Hedwig Porschütz

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Commemorative plaque in Berlin

Hedwig Porschütz (née Völker, 10 June 1900 – 26 March 1977) was active in the German resistance to Nazism. She was recognised posthumously as Righteous Among the Nations for aiding and rescuing Jews during the Holocaust.[1]

Life[edit]

Hedwig Völker was born in 1900 in Berlin-Schöneberg. She married Walter Porschütz in 1926, who was then a chauffeur and would later be conscripted into the Wehrmacht. During the Great Depression she became a prostitute. In 1934 she was accused of blackmail and sentenced to ten months in prison.[2]

World War II[edit]

From 1940, Porschütz worked in Otto Weidt's workshop for the blind as a stockroom worker and later stenotypist. They were in close contact, and she significantly assisted Weidt's effort to protect his employees by hiding Jewish women in her home and illegally trading for supplies.[3]

The twins Marianne and Anneliese Bernstein stayed in Porschütz' apartment for six months starting from January 1943. In March they were joined by Grete Seelig and Lucie Ballhorn. Occasionally prostitutes would use the apartment, then the occupants would have to wait outside until the clients were gone. When the situation ultimately became too dangerous, due to police raiding another apartment in the same building in mid-2943, the Bernstein twins relocated to Wilmersdorf while Porschütz' mother sheltered the other two women. Three of the four would survive the Holocaust.[2]

Goods Porschütz bought on the black market would be given to persecuted Jews and used to bribe Gestapo officers. Otto Weidt's group sent more than 150 food parcels to Theresienstadt Ghetto to supply at least 25 people imprisoned there. Porschütz also procured forged documents for Inge Deutschkron. Due to her black market trade, Porschütz was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October 1944 by a Nazi Sondergericht. For a time she was imprisoned in Zillerthal-Erdmannsdorf, a subcamp of Gross-Rosen concentration camp.[2]

Later life[edit]

After the war, her activities went unrecognised for many years. Her requests to be compensated for political persecution and to be titled an "Unsung Heroine" were rejected by West Berlin authorities in 1959. Authorities at the time did not consider helping Jews an act of resistance. Due to her prior work as a prostitute Porschütz was regarded as an immoral and dishonourable person. The 1944 judgement, despite having been delivered by a political court, was used against her. She died poor in 1977, no known photos of her exist.[4]

Legacy[edit]

It took until November 2010 for Porschütz to be honoured by the city of Berlin with a memorial plaque, which was later placed at her former address (Feurigstraße 43).[5] By 2011 the 1944 judgement was repealed on the basis that the Nazi court made political judgements to execute the "Führer's will".[2] Yad Vashem recognised her as Righteous Among the Nations in 2012, a commemoration ceremony was held three years later.[1] A street in Berlin Mitte was named in her honour in 2018 (Hedwig-Porschütz-Straße).[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hillenbrand, Klaus (12 June 2015). "Unter den Völkern gerecht". Die Tageszeitung (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Tuchel, Johannes (19 July 2012). "Eine Frau in Berlin". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Hedwig Porschütz" (short biography). Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  4. ^ Steinbach, Peter (2011). "Korrektur einer Diffamierung". Tribüne. Zeitschrift zum Verständnis des Judentums (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Stille Heldin geehrt - Berliner Gedenktafel für Hedwig Porschütz". berlin.de (Press release) (in German). 3 November 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  6. ^ Noetzel, Karen (16 February 2018). "Judenretterin Hedwig Porschütz und ihre späte Anerkennung". Berliner Woche (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]

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