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German President Joachim Gauck visited Friday a former workshop whose owner fought to save his Jewish staff from deportation, as Germany began marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi Kristallnacht anti-Jewish pogrom.
Gauck joined a Jewish former employee to visit the premises, now a museum in central Berlin, where Otto Weidt ran his brushes and brooms workshop, mostly staffed by deaf and blind Jews.
The president, a former Protestant pastor and rights activist from ex-East Germany, described Weidt's workshop as an "islet of humanity" showing there was always a choice even in difficult times to do good and follow one's conscience.
Weidt provided false papers or hid his Jewish staff from the Nazis.
Among the non-blind or deaf employees was Inge Deutschkron, 91, a journalist and writer, who avoided deportation with his help and accompanied Gauck on the museum visit.
Weidt was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel in 1971.
"When the deportations began, Weidt, utterly fearless, fought with Gestapo officials over the fate of every single Jewish worker," the website of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial said.
Throughout the weekend, commemorations will be held to mark the attacks of November 9 and 10, 1938, when Nazi thugs plundered Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torched synagogues and rounded up about 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps.
At least 90 Jews were killed in the orgy of violence also known as 'The Night of Broken Glass', which historians say ushered in the start of the Nazis' drive to wipe out European Jewry.