Otto Weidt’s workshop for the blind.

Sometime you come across stories and you are amazed that they are not widely known. We all have heard about Oskar Schindler because of Steven Spielberg’s £Schindler’s List” , but the story of Otto Weidt is probably just as amazing.

It is a story which is close to me due to the fact that I am half blind, and more then likely at some stage in the future I will become completely blind, I hope it will a long time into the future. At one stage I was actually blind for about 6 months, so I have an idea on how it is not being able to see.

Otto Weidt’s decreasing eyesight forced him to give up his job in wallpapering. He adapted and learned the business of brush making and broom binding.

Otto Weidt and Else Nast met in Berlin in 1931 and married five years later, on September 22, 1936. This was Otto Weidt’s third marriage; he had two sons from his first marriage.

In 1936 Otto Weidt opened a Workshop for the Blind in Kreuzberg in Berlin; Else Weidt worked there with him. Otto Weidt took great risks in trying to help his Jewish workers persecuted by the Nazis; his wife gave him constant support. After Otto Weidt died on December 22, 1947, Else Weidt took over the management of the Workshop for the Blind. She died aged 72 on June 8, 1974.

In 1936 he established a company with the name “Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind” in the basement of Großbeerenstraße 92 in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. From 1940 on the workshop was based at Rosenthaler Straße 39 in the Mitte district, occupying the entire first floor of the side wing of the building. As one of his customers was the Wehrmacht, Weidt managed to have his business classified as vital to the war effort.

Up to 30 blind and deaf Jews were employed at his shop between the years of 1941 and 1943.When the Gestapo began to arrest and deport his Jewish employees, he fought to secure their safety by falsifying documents, bribing officers and hiding them in the back of his shop. But in February and March 1943 many were arrested and deported to concentration camps during the police raids known as “Operation Factory”.

Aside from the blind, Weidt also employed healthy Jewish workers in his office. This was strictly forbidden, as all Jewish workers had to be mediated through the labor employment office, which would ordinarily post them to forced-labor assignments. However, Weidt, managed to hire them by bribery.

The Jewish Inge Deutschkron was among the eight healthy Jews employed at the workshop. Inge and her mother were living in hiding to live , Weidt arranged an Aryan work permit for Deutschkron which he had acquired from a prostitute, who had no use for it.

Unfortunately, the permit had to be discarded three months later when the police arrested the prostitute.

One of Weidt’s most spectacular exploits involved the rescue of a Jewish girl who had been deported to the camps in Poland. In February 1943 Otto Weidt hid the Licht family in a storage room in the workshop for the blind at Neanderstraße 12 in Berlin-Mitte. The Gestapo arrested the family in October 1943 and deported them to the Theresienstadt ghetto on November 15, 1943.

There Weidt could support them with food parcels. All of 150 parcels arrived. After 6 months Alice and her parents were deported to KZ Birkenau. Alice managed to send a postcard to Weidt who promptly traveled to Auschwitz in attempt to help her.

eidt found out that as Auschwitz was emptied, Alice was moved to the labor camp/ammunition plant Christianstadt. He hid clothes and money for her, in a nearby pension to aid her return. Through one of the civilian workers he contacted Alice and made her runaway and return to Berlin possible.

Alice eventually managed to return to Berlin in January 1945, and lived in hiding with the Weidt’s until the end of the war.

Alice’s parents both were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau

In the period from March 1943 until the end of the war there were only a few employees left in Weidt’s workshop. Apart from three non-Jewish workers, there were Jews married to non-Jews or people who had one Jewish parent, as well as several people in hiding like Inge Deutschkron, Alice Licht, Erich Frey, and Chaim and Max Horn.

Of the 33 only 7 survived.

After the war Otto Weidt supported the establishment of the Jewish Home for Children and the Aged at Moltkestraße 8-11 in the Berlin district of Niederschönhausen. After Liberation it was the first secure place for children and elderly people who escaped Nazi persecution.

All of this make Otto Weidt a hero, in my opinion. Just think of it, not only did he help Jews, he helped blind and deaf Jews. They were seen as lesser human beings in 2 categories as per the Nuremberg Laws. Otto died of heart failure in 1947, at 64 years of age.

On September 7, 1971, Yad Vashem recognized Otto Weidt as Righteous Among the Nations.

sources

https://www.museum-blindenwerkstatt.de/en/first-of-all/

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/weidt.html

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Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder

When people ask me what my top 10 favourite albums are , I find it impossible to give a definitive answers, because over the years that has changed. However there are a few albums that will always be in that top 10, ‘Songs in the Key of life’ by Stevie Wonder is one of them.

Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He was born six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder which was exacerbated when he received too much oxygen in an incubator, leading to blindness.

When Stevie Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved with her (at the time) three children to Detroit, Michigan, where Wonder sang as a child in a choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church.

He lost his sight as a newborn when he came into the world six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina. Receiving too much oxygen in the incubator likely worsened the condition for the tiny baby, leaving him blind.

Despite growing up in poverty and blind, this didn’t stop Stevie to live a full life and fulfill his dreams. He grew up to become one of the most recognized musicians of the 20th century and he is still active today.

He showed an early gift for music, first with a church choir in Detroit, Michigan, and later with a range of instruments, including the harmonica, piano and drums, all of which he taught himself before age 10.

In 1961, when aged 11, Wonder sang his own composition, “Lonely Boy”, to Ronnie White of the Miracles. White then took Wonder and his mother to an audition at Motown, where CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown’s label. Before signing, producer Clarence Paul gave him the name Little Stevie Wonder.

He made his recording debut at age 11, with the album “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie” including the single “Fingertips” written and composed by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby.

Lifelong blindness isn’t the only health issue that Wonder has battled. In 1973, he was in a near-death car crash when the sedan he was in collided with a truck. Wonder suffered a head injury and was in a coma for four days.

He has been married three times. First he was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their amicable divorce in 1972. From 2001 until 2012 he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard. In October 2009, Wonder and Millard divorced in August 2012. In 2017 he married Tomeeka Bracy.

Romantically he has been a busy man. He has nine children by five different women. The mother of Wonder’s first child is Yolanda Simmons, whom Wonder met when she applied for a job as secretary for his publishing company. Simmons gave birth to Wonder’s daughter Aisha Morris on February 2, 1975.] After Aisha was born, Wonder said “she was the one thing that I needed in my life and in my music for a long time”.Aisha was the inspiration for Wonder’s hit single “Isn’t She Lovely?”

She is now a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album A Time to Love. Wonder and Simmons also had a son, Keita, in 1977.

Stevie Wonder has been given a range of awards, both for his music and for his civil rights work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, being named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace, and earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

In December 2016, the City of Detroit recognized Wonder’s legacy by renaming a portion of his childhood street, Milwaukee Avenue West, between Woodward Avenue and Brush Street, as “Stevie Wonder Avenue”. He was also awarded an honorary key to the city, presented by Mayor Mike Duggan.

He has won 25 Grammy Awards, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He is one of only two artists and groups who have won the Grammy for Album of the Year three times as the main credited artist, along with Frank Sinatra. Wonder is the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.

Stevie Wonder has always been an inspiration to me especially in more recent times. In 2011 I lost my right eye and in 2015 I nearly lost my left eye too, luckily they were able to safe it , but for about 6 months I was blind.

Finishing up with one of my favourite tracks of the aforementioned album ‘Songs in the Key of Life” “Sir Duke”.

“Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands”

Happy Birthday Stevie

sources

https://www.biography.com/musician/stevie-wonder

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/aug/30/stevie-wonder-blind-black-disadvantage

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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