Ernest Hess was a regular guy who made the serious mistake of being Jewish in Germany during the 1930s. Despite being raised Protestant, his mother's ancestry was Jewish, which was good enough for the Nazis. Even though Hess had fought bravely for his country in World War I, he was treated like every other Jew: He had to wear the Star of David, and he was constantly harassed by Nazi supporters on the street.
But then an old war buddy came along and lent Hess a helping hand. This Nazi-foiling veteran soldier went by the name of Adolf Hitler. Wait, what?
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1974-082-44/CC-BY-SA
Seen here, seconds before that dog bit off most of his mustache.
Hitler had served under Hess in the first war and decided to pull a few strings to give his old boss a break. That's how Heinrich Himmler, the guy who engineered the "Final Solution," ended up informing the Gestapo that Hess had been granted "the relief and the protection as per the Fuhrer's wishes" and that he was not "to be in-opportuned in any way whatsoever." He was even granted a new passport that made no mention of his Jewish ancestry.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480/CC-BY-SA
"New rule: Only kill Jews I don't personally know. Nein, stop making eye contact! Neiiiiiinnn!"
While Hess did eventually end up being sent to a labor camp, he at least survived the war, which he probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't for Hitler's intervention. Fortunately, other people followed Hitler's example (that came out wrong). Take Albert Goering, the brother of high-ranking Nazi officer Hermann Goering. Albert was more or less the black sheep in a family of fascists. Where most of us would have rebelled against society by growing our hair out long and putting on a record of whatever passed for Skrillex back then, Albert took the higher ground and saved hundreds of Jews.
Kinda makes your eyelid-piercing phase seem half-assed in comparison.
Despite being a terrible person, Hermann liked his brother well enough to turn a blind eye to his actions. This included saving hundreds from the concentration camps by employing them Schindler's List-style in his factories, regardless of whether they could work or not. In fact, he saved so many that he's now being considered for the Righteous Among the Nations award.
Hitler's probably like "Hey, where's mein?!" It's all politics, man.
Alex has a sporadically updated blog you can stare at. Yosomono lives on the mean streets of Tokyo, writes for Gaijinass.com, and wants you to like their Facebook page. Robin would like to thank Deirdre B. for her help with research and her support.
For more unusual heroes, check out 6 Real-Life Vigilantes Crazier Than Batman. Or learn about 3 Reasons Real Heroes Tend to be Weirdos.