Heinz Drossel

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Heinz Drossel (September 21, 1916 – April 28, 2008) was a German lieutenant in World War II who was named one of the Righteous Among the Nations for helping Jews escape persecution. He was the son of anti-Nazis and shared their political philosophy, refusing to join the Nazi Party. Drafted in November 1939, Drossel served in the Battle of France before serving on the Eastern Front for the rest of the war.

His philanthropic actions began in 1941, when he saved Soviet prisoners from being executed and secretly released them to return to Soviet lines. While on leave in Berlin in 1942, he started covertly assisting Jews when he found a Jewish woman, Marianne Hirschfeld, about to leap from a bridge. Risking court-martial and execution, he sheltered her in his apartment before giving her money to find a safer place to stay.

In 1945 Drossel helped Ernst Fontheim, his wife Margot, and her parents find shelter. He was sent back to the Eastern Front that Spring. On May 4, just four days before the war would end, he was ordered by the Waffen-SS to lead his troops in a suicidal attack on Soviet positions. Drossel refused and when threatened with execution, ordered his troops to open fire on the SS. He was immediately arrested and sentenced to death, spared only by the intervention of attacking Soviet troops. He was briefly imprisoned by the Soviets and released before the end of the year.

In his postwar life, Drossel served as a judge. He married Marianne Hirschfeld, the first Jew that he saved in the war. He was named as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 2000. After receiving the award he often gave inspirational speeches to German children at schools. In 2008, he died in Simonswald.

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