Hitler’s Pet Canary Revolts: Denmark’s Living Wall of Resistance

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“Evil did not triumph in Denmark simply because most Danes would not allow it”1

― Ellen Levine, Darkness Over Denmark

Vision and Motivation

Heavy footsteps echoed ominously around Amalienborg’s deserted palace courtyard. Silently, royal guards raised their rifles to repel the intruders, but alas, it was too late. German bombers droned overhead, their swastikas glinting in the dawn light as pale green leaflets fluttered down on the sleeping city. “OPROP! (Proclamation!),” the leaflets announced in garbled Danish, “[German] military forces have taken over protection of the Danish kingdom’s neutrality...avoid any active or passive resistance…It will be useless and broken with all the instruments of power.”2

Following the preemptive obliteration of Denmark’s air force, German paratroopers descended to secure the nation’s southern cities. As dawn broke, the country’s septuagenarian monarch King Christian X capitulated. “Inwardly shattered,” he stoically announced cooperation with Germany to “spare his country further misfortune.”3 That day, April 9, 1940, the Danes awoke an occupied people, and a “perfect Aryan protectorate” was born, dubbed by Winston Churchill, “Hitler's pet canary.”4

Only two years earlier, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had announced an agreement with Hitler allowing Germany to annex a large part of Czechoslovakia in return for a promise of peace between Germany and the United Kingdom.5 Yet, shortly after the signing of this agreement, the European continent was once again engulfed by war. This time, however, Germany not only sought territorial expansion, but also the annihilation of the Jewish people. By the time King Christian capitulated, the Nazi plot to annihilate the Jews, the “final solution to the Jewish question,” was complete, and their first concentration camp, Dachau, in which at least 28,000 people would eventually be murdered, already housed thousands of Jews and political prisoners.6 Hopelessly outnumbered by the swelling forces of Hitler’s Third Reich, Denmark's fate, along with the fate of the country’s Jewish population, seemed inevitable.

Wandering through the streets of the small Danish town of Slagelse the morning after the invasion, 17 year-old schoolboy Arne Sejr came to a sudden halt. Aghast, he stood as smiling crowds applauded a German military band.“Show an absolute dignified and correct demeanour. Behave like a good Dane,”8 the country’s well-loved monarch had entreated. “But what was a good Dane,” Arne wondered. By evening he was certain he knew the answer. “Join the struggle for the freedom of Denmark,” he typed, “you shall do a bad job for the Germans” and “you must not shop at Nazi stores.”9 Hastily copying these and other rules, which became known collectively as the “Ten Commandments for Danes,”10 he distributed them to the homes of prominent doctors and lawyers.11 Reminiscing on this period, Arne recalls, “It felt very illegal…ducking through the dark streets where the only sounds were made by the hobnailed boots of German patrols.”12

Arne was not alone. Fuelled by “boundless shame and sadness”13 over Denmark’s humiliating occupation, independent resistance groups “sprouted in a hundred localities and grew like weeds.”14 Together, eight schoolboys formed the Churchill Club, led by 17-year old Knud Petersen. Armed with only matches and gasoline, the group stole weapons, filled gas tanks with sugar and destroyed Nazi munitions.15 Nonchalantly approaching drunk soldiers, younger members of the club feigned interest in the Wehrmacht, while older boys rifled through the soldiers’ jackets and made off with their weapons. “If you older folk will do nothing,” they admonished, “we’ll have to do something instead.”16


Goals and Objectives

Despite their disparate roots and independent actions, Danish resistance groups were united in purpose, with the ultimate goal of regaining freedom, independence and democracy. “Action is required of us all,” insisted politician Christmas Moeller from exile in London, continuing, “It is our duty to have only one thing in view, that which hurts Germany the most… Do your duty. Do your work.”17 Danes, from king to fishwife, heeded this call.

