and two children.

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In 1937 at a party in the Danish Embassy in Reykjavík the Prime Minister of Iceland Hermann Jónasson (1), said to a Danish diplomat in Iceland, C.A.C. Brun (2), who assisted many Jews harassed by Icelandic authorities: "It is a Principal issue, Iceland has always been a clean Nordic country free from Jews, and those who have have come into the country in recent years have to leave". The son of Jonasson, Steingrímur Hermannsson, was also a politician and a supporter of Yasser Arafat in Tunisia (see here) and Jónassons grandson, Guđmundur Steingrímsson, is the former chairman of the party Björt Framtíđ (Bright Future), which was one of the parties which voted for the Boycott of Israel in Reykjavík. Also present in the Danish Embassy in 1937 was Thor Thors (3) who later became Iceland´s ambassador in Washington. With his speech at the UN assembly, co-authored with Abba Eban, he played an important role in the UN recognition of Israel in 1948.

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Two of Iceland´s major authors in the 20th century, Guđmundur Kamban and Gunnar Gunnarsson were Nazis. Many Icelander are in denial of that fact. Here you can see Gunnar Gunnarsson leaving a meeting with Hitler in March 1940 together with Hinrich Lohse (with raised arm), the German who was responsible for the the ghettoization of the Jews of Latvia.


Remembering the victims of Icelandic anti-Semitism

Several families and individuals, who made it to Iceland as refugees in the late 1930s, were expelled from Iceland. The expulsions were ordered by the ministry of Justice and executed by the Reykjavík city Police, which in 1939 was lead by an Icelandic Nazi, Agnar Kofoed Hansen, who as a part of his training spent a summer in a SS-training unit in Germany.

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Some of the ugly Icelandic racist faces of the past: (1) Björn Sv. Björnsson, a member of the Waffen SS, the son of the first president of the Icelandic Republic. He was rescued from prosecution in Denmark and lived many years in Argentina (2) Agnar Kofoed Hansen, an Icelandic Nazi, chief of Police in Reykjavík 1939. He received training with the SS in Germany (3) Davíđ Ólafssson, a member of Icelandic Nazi Party studied in Nazi Germany (1936-1939) without obtaining any degrees; After WWII he was a MP and the director of the National Bank of Iceland (4)Nazis marching in Reykjavík. (5) Sigurjón Sigurđsson. Member of the Icelandic Nazi party. Sigurđsson was the Chief of the Reykjavik Police 1947-1985. Reykjavík´s Anti-Semitic history is not a new phenomenon.

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Nazis marching in Reykjavík, a city with a dark past.

In the future the Or HaTzafon Synagogue in Reykjavík would be a proper way of remembering and honouring the victims of Icelandic anti-Semitism in the past and the present. A vibrant Jewish life in Reykjavík is the only way to fight the hate which has been burning in Reykjavík since Jews tried to find safe haven in this little/big city of Iceland before WWII.

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(1) Karl Kroner, a Jewish doctor from Germany, who treated Hitler in WWI, was expelled from Iceland. He managed to get to the USA with his German wife and son. (2-3) Dr. Felix Fuchs and Dr. Stefanie Karpeles Fuchs of Vienna were expelled from Iceland. They fled to Copenhagen, from where they managed to sail with the last ship from Gothenburg in Sweden to the US, before Denmark was occupied by the Germans. (4) Alfred Kempner of Leipzig was expelled from Reykjavík to Copenhagen. The Icelandic authorities wrote to the Copenhagen Police that Iceland would pay for his further transport to Germany if that was necessary. These people survived the Holocaust but several Jews from Austria, Germany and Poland, who tried to get to Iceland, didn´t. They sent letters to the authorities in Reykjavík and the Icelandic embassy in Copenhagen as well as Danish consulates in Poland, Austria and Germany. They were denied help, BECAUSE THEY WERE JEWISH, but at the same time Iceland opened its doors to German and Norwegian workers. These Jews are the reason why there should be a synagogue in Iceland!

Why support from Israel?

Few days ago the Reykjavík City Council passed a motion which bans any use of Israeli products in the City of Reykjavík. The boycott was supposed to benefit the Palestinian people. When the City council realised that this sad and ridiculous move would hit Reykjavík harder than it would ever affect Israel, it was retracted for re-consideration.

There was a of course a great amount of hypocrisy of the Reykjavík city majority ruling. Therefore a building of a synagogue in Reykjavík with financial support from Israeli firms and organisation as well as organisations and individuals that support Israel, is important. What is more natural in such a free and understanding city like Reykjavík, to allow the building of a synagogue, where Jews can pray and peace can be respected.

