10-ton fishing vessel used to smuggle Danish-Jews to Sweden in 1940s makes its way to Florida Holocaust Museum

The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg is preparing for a new, full-time exhibit, featuring a very large piece of history – a 10-ton Danish fishing vessel that will eventually be on display. 

It was once used to smuggle Danish-Jews out of the country and into Sweden during the 1940s. It will be on display near the box car they have inside, which once transported Jewish men and women to concentration camps. 

Slowly and with barely any room to spare, a team of workers guided the 10-ton Danish fishing boat into a Pinellas warehouse Thursday. The vessel has a significant historic background. 

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"This boat is really a symbol of hope for those of us that know the story," said Erin Blankenship, the interim CEO of the Florida Holocaust Museum. 

Thor, as it’s named, and hundreds of other boats like it were used by Danish fisherman to smuggle their Jewish friends and neighbors out of the country during the German occupation in 1943. Some 7,200 Jews were transported to Sweden aboard ships like this one. 

"All across Europe in the Nazi occupied countries, a majority of the citizens stood by and watched their neighbors be arrested," Blankenship said. "In Denmark, this entire country got together and decided this is not how it's going to be."

Plans are to restore the boat and eventually place it inside the Florida Holocaust Museum permanently near the museum’s box-car.    

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"With the box-car showing ultimately the evil and what can happen when people turn a blind eye to eye," she said.  "This is really a symbol of hope what each one of us ordinary people can do is make the right choice and do good for the community," she added. 

The boat was used to save at least four people, though, they think there were probably many more than that. They're hoping the boat will be ready for display in about a year’s time.