German President Joachim Gauck on Friday visited a former workshop whose owner fought to save his Jewish staff from deportation, as Germany began marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht anti-Jewish pogrom.
AFP reported that Gauck joined a Jewish former employee to visit the premises, now a museum in central Berlin, where Otto Weidt ran his brushes and brooms workshop, mostly staffed by deaf and blind Jews.
The president described Weidt’s workshop as an “islet of humanity” showing there was always a choice even in difficult times to do good and follow one’s conscience.
Weidt provided false papers or hid his Jewish staff from the Nazis.
Among the non-blind or deaf employees was Inge Deutschkron, 91, a journalist and writer, who avoided deportation with his help and accompanied Gauck on the museum visit.
Weidt was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel in 1971.
“When the deportations began, Weidt, utterly fearless, fought with Gestapo officials over the fate of every single Jewish worker,” the website of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial says.
Throughout the weekend, commemorations will be held to mark the attacks of November 9 and 10, 1938, when Nazi thugs plundered Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torched synagogues and rounded up about 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps.
At least 90 Jews were killed in ‘The Night of Broken Glass’, which historians say ushered in the start of the Nazis’ drive to wipe out European Jewry.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently called Kristallnacht “one of the darkest moments in German history.”
Merkel urged Germans to be vigilant to the dangers of anti-Semitism, calling on “all the people in this country to show their civil courage and ensure that no form of anti-Semitism is tolerated.”
Meanwhile, a new survey published Friday found that anti-Semitism has worsened in Europe in the past few years with abuse increasingly widespread on the Internet.
The study found that 66 percent of European Jews considered anti-Semitism “a fairly big or very big” problem in their country.
A total of 76 percent said anti-Semitism had worsened in the past five years, with abuse especially prevalent on the Internet, where social media and file-sharing websites allowed anti-Semitism to travel around even faster than before.
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