The Arty Semite

Lustiger Counts Prostitute as 'Righteous'

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Wiki Commons

In dire times, some people are given the opportunity to display what is best in human nature. Such is the message of a new book by Arno Lustiger, author of “Stalin and the Jews” and many other historical works including “Rescue-Resistance: Europe’s Rescuers of Jews in the Nazi Era” which was published by Wallstein Verlag in September.

In a 2005 speech at The Bundestag, Germany’s federal legislative body, Lustiger opined that his adopted country — born in Będzin, Poland in 1924, he is longtime resident of Frankfurt where he made a career in the clothing industry — does not honor its own rescuers of Jews sufficiently. Even Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem only honors 495 Germans as Righteous Among the Nations, which Lustiger feels is too few.

He told a recent interviewer, “In Berlin alone there were thousands of Germans who helped their Jewish fellow citizens.”

Whereas Hollywood has brought posthumous fame to Oskar Schindler, “Rescue-Resistance” tells of less internationally acclaimed industrialists, such as Berthold Beitz, one of the aforementioned Righteous, now 98. Or Eduard Schulte, Robert Bosch and Ernst Leitz II.

There were also humble people such as Hedwig Porschütz, a Berlin prostitute. When not receiving clients in her cramped apartment on Alexanderstraße, the woman whom Lustiger nicknames “Saint Hedwig” hid Jews. Whenever her customers gave her food stamps, she bought provisions and sent them to Theresienstadt, where deported Berlin Jews were starving. Claiming no honors after the war, only in 1956 did Hedwig, by then living in poverty, claim the status of a “victim of the Nazi regime,” which was refused by the German government because she was a prostitute.

Lustiger considers this a “great injustice.” For years, eager to move on with his life from his own status as Nazi victim, Lustiger downplayed his wartime travails, and when his young children asked why a number was tattooed on his arm, he replied: “Oh, that’s just my phone number because I’m so forgetful.”

In 1985, the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz revived memories, and since then Lustiger has energetically worked to keep historical tragedy fresh in people’s minds. In a 2000 speech in Stockholm, Lustiger had harsh words for such authors as Raul Hilberg, Hannah Arendt and Bruno Bettelheim who minimized the Jewish anti-Nazi resistance in Europe, views which Lustiger termed “insulting clichés” and “merciless nonsense.” Analyzing the Jewish resistance across Nazi-Occupied Europe in previous books, Lustiger has now reminded us that in this Resistance, Jews had non-Jewish allies.

Listen to Lustiger describe his new book on a March 11 German radio broadcast.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stalin, Robert Bosch, Oskar Schindler, Hedwig Porschütz, Arno Lustiger, Berthold Beitz, Eduard Schulte, Ernst Leitz II

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.