Monday, 8 October 2007

Otto Weidt, Righteous Among the Nations

Otto Weidt was born in 1882 in northern Germany. He learnt the job of wallpapering and upholstery following his father career. At the beginning of the First World War he was a convinced pacifist. Due to a sight illness he was not recruited until the end of the war, when he was required to the sanitary service. Because his sight problem was getting worse he had to quit his job as upholsterer. Since the beginning of the forties, he was the owner of a brush factory in one of Berlin poor towns. The factory was considered "important for the war", because part of its production was destined to the German Army. In his factory, Otto Weidt employed between 1941 and 1943 approximately 30 blind and deaf Jews and other 8 illegal Jews. During a long time he could protect his workers against deportation by bribing the officials of the unemployment office and the Gestapo. With the help of other collaborators, he got false documents and work permits for some refugees. To be able to buy more food he sold many of his brushes in the black market.
By bribing the Gestapo, in 1942 Weidt managed to free his workers, who had been taken to a camp for their deportation. He brought them back and he achieved to keep them living underground. For Alice Licht, who lived illegally and with whom he kept a tight relationship, he rented an atrium to live with her parents. He housed the four people of the Horn family in his factory behind a camouflaged wall. When a confident reported the family hideout, the four of them were deported to Auschwitz on October 14th, 1943: the blind man Chaim Horn, his wife Machla and their two sons. Probably at the same time Licht's hideout was discovered and they were deported to Theresienstadt and from there to Auschwitz. To save Alice Licht, Otto Weidt went to Auschwitz, to Christianstadt to be precise, a secondary camp of the Groß-Rosen concentration camp. Through one of the civilian workers he contacted her and made her runaway and return to Berlin possible.
Otto Weidt died in 1947 in Berlin.
A survivor thanks to Otto Weidt's help is the author Inge Deutschkron. With her book They remained in the shadows she made a literary monument to Otto Weidt and others who supported Jewish refugees. With her help the museum Blindes Vertrauen (blind trust) was installed at the old brush factory.


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