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Despite
Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, many German citizens risked
their lives by trying to help Jews.  Hitler
believed that homosexuals, the disabled, and political opponents were inferior
to Aryans of pure German descent, but he primarily targeted Jews.  Consequently, by the end of the Holocaust,
one of the largest genocides in history, he and his supporters had murdered
about two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe (“Introduction” para. 3).  He succeeded in his mission of Jewish
extermination with little opposition because people who tried to resist the Führer were
usually tortured, imprisoned, or executed (Burke chap. 7).  However, despite the risks and obstacles they
faced, many
Germans of varying wealth, social status, and backgrounds felt internal
conflict about the persecution of Jews and became heroes of the Holocaust by
resisting the Nazi government.

German
people from various backgrounds and social classes spoke out against Jewish
persecution.  For example, Major Karl
Plagge was one of the few German officers who opposed the views of the Nazi
regime.  Not only did he remain friends
with a Jew and marry a Jewish woman, but he also actively helped Jews
regardless of the harsh consequences that often followed his acts of kindness (“Rescue”
para. 1).  Albert Göring, the brother of
the Reichsmarschall, was another man who was incorrectly believed to be a Nazi
supporter.  His brother Hermann Göring
held the position of Reichsmarschall for many years, which was regarded as one
of the most influential positions in Nazi Germany (Burke chap. 1).  However, instead of following his brother’s
career in the Nazi government, Albert helped Jews and publicly voiced his opposition
to the Nazi regime (Burke chap. 5).  In
one of the Nuremberg Trial interviews, Albert said, “I spit on Hitler, I spit
on my brother, on the whole Nazi regime” (Burke chap. 6).  Civilians were another group of Germans who participated
in resisting Hitler and the Nazi Party, as demonstrated by the White Rose, a group
of young adults.  Sophie and Hans Scholl,
Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and their professor Kurt
Huber were the main members of the White Rose (“White Rose” para. 3).  Under the alias White Rose, they printed and distributed copies of their pamphlets,
which were written primarily by Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl (“White
Rose” para. 1).  Although these Germans
came from different backgrounds and were acting under varying circumstances,
they all helped Jews because of the internal conflict created by witnessing the
persecution of Jews in Germany during the Holocaust.

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The
heroes of the Holocaust faced internal conflict about supporting Hitler and the
Nazi Party because they recognized Jews as human beings, too.  They were horrified at the inhumane treatment
that Jews endured every day.  Major Plagge,
however, not only struggled with supporting the persecution of Jews, but he was
already a member of the Nazi Party.  He
debated whether to support his political party or the Jews because “as a
National Socialist he had to say yes to the mass slaughter … but as a human
being he perceived that it was insanity” (Plagge paras. 1-2).  Furthermore, he believed that “a strong
humanity … stood so completely in antithesis to the many inhumanities” committed
against Jews (Plagge para. 1).  Eventually,
it became obvious that Plagge’s desire to help the Jews was stronger than his
loyalty to the Nazi Party.  Schmorell and
Göring also had similar beliefs about the perpetrators and victims of the
Holocaust.  In the second White Rose
pamphlet, Schmorell wrote that the persecution of Jews was “a sign that the
Germans had become brutalized in their most primitive human emotions” (Schmorell,
“Leaflet II” para. 6).  Additionally, Göring
explained why he felt it was necessary to resist the Nazis by saying that Jews
were his friends, and “a friend is someone who will risk his fortune, his
safety, even his life when you need him” (Göring, as cited in Burke, chap 5).  However, not all Germans agreed with them, so
these morally righteous people expressed disappointment in their fellow German
citizens.  In a letter to his wife,
Plagge wrote that over the course of the war, “German reputation had suffered
so indescribably” (Plagge para. 5).  This
complaint was echoed by Hans Scholl in the first White Rose pamphlet.  He wrote that “if Germans are so devoid of
individuality that they have become an unthinking and cowardly mob – then, yes
then they deserve their destruction” (Scholl para. 1).  Scholl later makes a reference to the German
people as “a shallow, irresolute herd of opportunists who have had all the
marrow sucked from their bones” (Scholl para. 2).  In addition to their resentment of the German
bystanders, these heroes were all disgusted by the Nazis’ actions against Jews.
Plagge later came to adopt this belief because although he originally supported
the Nazi Party, he realized that it was not what it seemed (“Rescue” para. 1).  Instead, he realized that, as Scholl
described, the Nazi Party was “an irresponsible clique of sovereigns who had given
themselves over to dark urges” (Scholl para. 1).  Albert Göring, too, opposed the anti-Semitic
beliefs in Nazi Germany and considered himself to be his brother’s political
rival because he was horrified by the execution of Jews (Burke chap. 6). 

