Laws against Jews in the Netherlands.

At their annual rally held in Nuremberg on September 15, 1935 Nazi party leaders announced, after the Reichstag had adopted them, new laws that institutionalized many of the racial theories underpinning Nazi ideology.

The so-called Nuremberg Laws, signed by Hitler and several other Nazi officials, were the cornerstone of the legalized persecution of Jews in Germany. They stripped German Jews of their German citizenship, barred marriage and “extramarital sexual intercourse” between Jews and other Germans, and barred Jews from flying the German flag, which would now be the swastika.

It would be less then 5 years later, when the Nazis introduced laws against Jews in the Netherlands.

In October 1940, only 5 months after the Germans invaded, a ban on ritual (kosher) slaughter was introduced. Additionally there were, removals of Jews from government employment, confiscations of radios. Jews were banned from recreational facilities, hotels, restaurants. Jews had to register with Dutch authorities by the deadline of January.

A great number of laws were to follow. The most cynical laws, at least that’s what I think, were the laws restricting the movements of Jews. In June 1942 Jews were forbidden to ride on public transportation such as buses and trams. Jews were given a residential curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. And one that may not seem like a harsh one, but anyone who knows the Netherlands knows the importance of the bicycles for the Dutch, On June 23 1942, Jews were required to turn in their bicycles.

The reason why I think these were cynical laws, is because they ensured that the Jews could not travel, therefore they had to remain near their home. This made it easier to find them and round them up during raids.

In a way I can understand why some Dutch turned a blind eye, I can understand it but don’t condone it. However one thing I can’t fathom is why some people did report their Jewish neighbours if they hadn’t turned in their bicycles. Neighbours they had lived next to for many years, and even had invited them into their house for coffee and cake. There was no punishment for not reporting Jews, yet so many were quite eager to betray their fellow citizens.

sources

https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/text/anti-jewish-measures-netherlands-and-belgium-between-1940-and-1944

https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/winter/nuremberg.html

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Fatebenefratelli Hospital & Syndrome K.

Initially Italy was an ally of Germany and the other axis powers. during World War 2.

By 1943, Italy’s military position had become untenable. Axis forces in North Africa were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in early 1943. Italy suffered major setbacks on the Eastern Front as well. The Allied invasion of Sicily brought the war to the nation’s very doorstep. The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill because raw materials, such as coal and oil, were lacking. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini’s once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage.

In July 1943, Allied troops landed in Sicily. Mussolini was overthrown and imprisoned by his former colleagues in the Fascist government. The Italian king replaced Mussolini as prime minister with Marshal Pietro Badoglio.

On September 8, 1943, Badoglio announced Italy’s unconditional surrender to the Allies. The Germans, who had grown suspicious of Italian intentions, quickly occupied northern and central Italy.

The 450-year-old Fatebenefratelli Hospital which is situated on a tiny island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River, just across from the Jewish Ghetto. When Nazis raided the area on Oct. 16, 1943, a handful of Jews fled to the Catholic hospital, where they were quickly given case files reading “Syndrome K.”

The name Syndrome K came from Dr. Adriano Ossicini, an anti-Fascist physician working at the hospital who knew they needed a way for the staff to differentiate which people were actually patients and which were Jews in hiding. Inventing a fake disease cut out all the confusion, when a doctor came in with a “Syndrome K” patient, everyone working there knew which steps to take. “Syndrome K was put on patient papers to indicate that the sick person wasn’t sick at all, but Jewish.

The name Syndrome K not only alerted hospital staff that the “patients” were actually Jewish refugees in good health but also served as a jab to their oppressors, specifically, Albert Kesselring and Herbert Kappler. Kesselring was a Nazi defensive strategist and the commander responsible for the Italian occupation, while Kappler was an SS colonel.

Hidden away in a separate ward of the facility, those “infected” with Syndrome K were instructed to cough and act sick in front of Nazi soldiers as they investigated Fatebenefratelli. The patients were said to be highly contagious, deterring Nazi officials from coming anywhere near the quarters they were being kept in. Nazi officials became terrified of contracting the mysterious illness, steering clear at all costs.

Credited mainly to doctors Sacerdoti, Borromeo, and Ossicini, the operation was only made possible with the help of the entire staff, who played along with the plan, knowing exactly what to do when confronted with an incoming patient diagnosed with Syndrome K..

“The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Vittorio Sacerdoti, a Jewish doctor working at the hospital under a false name, told the BBC in 2004. Another doctor orchestrating the life-saving lie was surgeon Giovani Borromeo.

