The caring side of WWII- A glimmer of Hope

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It wasn’t only doom and gloom during WWII. Occasionally there were moments of hope and care. Amidst the darkest and horrific era of human history, humanity shone through.

I will leave the pictures do the talking, most of these were taken around D-Day.

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There is always time for a drink.

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And chocolate

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New hope and new life

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Time for a sing song and entertainment.

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Picnic

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Actors dressed as cowboys as part of the Canadian Army Invasion Revue in Banville on July 30, 1944. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives of Canada)

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Pfc Joseph E. Day (of Belloire, Ohio) holds a puppy named “Invasion” in a German helmet. Photo taken on July 14, 1944.

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Gratitude

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Paule M. Truffert among civilians in Cherbourg. According to LIFE, she was the only girl in town who spoke English.

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A woman stretches to give a bottle of water to a member of the 4th US Armored Division as they cross Le Repas

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Members of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, Sergeant T.F Mc Feat and Private J. Viner, administer plasma to a victim.

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The Diary of Mary Berg(Miriam Wattenberg)

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Mary Berg lived in the Warsaw Ghetto, but her situation was very unusual. Though she was born in Poland, her mother was an American, so her ultimate fate was different from most of her neighbors. Jews with American citizenship could possibly be exchanged for German prisoners of war, so they had a unique value to their captors. While 300,000 of her fellow Jews were deported to their deaths, she and her family were held in Pawiak Prison, pending the transfer that would eventually bring them to the U.S.

From a window, she could see the columns of people heading down the street to the trains that would take them to Treblinka. She later wrote, “We, who have been rescued from the ghetto, are ashamed to look at each other. Had we the right to save ourselves? Here everything smells of sun and flowers and there—there is only blood, the blood of my own people.”

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Mary lived in the Warsaw Ghetto for almost two years. Although she came from a wealthy, privileged family, she was a sensitive observer who recorded the terrible ordeal of life in the ghetto with true feeling for her fellow sufferers, especially for those who were less fortunate.

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This took a psychological toll on her, even invading her dreams.  On July 10th, 1941 she wrote, “I am full of dire forebodings. During the last few nights, I have had terrible nightmares. I saw Warsaw drowning in blood; together with my sisters and my parents, I walked over prostrate corpses. I wanted to flee, but could not, and awoke in a cold sweat, terrified and exhausted. The golden sun and the blue sky only irritate my shaken nerves.”

In January 1943, her family was sent to an internment camp in France, where they awaited a prisoner exchange that would allow them to flee. Their journey to freedom began March 1, 1944, when they boarded a train for Lisbon. There, they boarded the ocean liner SS Gripsholm for the voyage to America. Her memoir, Warsaw Ghetto, describes her years in Pawiak.She arrived in the United States in March 1944, at the age of 19. Her memoir was serialized in American newspapers in 1944, making it one of the earliest accounts of the Holocaust to be written in English, Published under the penname “Mary Berg”

Mary was not guilty for wanting to live, but she undoubtedly felt compromised by the struggle to survive. Freedom did not entirely lift this burden, but she believed that her ghetto diary/memoir might do some good for others. When she arrived in the U.S. in 1944, some of Europe’s Jews were still alive. Saving them might be possible, but only if their plight was publicized. This was her motivation for helping to get her account published. In the end, she became uncomfortable with the celebrity that accompanied her book, and she dropped out of public view.

She dies on 1 April 2013 aged 88.

Royal Gas proof Baby Buggies.

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As the threat of war increased in Europe in August 1939, the Dutch army was placed at a heightened state of alertness. In early 1940, as a precautionary measure, the firm of Kiekens built two gasproof baby buggies as protection against the possibility of a poisonous attack. This one for the then two-year-old Dutch Princess Beatrix and another for her younger sister Princess Irene.

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On 12 May, two days after the German invasion, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard fled with their two baby daughters to the harbour town of IJmuiden ,in the Netherlands, in a bulletproof car An English warship was waiting there to take them to safety. A day later, Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government also arrived safely ashore in Great Britain. The gasproof buggies remained behind in the Netherlands.

