Life: January 21, 1891 – 1952
Why you should know him: Dr. Albert Battel was a German attorney and army officer who resisted the Nazi plans to liquidate the Jewish ghetto in Przemysl, Poland, during the Holocaust.
Born in 1891 in Prussian Silesia, Albert Battel served in the German army during the First World War. After the war, he studied economics and law in Germany and Poland, becoming an attorney.
At the age of fifty-one, Dr. Battel was called up from the reserves by the Nazis during World War II. Sent to serve in the southern Polish city of Przemysl, Dr. Battel was witness to the impending SS liquidation of the Jewish ghetto and its inhabitants. Along with his superior officer, Battel ordered that the bridge the SS were to cross be blocked. When the SS attempted to cross, they were warned they would be fired upon.
This defiance of Nazi protocol to liquidate and murder Polish Jews was not Dr. Battel's only act of bravery and goodness. The very same day, he used Nazi trucks to evacuate and rescue 100 Jewish families. These Jews – unlike the others in the Przemysl ghetto, who ultimately were murdered at the Belzec extermination camp – were sheltered and saved.
An investigation into Dr. Battel's actions – which included a history of kindness to the Jewish people – was undertaken at the highest levels of the Nazi regime. Heinrich Himmler decided that he would have Battel expelled from the Nazi party and arrested at end of the war. Before that could happen, of course, the war's end found Himmler biting into a hidden suicide pill. And before that, Dr. Battel had been discharged from service because of poor health.
With the war over, Albert Battel first fell into Soviet captivity. Once released, he was not allowed to practice law again, and died in 1952. His brave acts that saved so many Jews from certain death were not recalled until after his passing. But thanks to the research of Israeli lawyer Dr. Zeev Goshen, Dr. Albert Battel was at last honored as Righteous Among the Nations in 1981.