These
heroes acted upon their internal moral conflict by demonstrating their support
of the Jews in various ways, including criticizing the Nazi Party, urging for passive
resistance, using their power to help, and lying to the government.  The members of the White Rose risked their
lives by writing and distributing their pamphlets, which openly criticized the
government and urged others to resist the Nazi regime.  For example Hans Scholl wrote that all
Germans who simply watch Hitler, a “hubris of a subhuman,” persecute other
human beings because of their religion should feel extreme guilt in themselves
(Scholl para. 3).  Schmorell wrote that
since the “present State is a dictatorship of Evil,” people should sabotage any
“armaments factories and other businesses vital to the war effort” (Schmorell,
“Leaflet III” paras. 2, 6).  In contrast
to the White Rose’s passive resistance, Plagge used his status in the Nazi Party
to secretly assist the Jews.  When he was
assigned to run a depot for military vehicles, Plagge issued illegal
certificates and documentation to any Jews that allowed them to work for him,
regardless of their previous work experience. 
This helped them avoid deportation and ensured that they could remain
under his humane leadership (“Rescue” para. 1). 
He offered larger food rations, provided basic medical care, and warned
them of upcoming SS deportations.  In
fact his most well-known act of kindness happened when, in
the presence of SS officers, Plagge risked warning his workers that the SS
planned to relocate them, which resulted in 200 of his workers avoiding the
deportation (“Rescue” para. 1).  Similarly, Göring took advantage of his
brother’s position in the government to ensure that as many Jews as possible
escaped from Nazi Germany.  He forged legal
documents, voted against the Nazi Party, payed for the transport of Jews to
countries that advocated for their safety, and freed some Jews from concentration
camps or imprisonment (Burke chap. 5).  Although
any other citizen would have been severely punished if caught participating in
these treasonous activities, Albert Göring used his family name to escape
punishment (Burke chap. 5).  Furthermore,
Hermann often protected him, ordered his release when he did get punished, or
excused his actions despite their opposing political beliefs (Burke chap. 5).  This strong brotherly bond formed between the
Görings because they “could somehow detach themselves from their public roles
whenever they came together,” and it significantly helped in Albert’s mission
to save as many Jews as possible (Burke chap. 6).  Although these German citizens took risks to
help the Jews, they faced painful consequences if caught.

During
Hitler’s regime there were many punishments for assisting Jews, but some heroes
escaped capture.  The types of
punishments included execution, torture, or imprisonment, and various members
of the White Rose group were eventually caught and either beheaded or put in
jail.  In February of 1943, Sophie and
Hans Scholl distributed their pamphlets at the University of Munich, but they
returned when Sophie noticed that they were still in possession of a few papers
(“White Rose” para. 18).  The janitor saw
them upon their return and reported them to the police, which prompted the
arrest, trial, and beheading of Hans and Sophie, as well as Christoph Probst
(“White Rose” paras. 19-20).  Soon after,
many other participants of the White Rose were also executed, and anyone who
supported their work was imprisoned (“White Rose” para. 21).  Albert Göring had a more positive outcome,
although it originally seemed that he would face execution.  The Allies captured Göring but could not
fathom that he, the brother of the German Reichsmarschall, had truly helped the
Jews simply out of good will, so he spent time in various prisons throughout
Europe (Burke chap. 10).  Finally, a US
officer assigned to his case realized that his aunt had been among the Jews
whom Albert saved and ordered his prompt release (Burke chap. 10).  Most surprisingly, Karl Plagge was never
caught by the Nazi government and was recently recognized as a Righteous Among
the Nations by Yad Vashem.  Yad Vashem
recognizes non-Jews who risked their lives to assist Jews during the Holocaust
(“About” para. 3).  Recipients receive a
certificate and their names are inscribed on a memorial in Jerusalem (“About”
para. 3).  Similar to the doubt regarding
Göring’s case, few people believed that Plagge saved so many Jews.  However, after a long investigation into his
case during which they received testimonies of survivors helped by Plagge, Yad
Vashem named Plagge a Righteous Among the Nations in 2004 (“Rescue” para. 2).

In
conclusion many Germans who disagreed with Hitler’s inhumane practices risked
their lives to help Jews, regardless of their varying backgrounds.  These heroes became famous throughout the
Jewish community and were recognized either during or after the war for their
efforts to help Jews.  Although they all
maintained a moral conscience by either actively or passively resisting the
Nazi government, their actions did not prevent the eventual extermination of
approximately six million Jews (“Introduction” para. 3).  However, the courage and determination these
German citizens showed amidst such adversity and turmoil is truly inspiring,
and these heroes will certainly not be forgotten.

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