Hans Calmeyer was a left-wing German lawyer — his law license was temporarily suspended when he was accused of being a Communist — who was inducted into the German army under the Nazis, who put him in charge of an office that determined which Dutch people would be deported to Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation.
Calmeyer used his position to sabotage Nazi deportations, accepting obviously forged documents that proved that Dutch Jews had non-Jewish grandparents, and slow-walking document processing to keep Jews from being deported. He is estimated to have saved 4,000 Jews from the camps (he was imprisoned as a war-criminal after the war, but released when his actions came to light; he later worked on reparations claims by victims of the Nazis).
One of the people whom Calmeyer saved is Laureen Nussbaum, who married her boyfriend — another Jew who went into hiding during the occupation — and moved to the USA after the war, where she became a German language professor at Portland State University.
Nussbaum is now 92 and retired, and has just published Shedding Our Stars, a memoir that weaves her life-story in with Calmeyer's and that of other survivors (Ursula K LeGuin helped advise her on how to frame the story).
Calmeyer's story has been lightly recounted in German and Dutch literature, but Nussbaum's piece marks the first English book on the subject. Nussbaum says it took her so long to write in part because so many of her friends discouraged her from talking about her experiences during the Holocaust.
Nussbaum was also a prime mover behind the publication of Anne Frank's lost novel, "Dear Kitty," which was published in Germany, Austria and Switzerland this year after 25 years of Nussbaum's advocacy (thanks to baroque copyright struggles between different institutions claiming to represent Anne Frank's legacy, the book won't be translated into English or distributed in the USA until 2047).
Today, Nussbaum says she fears the rise of antisemitism in the USA, saying that the situation under Trump and his white nationalist supporters has "parallels that are very, very scary."
Thousands petitioned his office for reclassification. Calmeyer, in the name of thorough research, dragged the decision-making process out as long as possible, delaying deportation to concentration camps. In a majority of cases on what became known as the Calmeyer list, people never went to the camps because his office ultimately decided they were not Jewish, despite documentation sometimes patently false.
The bureaucrat confided at the time to a friend he was trying to prevent more people from being sent to the camps and wrote in a statement after the war that he willfully sabotaged laws he took to be immoral.
And so he accepted a concocted story by Nussbaum's family about her mother having a Christian father. The man identified was really her mom's foster father for a time, the real father being Jewish. Because Nussbaum's maternal grandmother was Catholic — a singer who toured all over Europe and didn't marry her Jewish lover until 20 years after their child was born — the author's mother was, officially, no longer considered Jewish. Nussbaum and her siblings were regarded as having mixed blood and her father part of a "privileged mixed marriage."
Seattleite, 92, finally tells story of German who saved more Jews during
the Holocaust than Schindler [Nina Shapiro/Washington Post]
(via Naked Capitalism)