Armin T. Wegner
Armin T. Wegner was born into an old aristocratic Prussian family, one whose roots reached back to the Crusades. After receiving his law degree, Wegner worked as a “farmer, dock-worker, student of drama, private tutor, editor, public speaker, lover and idler, filled with a deep desire for unraveling the mystery of things.” As a youth, he had already published books of poetry, earning a reputation as a promising young writer. But it was the quest for morality that drove Wegner’s writing and his life, causing him to raise his voice even when it risked his own well-being.
Wegner first spoke out against hatred and injustice during the First World War. While serving in the German army during that conflict, he witnessed atrocities on the road to Baghdad as the Turks slaughtered the Armenians, in perhaps the first major genocide of the 20th century. He spoke out against this in his book, Road of No Return: A Martyrdom in Letters, as well as in a letter to American President Woodrow Wilson.
The 1920s found Wegner earning fame and success as a writer, but in the 1930s, he would sacrifice all of that to do what was right. As the Nazis began to persecute the Jews, Wegner spoke out, and it cost him his home, his well-being, and his freedom. Writing a letter to Hitler after the Nazi leader began his overall persecution of the Jews in 1933, Wegner could find no newspaper to publish it. So he sent it, with the title “For Germany,” straight to the fuhrer. The letter not only argued for the historical worth of the Jewish people, but warned that what would become the Holocaust would disgrace Germany.
When the letter reached Hitler’s evil henchman Martin Bormann, it was said it “would be laid before the Fuhrer shortly.” However, the only thing that happened was Wegner being arrested by the Gestapo. He was tortured in a Nazi dungeon, then held in seven different Nazi concentration camps. At last, he escaped a camp and made his way to Italy. After his escape, Wegner vowed to never return to his homeland, and kept that promise for the rest of his long life.
Armin T. Wegner was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1967, and attended the ceremony where he planted a tree in the Holy Land’s holy ground, as seen above. Wegner would live for more than a decade longer, dying in Rome in 1978. His tombstone is inscribed with the following Latin phrase, which means “I loved justice and hated injustice therefore I die in exile”:
Amavi justitiam odi iniquitatem
Propterea morior in exsilio.