German industrialist credited with saving Jews passes away
Berthold Beitz, a Righteous Among the Nations laurette, leading German industrialists passed away. Beitz saved Polish Jews by claiming they were professional workers. Merkel: Should be remembered for his courageous efforts to protect Jewish workers
Beitz gained acclaim for saving some 250 Jewish workers during World War II by declaring them to be essential workers at an oil facility in Poland. In 1973, he received the Righteous Among the Nations title awarded by the Israeli Yad Vashem, the highest honor given to a non-Jew, for saving Jews.
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In August 1942, Beitz saved 250 Jewish men and women from the transport train to an extermination camp by claiming they were professional workers.
According to Beitz, "I should have employed qualified personnel. Instead, I chose tailors, hairdressers and Talmudic scholars and gave them all cards as vital 'petroleum technicians."
According to reports, together with his wife Else, Beitz also hid Jews in his home, as well as issuing and signing fake work permits to save other Jews from the death camps.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called him "one of the great Germans of the past century" for his actions saving hundreds at the oil refinery he ran in the Boryslav region, now part of Ukraine, between 1941 and 1944.
"For many Jews he was a beacon of hope in a sea of despair," Lauder said. "He was a hero of the Holocaust at a time when it was a crime to be a humane person. He will never be forgotten for his tremendous acts of kindness."
In Germany, Beitz is famous for being one of the country's lead industrialists, heading the ThyssenKrupp AG, a multinational German steel conglomerate and The Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation after Thyssen and Krupp merged.
"Germany has lost one of its most respected and successful corporate leaders who influenced Germany in important areas," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.
"What should in particular be remembered is his courageous and exemplary efforts to protect Jewish workers during World War Two and his early efforts to build bridges into Eastern Europe."
Reuters contributed to this report
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