Otto Weidt

FYI: The German letter ß is sort of like a sharp, overpronounced S.

O

 

Otto Weidt

Otto Weidt, 2 May 1883–22 December 1947, Copyright Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, Use consistent with fair use doctrine

Otto Weidt owned a workshop, at 39 Rosenthaler Straße, Berlin, for the blind and Deaf. Today, a museum dedicated to Otto’s life and his workshop is in that original building.

As Otto got older, his eyesight began failing, so he learnt how to bind brooms and make brushes. Due to an ear infection, he avoided being drafted for World War One.

In 1936, he created a workshop for the manufacture of brooms and brushes in a cellar apartment at 92 Großbeerenstraße, close to his apartment at 58 Hallesches Ufer. In 1940, he relocated his business to 39 Rosenthaler Straße. Since his customers included the Wehrmacht, he was able to get his business classified as vital to the war effort.

Between 1941–43, he employed up to 30 blind and Deaf Jews. When the Gestapo began arresting and deporting his Jewish employees, Otto fought for their safety by getting phony documents, bribing officers, and hiding his employees in the back of his shop.

Workshop for the Blind, 39 Rosenthaler Straße, Berlin, Copyright Beek100

Otto was forewarned about the upcoming Fabrikaktion of 27 February 1943, the last Jewish roundup in Berlin, targeting factory-workers. Though he closed his business for that day, many of his employees were arrested regardless. Otto managed to save some of them, but one of the people he rescued, Alice Licht (non-blind), insisted on joining her parents in Terezin.

Otto successfully sent 150 food parcels to the Lichts, but Alice was eventually deported to Birkenau. She sent a postcard to Otto, who immediately went to Poland to try to save her. When Otto arrived, he discovered Alice had been taken to Christianstadt, a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen. He hid clothes and money for her before going home. Alice managed to return to Berlin in January 1945, and was hidden by Otto and his wife Else till the liberation.

After the war, Otto established an orphanage for concentration-camp survivors, though he sadly died of a heart attack only two years later. Else continued the workshop till it was dissolved by the East Berlin Magistrate in 1952.

On 7 September 1971, Otto was honoured as Righteous Among the Nations.

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8 thoughts on “Otto Weidt

  1. Wow. I hadn’t heard of this story or this man.
    I read and watch a lot of material from WW II and I often wonder, being born visually impaired, about what would have happened to me if I were in the situation like those in this post. Dark thoughts, I know, but I can’t help it.
    Glad I stumbled upon this post.

    Like

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