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December 20: Goering’s Anti-Nazi Brother

December 20, 2014

93fd12d0-8bfd-11e2-8c9c-1c7b4c6a9da2-493x328Albert Goering, younger brother of Nazi Gestapo leader Hermann Goering and an anti-Nazi who used his family name to help Jews and dissidents survive in Germany, died at 71 on this date in 1966. The young Goerings lived in a castle with an aristocratic Jew, Ritter Hermann von Epenstein, a doctor who served as a surrogate father to the children (whose father was often absent) and had a love affair with their mother. Some claims have been made that Epenstein was Albert’s actual father, although records of his mother’s whereabouts show this to be unlikely. Albert Goering’s acts of compassion and resistance include: joining a group of Jewish women who had been forced to scrub the pavement; getting his Jewish former employer, Oskar Pilzer, freed after the Nazis had arrested him, then helping the Pilzers escape the country; encouraging small acts of sabotage at the Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia, where he was export director, and making contact with the Czech resistance; sending trucks to concentration camps with requisitions for laborers, who would then be allowed to escape. He was arrested by the Gestapo several times, but his relationship with Hermann Goering assured his release. He was also questioned during the Nuremberg Trials, but so many people testified to his good deeds that he was released. He was then imprisoned in Czechoslovakia — but there, too, his reputation prevailed. Goering was shunned in post-war Germany, however, because of his family name, and lived a very modest life; in 1966, he married his housekeeper, a week before his death, so that she could receive his government pension.

“Richard Sonnenfeldt, chief interpreter... at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, later recalled how [Hermann Goering] enjoyed displaying his power to Albert by freeing Jews from concentration camps.... And Hermann would say, ‘This is absolutely the last time I’m going to do this, don’t come back’... [but] a month later, Albert would be back.... We found a hundred people on Albert’s list that were freed. All because Goering had such a need to show off to his younger brother.” —The Holocaust