Number 671. Otto Weidt was the 671st person to become a Righteous Gentile or Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. In order to be on this list, one must be of non-Jewish descent and have risked his or her life in order to save the lives of one or more Jews during the Holocaust. The candidate has to have done so with no form of payment for their deed. While there are thousands of people on this list, there are even more who turned a blind eye, were too scared to act, or worse, participated in the violence. So while 671 may seem like a number, the risks that Otto Weidt took during World War II were so much more than that.
In 1936 Otto Weidt started his own broom and brush factory in Berlin. One of his biggest clients was the Third Reich and so he was able to classify his business as vital to the war effort and he was not conscripted. His business was not taken over. Using this opportunity, Otto employed thirty blind and deaf Jews in his factory between 1941 and 1943, even hiding an entire family in the factory to live. He was able to stop several deportations of his employees who would have met an awful fate due to their descent and their disability. He did so not only through their employment but also through bribes and payouts at great personal risk to himself. When some of his employees were deported he continued to help them, visiting the camps, delivering parcels whenever possible and hiding food and clothing for them nearby.
When movies about the Holocaust are made or individual stories are told, it is often with the intention of showing the positive in contrast to the surrounding darkness. While Otto’s efforts show that humans can be inherently good, his story does not end happily. Sadly, most of the workers in Otto’s factory were murdered including the family he was hiding. On February 27th 1943, the majority of Otto Weidt’s workers were arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Therinestadt. Of those sent to the camps, only one, Alice Licht, survived. Still, that’s one more than would have survived without Otto.
671. It’s more than just a number.
Peace, love and history.
P.S. If anyone ever heads to Berlin I would absolutely recommend visiting Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. It’s tiny and nestled in a small alley way. It was possibly one of my favourite parts of Berlin.