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Anti-Nazi Officer of the German Army Honored at Yad Vashem

May 3, 1985
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An anti-Nazi officer of the German army, who at great risk to his own life saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during World War II, was honored at a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial here today.

Eighteen visiting mayors from West Germany and the United States each placed a white rose at the tree planted in memory of Maj. Eberhard Helmrich in the area of the Yad Vashem reserved for The Righteous Among Nations. The mayors are attending the Jerusalem Conference of Mayors sponsored by the American Jewish Congress.

The white roses are symbolic of the White Rose Movement, a small but dedicated group of Germans, including high-ranking military officers, who detested the Nazi regime and resisted it during the war. Most of them were caught, tortured and executed by decapitation.

Helmrich, in charge of a Wehrmacht quartermaster unit in Drohobycz, Galicia, established a farm to supply food for German troops in the area. He employed about 300 healthy young men and women, 90 percent of them Jewish. He promised that if they did their job well, he would look after them.

Each time Helmrich received a request from the SS for a "selection" for deportation to death camps, he managed to convince the Nazis that the farm could not meet its quotas if any of his workers were taken. He also bribed gestapo agents to keep silent. Because of his personal intervention, Helmrich’s workers were saved from deportation during the autumn of 1942 and the winter and summer of 1943, when the Nazi death machinery was operating at its maximum.

Helmrich prepared forged documents in his cellar which saved the lives of at least 100 Jewish young women. The documents identified them as Ukrainian gentiles and as such they were transferred to Germany to work as domestics.

Helmrich also provided food to the Jewish hospital in the Drohobycz ghetto when most of its patients were dying of malnutrition.

Speaking at today’s ceremony, Barry Yaker, a vice president of the AJC, hailed the tribute to Helmrich as a meaningful act of reconciliation between the officials of American and West German cities representing millions of citizens of both countries.

He hailed Helmrich for helping to pave the way for a reborn democratic Germany. The forthcoming visit by President Reagan to the Bitburg cemetery where Waffen SS are buried is having just the reverse effect, he said. It is provoking divisiveness, anger and resentment.

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