Initially, the hospital was used as a hospice on the premises of the San Giovanni Calibita Church. Later, it was expanded into a modern hospital by Dr. Giovanni Borromeo, who joined in 1934, with the help of Father Maurizio Bialek.

Besides Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo, other doctors on staff assisted the Jewish patients and helped to move them to safer hideouts outside the hospital. In May 1944, the hospital was raided and five Jews from Poland were detained. However, the ruse saved dozens of lives.

Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo also installed an illegal radio transmitter in the hospital basement and made contact with General Roberto Lordi of the Italian Royal Air Force. After World War II, Borromeo was lauded by Government of Italy for his work and was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. He died in the hospital on 24 August 1961.

If only one person in the Hospital, be it patient or staff, had reported it to the Nazis, then without a shadow of a doubt, all of them would have been killed.

The combined efforts of Sacerdoti, Borromeo, Ossicini, and the entire hospital staff were only revealed 60 years later, and Borromeo specifically was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in October 2004, not only for his work with Syndrome K, but for transferring Jewish patients to the hospital from the ghetto long before the occupation of the Nazis.

The Fatebenefratelli Hospital was recognized as a shelter for victims of Nazi persecution, and was named a “House of Life” in June, 2016. The ceremony was attended by Ossicini, 96-years-old at the time, along with some of the very people that his heroic efforts had helped save six decades before.

Fatebenefratelli survivors embrace during a reunion at the hospital on June 21, 2016

Sources

https://qz.com/724169/an-italian-doctor-explains-syndrome-k-the-fake-disease-he-invented-to-save-jews-from-the-nazis/

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/93650/syndrome-k-fake-disease-fooled-nazis-and-saved-lives

https://allthatsinteresting.com/syndrome-k

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The Hero Gino Bartali

Gino Bartali won the Giro d’Italia 3 times, in 1936,1937 and 1946. He also won de Tour de France twice, the first time in 1938 and again in 1948. This alone would make him a sporting hero. Especially his 2nd Giro d’Italia win, when his younger brother, Giulio, died in a racing accident on 14 June.1936 Gino came close to giving up cycling.

I could fill the blog will all his efforts as a cyclist, but he also a Hero for a completely different reason. In facts with these heroic acts he risked his life every time.

Gino Bartali was born on July 18, 1914, in Ponte a Ema, a small village south of Florence, Italy. His father, Torello, was a day laborer. His mother helped support the family by working in the fields and embroidering lace. Gino had two older sisters, Anita and Natalina, and a younger brother, Giulio, who shared his passion for cycling and racing. Gino began to work at a young age, laboring on a farm and helping his mother with embroidery work.

Bartali was a devout Catholic. The summer of 1943 was a turning point for Italy. Mussolini was overthrown in July. In September, the new government signed an armistice with the Allies. Germany invaded the northern regions of the country, including Tuscany. With the German occupation, conditions for the Jewish population grew much worse.

Also in September 1943, Italian Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa asked to meet Bartali. Dalla Costa had been secretly aiding thousands of Jews seeking refuge from other European countries. The fugitives needed falsified identity cards. Dalla Costa shared his plan with Bartali. Under the cover of his long training rides, Bartali could carry counterfeit documents and photos in the hollow frame of his bike. The plan was a nearly perfect one as Bartali knew those roads well and his need to train provided an ideal alibi.

Under the pretense of training, Bartali would set off from his hometown of Florence with life-saving, counterfeit documents hidden away in his handlebars.

These fake identity documents would be used to help Jews escape across the border, or at least help hide their Jewish ethnicity if they were ever stopped and questioned. He would often ride as far as Assisi (over 100 miles one way), where many Jews were being hidden in Franciscan convents.

By taking on this role, he put himself at huge risk. At one point he was arrested and questioned by the head of the Fascist secret police in Florence, where he lived.

The Goldenberg family had met Gino Bartali in 1941 in Fiesole. Shlomo Goldenberg-Paz, who was 9 years old at the time, told Yad Vashem that he remembered a meeting with Bartali and his relative Armando Sizzi, who was a close family friend. The two sat with Shlomo’s father and had “a discussion of adults”. He remembered the event well because the renowned cyclist had given him a bicycle and a photo with a dedication, which Goldbenberg-Paz has always kept. In 1941 the conversation with Bartali could not have dealt with illegal papers, but meeting his childhood hero became engraved in Goldenberg’s memory.

