Adolf Hitler is a name that has become synonymous with evil. The atrocities committed under his fanatical Nazi government have become infamous. Needless to say, “Adolf Hitler” is not a name often associated with mercy, especially where Jews are concerned. However, there were some surprising instances where even Hitler put aside his monstrous hatred of the Jewish people and extended mercy, however brief, to certain individuals.
Such a case was confirmed in 2012 when Susanne Mauss, an editor with the Jewish Voice, discovered a note to the Dusseldorf Gestapo with an order from the Reich Chancellery ordering that a judge by the name of Ernst Hess was not to be harassed in any way. The judge, whose despite being a Protestant was classified as a full-blooded Jew under Nazi Germany’s racial laws due to his mother being a Jew, had received the personal protection of Adolf Hitler himself.
Before the letter, Hess suffered harassment from Nazis in Dusseldorf, once being on the receiving end of a beating by a gang of thugs. It got so bad that Hess had to move his family to South Tyrol, a region of Italy populated by Germans, to escape the growing persecution. The persecution of Jews during that time period is well known, but what separated Ernst Hess from the others was the fact that he had ties to top Nazis, including Hitler himself.
During World War I, Hess briefly served as Hitler’s superior officer in the List Regiment. Hitler retained a fondness for those he had served with during the war, even if few in the regiment remembered him. Hess, on the other hand, was well regarded by other veterans, and these ties might have been instrumental in getting him the temporary reprieve from the horrors of Nazi tyranny. One of Hess’ contacts was Fritz Wiedemann, who served as personal adjutant to Hitler from 1934 to 1939.Another was Hans Heinrich Lammers, who served as Head of the Reich Chancellery.
With these friends working in his favor, Hess was able to receive unusual leeway from top Nazis. He was able to have his pension transferred to Italy, to remove the red “J” marking him as a Jew from his passport and thus be able to travel, and to enjoy the general protection from persecution mentioned above.
Unfortunately, this protection only lasted until 1942. Hess was protected from deportation by virtue of being married to a German protestant. He worked in various forced labor camps until the end of the war in 1945. Hess’ family once believed the protection afforded him extended to them, but his mother and sister were both deported. His sister, Berta, died in Auschwitz, while his mother survived and eventually moved to Brazil to be with family.
As for Ernst Hess, he survived the war and was promptly offered another position as a judge. He declined, and went on to work as the President of the German Federal Railways Authority in Frankfurt/Main. He died on September 14th, 1983, at the age of 93.
Associated Press. “’Hitler’s wish’ protected Jewish WWI vet.” FoxNews.com. July 6, 2012. Fox News. January 17, 2016. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/07/06/report-hitler-order-protected-jewish-wwi-veteran.html
Day, Matthew. “Adolf Hitler protected his Jewish former commanding officer.” Telegraph.co.uk. July 5, 2012. The Telegraph. January 17, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/9379575/Adolf-Hitler-protected-his-Jewish-former-commanding-officer.html
Mauss, Susanne. “Hitler’s Jewish Commander and Victim.” Jewish Voice From Germany.de. July 4, 2012. Jewish Voice From Germany. January 17, 2016. http://jewish-voice-from-germany.de/cms/hitlers-jewish-commander-and-victim/