Forgotten Hero-Albert Battel

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Albert Battel (January 21, 1891 – 1952) was a German Wehrmacht army lieutenant and lawyer recognized for his resistance during World War II to the Nazi plans for the 1942 liquidation of the Przemyśl Jewish ghetto. He was posthumously recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 1981.

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Battel was born in Klein-Pramsen , Prussian Silesia. After serving in World War I, he studied economics and jurisprudence in Munich and Breslau (Wrocław)

As a 51-year-old lawyer, Albert Battel fulfilled his German army-reserve duty in Przemyśl, Poland, serving as the adjutant to the local military commander, Major Max Liedtke.

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When on the 26th of July 1942 the SS attempted to carry out the first liquidation of Przemyśl’s Jews, Battel and Liedtke ordered the army to block the bridge over the River San, the one entry-point to the Przemyśl ghetto. As the SS troops continued to advance along the bridge, Battel’s guards commanded them to stop and threatened to open fire on them. At the same time, Battel arranged for army trucks to collect some 100 Jews from the ghetto and to bring them to the barracks of a local military base where the Wehrmacht could protect them. The Jews in the ghetto who were not able to make it to the military base were deported by the SS to the Belzec death camp.

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After this incident, the SS authorities began a secret investigation into the conduct of the army officer who had dared defy them under such embarrassing circumstances. It turned out that Battel, though himself a member of the Nazi Party since May 1933, had already attracted notice in the past by his friendly behaviour toward the Jews. Before the war, he had been indicted before a party tribunal for having extended a loan to a Jewish colleague. Later, in the course of his service in Przemyśl, he was officially reprimanded for cordially shaking the hand of the chairman of the Jewish Council, Duldig. The entire affair reached the attention of the highest level of the Nazi hierarchy. Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer-SS, took an interest in the results of the investigation and sent a copy of the incriminating documentation to Martin Bormann, chief of the Party Chancellery and Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man.

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In the accompanying letter, Himmler vowed to have the lawyer expelled from the Nazi party and arrested immediately after the war.

Battel was released from the army in 1944 due to a medical condition. Upon returning to his hometown of Breslau, he was drafted into the Volkssturm (a German national militia founded during the last few months of the war).

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He was  subsequently captured by the Russians. At the end of the war, he was released and settled in West Germany.  Due to his prior affiliation with the Nazi party, he was not able to practice law. Albert Battel died in 1952.
Battel’s stand against the SS came to be recognised only a long time after his death; most notably, through the tenacious efforts of the Israeli researcher and lawyer Dr. Zeev Goshen.

On January 22, 1981, almost 30 years after his death, Yad Vashem recognised Albert Battel as Righteous among the Nations.

Albert Battel’s commander ,Major Max Liedtke, was also  honoured as Righteous Among the Nations in 1994.

 

 

 

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