When later on, following the German occupation in 1943, the Goldenbergs went into hiding, Shlomo was first sent to a convent, but then joined his parents who were hiding in an apartment in Florence belonging to Bartali. Gino Bartali helped and supported them. Goldenberg’s cousin, Aurelio Klein also fled to Florence because he had heard that one could obtain forged papers. He stayed in the apartment with the Goldenberg family for a short while, and then fled to Switzerland with the help of forged documents. Klein told Yad Vashem that Shlomo Goldenberg’s mother had received forged papers from Bartali, and that she was the only one in the family who dared set foot outside the apartment and go shopping.

For many years after the war, Bartali did not speak about his role in saving hundreds of people, sharing just a few details with his son Andrea. It was only after his death in 2000, that Bartali’s rescue activities came to light. In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali with the honor of Righteous Among the Nations.

On July 7, 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali as Righteous Among the Nations.

He had everything to lose. His story is one of the most dramatic examples during World War Two of an Italian willing to risk his own life to save the lives of strangers. We can do with a few heroes like Gino nowadays.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/gino-bartali

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27333310

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous-sportsmen/bartali.asp

https://www.bicycling.com/news/a27483888/cycling-school-gino-bartali/

Donation

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9/11 1941

The picture above is an arrest card of Meijer Barmhartigheid. He was one of the 389 young Jewish man who were arrested during raid in Amsterdam on February 22 and 23 ,1941.

Of those 389 only 2 survived the Holocaust. 100 of them were murdered in the Hartheim clinic, which was also the clinic used for the T4 program.

Meijer Barmhartigheid was gassed on August 14,1941 at the Hartheim clinic. But the Nazis couldn’t even be honest about that. They had registered his death on September 11,1941 in Mauthausen, 80 years ago today.

Barmhartigheid is the Dutch word for merciful. Meijer did not get a merciful death.

I can only assume that they changed the date and the location of the murder due to the fact that the T4 program officially ended in August 1941, although unofficially the program kept going to nearly the las day of the war.

Hitler’s cousin Aloisia Velt was also one of the T4 victims.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/204397/meijer-barmhartigheid#intro

https://www.amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief/themasites/razzia/meijer-barmhartigheid/

Happy Birthday Aron Polak

Aron would have been 80 today, but he didn’t even get to the age of 2. He was born in Amsterdam on September 8, 1941. He was murdered in Sobibor March 26,1943.

The fact that he was murdered at such a young age is not even the saddest part of his story. There was actually a change he could have survived.

Aron’s Father, Joseph, was sent to Westerbork, I am not sure on what date, bur sometime after November 1941. After that Aron’s Mother, Lena, went into hiding with Aron. She moved several times. Eventually she stayed with Family but due to tensions Lena decided to voluntarily report herself and Aron to Westerbork.

Lena actually believed that her Husband had a job in Westerbork, sorting out gold and silver. She probably thought that he could provide for his family, even in Westerbork.

Lena and her son Aron eventually reported themselves voluntarily in Westerbork on 27 February 1943. They stayed in barrack 72 and on the 1st of March, Joseph was also in that barrack. On March 23,1943, , the Polak family was deported to Sobibor and on arrival there on 26 March 1943 immediately sent to the gas chambers, and were murdered.

What is so disturbing about this, is that the Nazis somehow created the illusion that even when you were sent to Westerbork, there was a chance of a reasonable normal life.

As for young Aron, I will be looking up to the sky tonight, imagining he is one of the stars I will see. Happy Birthday little man, you were a star to your parents, and you are a star for all of us. A beacon to remind us of what you went through.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/649374/het-lot-van-lena-barend-haar-man-joseph-polak-en-hun-zoontje-aron.

https://geheugenvanoost.amsterdam/page/26420/geen-afscheid

Children murdered on September 6, 1944.

I was going to do a piece on Ursula Gerson, who was murdered in Auschwitz on September 6,1944 aged 8. But then I saw there were more Dutch Jewish children and Jewish refugees, who fled Germany and Austria with their parents, who were murdered that day.

Duifje Gans. murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11

Mirjam Lisette Katz, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Heijman Karel Franken, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 10.

Jeanette Regina Schenk, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mary Winnik, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mietje Judith Moscou, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11.

Samuel Groenteman, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 6.

Karel Jacobs, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 13.

These are only a few. There were at least327 Dutch Jews whose death were registered on September 6,1944.About 30 % or so were children

I was wondering why there were so many on that specific date.Then it dawned on me. They were all on the last transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz, which left the Netherlands on September 3,1944. Anne Frank and her family were also on that transport.

