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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Goering You Never Knew

Accidental Talmudist
A Tale of Two Brothers, or Proof that Heredity is Not Destiny

My hero of the week - Hermann Goering's brother

Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man and the founder of the Gestapo - may that monster suffer true justice for his deeds.

Albert Goering was Hermann’s younger brother. While his maniacal sibling was killing Jews, Albert worked tirelessly to save them.

The Goering brothers, only two years apart, grew up in a Bavarian castle. From an early age, the two were obviously different. Hermann was bold, confident and obsessed with war games; Albert was shy and thoughtful.

Later, Hermann would tell a psychiatrist from his Nuremberg cell, “Albert was always the antithesis of myself."

In the 1930’s, ruthless Hermann rose in the ranks of the Nazi party to become Hitler’s top military commander.

Albert was strongly opposed to Nazism and left Germany in protest. He moved to Vienna, where he worked in the film industry and counted Jews among his closest friends.

As Hermann's campaign against the Jews intensified, so did Albert’s determination to help them.

In Vienna, Albert once came upon a group of Nazi thugs, who had put a sign around an old woman’s neck proclaiming “I am a Jewish sow.” A crowd gathered to mock the woman.

Albert pushed through the mob, and punched two Gestapo officers to save the woman. His life might have ended right there, as the crowd turned on him. The SS men demanded to see his papers.

When they saw his name, they escorted him to safety in deference to Hermann.

When Albert’s Jewish friends in Vienna were arrested by the Nazis, Albert again used his unique position to save them.

He forged documents, using his brother’s name, to help longtime pal Jacques Benbassat escape to Switzerland, and used his influence to get his former boss Oskar Pilzer, and Pilzer’s entire family, freed. Again and again, he saved Jewish lives.

Whole families owe their present existence to Albert. He saved many Jews by sending trucks to Nazi concentration camps with requests for workers. Once aboard, the trucks would take them into a forest and allow them to escape.

After the war, Albert was imprisoned at Nuremberg and interrogated for fifteen months. Nobody believed his story until 34 Jews he’d rescued submitted sworn statements on his behalf.

He was freed, but soon found that his name made him an unemployable pariah. Albert sank into depression and alcoholism, surviving on a small government pension and food packages sent by Jews he had saved.

He died in obscurity in 1966.

Albert’s wartime heroism was unknown until documents were recently unearthed in British archives showing that he saved hundreds of Jews.

For proving that it is our choices that define us, and not our relatives, we honor Albert Goering as this week’s Thursday Hero at Accidental Talmudist.

He is also my hero of the week. You deserved a better end, Albert; I hope you got it eventually.