For four years during World War II, Officer Rudolf Peschel was stationed in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Poland. As part of the Kripo, the Nazis’ criminal investigation division of the police, Peschel was able to do good.
In 1942, Peschel came to know a Jewish woman who was living in the Aryan section of Warsaw under a false name. Rachel Brand, known during the Holocaust as Cycilia Szarek, filed a complaint against two Nazi soldiers who had broken into the home where she was hiding in order to steal money and jewelry. Peschel tracked down the thieves and returned the stolen property to the families with whom Rachel was hiding.
The German policeman was taken with the young woman. Rachel, meanwhile, turned down the officer’s advances, as she had left her husband and child behind — both of whom had been murdered by the Nazis.
Soon, though, Rachel realized that Peschel could help her and other Jews, including her sister who had arrived in Warsaw to hide.
Peschel first proved helpful when he prevented the deportation and murder of 22 Jews who worked with Rachel. After this, Rachel broke down and confessed to Peschel that she, in fact, was also Jewish. Although shocked by her admission, the good cop vowed to Rachel that his goal would be to keep her alive. Over the next few months, Peschel kept his promise, using his position to ensure the safety of Rachel, her sister, and their Jewish friends.
This kindness led Peschel to other acts of kindness and courage. One day he arrested a Polish man, only to discover the arrested party was actually a Jew named Kahane. Peschel let the man go, instructing him to use a false Polish name instead. Another time, Peschel provided fake ID papers to a Jewish acquaintance of Rachel’s named Julek.
The Gestapo soon realized Peschel’s friendship with a “Polish” woman and questioned him. At first, he was posted to the brutal Eastern Front, but kept up contact with Rachel after he returned to Warsaw. But it was there in Poland where Rudolf Peschel would meet his end, as he was shot and killed by members of the Polish Underground — who only recognized him as a Gestapo officer, and not a “good Nazi” — on June 12, 1944, while in Warsaw’s Three Crosses Square. More than five decades later, Rudolf “Rolf” Peschel was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for the Jewish lives he had saved.Tags: Advocates and Allies