Royal Pram Pusher

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Twilight Zone fatal accident

 

 

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On this day in 1982, Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, are killed in an accident involving a helicopter during filming on the California set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Morrow, age 53, and the children, ages six and seven, were shooting a Vietnam War battle scene in which they were supposed to be running from a pursuing helicopter.

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The film featured four sequences, one of which was based on a 1961 Twilight Zone episode, “A Quality of Mercy.” In the script, character Bill Connor (Morrow) is a bigot who travels back in time to suffer through various eras of persecution, such as Nazi-occupied Europe and the racial segregation of the American South during the mid-20th century. He then finds himself in the midst of the Vietnam War, where he decides to protect some Vietnamese children from American troops.

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Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims.

 

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The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.

Twilight Zone co-director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Animal House) and four other men working on the film, including the special-effects coordinator and the helicopter pilot, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. According to a 1987 New York Times report, it was the first time a film director faced criminal charges for events that occurred while making a movie. During the subsequent trial, the defense maintained the crash was an accident that could not have been predicted while the prosecution claimed Landis and his crew had been reckless and violated laws regarding child actors, including regulations about their working conditions and hours. Following the emotional 10-month trial, a jury acquitted all five defendants in 1987. The familes of the three victims filed lawsuits against Landis, Warner Brothers and Twilight Zone co-director and producer Steven Spielberg that were settled for undisclosed amounts.

 

Landis’s career was not significantly affected by the incident, although he said in 1996: “There was absolutely no good aspect about this whole story. The tragedy, which I think about every day, had an enormous impact on my career, from which it may possibly never recover.”

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Film director Steven Spielberg, who co-produced the film with Landis, broke off their friendship following the accident.Spielberg said that the crash had “made me grow up a little more” and had left everyone who worked on the movie “sick to the center of our souls.” With regard to how the crash had influenced people’s attitudes towards safety, he said: “No movie is worth dying for. I think people are standing up much more now than ever before to producers and directors who ask too much. If something isn’t safe, it’s the right and responsibility of every actor or crew member to yell, ‘Cut!’

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Twilight Zone: The Movie opened on June 24, 1983 and received mixed reviews.

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The start of deportation to Treblinka

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On this day in 1942, the systematic deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto begins, as thousands are rounded up daily and transported to a newly constructed concentration/extermination camp at Treblinka, in Poland.

On July 17, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS, arrived at Auschwitz, the concentration camp in eastern Poland, in time to watch the arrival of more than 2,000 Dutch Jews and the gassing of almost 500 of them, mostly the elderly, sick and very young.

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The next day, Himmler promoted the camp commandant, Rudolph Hoess, to SS major and ordered that the Warsaw ghetto (the Jewish quarter constructed by the Nazis upon the occupation of Poland, enclosed first by barbed wire and then by brick walls), be depopulated–a “total cleansing,” as he described it–and the inhabitants transported to what was to become a second extermination camp constructed at the railway village of Treblinka, 62 miles northeast of Warsaw.

Treblinka was an extermination camp,built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.It was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of the Treblinka train station in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship.

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The camp operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were killed in its gas chambers,along with 2,000 Romani people.More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz.

Within the first seven weeks of Himmler’s order, more than 250,000 Jews were taken to Treblinka by rail and gassed to death, marking the largest single act of destruction of any population group, Jewish or non-Jewish, civilian or military, in the war. Upon arrival at “T. II,” as this second camp at Treblinka was called, prisoners were separated by sex, stripped, and marched into what were described as “bathhouses,” but were in fact gas chambers. T. II’s first commandant was Dr. Irmfried Eberl, age 32, the man who had headed up the euthanasia program of 1940 and had much experience with the gassing of victims, especially children.

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He compelled several hundred Ukrainian and about 1,500 Jewish prisoners to assist him. They removed gold teeth from victims before hauling the bodies to mass graves. Eberl was relieved of his duties for “inefficiency.” It seems that he and his workers could not remove the corpses quickly enough, and panic was occurring within the railway cars of newly arrived prisoners.

