Copenhagen (Denmark), Sweden
Mr. Paul Skoropa was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1924. His parents, Meyer and Basha had seven children: Rebecca, Shia, Feiga, Paul, Ludwig, Rhetta and Yosik.
His father worked out of their home as a tailor in their three room apartment. His mother was a housewife. They celebrated the holidays, went to shul and kept a kosher home. Mr. Skoropa loved Passover as his mother cooked traditional food and they set a beautiful table.
Their community had about five or six thousand Jews and one synagogue,which was one hundred fifty years old. The Jews were scattered throughout the city and there were three Jewish families in his complex. His parents and their families arrived in Copenhagen before World War I and met there. His mother had a big family with lots of cousins.
Mr. Skoropa loved the country where he stayed every summer for two and a halfmonths, living with a Gentile family and going to the slaughterhouse with the farmers. They all spoke Danish and his parents also spoke Yiddish, which the children understood.
Mr. Skoropa was not a good student and had learning disabilities. He was forced to use his right hand and not his left, which was an awkward transition for him.
He didn’t know anything about Hitler and didn’t experience any anti-semitism. In 1940, Germany invaded Denmark, entering the country by boat. The Germans came in through Copenhagen and took over in one day. There wasn’t any fighting between the Germans and the Danes.
The chief Rabbi in Denmark told his Jewish congregations to pack up, leave everything and go to the coastline to cross over to Sweden. Mr. Skoropa’s youngest brother wanted to go to Sweden and with the help of one of their wealthy brother-in-laws, they each received five hundred kroner to go up to the coast. Mr. Skoropa’s oldest brother, Shia, was already there with his wife’s family. They looked for a fisherman to take them across to Sweden.
Mr. Skoropa and his brother paid a fisherman the five hundred kroners each to row them across. They left from Snekkersten with seven in the row boat including the fisherman. When the fisherman became ill, Mr. Skoropa and his younger brother rowed the boat while his older brother navigated where to go. Sweden was all lit up, unlike Denmark which was dark. They saw a destroyer approaching in the water, luckily it was a Swedish boat and the Swedes took them aboard.
His parents, together with the youngest children, packed up and went one day later.
Mr. Skoropa said that the Danish people saved all but five hundred Jews, who didn’t believe they’d be taken by the Germans or were married to Gentiles and thought that they were safe.
When they arrived in Sweden, they were taken to the Police Station and then put in a hotel. The next day, they all went to the Jewish synagogue, who sent them to a restaurant to eat. They stayed three or four weeks.
During that time, people got jobs that were orchestrated by the Danish underground. Mr. Skoropa found an apartment over a store, living with fourteen others. There were next to a clothing factory and the owner, Mr. Gorelick, hired everyone. Mr. Skoropa was a machinist and got a job in another factory.
He met his wife, Rachel and wanted to meet her parents who lived in Sweden. He got a new job in a porcelain factory and got married in the City Hall. The Swedes were very good to the Danes and they stayed for eighteen months. When they returned, a train picked up the Jews all over Sweden and then they crossed by ferryboats back to Copenhagen. He commented that the Danes weren’t dressed as well as the Swedes and there was a shortage of fruit and vegetables. While they were gone, their neighbors stored all their belonging in anticipation of their return.
Mr. Skoropa then finished his apprenticeship as a scale machinist and got the urge to come to America. He had two uncles here and, because Canada was looking for tradespeople, he and his family wound up in Montreal, getting a job at the Molson Brewery. They stayed for a year before coming to the United States.
Mr. Skoropa said, “Coming to Sweden was like coming to Paradise.”
- His parents in Copenhagen
- His parents wedding picture
- Paul as a baby
- His older brother Shia with his grandfather
- Brother Ludwig and Paul
- His parents, older, in Copenhagen
- Paul with all his siblings
- Son Marvin, granddaughter Nomi, Mindy
- Son Alan, daughter Jane, all celebrating Paul and Rachel’s anniversary in Boca Raton, FL
Date: May 16, 1996
Interviewer: Susan Rosenblum
Length: 44 minutes
Format: Video Recording