Few years ago the Reykjavík City Council passed a motion which allows Icelandic Muslims to build a mosque in Reykjavík. That was a very understandable move taking into account that few extremist Muslims in Iceland, who fraternised with the US Embassy in Reykjavik, already had bought a house of prayer, where support to extremism is cherished. They were supported by extreme groups in Saudi-Arabia. The City Council of Reykjavík even donated a very good plot for the new alleged non-extremist mosque in Reykjavík. Allegedly support for the building of the first mosque in Iceland comes from the authorities and financial giants in Saudi Arabia. Such a mosque is of course necessary for all the Syrian refugees which Icelanders, who incidentally also are against circumcision of boys, ritual slaughter and Israel, now want to invite to Iceland.

Has anythin changed since the 1930s? No, when Israeli products are banned from the small North Atlantic capital city, while some Icelander find it acceptable for Icelandic Muslims to chant Dammed Jews (Icel. Helvítis Gyđingar) at rallies, where there are no Jews but only Icelandic supporters of Israel, there is still a problem in Reykjavík. A problem, which will very likely only be solved by a synagogue in Reykjavík.

Support the building of a Synagogue in Iceland

All those who love Israel should support the building of a Synagogue in Reykjavík. The location for the Synagogue could easily be right in front of the Town Hall of Reykjavík, where there are free plots. Certainly one of them can be used to honour those who were victims of Icelandic Nazis and anti-Semitic Politicians and officials. A monument remembering the victims of atrocities committed by Icelandic Nazi policemen, politicians and anti-Semitic public figures could be erected beside the synagogue.

Please pass this on to those who financially would like to support a synagogue in Reykjavík. If support is found, a foundation would be created in Reykjavík, lead by a committee of Jews in Iceland and Israel and hopefully the construction could begin in the near future, aided also by the Reykjavík City council in the same manner it facilitated the planned mosque of Reykjavík for not to mention the Russian Orthodox church, soon to be built i down-town Reykjavík.

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(1-2) While Jews couldn´t find safe haven in Iceland, an Estonian war criminal could. Evald Mikson (who adapted the the name Eđvald Hinriksson in Iceland) had a good life in Iceland. When Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem in the early 1990s asked for an investigation into Mikson´s crimes, Icelandic Politicians collaborated with Estonian politicians to halt the investigations. Left wing politicians, among them a socialist Mayor of Reykavík, attacked Israel and argued that Mikson was an innocent man and a victim of an Israeli/Jewish man-hunt. An independent Estonian historical commission has since confirmed the crimes of Evald Mikson. (3) Ruth Rubin, one of Mikson´s victims. According to witnesses she was raped by Mikson in a Tallinn prison before she was shot. (4 and 5) Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, formerly Iceland´s foreign Minister and Iceland´s ambassador to the USA, as well as the  Icelandic hero in the independence process of the Baltic States. Despite a high fall from his political podium after it became known that he had sexually harassed minors, this man is still a star in the Baltic States and regularly attacks Israel and Jews in the Icelandic media.

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(1) Due to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments among the Left in Iceland, this is the most usual way of seeing Israel's flag in Iceland. (2) Former World Champion Chess Master Bobby Fischer, and a anti-Semite got a special Icelandic citizenship and lived in Reykjavík for the rest of his life spewing vicious hatred of Jews of the Internet (3) Sign in a bike-repair shop in Reykjavík saying Jews are not welcome. A caravan rental in Reykjavík also excluded Jews as their customers (4) The "bike-Nazi", who put up the sign about Jews not being welcome in his shop (5) During an anti-Semitic exhibition at a Reykjavík art gallery a young Jewish couple from the US discovered this drawing on a blackboard on which guests at the exhibition were asked to express their feeling about Israel. This perversion is also an Icelandic product.

Further Reading:

Gerstenfeld, Manfred (2015) Iceland´s Anti-Semitism is Not New, It Just Resurfaced. An op-ed in Arutz Sheva / Israel National News Op-ed. published 20 September 2015.

Vilhjálmsson, Vilhjálmur Örn (2004) Iceland, the Jews, and Anti-Semitism, 1625-2004, Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4.

Idem (2005). Medaljens Bagside - jřdiske flygtningeskćbner i Danmark 1933-1945. Forlaget Vandkunsten, Copenhagen. (In Danish)

Idem (2015). The first Jewish services in Iceland 1940-1943. Fornleifur an  archaeological and historical blog written by the author).

Idem (2019).´Iceland´. In Adams, Jonathan / Heß, Cordelia (Ed.): Antisemitism in the North: History and State of Research (ISBN: 978-3-11-063482-2)
Open access publication. Read my and other articles here; My article you can also read here.

Zuroff, Efraim 2002, Operation Last Chance: One Man´s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice. See also here and here for correct information on war criminal Evald Mikson in Iceland.


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1 Smámynd: Loncexter

Vonandi fer enginn ađ telja upp ţá sýrlensku flóttamenn sem Íslendingar gátu ekki tekiđ viđ, og pósta ţví á mbl bloggiđ eftir 40 ár.

Loncexter, 20.9.2015 kl. 15:26

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Jahérnahér.  Takk fyrir fróđlegan pistil.

Elín Sigurđardóttir (IP-tala skráđ) 20.9.2015 kl. 16:04

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