Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Unit 1012 will honor and always remember Hans von Dohnányi. We will remember and honor him for saving Jews during the Holocaust and he rightfully deserves to be recognized by the State of Israel as Righteous among the Nations.

His story should be an inspiration for us to support victims’ rights and by speaking out against evil and saving lives. We also learn do the right thing by helping those who suffer injustice. We will post information about him from Wikipedia and other links.

Hans von Dohnányi

1 January 1902
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
8/9 April 1945 (aged 43)
Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Nazi Germany
Christel Bonhoeffer

Hans von Dohnányi (1 January 1902 – 8 or 9 April 1945) was a German jurist of Hungarian ancestry, rescuer of Jews, and German resistance fighter against the Nazi régime.

Early life

Hans von Dohnányi was born to the Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi and his wife, the pianist Elisabeth Kunwald. After his parents divorced, he grew up in Berlin. He went to the Grunewald Gymnasium there, becoming friends with Dietrich and Klaus Bonhoeffer. From 1920 to 1924, he studied law in Berlin. In 1925, he received a doctorate in law with a dissertation on "The International Lease Treaty and Czechoslovakia's Claim on the Lease Area in Hamburg Harbour".

After taking the first state exam in 1924, he married Christel Bonhoeffer, sister of his school friends, in 1925. About this time, he began putting the stress on the "a" in his last name (which is of Hungarian origin, stressed on the first syllable). He and his wife had three children: Klaus, (mayor of Hamburg from 1981 to 1988), Christoph, (a musical conductor) and Barbara.


Dohnányi worked at the Hamburg Senate for a short time and in 1929, began a career at the Reich Ministry of Justice, working as a personal consultant with the title of prosecutor to several justice ministers. In 1934, the title was changed to Regierungsrat ("government adviser"). In 1932, he was adjutant to Erwin Bumke, the Imperial Court President (Reichsgerichtspräsident; at this time, Germany was still officially the German Empire, Deutsches Reich), in which capacity he put together Prussia's lawsuit against the Empire, which Prussia had brought after the Preußenschlag, Franz von Papen's dissolution of the Prussian social-democratic government through an emergency decree in 1932. As an adviser to Franz Gürtner from 1934–38, Dohnányi became acquainted with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring. He had access to the justice ministry's most secret documents.


Spurred by the murders of alleged plotters of the 1934 Night of the Long Knives, "legitimised" murders carried out on government orders, without trial or sentence, Dohnányi began to seek out contacts with German resistance circles. He made records for himself of the régime's crimes, so that in the event of a collapse of the Third Reich, he would have evidence of their crimes. In 1938, once his critical view of Nazi racial politics became known, Martin Bormann had him transferred to the Reichsgericht in Leipzig as an adviser.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Hans Oster called Dohnányi into the Abwehr of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Led by Wilhelm Canaris, it quite quickly became a hub of resistance activity against Hitler. Dohnányi protected Dietrich Bonhoeffer from conscription by bringing him into the Abwehr with the claim Bonhoeffer's numerous ecumenical contacts could be useful for Germany.

In 1942, Dohnányi made it possible for two Jewish lawyers from Berlin, Friedrich Arnold and Julius Fliess, to flee with their loved ones to Switzerland, disguised as Abwehr agents. Altogether, 13 people were able to leave Germany without hindrance, thanks to Dohnányi's forgeries and operation known as U-7. Dohnányi covertly went to Switzerland to make certain the refugees would be admitted. He also ensured they received money to support themselves.

During late February 1943, Dohnányi busied himself with Henning von Tresckow's assassination attempt against Hitler and the attendant coup d'état. The bomb that was smuggled aboard Hitler's plane in Smolensk after being carried there by Dohnányi, however, failed to go off.

On 5 April 1943, Dohnányi was arrested at his office by the Gestapo on charges of alleged breach of foreign currency violations: he had transferred funds to a Swiss bank on behalf of the Jews he had saved. Among the transactions in question were ones with Jauch & Hübener. Both Bonhoeffer and Christel Dohnányi were also arrested, although she was released about a week later.