I know that I will have nightmares tonight with the faces of these poor souls haunting me, but it will be worth it. There fate and names should never be forgotten.

source

Coping by using humour.

A few years ago , on the 22nd of June 2016, to be precise I wrote a blog titled “Holocaust and Humour” . I got a lot of criticism for that. The thing I found extraordinary the criticism didn’t come from people who read the blog, but only from people who read the title.

I didn’t mean to disrespect any of the Holocaust victims and survivors, the opposite was true. I wanted to show my deepest respect because despite all the horrors so many still had a sense of humour.

This blog is also meant as a way of expressing my deepest respect for all Holocaust victims and survivors.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the German constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Through decrees and laws, the Nazis abolished these civil rights and destroyed German democracy. Starting in 1934, it was illegal to criticize the Nazi government. Even telling a joke about Hitler was considered treachery. People in Nazi Germany could not say or write whatever they wanted.

The Treachery Act of 1934 was a German law established by the Third Reich on 20 December 1934. Known as the Heimtückegesetz, its official title was the “Law against Treacherous Attacks on the State and Party and for the Protection of Party Uniforms” (Gesetz gegen heimtückische Angriffe auf Staat und Partei und zum Schutz der Parteiuniformen). It established penalties for the abuse of Nazi Party badges and uniforms, restricted the right to freedom of speech, and criminalized all remarks causing putative severe damage to the welfare of the Third Reich, the prestige of the Nazi government or the Nazi Party. Anyone ,regardless if you were Jewish or Non Jewish, could face the death penalty for breaking this law.

Father Josef Müller, a Catholic priest, was executed for telling some of his parishioners the following story:

A fatally wounded German soldier asked his chaplain to grant one final wish. “Place a picture of Hitler on one side of me, and a picture of Goering on the other side. That way I can die like Jesus, between two thieves.”

The indictment against Müller called this joke “one of the most vile and most dangerous attacks directed on our confidence in our Führer. . . . It is a betrayal of the people, the Führer, and the Reich.”

I just love it how some Jewish people defied the Nazi regime and coped with the horrors of the Holocaust by using humour.

In some of the the ghettos, Hitler’s self proclaimed “masterpiece” was referred to as Mein Krampf (My Cramp). His ides of the “Master Race” was the subject of many jokes. These are just a few of them.

“There are two kinds of Aryan, Non Aryan and Barb-Aryan”

“Aryan, blond like Hitler, slender like Goering and tall like Goebbels”

Cutting the hair of the prisoners was one of the ways the Nazis tried to dehumanize their victims. It was like taking away their dignity and a sense of identity. But even that act did not stop some women to cope with it in a humorous way. This is just an anecdote on how one woman coped with the ordeal.

“When they cut our hair in Auschwitz, that was something terrible. After they cut off my hair, suddenly I saw some of my girlfriends (as in female friends) who I had known for a very long time, many cried. They cried after long hair and then I started laughing and they asked ‘What, are you out of your mind, what are you laughing about? ‘ I said’ This I never had before, a hairdo for free? Never in my whole life’ And I still remember how they looked at me, they looked at me as if I was crazy”

Another anecdote from a survivor was in relation to the transport on the trains.

“This whole situation, they shoved us into those trains. It was like cattle, it was something awful inside the train. When we have just arrived in Auschwitz everybody ran to the window, to see something, but you couldn’t. The window had shutters, a small window. I also wanted to see where we were. Then a girl friend asked ‘what do you want to see so badly?’. I said: ‘I simply want to see the conductor, ’cause I don’t have a ticket, I want to see when he comes in…’

I have quite a good sense of humour myself, albeit sometimes a bit on the dark side and filled with sarcasm, and I have used in many tragic episodes in my life. However I don’t know if I would have the courage to use humour if I was faced with the horrors of the Holocaust.

sources

file:///C:/Users/Dirk/Downloads/Laughter%20in%20a%20Time%20of%20Tragedy_%20Examining%20Humor%20during%20the%20Holocau%20(1).pdf

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-propaganda-and-censorship

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Remembering Isaias(Sjakie) Degen

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for his breakthrough work in science.

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for a great book he wrote.

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for a great painting he painted.

I wish I could say that Sjakie Degen was the Sjakie mentioned in the Dutch song “Sjakie van de hoek” Sjakie from the corner, the mischievous boy who broke a window by kicking a ball through it.