In 1944 he joined the Wehrmacht for the remainder of the war. After the war ended, Eberl continued to practise medicine in Blaubeuren. He found himself a widower following his second wife’s death. Eberl was arrested in January 1948, and hanged himself the following month to avoid trial.

The Circus that saved a Jewish family

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I stumbled across this story by accident. I was actually doing research on a Jerry Lewis movie called “The Day the Clown Cried “The film was met with controversy regarding its premise and content, which features a circus clown who is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Lewis has repeatedly insisted that The Day the Clown Cried would never be released because it is an embarrassingly “bad work” that he is ashamed of..

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In Europe, circuses used to travel across national borders, spending weeks moving through forests and little-used trails, and then set up shop in small villages. During the direst parts of World War II, villagers would flock to see the circus–especially in Germany. “Even during the Third Reich, a traveling circus meant a diversion from the daily drudgery of work.

Adolf Althoff, the young heir of the famous Althoff circus, with a family tradition reaching back to the 17th century, directed the circus during the Nazi period. The circus continued its regular activity throughout the war years, traveling from one place to another.

He was born into the family in Sonsbeck, Germany. At age 17 he became publicity director for his families of the circus.

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In his twenties Althoff and his sister formed their own circus, of which he was the ringmaster for 30 years. In 1940, Althoff began five years work in concealing four members of the Danner performing family in his circus. Althoff provided the Danners with false identity papers and had the family working under pseudonyms.

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In the summer of 1941, the circus stopped for a prolonged round of performances at a camp site near Darmstadt in Hesse. One of the visitors at the site was a young girl by the name of Irene Danner. She was a descendant through her mother’s side of the Lorches, a celebrated German-Jewish circus dynasty that had settled in the small town of Eschollbrücken near Darmstadt in the 19th century.

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Although he was well aware of her Jewish descent, Althoff agreed to engage Irene, a gifted acrobat in her own right, in his circus under an assumed name. She soon fell in love with another circus artist, the young Peter Storm-Bento, also a member of a famous family of acrobats and clowns from Belgium. In 1942, the persecution of the Jews of Darmstadt entered a new, lethal phase. On March 20, the first deportation to Lublin in Poland took place, which was followed by the next two deportations in September 1942 and in February 1943.

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Irene Danner’s beloved grandmother was among the deportees, but her mother and sister could still escape in time to make it to Althoff’s circus camp, where they were received with open arms. They were later joined by Irene’s Aryan father, who was granted a temporary release from the army on the pretext of arranging a divorce from his Jewish wife. Harboring four illegals during the war years was at best a high-risk undertaking, although the camp’s relative seclusion did afford some protection from inquisitive eyes.

The Althoff couple had to reckon with the ever-present possibility of a denunciation by one or another disgruntled worker. The threat actually materialized once, but the wily circus director, who had been tipped off in advance by a good friend, knew how to distract the Gestapo officers’ attention with a drink or two, giving the illegals extra time to disappear for a while. The Althoffs also saw to it that Irene received proper medical care during her two births. This was especially complicated because they were both Caesarean sections. The Althoffs assumed this risk as a matter of course, without requesting any material remuneration, even though they had never met either Irene Danner or her family before the war. 

Althoff warned the people he rescued with the code Go Fishing.

On January 2, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Adolf and Maria Althoff as Righteous Among the Nations.

Hedy Lamarr- WiFi during WWII

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For most of the late 1930s and ’40s, Hedy Lamarr was just your average world-famous actress who appeared in countless films alongside the likes of Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable — and also invented a critically important military technology in her spare time.

She had a room in her house that was dedicated to tinkering, inventing, and just figuring out whatever she wanted!

Unbeknownst to many who saw her on screen, Lamarr was a passionate inventor — and, as an Austrian immigrant, an ardent Nazi despiser. Working with composer George Antheil, Lamarr discovered an ingenious method of preventing enemy ships from jamming American torpedoes by making radio signals jump between frequencies, rather than stay on a single channel.