As the first winter of occupation set in, public attitudes towards the Nazi occupiers chilled. Bakeries and streetcars spontaneously emptied as German soldiers entered, with Danes crowding outside even in the biting wind until the Nazis left.18 King Christian responded to his country’s occupiers with frigid, but subtle discourtesy; riding through Copenhagen each morning on horseback the king would warmly greet even the humblest of citizens, while studiously ignoring Nazi salutes.19 On his 72nd birthday, the king received a personal telegram dripping with cloying pleasantries from Hitler himself, to which he replied curtly, “Giving my best thanks, Christian Rex.”20 Incensed by the king’s reception of this “singular honour,” Hitler flew into a rage and an all-out war was narrowly avoided.21

Comedians, students and musicians enthusiastically joined together to form a wave of passive resistance. “Heil!,” yelled a German audience, as a Danish comic flung his arm into a Nazi salute. Pausing slightly he quipped, "this is how high the snow was in Copenhagen last year.”22 Thousands of students gathered to sing rousing patriotic songs outside Amalienborg, the Danish royal family’s winter home, and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became a national favorite, as its opening bars were interpreted as a musical Morse code denoting “VVV,” “we will win.”23

In return for King Christian’s quick capitulation, the Nazis had allowed the Danes to retain a degree of autonomy. However, as the occupation wore on, Hitler’s Third Reich gradually tightened its iron grip over the country. In 1941, the Nazis forced the Danish government to outlaw communist activity;24 then, in addition to this, the Nazis commandeered the Danish Navy’s torpedo boats, thereby violating an earlier promise “that the Danish Army and Navy [would] be maintained.”25

As the fictional claim of Denmark’s neutrality slowly evaporated, some resistance groups set their sights on sabotage. However, despite the Nazi’s increased incursion into Denmark’s internal affairs, many Danes balked at the idea of resorting to violence. As resistance groups negotiated this moral quagmire, Hitler’s infamous logistics expert, Adolf Eichmann, grew increasingly irate about the continued survival of Denmark’s 7,500 Jews.26 By the end of 1942, the Nazis had consigned Norway’s Jews to Auschwitz and murdered hundreds of thousands from other European countries, but had not dealt with Denmark’s Jewish population.

Anxious to change this, the Nazis planned a lightning raid for October 1, 1943, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), when most Jewish families would be at home. King Christian had always insisted, “there are no Jewish questions in this country...there are only my people,”27 so the Nazis knew that open hostilities against the Jews would have proven politically explosive. Officers ordered that no doors be broken down, but that Jews be removed and quietly extradited. However, when Eichmann’s convoy of trucks closed in on Copenhagen and the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, rapped aggressively on doors, they found that most Jewish families had already fled.

Tipped off “less than 24 hours”28 in advance by a disillusioned Nazi attaché, resistance groups sprang into action, allowing Jews to slip away “behind a living wall raised by the Danish people.”29 Grabbing a phone book, ambulance driver Jorgen Knudsen thumbed through the pages marking any names that sounded Jewish; he then located as many as he could and drove them to safe houses belonging to complete strangers.30 Doctors admitted perfectly healthy Jews to hospitals, giving them false names and diagnoses and then discharging them secretly as mourners in fake funeral corteges.31 Anxious to raise funds to help Jews flee across the narrow Oresund Straits to Sweden, literature student Elsebet Kieler drove around local manor houses requesting donations. “It was somewhat naive of us to ride around that way,” Elsebet recalls, “...entrusting our little secret to all those we met, but on that occasion our naiveté happened to prove our strength.”32 

Holger Danske, a local resistance group, negotiated with fishermen to secure ten boats to make the passage to Sweden. Others followed, and within weeks there were 300 boats sailing 55 illegal escape routes.33 Crammed into the bottom of fishing boats or hidden under piles of straw and herrings, thousands of Jews made the perilous journey through waters laced with sea mines.34 “The smell of fish still reminds me of freedom,”35 recalls Gus Goldberger, who made the journey when he was just nine-years old. In total, 7,000 people, comprising over 90 percent of the Jewish population, successfully made it out of the country, avoiding the Nazis’ terror. “Denmark posed the greatest difficulties,” bemoaned Eichmann, “for most Jews escaped.”36

