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03/11/2013

Brother of Adolf Hitler's second-in-command being considered for top award by Jewish museum

Hermann Goring was Adolf Hitler's trusted second-in-command, charged with overseeing the mass murder of Jews during World War II. He is among the 20th century's most infamous household names.

More than 60 years after Goring was convicted as a war criminal and killed himself with cyanide to avoid his execution, his brother Albert is poised to rise to prominence--as a purported saviour of some of those whom the Nazis had marked for death.

Albert Goring is being considered for a rare honour by Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial museum, for his efforts to save the lives of Jews during the war.

"There's been a lot of discussion about him in recent years because there has been more stories about him," Estee Yaari, a Yad Vashem spokesperson, told the Star. Yaari said a sub-commission of about 11 or 12 Yad Vashem officials may soon consider whether Goring should be declared "Righteous Among the Nations."

"I can't say if it will happen or when it will happen," Yaari said. Yad Vashem bestows the honour on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews, she said. More than 24,000 people have received the honour since 1953, which is given to some 4oo to 500 new recipients each year.

Yad Vashem officials are now exploring whether Albert Goring -- at about the same time as his brother Herman was giving the order in 1941 to "make all necessary preparations for a final solution of the Jewish question in Europe" -- really did risk his life to save doomed Jewish prisoners.

Yad Vashem officials are considering various documents and eyewitness testimonies, including a German magazine article written in 1962 by Austrian screenwriter Ernst Neubach titled "My Friend Goring".

In one instance, Neubach describes how Goring helped escort an elderly Jewish woman to safety after Nazi stormtroopers had forced her to sit in a shop window with a derogatory sign around her neck.

Goring, who died in 1966 and was buried in Munich, rescued his doctor from being sent to the Dachau concentration camp, Neubach wrote, got exit permits for other Jews, and transferred the confiscated assets of some Jews to Zurich.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Yad Vashem official Irene Steinfeldt said she has spoken with the son of someone rescued by Goring and that she will eventually present Goring to a commission that will decide if he is to be honoured.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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