Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist who displayed extraordinary dedication and courage to save the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler's act is viewed by many as the kind of act that restores faith in humanity. His inspirational and heart-warming story was adapted into an Oscar-winning film titled Schindler's List.
Sophie Scholl was a German anti-Nazi political activist who was involved with a non-violent resistance group called White Rose. Scholl was executed by guillotine at the age of 21 for distributing anti-war leaflets. Since her death, Sophie Scholl has been viewed as an iconic figure. Her life and work have inspired several films, including Sophie Scholl – The Final Days.
A member of the SA, the paramilitary wing of the German Nazi Party, Horst Wessel was murdered by his enemies, probably Communists. Following his death, he was hailed as a Nazi hero and martyr. The song Horst Wessel Lied later became the Nazi anthem and the co-national anthem of Nazi Germany.
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer is known for starting the campaign Fridays for Future, which began as a school strike for climate change awareness, with other activists such as Greta Thunberg. Her efforts include discussions with government heads and her participation at the UN Climate Conference.
Born in Prussia, Magnus Hirschfeld had initially studied languages and had then earned a medical degree. He grew up to be a prominent sexologist and gay rights activist who referred to the LGBT community as the “third sex.” His one-of-a-kind sexology institute was later destroyed by the Nazis.
German anti-Semitic völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist Dietrich Eckart, one of Adolf Hitler's earliest mentors who Hitler acknowledged as the spiritual co-founder of Nazism, founded German Workers' Party, the precursor of Nazi Party. Eckart was the original publisher of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and lyricist of Sturmlied, the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung.
German political activist and a founder-member of the Red Army Faction, Horst Mahler also supported Maoism, before becoming a neo-Nazi lawyer. He later turned to rightist politics and became a prominent Holocaust denier and a National Democratic Party member. He was jailed in 2009 for spreading racial hatred and released in 2020.
Andreas Baader is remembered as a co-founder of the West German military organization Red Army Faction (RAF). Initially a bohemian, he did not attend university and worked as a construction worker and journalist before joining the left-wing guerrilla movement. Following his suicide, his brain was removed for study by the German government.
German feminist, Marxist theorist, and Communist activist Clara Zetkin had a prominent role in the Communist Party of Germany and Comintern following World War I. Initially trained to be a teacher, she gradually gravitated towards women’s and labor movements. She later became closely associated with Lenin.
Apart from being a YouTube personality and an influencer, German political activist Naomi Seibt is also a prominent climate change denier. She has been associated with the right-wing public policy think tank Heartland Institute. In 2021, her YouTube channel was permanently banned for misinforming people.
Enamoured by the ideas of French and German philosophers, Ferdinand Lassalle initially aspired to be a lecturer. He later joined the socialist cause and spearheaded Germany’s social democratic movement. He also introduced terms such as the iron law of wages and concepts such as Lassallism, or achieving socialist ideals through the state.
Beate Klarsfeld is a Franco-German journalist best known for her work as a Nazi hunter. Beate and her husband Serge Klarsfeld achieved popularity for their documentation of many Nazi war criminals, including Alois Brunner, Kurt Lischka, Klaus Barbie, and Kurt Asche. Over the years, Beate Klarsfeld has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including National Jewish Book Award.
Rudi Dutschke was a German sociologist and political activist. He was a leading figure within the West German Socialist Students Union (SDS). He was also involved with the Federal Republic's broader “extra-parliamentary opposition” (APO). He supported a world-wide socialist revolution. He was brutally attacked by an assassin in 1968 and struggled with his injuries for years before dying in 1979.
Shere Hite was an American-born German feminist and sex educator. Her research helped understand various subjects such as sexual behavior and debunk traditional stereotypes associated with female sexuality. Shere Hite also taught at Chongqing University, Nihon University, and Maimonides University.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was a German lawyer, journalist, jurist, and writer. Today, he is widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern gay rights movement and sexology. Ulrichs is considered the first openly gay man in the history of mankind. In August 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs urged the goverment to revoke anti-homosexual laws, becoming the first homosexual to do so.
Inge Scholl was a German writer and peace activist. The elder sister of Sophie and Hans Scholl, who were executed by the Nazis for their association with the intellectual resistance group White Rose, Inge Scholl survived the war and published a book about the White Rose in 1952. Titled Die Weiße Rose, the book has been translated into many languages.
Ottilie Assing was a German-American abolitionist, freethinker, and feminist. She is best remembered for her friendship with American social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Apart from attending numerous conventions and meetings alongside Douglass, Ottilie Assing also translated many of his works to German.
Austrian-Jewish feminist and social worker Bertha Pappenheim founded the Jewish Women's Association (Jüdischer Frauenbund), mainly with the objective of improving women's experiences in the Jewish community. She was treated by Austrian physician Josef Breuer for nervous symptoms and her case study (under the pseudonym Anna O.) found place in Breuer’s book Studies on Hysteria, co-authored with Sigmund Freud.
Alexander Schmorell was a Russian-German revolutionary best remembered for co-founding the popular resistance group White Rose, which opposed the Nazi German regime. He was executed by the Nazis and was later glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Alexander Schmorell is also venerated throughout the world by Orthodox Christians.
Ursula Franklin was a German-Canadian research physicist, metallurgist, educator, and author. She is best remembered for her association with the University of Toronto, where she taught for more than 40 years. Ursula Franklin was also renowned for her work in promoting human rights, for which she received the prestigious Pearson Medal of Peace.
Stéphane Hessel was a concentration camp survivor and a French Resistance member. He studied at the École Normale Supérieure and served in the army for a while. He became a resistance member during World War II and was taken to a concentration camp. He survived the ordeal and later became an ambassador and diplomat. He was also a published author.
Eugen Drewermann is a German theologian, peace activist, church critic, and former Catholic priest. Drewermann's work is considered important and has been translated into over 12 languages. Over the years, Eugen Drewermann has received several prestigious awards such as the Herbert-Haag-Prize, Erich Fromm Prize, and International Albert Schweitzer-Prize.
Best remembered for her six-volume autobiography, Meine Lebensgeschichte, a seminal work that documents the growing up years of a Jewish woman in the nineteenth century Europe, German writer Fanny Lewald was also a woman's rights activist, advocating for their education. A prolific author since the age of thirty, she wrote mainly on family, marriage, social problems and travel.
Born in Eberbach, Conrad Beissel had initially worked as a baker in Heidelberg and later moved to America. Part of the Schwarzenau Brethren, or the German Baptists, he later led his own group of people who formed the German Seventh Day Baptists and observed the Sabbath as a holy day.