Not all Danish Jews evaded the Nazis, however. The Nazis unceremoniously flung several hundred Jews, either too frail to flee or unaware of the impending danger, into a German merchant ship and deported them to the infamous Theresienstadt work camp in the present-day Czech Republic.37 Upon learning of this, the Danish government desperately tried to protect its Jewish citizens. The government successfully exploited the Nazis’ own racial policies to secure the release of half-Jewish Danes.38  Refusing to abandon those whose release it could not secure, the government ensured that all imprisoned Danish Jews received Red Cross parcels filled with milk formula and clothes; these clothes were often secretly stashed with vitamins and nutritious food, and are said to have halved the mortality rates of Danish prisoners.39 In an effort to deceive the Danish government, the Nazis even transformed Theresienstadt into a model camp with toy-filled nurseries and manicured gardens when Danish politicians visited.40 Because of the Danish government’s pressure, the vast majority of imprisoned Danish Jews survived. Shortly before the Germans surrendered, in a heated negotiation with Heinrich Himmler, Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte succeeded in obtaining the release of thousands of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps, including the 450 remaining Danish Jews in Theresienstadt, whom Bernadotte personally escorted to freedom on April 14, 1945.41


Many of Denmark’s famed freedom fighters were neither political elites nor trained revolutionaries; in fact, the majority were ordinary people, students, mothers, fathers and fishermen, who believed that they “had no choice but to help.”42 However, the resistance movement also included several distinct groups, such as the Churchill Club, Holger Danske, and others. Each group had its own leadership structure and tactics, leading to a lack of coordination that proved hazardous from time to time. For example, on one occasion two independent resistance groups planned to sabotage the same factory simultaneously.43 To minimize these incidences, leaders of seven principal resistance groups formed the Freedom Council in early autumn 1943 to “organise and coordinate the activities” of the resistance.44


Civic Environment

With secret messages hidden in loaves of bread,45 coded signals in bookstores46 and midnight sabotage missions,47 accounts of the Danish resistance read like riveting fiction; yet, the consequences for its actors were frighteningly real. Initially anxious to ensure compliance, the Nazis partially granted Denmark territorial integrity and political independence.48 In return, resistance fighters were punished by Danish authorities and generally given jail terms, albeit often minimal.49 When saboteurs decimated a newly converted army barracks and minesweeper just days before their completion,50 Hitler became enraged.51

Successively, Hitler appointed harsher plenipotentiaries to oversee occupied Denmark. He told one of these emissaries, Dr. Werner Best, to “rule with an iron hand.”52 Further, Hitler demanded, “Combat sabotage with terror,”53 and Himmler added, “Prisoners should no longer be turned into decent people, but have their will broken.”54 Following a nationwide strike in August 1943, the German authorities imposed martial law. Strikes were outlawed, curfews enforced and sabotage declared punishable by death.55 The Germans swamped public buildings, the Danish government resigned, and naval officers sank 29 ships while the remainder fled to Sweden.56 Revered resistance leader and poet, Kaj Munk, was assassinated57 and 6,000 Danes, a third of whom were police officers, were sent to concentration camps for their resistance.58

Despite being subjected to torture and starvation, many remained resolute. “I did not need to believe in eternal life,” Jorgen Kieler writes, “With satisfaction [I] thought…the ideals I had fought for would not end with the bullets of the firing squad.”59 Exhausted and emaciated from working tirelessly in German mines, Jorgen continued his resistance by removing key components from equipment.60 Three members of the Churchill Club too continued their efforts during their imprisonment. Sawing off a bar of their cell, they escaped unseen to destroy German property before returning and meticulously replacing the bar.61 “Why don’t you people cry?” one bewildered officer asked, “That’s what they do in every other country.”62

