Well, this is not exactly an irony from Israel but rather an irony from the Third Reich that has put Israel in an ironic position.
Israel has a circle of honor for those who rescued Jews from the clutches of the Third Reich, whether it be one or thousands. Nominations are sent to a department of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial (built on land confiscated from Palestinian families, we must not forget), where the cases are checked and researched and then passed to a committee of ten Holocaust survivors, which makes the final decision. 24,356 people from forty-seven countries, five hundred of them Germans, have been so honored as the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
On the face of it, the case now facing the committee should be extremely simple. The candidate aided several dozen Jews and non-Jews in escaping from the Reich and set up Swiss bank accounts to help the exiles. On a number of occasions before the war he saved individual Jews from assault by Nazi thugs, and as an executive with the vast Skoda works in Czechoslovakia he aided resistance fighters and supported anti-German sabotage. He once took a truck to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and demanded workers for the Skoda factories, then driving them to a woods where they were released. All these activities are documented by witnesses, most especially the people (or their children) he helped to survive.
The only problem: the man’s name is Albert Göring.
Yes, the man in question was Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring’s little known younger brother. He was an apolitical engineer and a dapper womanizer, but despite his family connections he was also anti-Nazi and despised Hitler. Rather than turn a blind eye, however, he used those connections to rescue people from the system in which his brother was the number two man.
He obviously fits the bill for the honor of being a member of the Righteous Among the Nations, but his name is Göring, which might be a bit difficult for Israel to accept. But there is a way out. There is a rumor that Albert was actually the child of his mother and the family doctor, who was a Jew. This would give the Israelis an opportunity to avoid what might be an embarrassment in proclaiming a Göring one of the Righteous Among the Nations, since only non-Jews are eligible for the honor. There is, however, absolutely no evidence for this claim of a Jewish father, and even the Reichsmarschall would have had some difficulty protecting his brother had the Reich suspected Albert of carrying Jewish blood.
Confirmation of Albert Göring’s role in rescuing Jews would be a victory of truth over image, but unfortunately, Israel, more than most states, has allowed the image of its past to be built upon serious distortions of the truth, beginning with “A land without a people for a people without a land.” This must have been a baffling proclamation for the millions of Palestinians already living in the “land without a people.” Closer to the subject of this essay, missing from the list of the Swedish Righteous is the name Folke Bernadotte, who saved at least 1600 Jews (among tens of thousands of others) near the end of the war. But as a mediator during the Arab-Israeli conflicts of 1947-1948 Bernadotte earned the ire of the extremist Stern Gang, and in 1948 he was assassinated on the orders of its leaders, one of whom, Yitzhak Shamir, was later Prime Minister of Israel. Clearly, it would be awkward to encourage public review of Bernadotte’s life.
With Jews, Czech resistance fighters and others defending him Albert Göring was completely cleared by the allies, but out of loyalty to his family he refused to change his name, and even a talented engineer could not find work in Germany with the name Göring. He died a poor man in 1966, his deeds unknown to the world until an Australian writer published an account in 2009.