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I Felt Sorry for Him

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Heinrich and Maria List

Lives: Heinrich (b. 1882); Maria (b. 1881)

Why you should know them: Heinrich and Maria List were a German couple who hid a Jewish neighbor from the Nazis even as their own son fought in the Germany army.

Heinrich and Maria List were an elderly Christian couple who farmed outside the German village of Ernsbach. Their only son Jakob had been conscripted to fight for the Germans as World War II began.

One day in November of 1941, a local Jewish man who the Lists knew came to their home. The Nazis had begun deporting German Jews and Ferdinand Strauss knew that his life was in danger. He asked the Lists for help.

Putting themselves in great danger, the Lists sheltered the young Jewish man until March of 1942. At that time, a Polish worker who was angry at Heinrich turned the him and his wife in to the local Gestapo. While Ferdinand Strauss was able to escape to Switzerland, the elderly couple was arrested and brutally interrogated.

When asked by the Nazis why he had helped a Jew, Heinrich said, “It was merely that I felt sorry for him and let him stay because we knew him very well in the past and had good business relations with him.”

Heinrich was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he died on October 5, 1942. While Maria escaped the same fate, she soon learned that the war had taken her son's life, as well, leaving her all alone.

The simple and selfless farm couple was forgotten, and would have stayed that way, until they were rediscovered by high school students working on a project about the Holocaust. Alerted to the Lists' actions by the kids, Yad Vashem named Heinrich and Maria List Righteous Among the Nations in 1992.

Tags: Stories , Partnerships and People

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