Message and Audience

“Eight-penny worth o’ lies!”63 shouted Danish paper boys selling highly censored broadsheets. Despite the Nazis best efforts, both the mainstream and underground press became the resistance’s “chief weapon.”64 Unaccustomed to restrictions, official newspapers published the mandatory propaganda with sarcastic flair. “Here is the latest communique,” they announced, printing double-spaced articles that encouraged readers to read between the lines.65 “We will win many customers through our low prices,” boasted an advertisement in a conservative newspaper, while a seemingly innocuous article on the architectural design of key landmarks helped British special forces pinpoint their bombing raids to minimize civilian casualties.66

The underground press flourished in wartime Denmark, with over 552 papers publishing an estimated 23 million copies, one even operating brazenly from the basement of Copenhagen’s Nazi headquarters.67 Businessmen painstakingly concealed these publications in pens as they travelled abroad to smuggle critical intelligence to the Allies. “Danes cannot bow to German threats,” Frit Denmark, an illegal paper, enjoined, “even when harsh punishment… awaits us.”68 These papers inspired many Danes to heroically defy their occupier’s will. Coastguards ensured patrol boats were consigned to dry dock,69 shipyard workers slowed their pace of work and explosives experts became inexplicably careless when defusing bombs in critical locations.70

Funds were raised through a roaring trade in banned books, with copies of Hitler’s speeches in suitably derogatory covers and homemade explosive “recipe” books amongst the best sellers. Written in German, one book advised disillusioned soldiers on how to convincingly feign illness, even providing a pre-filled prescription for an incapacitating medication.71 Enraged by the efficacy of the press, Werner Best, Hitler’s emissary to Denmark, warned to no avail, “each editor will be responsible with his head for ensuring that people are no longer poisoned.”72

Lutheran Ministers also used their influence to foster resistance. A bishop’s letter was read to congregations the day after the Jewish roundup, urging them to remember that Jesus himself was born a Jew, and further stating, “we will fight to preserve for our brothers and sisters the same freedom we ourselves value more than life.”73 Ultimately over 90 percent of ministers assisted, with many parishioners freely offering money, accommodation and support to fleeing Jews.74

Outreach Activities

The Danish resistance could not have succeeded in thwarting the Nazis’ plan without the cooperative participation of disparate parts of Danish society. Despite the existence of radical political and class divides, resistance members were able to unite and remain steadfast in their fight against Nazism. Brave actions, like Arne Sejr’s publishing of the “Ten Commandments for Danes,” led to a realization among the population that their grievances against the Nazis were widely shared, even by those with whom they may have differed on a range of other issues. As a result, Danes from many parts of society, young and old, friends and strangers, policemen, clergymen, sailors, fishwives, and even king, all participated in the resistance. Their ability to unite hinged upon their shared beliefs. “We had to admit we meant very different things by the word democracy,” recalls Jorgen Kieler, a member of Holger Danske, “But… the persecution of the Jews made us recognise one joint ideological attitude - our fervent embrace of rights.”75

On April 30, 1945, realizing defeat was imminent, Hitler raised a gun to his temple and committed suicide. Four months later, Japan surrendered, and the Second World War officially came to an end. By then over six million Jewish men, women and children had been murdered by the Nazi regime, yet, due to the tireless efforts of the Danish resistance, less than one percent of Denmark’s Jewish population was numbered amongst them. “There were so many wonderful people who saved our lives by endangering their own” recalls one survivor gratefully.76 As the Third Reich collapsed, many exiled Jews returned to Denmark to find their homes and possessions safely guarded by neighbors who welcomed them back “emotionally with open arms and hearts.”77

Today, towering above Jerusalem’s pine forest stands Yad Vashem, a permanent memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. There, at Yad Vashem, a tree stands in the Avenue of the Righteous in honor of the Danish underground. As a special gesture, because “Danes of all ages, classes and backgrounds participated in the rescue effort,” Yad Vashem bestowed the title “Righteous Among the Nations” on the Danish people.78 Their actions and bravery demonstrated that an “unarmed, orderly people” can “win against an army just by saying no.”79

