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Blind Trust: The Otto Weidt Workshop

You are deaf in an air raid. Imagine the mouths open, but you cannot hear the screams. No sound, just tremors from the walls disintegrating around you. You are blind in a police raid. You feel for the exits, futilely, follow the cries of panic, count the stairs, with the dogs behind you. Now add another hindrance. You are pursued, because the disabled are murdered. And so are the Jews. You are both. And in Nazi Germany, no one will help you.


Almost no one. A man named Otto Weidt has employed you and 38 other disabled Jews, the blind and the deaf, in his atelier in Rosenthaler Straße 39 in Berlin-Mitte, the heart of the old Jewish neighbourhood. The brushes and brooms you make are sold to the Wehrmacht. Because military equipment, however benign, is produced here, the premises are ‘protected’, so it’s easier to keep a low profile. How absurd to think that the things you make, but perhaps cannot see, are used to brush down the floors in an army hallway, the scuff marks of all those black boots, or to polish the surfaces of the planes raining bombs down on London. Perhaps they are used to mop up after the liquidations, the floor of an interrogation chamber.


February 1943, bombing raids, chaos, and the Fabrikaktion, a last round-up of German Jews. Otto Weidt, they say, went to Auschwitz to demand back his workers. Four of you are still alive, spirited away, while the rest are being murdered.
Perhaps one of the deaf saw, as he stood there in the cold, naked, waiting for the shower, a bucket at the doorway, and a brush.

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