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As a foreigner, a non-member of the military, and a woman, Lamarr’s invention went largely ignored until the 1960s, when some dude scientists unearthed it and put it to use during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and probably took all the credit for it at parties). It’s also basically the reason we have things like GPS, Bluetooth, and advanced guided missile technology.

Before Hedy became a famous movie star, she was married to an Austrian military arms merchant. And while her arms-dealing husband was chatting about weapons . Hedy was listening. So when she got fed up with hearing about all the crappy news of the war, she called upon her own talents to make a difference.

So she teamed up with George Antheil, a pianist and composer, and they came up with a solution.

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If it looks a bit like piano music, you’d be on track. Using a player-piano mechanism, they created a radio system that could jump frequencies, making it essentially jam-proof.

Lamarr and Antheil got a patent for their idea in 1942, in the middle of Hedy’s career as a Hollywood star!

And even though the U.S. military didn’t use the technology until the ’60s, the work they did laid the foundation for the complex radio communications that are behind cellphones, Wi-Fi, satellite tech, and more.

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A letter to God-The children of La Maison d’Izieu.

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I have seen so many gruesome images of the Holocaust, but for some reason the pictures of these smiling and playing children touche me more then any other. For I know none of them survived, the only crime they committed was being a child.

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On the morning of 6 April 1944, members of the Lyon Gestapo who had been tipped off by an informant carried out a raid on the children’s home in Izieu and arrested everyone there.  44 children aged 4-17, and seven staff members who had been taking care of them, were incarcerated in the prison in Lyon, and were deported to Drancy the following day.  The deportation order was issued by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo in Lyon.  Barbie reported the arrest of the children  and adults at the children’s home in a telegram that he sent to Paris. During the children’s detention in Lyon, the Germans discovered the whereabouts of some of their family members, who were also then taken to Drancy and later deported to their deaths in Auschwitz.

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During the raid on Izieu, Leon Reifman, a medical student who took care of the sick children, managed to escape and hide in a nearby farm.  His sister, Dr. Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who was the children’s home doctor, his parents, Eva and Moisz-Moshe and his nephew, Claude Lavan-Reifman also lived in the home.  They were all murdered at Auschwitz.  Miron Zlatin, Sabine Zlatin’s husband who ran the children’s home with her, was deported on 15 May, together with two of the older boys from the children’s home, to Estonia, where they were all shot to death.

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By the end of June 1944, all the children and adults caught in Izieu had been deported from Drancy.  Most were sent to Auschwitz, including all the children and five of the adults, among them Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who refused to be parted from her son Claude, and was sent together with him to the gas chambers.

Léa Feldblum, one of the care-takers, had false papers that enabled her to evade the deportation to Auschwitz, but she chose to reveal her true identity while in Drancy, in order to stay with the children.  Feldblum survived Auschwitz and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1946.

One of the children of La Maison d’Izieu was eleven-year-old Liliane Gerenstein. Lilliane and her brother were sent to their deaths a few days after she wrote this letter to God:

“God? How good You are, how kind and if one had to count the number of goodnesses and kindnesses You have done, one would never finish.

God? It is You who command. It is You who are justice, it is You who reward the good and punish the evil.

God? It is thanks to You that I had a beautiful life before, that I was spoiled, that I had  lovely things that others do not have.

God? After that, I ask You one thing only: Make my parents come back, my poor parents protect them (even more than You protect me) so that I can see them again as soon as possible.

Make them come back again. Ah! I had such a good mother and such a good father! I have such faith in You and I thank You in advance.”

In 1987, Klaus Barbie was put on trial in France, and convicted of crimes against humanity.  He was sentenced to life-imprisonment.  Testifying at the trial, Laja Feldblum-Klepten said:

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“It is my duty to testify against Klaus Barbie in the name of my 44 children who were murdered at Auschwitz, because every night they appear before my very eyes

A small step for man

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on moon,

July 1969. It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket

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Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

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At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit.

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” – in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’scomputer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

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Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.'”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

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Anton Schmid- Austrian Hero.

