Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hitler's Canary

I read Sandi Toksvig's Hitler's Canary yesterday. It wasn't quite what I expected: the writing style wasn't outstanding or laugh out loud funny. I remember her mostly as the short one on Whose Line Is It Anyway? (many years ago now). Ah, memories of Tony Slattery, Mike McShane, Josie Lawrence, Greg Proops and that dark-haired chap that does or did Stella Street. What is his name?

It was about the occupation and resistance in Denmark during WW2: the caged bird of the title is how Denmark was derisively known, especially while they had 'self-rule'. But this ended in 1943, because of the increasingly strong underground movement against the occupying forces. The most inspiring, heartening and moreover real part of the tale is where the Danes succeed in evacuating Danish Jews to Sweden when the orders start coming through for them to be taken to the concentration camps. Less than 500 (I believe) ended up in the camps. (Of course that's horrific enough.) Not to mention that some died during the evacuation, but the vast majority out of about 7 and a half thousand people were helped to safety!

Toksvig deals fairly with this: mentioning the German commanders who looked the other way, who didn't have the stomach for the slaughter, and the treacherous Danish woman who exposed the hiding place of 80 Jews. Good and bad actions not being limited to either nationality exclusively.

The story is told through the eyes of a young Danish boy. Apparently it is based on the lives and experiences of Toksvig's own family in the war, although fictionalised in parts.