Learn More

Levine, E. (2000). Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews (available free on www.openlibrary.org)

Sutherland, C. (1991). Monica: Heroine of the Resistance (available free on www.openlibrary.org)

Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. (2000). A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict

Kieler, J. (2008). Resistance Fighter

Werner, E. (2004). A Conspiracy of Decency: The Rescue of the Danish Jews in World War II 


  1. Levine, E. (2000). Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews. Holiday House. p. vii
  2. Ibid. p. 9
  3. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. (2000). A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict. Palgrave Macmillan Trade. p. 210
  4. Levine, E. p. vi
  5. Kieler, J. (2008). Resistance Fighter. Gefen Publishing House. p. 17
  6. “Holocaust Encyclopedia,” United States Holocaust Museum. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005214
  7. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 212
  8. Sutherland, C. (1991). Monica: Heroine of the Resistance. Canongate Press. p. 103
  9. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 213
  10. Ibid.  p. 212
  11. “Danish citizens resist the Nazis, 1940-1945,” Global Nonviolent Action Database. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/danish-citizens-resist-nazis-1940-1945
  12. Werner, E. (2004). A Conspiracy of Decency: The Rescue of the Danish Jews in World War II. Basic Books. p. 11
  13. Kieler, J. p. 20
  14. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 225
  15. Kieler, J. p. 139
  16. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 215
  17. Ibid. p. 217
  18. Werner, E. p. 11
  19. Levine, E. p. 10
  20. Sutherland, C. p. 139
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Werner, E. pp. 17-18
  24. Kieler, J. p. 31
  25. Leistikow, Gunnar, “Denmark Under the Nazi Heel,” Foreign Affairs. Volume 21, Number 2Council on Foreign Relations: January, 1943. Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/70240/gunnar-leistikow/denmark-under-the-nazi-heel
  26. “Holocaust Encyclopedia: Denmark,” United States Holocaust Museum. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005209
  27. Sutherland, C. p. 150
  28. Levine, E. p. 68
  29. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 228
  30. Ibid.
  31. Werner, E. p. 49
  32. Kieler, J. p. 98
  33. Ibid. p. 96
  34. Werner, E. p. 80
  35. Ibid. p. 69
  36. Levine, E. p. 66
  37. Sutherland, C. p. 150
  38. Werner, E. p. 110
  39. Ibid. p. 108
  40. Ibid. p. 122
  41. Ibid. p. 120
  42. Ibid. p. 80
  43. Kieler, J. p. 128
  44. Ibid. p. 80
  45. Ibid. p. 228
  46. Levine, E. p. 84
  47. Sutherland, C. p. 126
  48. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 210
  49. Werner, E. p. 20
  50. Ibid. p. 22
  51. Sutherland, C. p. 129
  52. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 218
  53. Kieler, J. p. 242
  54. Ibid.
  55. Werner, E. p. 23
  56. Levine, E. p. 57
  57. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 224
  58. Werner, E. p. 4
  59. Kieler, J. p. 236
  60. Ibid. p. 290
  61. Sutherland, C. p. 126
  62. Kieler, J. p. 227
  63. Denmark: Shadow of the Swastika. (1941, July). TIME
  64. Kieler, J. p. 36
  65. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 213
  66. Werner, E. p. 18
  67. Ibid. p. 19
  68. Ackerman, P., & DuVall, J. p. 223
  69. Werner, E. p. 38
  70. Sutherland, C. p. 134
  71. Werner, E. p. 19
  72. Levine, E. p. 64
  73. Kramer, N. (2007). Civil Courage: A Response to Contemporary Conflict and Prejudice. Peter Lang Publishing Inc., pp. 359-360
  74. Levine, E. p. vii
  75. Kieler, J. p. 91
  76. Werner, E. p. 47
  77. Ibid. p. 154
  78. Ibid. p. 168
  79. Ibid. p. 131


