The first prisoners arrive in Sweden
Bernadotte’s positive outcome at the negotiations on the 2nd of April immediately led to action. The transportation of the Scandinavian women and the sick to Sweden commenced immediately. As far as possible they tried to avoid publicity of the newcomers, in accordance
with Himmler’s demand so that Hitler would not stop the rescue action. The self-censoring and temperance of the Swedish press again contributed to the later extension of the rescue action.
On the 8th of April around 100 Scandinavian women were collected from Ravensbrück to be sent on to Sweden via Neuegamme. A smaller column, led by lieutenant Hallström and doctor Carl Krebs had at the same time visited Bergen-Belsen and returned the same day with one Dane and ten Norwegians. On the 9th of April the first transferrals of sick from Neuegamme commenced. In total 818 sick were transferred to Denmark. On the morning the same day 12 buses left to collect around 200 convicts from some twenty different places in the Leipzig-Halle and Torgau area. On the 11th of April the column returned with 27 Danes, 153 Norwegians and 11 Swedes. Between the 13th and 14th of April other columns returned to Neuegamme with a total of 326 Norwegians and 201 Danes.
The two remaining problems concerning the Scandinavian prisoners i.e. the collection of the Scandinavian Jews at Theresienstadt and the transportation of all Scandinavian prisoners from Neuegamme to Sweden, came closer to its solution by the middle of April.
The Scandinavian Jews at Theresienstadt are collected On the 12th of April 35 buses left from Friedrichsruh to collect the Scandinavian Jews at Theresienstadt, north west of Prague. Head of operations was Captain Harald Folke. On the way to Theresienstadt the column brought 400 Frenchmen that the Germans had released from Neuegamme.
The French were supposed to be left at Flossenburg, but on arriving at the camp they found it being disbanded, so they brought the French to Theresienstadt, where they were later picked up and brought to Switzerland.
The Danish doctor Johannes Holm and Obersturmbahnführer Dr Rennau put a great deal of effort into obtaining clearance for the removal of prisoners to Theresienstadt. Dr Rennau explained that even though Himmler had given permission for the collection of the Danish Jews,
there was a strong opposition amongst the lower ranks. Head of security, Kaltenbrunner, was strongly against the transports and did not want to allow the collection of the Scandinavian Jews. Finally permission was granted to collect them.
The column with its 423 passengers reached Lübeck on the 16th of April. From there they were brought to Malmö, where they arrived two days later. These were virtually all Jews from Denmark. Most of the Norwegian Jews had been executed or died in other ways immediately after deportation. Only a few survived.
Source: The White Buses. The Swedish Red Cross rescue action in Germany during the Second World War – The Swedish Red Cross, Stockholm, January 2000 /Research: Agneta Greayer and Sonja Sjöstrand/Editing: Martin Wikberg Translation: Annika and Peter Hodgson