In The News

Businessman Berthold Beitz passes away

Businessman Berthold Beitz passes away

THE death has taken place of the German businessman Berthold Beitz who was honoured for his efforts in saving hundreds of Jews during the Second World War. He was 99.

As a young oil executive during the war he had been put in charge of the company responsible for fuel supplies in a region of occupied Poland. He soon became aware of how the Nazis were treating local Jews and began to take action to help save an many as he could. 

One of the many ploys he used was to invent jobs which he told the authorities were essential to the production of fuel. He would then give the jobs to Jews. During one incident he extricated 250 Jewish men and women from a transport train, which was to take them to the Belzec extermination camp, after telling guards that they were “professional workers” needed by his company.

He and his wife also hid dozens of jews in the cellar of their home.

Years later he explained that he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not taken action, recalling one harrowing incident which he had witnessed: “When you see a woman with her child in her arms being shot, and you yourself have a child, then your response is bound to be completely different.”

At one point he was arrested by the Gestapo but a school friend, who was in the organisation, secured his release.

In 1973 Mr. Beitz was recognised by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as ‘Righteous Among The Nations’ — the highest honour given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. He was one of the few Germans to be honoured in this way. Another was Oskar Schindler.

After the war he first turned his skills to running an insurance company before being recruited to manage the Krupp steel company. He remained in charge for the best part of 60 years during which time he oversaw a broadening of the company’s operations to include computer technology. In 1999 he brought about the merger between Krupp and Thyssen.

Outside of business, Mr. Beitz had served as a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1972 to 1988, completing his time at the IOC as a Vice-President. He also chaired a non-profit foundation, which was established by the late Alfried Krupp to carry out philanthropic work.

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