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Hans Georg Calmeyer (June 23, 1903 – 3 September 1972) was a German lawyer from Osnabrück who saved thousands of Jews from certain death during the German occupation of the Netherlands in from 1941 until 1945.

Calmeyer studied Law in Freiburg, Marburg and Munich. In 1923, as a member of the Reichswehr, he took part in Hitler’s attempted Putsch. Later, he opened his law practice in Osnabrück where he enjoyed an excellent reputation as a lawyer.

In 1933, his license to practice law was revoked because of his activity and leaning towards Communist lines of thought. Ten months later, his license was reinstated. He was a member of the Federation of the National Socialist German Lawyers, but not the Nazi party

In 1940, Calmeyer serving as a soldier and a member of an aerial defense intelligence unit., took part in the invasion of the Netherlands by the German Army. In 1941, he was active in the Reichs Commissioner's Office (Reichskommissariat), which was in charge of all occupied districts in the Netherlands. While there, Calmeyer was appointed Director for the Interior Administration, which handled the Jewish Department, thus enabling Calmeyer, as an administrative lawyer, to clear "racially ambiguous" Jewish cases for the German occupational administration in The Hague.

Unlike policy in Germany, people of Jewish descent could rebut being registered as "full blooded Jews" by documenting and proving ancestry through word of mouth and birth certificates to qualify as "half-Jewish", "quarter-Jewish", or of Aryan descent. Calmeyer described in his own words, how he used his position: "To build a lifeboat." He accepted falsified papers of ancestry which documented the subject person as Arian or "half-Jewish". He also managed to offer hints and advice on various stratagems and excuses. Despite warnings from the Nazi regime, he persisted in his work.

Approximately 5,700 individuals were designated as doubtful cases through Calmeyer’s office, and at least 3,700 were spared certain death. Yet the decisions on "dubious cases" concerning the remaining 2,000 individuals were the equivalent of a death sentence, as they shared the fate of 140,000 Jews transported by the Germans to various concentration camps for extermination. Seventy-five percent of them died on the way to their final destination.

According to a description of Calmeyer by the German Bundespresident Johannes Rau: "Calmeyer joined the ranks of human beings who helped, but who were also guilty of being caught up in the unjustifiable wrongdoings of the regime". His work was almost forgotten until a movement to honor him came about during the 1980s. On March 4, 1992, Yad Vashem honored Hans Calmeyer posthumously with the title "A Righteous Man Among Nations". On January 2, 1995 the town of Osnabrück awarded Calmeyer its highest award posthumously: "The Moesermedaille". Present at the ceremony were his son, Dr. Peter Calmeyer, and the Ambassador of Israel, Avi Primor.

References

  • Joachim Castan/Thomas (Hg): Hans Calmeyer and the Rescue of the Jews in the Netherlands;

Catalogue for the exhibition, same title. Goettingen: V& Runipress 2003. ISBN 3-389971-122X (optimal introduction of the topic.)

  • Niebaum, Peter; Rolf Düsterberg, Siegfried Hummel and Tilman Westphalen (in German). Ein Gerechter unter den Völkern : Hans Calmeyer in seiner Zeit (1903-1972) (A Righteous Man Among Nations: Hans Calmeyer in His Time (1903-1972)). Osnabrück: Edition Rasch. ISBN 3934005950.  
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