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July 30: The Business Magnate Who Saved Jews

Lawrence Bush
July 29, 2016

Berthold Beitz, who as a young German oil industrialist saved more than 250 Jews in the Western Ukraine by extricating from a transport train to the Belzec extermination camp by claiming them as important workers, died at 99 on this date in 2013. “I should have employed qualified personnel,” he later recalled. “Instead, I chose tailors, hairdressers and Talmudic scholars and gave them all cards as vital ‘petroleum technicians.’ ” With his wife Elsa, Beitz also hid Jews in his home, created fake work permits, survived a Gestapo investigation into his lifesaving work, and preserved the lives of some 800 Jews in all. In 1973, he was declared by Israel’s Yad Vashem to be “Righteous Among the Nations.” In 2000, he received the Leo Baeck Award from the Central Council of Jews in Germany. After the war, Beitz became the CEO of Krupp Steel, with which he worked for some six decades.

“It wasn’t anti-Fascism, nor was it resistance. We saw from dawn to dusk, as close as could be, what was happening to Boryslav’s Jews. When you see a mother holding her children being shot, while you yourself have children, your reaction has to be completely different.” --Berthold Beitz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.