CALMEYER, HANS-GEORG° (1903–1972), German official in World War II and Righteous Among the Nations. Born in Osnabrueck, Germany, Calmeyer was a lawyer by profession. During World War II he headed a section in the Interior Department of the German occupation administration in the Netherlands, dealing with cases arising out of the *Nuremberg Laws; more specifically, deciding on questionable racial cases, such as the racial status of persons claiming a semi-Jewish origin of one sort or another. His is an example of one of the greatest feats in the art of deception practiced by a German official in a high position in the attempt to save as many Jews as possible from deportation. Of the 4,787 cases brought to his attention, he decided that 42% were to be considered half-Jews (mischlinge 1st degree), and another 18% one-quarter Jews (mischlinge 2nd degree) – a total of 60%, who thus were exempt from deportation until a later period, as late as the conclusion of the war. In disregard of racial guidelines to which he claimed to conform, he made decisions on the basis of the flimsiest of evidence, such as classifying a person as semi-Jewish only on the basis of a claim that the person's real father was a Dutch non-Jew (i.e., Aryan) with whom his mother had an illicit out-of-wedlock liaison. Similarly, a person claiming non-Jewish parentage based on records only available in far-distant Dutch colonies (such as Indonesia), where the claimant was born, and which were not accessible due to prevailing war conditions in the Pacific area, was declared non- or only semi-Jewish and exempt from deportation. In these attempts to save as many Jews as possible, he was seconded by several trustworthy Dutch attorneys, who helped draw up false credentials, and German aides in his own section, such as Gerhard Wander (who later joined the Dutch underground and was killed during a shootout with the Gestapo in Amsterdam). The SS leadership in the Netherlands was highly suspicious of Calmeyer's work and his high-handed and dubious methods in such a vital issue to them (which in Germany was the special reserve of Hitler), and constantly urged the Nazi governor *Seyss-Inquart to cease Calmeyer's operation. The governor, for reasons of his own (to secure his "territorial" domain in an occupied country against SS encroachments), permitted Calmeyer to continue his operation but cautioned him to bring it to a swift conclusion. Disregarding this instruction, and playing for time, Calmeyer added more names to his special list, and in addition tried to extend his protective umbrella over other categories of persons, such as Jews who had performed significant services to the State. The most prominent case, involving a large group of persons whom Calmeyer tried to assist, was that of the Portuguese Jewish community, which numbered several thousand and which, in desperation to avoid deportation, claimed to be of non-Semitic origin (a race genealogist whom they consulted concluded that they were of Iberian stock), and therefore by the Nazi racial definition not linked to Jews and the bitter fate awaiting them. Calmeyer upheld their case, but was overruled by Nazi race "experts" who after much procrastination decided that the Portuguese of "Mosaic faith" were no less Jewish than their brethren of East European origin. In the end, Calmeyer was able to save a total of 2,900 lives. To cover his tracks, he had to decline petitions for racial reclassification when these were not corroborated by evidence satisfactory to the eyes of inquisitive and suspicious Nazi inspectors. Historian Jacob Presser, writes of him: "Though he knew that many Jews were trying to pull the wool over his eyes, he nevertheless let all of them go unpunished…. He went to endless trouble to prove helpful to all petitioners. There is no doubt that hundreds of Jews owe their lives to him…. If an absolutely hopeless petition was presented to him, he would do his utmost to look for a possible loophole…. He once described his position as that of a doctor in a lonely post, cut off from the outside world and left with a mere 50 vials of medicine for the treatment of 5,000 critical cases…. Since he could not save all, he did what he could for the few. Jews claiming to be the illegitimate offspring of non-Jewish fathers had become so much the fashion that it proved quite impossible for him to accept all their claims," for fear of undermining the whole rescue operation. Those he could not help were given advance notice, so as to allow them time to plan their escape before receiving official notification of their imminent deportation. The Calmeyer case is a clear example of the varieties of subterfuge available to German officials in a high position, for those prepared to use their authority to devise the ways and means to save Jews, while at the same time pretending to act in the best interests of the Nazi state.
Yad Vashem Archives, M31–4997; M. Paldiel, Saving the Jews (2000), 119–125; J. Presser, Ashes in the Wind (1965), 296–311.
[Mordecai Paldiel (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.