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Otto Weidt


Otto Weidt (born on May 2, 1883), of working-class origins, was compelled by his growing blindness to abandon his work as a wallpaper hanger. He thereupon set up a workshop for the blind at 39, Rosenthalerstrasse in Berlin N., which manufactured brushes and brooms. Practically all of his employees were blind, deaf, and dumb Jews. They were assigned to him from the Jewish Home for the Blind in Berlin-Stegliz.

When the deportations began, Weidt, utterly fearless, fought with Gestapo officials over the fate of every single Jewish worker. As means of persuasion he would use both bribery and the argument that his employees were essential for fulfilling orders commissioned by the army. Once, when the Gestapo had arrested several of his workers, the self-appointed guardian of the Jewish blind went in person to the assembly camp at the Grosse Hamburger-Strasse, where the Jews were incarcerated pending deportation, and succeeded in securing their release at the last minute.

Aside from the blind, Weidt also employed in his office healthy Jewish workers. 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, through a mixture of bribery and subterfuge, succeeded in overriding the objections of Eschhaus, the Nazi director of the official employment office.

A Jewish girl, Inge Deutschkron, was among the eight healthy Jews employed at the workshop. As she and her mother began to live illegally in order escape deportation, Weidt arranged for Deutschkron an “Aryan” work ticket that he had acquired from a prostitute who had no use for it. Unfortunately, the ticket had to be discarded three months later when the prostitute was apprehended by the police.

One of Weidt’s most spectacular exploits involved the rescue of a Jewish girl from Auschwitz. Alice Licht and her parents were hidden at a “secondary site” of the workshop, ensconced behind a front of brushes and brooms. When the Gestapo, tipped off by a Jewish informer, discovered the hiding place, Licht was deported first to Theresienstadt and from there to Auschwitz. However, she managed to notify Weidt of her destination by a postcard thrown out of the window of the train. Weidt, under the guise of a business trip, actually traveled to Auschwitz in June 1944, where he managed to contact a Polish civilian worker who had access to Licht. The Pole, who functioned as a go-between, informed the Jewish girl that Weidt had rented a room for her with clothes and money. In January 1945, when the camp was being evacuated, Licht managed to make her escape and reached the designated room. A few weeks later she surfaced again in Berlin alive and well. Her parents never returned.

On September 7, 1971, Yad Vashem decided to recognize Otto Weidt posthumously as Righteous Among the Nations.

Sources: Yad Vashem