As a case in point, Don commented on an old story about how King Christian X of Denmark donned the yellow star badges on behalf of the Danish Jews and the rest of the Danish community also wore the yellow star badges so the Nazis could not distinguish who was Jewish from those who weren’t. As Don mentioned in one of his articles:
- The story gained considerable currency with the publication of Exodus by the novelist Leon Uris, but the story was not a true one. In fact, through most of the German occupation, Denmark's government was permitted to run the country's internal affairs. Although the Germans suggested that anti-Jewish measures be enacted by the Danes—including a requirement that Jews wear the yellow stars—the Danes steadfastly refused. Therefore, Danish Jews never wore the yellow star and there was never any reason for Christian X to do so either.
In the interest of clarity, here is the passage Don alluded to from Uris’ Exodus:
- The King has said that one Dane is exactly the same as the next Dane. He himself will wear the first Star of David and he expects that every loyal Dane will do the same." The next day in Copenhagen almost the entire population wore arm bands showing a Star of David. The following day the Germans rescinded the order.”
With due respect to Don Harrison’s fine observation, I wish to approach this “mythical” account from an altogether different perspective. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, myths—no matter how strange they may seem—often have elements that are grounded in historical fact. According to the Danish historian, Bo Lidegaard a Danish historian in his book, “Countrymen: The untold story of how Denmark’s Jews escaped the Nazis, of the courage of their fellow Danes—and of the extraordinary role of the SS”
At the very beginning of the book, he shows a political Danish cartoon that appeared in one of the Göteborg Trade and Maritime Journal newspapers in April of 1940 depicting how King Christian rode through the streets of Copenhagen wearing the yellow star in defiance of Nazi demands that the Jews do so.
The cartoon shows, according to Lidegaard:
- “the Danish prime minister, Thorvald Stauning, in an overcoat, in thoughtful conversation with King Christian, easily recognizable by his riding boots and uniform. In the caption Stauning asks: “What shall we do, Your Majesty, if Scavenius says that our Jews also have to wear yellow stars?” The king replies: “Then we’ll probably all wear yellow stars”—an almost literal transcription of an interview King Christian had had with Acting Prime Minister Vilhelm Buhl four months earlier. The fact that the tenacious myth is rooted in a real conversation has only been revealed recently, as the handwritten diary notes made by the king were made accessible to historians. Even if King Christian was prepared to do so, he did not ride through the streets of Copenhagen wearing the yellow star; in fact, no one in Denmark was required to wear it.
What is remarkable however is the fact that the King was willing to do so in the event the Nazis tried to force their hand and will upon the Danish people. The question raised between these two men was of real concern—especially since the United States did not yet enter the war. The discussion of the plight of the Danish Jews was a sensitive one for everyone involved. But in the end, as Don also pointed out in his article, “Considering the inhuman treatment of the Jews not only in Germany but also in other countries under German occupation, one could not help but worry that one day this request would also be presented to us. If so, we would have to reject it outright following their protection under the Constitution.”
King Christian, his assistants, and the Danish people stood up for the constitutional rights of the Jewish Danes, and Hitler fortunately relented. But this is where Socrates’ concept of the “noble lie” came to play. For those unfamiliar with this concept, the noble lie presents to the public false propaganda for the sake of the public welfare. Lidegaard explains how the cartoon and myth of the King served an important political purpose;
- Buhl did not keep the king’s suggestion to himself, and four months later the conversation appeared as the text of a cartoon in a newspaper in neighboring Sweden, also neutral but not occupied by the Germans. The cartoon gave birth to the compelling image of King Christian riding the streets of occupied Copenhagen wearing the yellow star. The myth has never died, and new generations have taken it as a token of hope amid the dismal history of the Holocaust.
- The history from the Swedish cartoon traveled widely and it proved both compelling and useful. It served those in the United States and the United Kingdom who were working to improve the public image of an occupied Denmark criticized for its cowardly appeasement of Hitler’s Germany. In the United States the myth was spread by Danish-American and Jewish organizations, in the United Kingdom by the Political Warfare Executive as part of a targeted effort to drive a wedge between Denmark’s allegedly pro-German government and the resistance-willing people rallying behind their king.
Apparently, King Christian X did not mind this story getting disseminated. The cartoon and the story associated with it spread across the world, and it served to bolster the public image of Denmark and their willingness to protect the Jews as a matter of principle and conscience. In the end, Plato and Socrates proved correct about the role of the “noble lie” in shaping a country’s political values. and it illustrates how this conversation between King Christian X and PM Buhl took on a new life beyond what actually occurred.
 Leon Uris, Exodus (New York: Bantam Books, 1958), p. 72
 Plato, Republic 607a, comp. 611b-612a.
 Bo Lidegaard and Robert Maass (Trans), Countrymen: The untold story of how Denmark’s Jews escaped the Nazis, of the courage of their fellow Danes—and of the extraordinary role of the SS” (New York: Alfred Knoph, 2013), pp. 8-9.