Adolf Hitler made a personal intervention to spare a Jew from the Holocaust that consumed millions of Jewish lives it has been revealed.
Hitler made the dramatic intervention to protect Ernst Hess, his old company commander from the Flanders trenches of the First World War, who had risen to be a judge in post-war Germany.
In a letter from August 27, 1941 to the Dusseldorf Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, one of the architects of the Final Solution, instructed the secret police to grant Hess “the relief and the protection as per the Fuhrer’s wishes”.
Himmler also instructed all authorities that Hitler’s old comrade in arms was not “to be in-opportuned in any way whatsoever”.
The letter was unearthed in a Gestapo file on Hess by Susanne Mauss, editor of the newspaper Jewish Voice from Germany.
Christened a protestant, Hess had a Jewish mother and that under Nazi race laws that made him “a full-blooded Jew”, and a prime target for persecution and eventual destruction.
Before the letter Hess, a decorated war hero, had been beaten up by a Nazi gang in 1936 and forced to flee to Italy for a number of years.
Although Hitler would lapse, the letter protected Hess at a time when Germany’s Jews were beginning to feel the full wrath of a regime bent on their destruction.
Hess’s ties to Hitler were replicated in continuing good relations with other comrades-in-arms. Fritz Wiedemann, a former member of his unit, served as Hitler’s personal adjutant from 1934 to 1939.
Through Wiedemann it appears Hess managed to get Hitler to allow him to transfer his pension to Italy and free himself from a Nazi law that forced Jews to carry the name Israel.
His high-level Nazi contacts also helped him a get a new passport in March 1939 that made no note of his Jewish classification.
However historians believe that the Hilter link had lost its utility by 1942.
As Jews across Europe were beginning to be dispatched to death camps in ever greater numbers, Hess only escaped deportation through his marriage to a German protestant.
It appears the Hess family became over-confident that its link to Hilter would keep them alive. Berta, his sister, had told people she “enjoyed the special protection of the Nazi party” but Adolf Eichmann, the logistic mastermind of the Holocaust, personally signed her deportation order.
Berta was deported and died in Auschwitz. Hess’s mother, Elizabeth was also deported but survived.
Speaking to the Jewish Voice Hess’s daughter Ursula, now 86, said her father had few memories of Hitler other than that he had no friends in the regiment.