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In the late 19th century, thousands of South Asian migrants flocked to East Africa to construct a railway network throughout the British Protectorate of Uganda. Over the following century, many of these laborers and their descendants secured lucrative positions in the growing domestic economy. However, the rise to power of President Idi Amin in 1971 brought trouble. Playing on the nationalistic feelings of native Ugandans, he denounced the entire South Asian community as “bloodsuckers” and decreed their immediate expulsion under threat of imprisonment. The United Kingdom attempted to intercede with Amin, but eventually accepted almost 27,000 refugees, decimating the Indian and Pakistani community in Uganda.
In Canada, freedom of religion is strongly protected at the national, provincial, and local levels. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the country's constitution, forbids discrimination by the state on religious grounds and guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of conscience and religion. The various provincial human rights codes go further and require employers, service providers and other private individuals to provide reasonable accommodation to all, regardless of religious belief.
The heady days of the Arab Spring brought glimpses of what a more tolerant Middle East could look like. As pro-government soldiers threatened to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011, Christians formed a ring around worshipping Muslim activists. Those Muslims later returned the favor by gathering protectively around praying Christians. Although religious tensions in Egypt have consistently run high in its modern history and Coptic Christians face persecution, those civic gestures in Tahrir Square showed that another Egypt is possible.
Members of the Iranian Baha'i faith have been persecuted since the founding of the religion in the mid-1800s. This persecution severely intensified after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and continues to this day. At roughly 300,000 adherents, they are the largest non-Muslim religious group in Iran, but are not among the recognized religious minorities in the country's constitution, and cannot count on its protections. Today Baha’is are regularly subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, destruction of property, denial of employment and access to higher education. The leadership of the Baha’i faith in Iran continues to be imprisoned.
In an attempt to forcibly transform the Soviet Union into a socialist paradise, the Communist Party declared the elimination of religion to be an ideological imperative. Even though the Orthodox Church was deeply interwoven in pre-revolutionary Russian society, the state forbade public expressions of faith, demolished hundreds of places of worship, and executed hundreds of priests. However, the Orthodox faith remained rooted in Russia - as communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 90s, millions rushed to be baptized and thousands were ordained as priests. Despite attempts to eliminate religion, today the majority of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christian.
In the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the deaths of thousands of African-Americans, and symbols of the Klan – like the burning cross – inspired terror nationwide. But in 1946, the Klan was dealt a significant blow by a single concerned citizen. Activist and author Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan over a period of months, gathering key information on the group's secret rituals and code words. Kennedy then shared his knowledge with the writers of a Superman radio serial, leading to the broadcast of The Adventures of Superman: "Clan of the Fiery Cross,” which over a two-week period exposed the Klan’s best-kept secrets. By trivializing the Klan, the broadcast helped strip the Klan of its mystique. Over time, the group declined rapidly and only a few thousand members are active today.
Despite his sharp criticism of organized religion, Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, resolutely defended religious tolerance. The most famous example of this defense was sparked by a tragedy. In October 1761, Marc-Antoine Calas, a young man from a Protestant family living in Catholic France, was found dead in his father’s shop in Toulouse, most likely by suicide. Public opinion quickly settled on his father, Jean, as the prime suspect – it was supposed that he had killed Marc-Antoine to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Jean was repeatedly and inhumanely tortured and eventually executed. Outraged by the blatant injustice of the case, Voltaire succeeded in securing Jean a posthumous pardon, and went on to write his famous treatise on religious tolerance.
Even as Hitler rose to power in Germany, Baghdad was a haven of religious and ethnic tolerance with Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans living in a land where “the mosque stands beside the church and the synagogue.” Hebrew was one of Iraq’s six languages and about 120,000 Jews lived in the country. Today, after decades of intermittent war and repression, it is estimated that fewer than ten Jews remain, while more Yazidis and Christians flee every day.

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928


About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.