Military judge Karl Sack, on his own a member of the resistance, deliberately delayed Dohnányi's trial, but, in 1944, Dohnányi was delivered to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His involvement in the 20 July Plot came to light after the plan failed. Also, the Gestapo found some of the documents he had earlier saved and hidden and decided Dohnányi was "the spiritual head of the conspiracy” against Hitler. On Hitler's orders, on 6 April 1945, he was condemned to death by an SS drumhead court and executed two or three days later (depending on the source), hanged by piano wire.

Proceedings after the war

After the fall of the Nazi régime, the chairman of the drumhead court, Otto Thorbeck, and the prosecutor, Walter Huppenkothen, were accused in West Germany of being accessories to murder. After the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) had at first quashed a lower court's two acquittals, it changed its mind in 1956 during the third revision of the case, quashed Thorbeck's and Huppenkothen's sentences, and acquitted them of the charges of being accessories to murder by their participation in the drumhead trial on grounds that the court had been duly constituted and the sentence had been imposed according to the law then in force, without either of the accused having perverted justice.

On the centenary of Dohnányi's hundredth birthday in 2002, Günter Hirsch, president of the BGH, called those who had sentenced Dohnányi to death "criminals calling themselves judges". Hirsch said the 1956 ruling was shameful because as a result, not a single one of the Nazi-era judges who sentenced 50,000 Nazi opponents to their deaths were themselves found guilty after the war.

On 23 October 2003, Israel honoured Dohnányi by recognizing him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for saving the Arnold and Fliess families, at risk to his own life. His name has been inscribed in the walls at the Holocaust remembrance centre Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. His grandson Justus starred as Wilhelm Burgdorf in the 2004 film, Downfall.

Yad Vashem to Recognize Hans von Dohnanyi as a Righteous Among the Nations

Award to Be Presented to His Children in Germany

23 October 2003
On October 26, Yad Vashem will recognize Hans von Dohnanyi as a Righteous Among the Nations at an official ceremony in Berlin. Yad Vashem recognizes as Righteous Among the Nations any Gentile proven to have saved Jews during the Holocaust at risk to his or her own life. Director of Yad Vashem’s Switzerland and German-speaking Countries Desk, Arik Rav-On, will preside over the ceremony, in which Israeli Consul to Germany Mordechay Lewy will present the award to von Dohnanyi’s children Klaus von Dohnanyi, Barbara von Dohnanyi-Bayer, and Christoph von Dohnanyi. 

During World War II, von Dohnanyi was conscripted to serve in the information department of the German military intelligence organization (Abwehr). In September 1942, von Dohnanyi initiated the rescue of 13 Jews under cover of a clandestine Abwehr operation codenamed U-7. This operation involved deployment of Abwehr agents on foreign soil. Von Dohnanyi manipulated the operation’s shroud of secrecy and the Nazi bureaucracy in order to smuggle the group of Jews (which included elderly, crippled, and children) from Germany to safe harbor in Switzerland. His real goal was to save them from deportation to Nazi death camps, despite the great risk to his own life. 

Von Dohnanyi planned the entire rescue operation, and he made a secret visit to Switzerland to verify that the group would be properly received. He also had several secret meetings with a member of the group, Friedrich Arnold, in order to coordinate the escape. Von Dohnanyi had been acquainted with Arnold before the war, and he had long sought a secure way in which to save him and his family. 

Von Dohnanyi was later arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of anti-Nazi activity. He was initially charged with foreign currency violations, which he performed in order to transfer the rescued Jews’ funds to a Swiss bank. As part of the Nazis’ final purge of anti-Reich suspects, Von Dohnanyi was executed in April 1945.
In accordance with its eligibility criteria, Yad Vashem’s committee for the Righteous Among the Nations decided on June 17 to honor Hans von Dohnanyi as a Righteous Among the Nations. The decision was made on the basis of the evidence proving his heroic actions, including testimonies by members of the rescued group and other knowledgeable sources.
A person recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations is awarded a specially minted medal bearing his name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of his/her name being added to those on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. The awards are distributed to the rescuers or their next of kin in ceremonies in Israel, or in their countries of residence through Israel's diplomatic representatives. 


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