Resistance in Berlin

Otto Weidt

German resistance against the National Socialist reign of terror is associated above all with the failed coup attempt of 20 July 1944, part of which took place in Berlin. Working from the former seat of the army high command, the conspirators led by Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg made their failed attempt to take over the government.

The first few decades after the war emphasized resistance on the part of patriotic conservatives, the military, the church, and communists. Since then, however, Jewish resistance, dissident and subcultural youth groups, and the role of deserters and people who helped victims of persecution have become the focus of growing attention. The following three examples illustrate various forms of resistance in the city of Berlin.

Beginning on 27 February 1943, Jewish forced laborers were arrested at work in many German cities. The “importance to the war effort” of their work in arms factories had protected them from deportation until then. In the end, more than 12,000 people were taken to Auschwitz and murdered in the course of this “factory operation.” Some of those arrested in Berlin were Jews in “mixed marriages.” In an unprecedented act, several hundred non-Jewish women came to the holding area in Berlin-Mitte and protested loudly and publicly against the internment of their Jewish husbands and fathers. Disconcerted by what was happening, the Gestapo did not intervene. In response to the pressure exerted by this resistance, the men were released on 6 March 1943. The artist Ingeborg Hunzinger sculpted the ensemble “Der Block der Frauen” (The Women’s Bloc) in 1995, which stands on Rosenstrasse at the site of the protest.

At Rosenthaler Strasse 39 in the Mitte borough, the manufacturer Otto Weidt (1883-1947) ran a modest factory that made brooms and brushes during the National Socialist period. The people who worked here under his protection were primarily Jewish, and many were blind, partially sighted, or deaf-mute. In order to provide them with food, Weidt also sold his products on the black market. He obtained forged identification cards and employment papers for people who had gone into hiding, thereby helping them to take on a new identity, and in several cases succeeded in saving employees from being deported and murdered by bribing Gestapo officials. One of the people sheltered by Otto Weidt was Inge Deutschkron, who worked at the factory for a while under a false name as a secretary and later became a journalist and writer. Since 1999 the exhibition “Blindes Vertrauen – Versteckt am Hackeschen Markt 1941-1943” (Blind Faith – Hidden at Hackescher Markt 1941-1943), located on the former premises of the factory, has informed visitors about Otto Weidt’s resistance work and the history of the site, now affiliated with the Jewish Museum.

On 18 May 1942, members of the Jewish communist resistance group headed by Herbert Baum set fire to the anti-Soviet propaganda exhibition “The Soviet Paradise,” which had opened ten days earlier on the grounds of the Lustgarten as propaganda accompanying the German military campaign in Russia. Eleven people were injured slightly in the attack, which also caused minor property damage. The first arrests were made just four days after this act of resistance. Later, 22 members of the group were sentenced to death and executed, while others were given long prison sentences and then murdered in Auschwitz. Herbert Baum died in police custody following torture, and only a few of the active members of this resistance group were able to escape discovery. Since 1981 a memorial stone in the southern part of the Lustgarten has commemorated the Herbert Baum group.