But none of that would be true, Sjakie Degen was just a boy.

He was born on December 13.1939 the first born son of Loutje and Beppie Degen and was nearly 3 1/2 years old, when he and his parents were registered in Camp Westerbork on 23 March 1943. He stayed with his parents for a few days in barrack 60. They were all deported on the 6th April to Sobibor. Upon arrival there on 9 April 1943, Sjakie and his parents were murdered in the gas chambers the very same day.

So all I can say about Sjakie is that he was murdered 25 years and 1 day before I was born.

He had brother who survived.

source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/562959/about-isaias-sjakie-degen

T4

September 1,1939 is well known for the German invasion of Poland, triggering World War 2. However it is less known as the date that the official killing of disabled people was made law, albeit it under the guise of euthanasia.

It was only 5 lines which determined the fate of hundreds of thousands.

“Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr. med. Brandt are hereby instructed and authorized to broaden the powers of designated physicians to the extent that persons who are suffering from diseases which may be deemed incurable according to standards of human judgment based on a careful examination of their condition shall be guaranteed a mercy death.”

— Adolf Hitler, Memorandum Authorizing Involuntary Euthanasia, Berlin, 1 September 1939.”

It is of course easy to put all the blame on the Nazi regime, however something which is often overlooked is that the 1st victim was on request by the parents of the child. He was actually killed prior to the law being enacted.

Gerhard Kretschmar was born in Pomssen, a village south-east of Leipzig. His parents were Richard Kretschmar, a farm labourer, and his wife Lina Kretschmar. Schmidt describes them as “ardent Nazis.” Gerhard was born blind, with either no legs or one leg, and with one arm. (The original medical records are lost, and second-hand accounts vary.) He was also subject to convulsions. Brandt later testified that the child was also “an idiot”, although how this was determined is not stated.

Richard Kretschmar took the newborn Gerhard to Dr Werner Catel, a pediatrician at the University Children’s Clinic in Leipzig, and asked that his son be “put to sleep.” Catel told him that this would be illegal. Kretschmar then wrote directly to Hitler, asking that he investigate the case and overrule the law that prevented “This Monster” (as he described his child) from being killed. As was usual with such petitions, it was referred to Hitler’s private secretariat (the Kanzlei des Führers), headed by Philipp Bouhler. There it was seen by Hans Hefelman, head of Department IIb, which dealt with petitions. Hefelman and Bouhler showed the petition to Hitler, aware of his frequently expressed support for the “mercy killing” of people with severe disabilities.

Hitler summoned Karl Brandt, one of his personal physicians, and sent him to Leipzig to investigate the Kretschmar case. Hitler told Brandt that if Gerhard Kretschmar’s condition was indeed as described in Richard Kretschmar’s petition, then he, Hitler, authorised Brandt to have Gerhard killed, in consultation with the local doctors, and if any legal action were taken, it would be thrown out of court. In Leipzig, Brandt examined the child and consulted with Catel and another physician, Dr. Helmut Kohl.He also went to Pomssen and saw the Kretschmars. When Brandt informed the Leipzig doctors of Hitler’s instructions, they agreed that Gerhard Kretschmar should be killed, although they knew this was illegal.

The Pomssen church register says that Gerhard Kretschmar died at Pomssen of “heart weakness” on 25 July. He was buried in the Lutheran churchyard three days later. Although no medical records exist, and although the testimony of Brandt and Catel after the war was contradictory and evasive, Schmidt believes that Gerhard was killed in the Leipzig clinic with an injection of a common drug such as luminal, and that the church register was falsified to conceal this fact.

In Dr. Ewald Melzer’s 1923 survey of the parents of the disabled children in his care, they were asked: “Would you agree definitely to a painless shortcut of your child’s life, after it is determined by experts that it is incurably stupid?” The results, which surprised Melzer, were published in 1925: 73 percent responded they were willing to have their children killed if they weren’t told about it.

Of course the T4 program allowed the Nazis to get rid of anyone they deemed unfit for life. In reality that could be anyone, Political opponents, Jews, Roma even people with the slightest disability. I would probably have been a victim, being half blind and having Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The scary part though is that we have not learned from the mistakes of the past. In several countries eugenic laws, not unlike-although not as extreme- are currently quite common.

sources

https://www.jstor.org/stable/41345169

https://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/tree/517305eaeed5c60000000029

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Kretschmar

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/12/the-last-children-of-down-syndrome/616928/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/

https://apnews.com/article/e1731db26be41810f79e7e148d087a04

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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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