Op-Ed: A Tribute to Knud Dyby, Humanitarian and World War II Hero

“Standing Up to Hate, No Matter the Consequence"

A hero, humanitarian, inventor, Novato neighbor and friend, Knud Dyby, passed away last week, Sept. 8, at age 96. And though his was a long and full life, he still left us too soon.

We first came to know Knud through shared human rights interests. Often promoting his own philosophy, what he called the “Three ‘C’s”: Compassion, Conscience and Consideration, Knud believed we all have a responsibility to stand against bigotry regardless of the group being targeted. Knud’s philosophy and actions took shape during one of the darkest times in our history and would continue until the end of his life.

It was his strong compassion and sense of decency that led Knud to become integrally involved in the October 1943 rescue of Denmark’s nearly 8,000 Jews. Repeatedly risking his life, he arranged secret transports by boat to safety across the Danish channel to Sweden, ultimately saving over 1800 Jews, saboteurs, allied airmen and others needing protection from the Nazis. 

As a skilled sailor and former policeman Knud possessed information vital to saving many from certain death. This also aided his essential efforts with the Danish Underground — Knud, alone, was responsible for arranging the transport of the majority of the suppressed information that reached Sweden from Denmark in the last months of 1944 and the first three months of 1945.

Denmark was able to save most of their Jewish population from the horrors of the Holocaust due to the courage of ‘ordinary’ people like Knud who stood firm against enormous hate.   

After the war Knud Dyby emigrated from Denmark, eventually settling in Novato. In the 1980s he began another journey, that of speaking about his wartime activities, focusing on this role in transporting Jews to safety. Knud felt it was particularly important to connect with American children to help them understand the need to always speak up against bullying and discrimination, reminding them that during the Holocaust there were “too many bystanders and not enough rescuers.”

In 2008, as the special guest at the United for Safe Schools Novato’s annual awards dinner, Knud spoke with conviction to the packed crowd: "You must always stand up to hate... no matter the consequence!" he said, his words and deeds inspiring each in the room, as they did with every audience he spoke before.

Knud's efforts during WWII have been recognized by numerous organizations including the Los Angeles Simon Wiesenthal Center and the State of Israel, which awarded him the title “Righteous Among the Nations” for his brave and humanitarian actions. 

United for Safe Schools Novato (USSN) is honored to pay tribute to Knud Dyby as a part of the Sept. 22 screening of Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness. Knud’s daughter, Susanne, expressed support of this recognition, writing, “what a wonderful way to honor him and what he stood for.” Though he was a humble man, USSN and the event’s co-sponsors are grateful for the opportunity to recognize this true hero at an event in which he would be proud to be a part of.

Those of us privileged to personally know Knud will remember his ever-present warmth and humor, his uniquely creative abilities (one of his inventions likely sits on your desk!) and most of all, his strong humanitarian advocacy and actions. We hope his courage and compassion will continue to be an inspiration to all who fight injustice and hate in their own communities today.


Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness is a new PBS film that documents the story of a town standing together to take action after a hate crime killing devastates their community.  Narrated by Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, the documentary addresses the growing problem of anti-immigrant violence in communities nationwide. 

The public is invited to the screening and discussion to follow. A 10-minute clip featuring Novato from “Not In Our Town II” will also be shown. Light refreshments will be served.  Film has Spanish captions and Spanish translator will be available for discussion after the showing.

Sponsored by UNITED FOR SAFE SCHOOLS NOVATO (USSN) with (partial list): Asian Advocacy Project, Center for Domestic Peace, City of Novato Multicultural Commission,  Concerned Parents of Novato, Latino Council, Marin/Novato YMCA, Matrix Parent Network,   Spectrum Center for LGTB Concerns

Not In Our Town Week of Action Kickoff begins Sept. 18


Training Room, 909 Machin Ave.

Reservations required (seating is limited)

E-mail lynnewasley@gmail.com or call 415-898-2557

Marla September 15, 2011 at 03:02 PM
What an amazing man. Thank you for honoring him and bringing his achievements to our attention. Novato is lucky to have such wonderful people in our midst, and he will be sorely missed but his impact will live on.
Baxter September 15, 2011 at 03:42 PM
I had the pleasure of getting to know Knud while working in his yard on several occasions as a volunteer through the Novato Elders program. Although, Knud was very modest and humble, he was very proud of his accomplishments and I had the priviledge of seeing his walls of medals and listening to his incredible stories. Knud gave me a copy of his book "Boats in the Night - Knud Dyby's Story of Resistance and Rescue" which he signed for me on 9/9/08. I will treasure it always. God bless you, Knud. The world, and especially me, will remember you always.
Christine September 15, 2011 at 03:43 PM
An absolutely remarkable human being. Rest in Peace Mr. Dyby.
Rick Fraites September 15, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Thank you Lynne and Annan for informing us of the heroric deeds that were performed by this wondrous man. Mr. Dyby's life provides a shining example for all of us to find the courage to stand up to hate and ignorance. Novato is richer for having this authenic hero as part of our community.
David J. Michael November 07, 2011 at 04:42 AM
I had never heard of Knud Dyby until reading a book review of Boats In The Night, in 2004. I wrote him and expressed my great admiration for him, and he sent me an autographed copy of his book! Then we spoke by phone, and he sent more pictures and write-ups from his life, including humorous photos that he liked to do at holiday time. One was of his face in the Quaker Oatmeal photo. I sent him a copy of my book, Messiah and His Hebrew Alphabet, and photos of my four children. He said that I was a fortunate man to have a large family, and he always, whether in the letters he wrote or the two time we spoke by phone, expressed the highest degree of courtesy and thoughtfulness. What a wonderful man. I am so glad that I had the experience of interacting with him. I think he was a national treasure to Denmark, and to the USA as well.


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