An aging non-Jew from Dresden has received a medal of honor for saving a Star of David when he was a young man in Nazi Germany.
The star was all that remained of a synagogue that many of Alfred Neugebauer’s Jewish friends had attended.
Neugebauer, now 89, saw the synagogue burn to the ground on Kristallnacht, the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when Nazi thugs ransacked Jewish-owned shops and set synagogues ablaze across Germany and Austria.
This November — 63 years later — the star he rescued will be installed in a new synagogue to be dedicated on the site of the original building.
On Kristallnacht, Neugebauer, then a 24-year-old fireman, could only watch as the Dresden Synagogue burned to the ground. Local Nazis had set the fire and prevented firemen from quenching it.
On that night, nearly 100 Jews were killed, tens of thousands of Jewish men were arrested, hundreds of synagogues were set aflame and thousands of Jewish-owned shops were destroyed.
A few days later, members of Neugebauer’s fire department brought one of the synagogue’s decorative Jewish stars to the fire station as a trophy.
When no one was watching, Neugebauer hid the star, which was about 27 inches in diameter, under a woodpile and waited for it to be forgotten.
Two years later, before he had to report to army service, Neugebauer wrapped the star in a blanket, slipped out of the fire house and rode home on his bicycle.
He hid the star in a carpenter’s shop near his house. It remained there until after the war, when Neugebauer returned it to the tiny Jewish community that survived.
The star was installed at the top of a temporary synagogue in 1950.
On Sunday, Neugebauer received an Order of Merit from the governor of the German state of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf, a member of the Christian Democratic Union Party.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.