June 19th in German History: The Death of Jewish Politician Otto Hirsch

Otto Hirsch.

Within Germany, there were many who opposed the antisemitic policies of the Nazi regime. One such figure was Otto Hirsch, a politician and activist who died in the Mauthausen concentration camp on June 19th, 1941.

Otto Hirsch first entered political life in 1930 when he was elected president of the high council of the Jewish religious community in the city of Wurrtemberg. He protested against Hitler’s rise to power, and founded the Reich Representation of German Jews. This group was meant to coordinate the political activities of the Jewish population and provide representation against growing antisemitism. He was arrested in 1935, but was soon released. In 1938 he represented German Jews at the Evian Conference, which was organized by Franklin Roosevelt in order to convince European nations to accept more Jewish refugees. Following Kristallnacht, he was arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for two weeks. Following this he focused on helping Jews emigrate to other countries, although his efforts were frustrated by quotas in Western Europe and in the US. In 1939 the Nazi government forced the Reich Representation of German Jews to merge into the Reich Association of Jews in Germany and appointed Hirsch to it. He was arrested in February of 1941 and sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he died.

Otto Hirsch is an example of a fundamentally noble human being. Although he possessed the means to escape Germany, he stayed and did his best to help fellow German Jews survive and flee Nazism. He serves an example to follow, and reminds us that even evil nations have good people.

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