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Werner Otto von Hentig (22 May 1886, Berlin, Germany – 8 August 1984, Lindesnes, Norway) was a German diplomat from Berlin. He was the elder brother of criminal psychologist Hans von Hentig and the father of Hartmut von Hentig. He was a critic of the Nazi regime who served in the Third Reich, intervened at great personal risk to save Jews who were in danger, and was instrumental in arranging for thousands of Jews to be transferred to from Germany to Palestine during the 1930s.

Hentig joined the Imperial German diplomatic service in 1909 and was posted as an attache to the German mission at Beijing, and was later posted to Constantinopole and Tehran. During World War I he was wounded in the Battle of Masuria, and later in 1915 led, along with Oskar Niedermayer, the German mission to Kabul that sought to enlist the Afghan Amir's support for the Central Powers and attack British India.

At the end of the war, Hentig was attached to the embassy at Constantinopole, before becoming active in repatriation of German prisoners of war from Siberia. In 1924, he was appointed the ambassador to Poznan. In the 1920s, Hentig became involved in the German Youth Movement. In the 1930s, he was appointed the German Consul General to San Francisco and later Bogotá when in 1935, attempts were made to assassinate him.

Nora Levin writes in 'The Holocaust' about von Hentig's actions during the 1937 and 1938, when the rate of Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine was being restricted by a combination of British obstructions (in response to Arab uprisings in Mandatory Palestine that opposed giving asylum to European Jews) and a change in German policy concerning the German Jewish contribution to the potential establishment of a Jewish State:[1]

The Palestine Desk in the Wilhelmstrasse at this time (1937-38) was held by Werner Otto von Hentig, a critic of the Nazi regime, but a man whose foreign service expertise could not be ignord or wasted. Hentig had already dealt with the Palestine problem in Constantinople.... In Berlin, he had often seen and heard Weizmann and had been deeply impressed by him. He was also attracted to the daring of the Zionist experiment. Hentig advised Ernst Marcus, who was employed by the Paltreu Company, a subsidiary of the Haavara Company, to prepare material proving that the contribution of the German Jews to the upbuilding of Palestine was small as compared with the share of Polish Jews and the financial contribution of American Jews. Marcus prepared such a memorandum, which served as the basis for a brief, arguing that there were certain advantages to Germany in the establishment of a Jewish State. Other divisions within the Foreign Ministry, however, submitted negative recommendations. Several months passed .... A short time before the Mossad emissary, Auerbach, arrived in Vienna, von Hentig phoned Marcus to tell him that Hitler at last had made a favorable decision and that all obstacles in the way of emigration to Palestine were now removed [2]

Although von Hentig was overly optimistic about the removal of all obstacles (e.g. the British were opposed to unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine), the actions initiated by von Hentig enabled Auerbach to negotiate with Eichmann for (at first) a thousand Jewish boys and girls to be trained in preparation for emigration to Palestine. Although Eichmann had wanted the training and emigration to be handled by the Gestapo, Auerbach found confederates (e.g. Signor Metossiani, an engineer named Karthaus, a young Palestinian Jew named Zvi Yehieli, and others) who used the opportunity to obtain 20,000 transit visas that could (theoretically) enable Jews to emigrate to Yugoslavia. Although the actual numbers saved were fewer than 20,000, the various efforts enabled many Jews (in bunches of hundreds) find passage on several different vessels that departed Yugoslav and Greek ports. Although there were a variety of putative destinations (e.g. Mexico), and many adventures and mishaps, many of these Jewish refugees eventually arrived safely in Palestine. These arrangements were continued until the British took strong actions to stop such rescue operations[3]

After the anti-Jewish Kristallnacht pogroms in November, 1938:

Hentig ... expressed his shame, and willingly used his influence, at great personal risk, to protest a fresh action from starting.... Hentig interceded with Under-Secretary of State Ernst von Weizsäcker, pointing out the detrimental effects of the riots on German foreign policy.... Hentig ... did secure the release of ... arrested ... Jewish functionaries from concentration camps.[4]

As the Middle East historian Wolfgang G. Schwanitz of New Jersey proved in his research, Hentig did cultivate a bitter rivalry with another foremost German envoy to the Middle East, Dr. Fritz Grobba. This shaped the German Middle Eastern policy: Hentig obstructed the expansion of World War II to the Middle East. Whereas Grobba belonged in both world wars to Foreign Office's faction that favored the massive incitement of Muslims to jihad in the colonial hinterland of Britain, France, and Russia, Hentig opposed it. Though he had switched sides for during World War I he did spread jihad ideas himself in his secret mission to Kabul, Afghanistan, due to the Ottoman-German conspiracy to instigate Muslims for a Holy War.[Clarification needed]

After World War II, he was the West German ambassador to Indonesia. Following his retirement, he also served as the personal advisor to the Saudi Royal Family for nearly two years.

In 1961, Hentig, along with Bogislaw von Bonin, Herman Schwann, Wolf Schenke and Theodor Kogler, was one of the cofounders of the Association of German National Assembly.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry 1933--1945", by Nora Levin (NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Co.; 1968), pp. 124--132)
  2. "Holocaust, Levin, 1968", p. 132
  3. "Holocaust, Levin, 1968", pp. 132--143
  4. "Holocaust, Levin, 1968", p. 82

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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