Adolf Hitler ordered that the Jewish commander of his army unit during World War I not be persecuted or deported, a German-Jewish publication reported.
Susanne Mauss, editor of the Jewish Voice from Germany, found an August 1940 note of the Gestapo ordering that Ernst Hess, a former judge, not be persecuted or deported following an order from the Reich Chancellery. The letter was written by Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazis’ feared secret police.
“Hess had the luck of being personally ‘pardoned’ by the mass killer Hitler, whose officials fulfilled his order with the same efficiency they executed their master’s mass murder decisions,” Mauss wrote. “Hess’ exemption only lasted until 1942, when at the Wannsee Conference the murder of European Jews was codified. Hess survived thanks to his ‘mixed marriage’ with his gentile wife. His sister was murdered by the Nazis, as were millions of others.”
Mauss interviewed Hess’ 86-year-old daughter, Ursula, who lives in Germany.
The letter was found in official archives containing files that the Gestapo kept on Jewish lawyers and judges. Mauss said its authenticity is corroborated by other documents, including one owned by Ursula Hess.
Hess had been a highly decorated soldier during World War I, but by 1936 had lost his job as a judge and been assaulted by Nazis. In June of that year Hess wrote to Hitler and asked that he and his daughter be exempt from the anti-Jewish laws, citing that he had been brought up Protestant and served his country.
“For us, it is a kind of spiritual death to now be branded as Jews and exposed to general contempt,” he wrote.
The family moved to Italy but was forced to return in 1939. Hess later was deported to Milbertshofen, a Nazi labor camp for Jews near Munich.
In 1946, Hess became an executive with the Reichsbahn national railways. He died in Frankfurt in 1983 at the age of 93.