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Anton Schmid (January 9, 1900 in Vienna, Austria – April 13, 1942 in Vilnius, Lithuania) was an Austrian conscript to the Wehrmacht in World War II who, as a sergeant (feldwebel) in Vilnius, Lithuania, was executed by his superiors for helping 250 Jewish men, women, and children escape from extermination by the Nazi SS ] He did this by hiding them and supplying them with false ID papers.

Anton Schmid was born in Vienna in 1900. He owned a radio shop was married with one daughter. When the Second World War broke out he was drafted into the German army (in 1938 Austria became part of Germany and therefore all Austrians were now German citizens).

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He served first in Poland, and after the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 in the newly occupied territories. Schmid was stationed in Vilna, and put in charge of the Versprengten-Sammelstelle – the army unit responsible for reassigning soldiers who had been separated from their units. His headquarters were situated in the Vilna railway station, and like all the people in the area, he became witness to the persecution and murder of the Jews. Soon rumors spread in the ghetto that an Austrian soldier was being friendly towards Jews. It was Schmid who used every possibility to help the Jews. He employed them as workers for his military unit, provided papers to some, got others released from the infamous Lukiski prison.

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He used his army trucks to transfer them to less dangerous places, and went as far as to shelter Jews in his apartment and office.

Herman Adler and his wife Anita were members of the Zionist movement in Vilna. When Adler was in danger, Schmid arranged a hiding place for the couple at his home. At Adler’s request Schmid met with one of the leaders of the Dror pioneer movement, Mordechai Tenenbaum-Tamarof. A special relationship was forged between the Wehrmacht soldier and the Jewish Zionist activist. Schmid began to help the Jewish underground.

Schmid repeatedly used military vehicles to smuggle Jews from Vilna, where danger seemed to be greater at that time, to other places where there was relative quiet; he took members of the resistance movement from Vilna to Bialystok and even to Warsaw; he facilitated contact between the Jewish underground groups in various locations, passing messages and transferring activists. In October 1941 in an attempt to reduce the Jewish population of Vilna, the Germans distributed 3,000 yellow colored permits to expert workers. Each permit protected its owner and three members of his family, and all the remaining Jews – those without permits – were  to be killed. Schmid made sure that his Jewish workers got as many permits as possible, and helped smuggle the others out of Vilna.

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On 31 December 1941 Schmid hosted the leadership of the Dror Jewish underground in his apartment to mark the New Year. He used the occasion to once again express his repulsion towards Nazism. Tenenbaum, also present, responded that when the Jewish State would come into being after the war, it would honor Schmid for his help to the Jews. Schmid replied that he would wear that award with pride. Regrettably, both men did not live to see the end of the war, the establishment of the State of Israel and the Jewish State’s recognition of Schmid’s heroism.

As time went on, Schmid’s exploits got bolder. He was warned by Tenembaum that knowledge about his help to the Jews had widely spread and that he was in grave danger. But Schmid persisted and went on helping the persecuted Jews. He was to pay for his humanity with his life. In the second half of January 1942 he was arrested and court-martialed for high treason. After being found guilty, he was executed in April 1942.

Before his execution he wrote a letter to his wife from his prison cell – “I only acted as a human being and desired doing harm to no one.”

Only two letters of his have been preserved as the only written testimonial of his motives. In one letter to his wife Stefi, Schmid described after his arrest his horror at the sight of mass murder and of children being beaten on the way:

“I will tell you how this came about: there were many Jews here, who were rounded up by the Lithuanian militia and were shot in a field outside of the City, always around 2,000 to 3,000 people. The children were already killed on the way by bashing them against trees. You can only imagine.”

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It was not only Schmid who suffered the consequences of his humane and brave conduct. After her husband’s execution, Schmid’s widow and daughter suffered abuse from their neighbors for his alleged treachery. In those days there was wide popular support of Nazism. It is only many years after the war that a street in Vienna was named after Schmid.

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In 1964 – over twenty years after Schmid’s execution and Tenebaum’s death in the Bialystok ghetto uprising – Tenenbaum’s promise to Schmid was fulfilled. Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Anton Schmid.