Anton Schmid (January 9, 1900 in Vienna, Austria – April 13, 1942 in Vilnius, Lithuania) was an Austrian conscript to the Wehrmacht in World War II who, as a sergeant (feldwebel) in Vilnius, Lithuania, was executed by his superiors for helping 250 Jewish men, women, and children escape from extermination by the Nazi SS during the European Jewish Holocaust. He did this by hiding them and supplying them with false ID papers.
Anton Schmid was an electrician who owned a small radio shop in Vienna. Drafted into the German army after the Anschluss of 1938, Schmid found himself stationed near Vilnius in the autumn of 1941. The Germans had entered Lithuania shortly before. As a sergeant of the Wehrmacht, he witnessed the herding of Jews into two ghettos and the shooting of thousands of them in nearby Ponary.
Only two letters of his have been preserved as the only written testimonial of his motives. In one letter to his wife Stefi, Schmid described after his arrest his horror at the sight of mass murder and of children being beaten on the way:"I will tell you how this came about: there were many Jews here, who were rounded up by the Lithuanian militia and were shot in a field outside of the City, always around 2,000 to 3,000 people. The children were already killed on the way by bashing them against trees. You can only imagine."( „Will Dir noch mitteilen, wie das ganze kam: hier waren sehr viele Juden, die vom litauischen Militär zusammengetrieben und auf einer Wiese außerhalb der Stadt erschossen wurden, immer so 2000 – 3000 Menschen. Die Kinder haben sie auf dem Wege gleich an die Bäume angeschlagen. Kannst Dir ja denken.“)
His last words in a letter to his family:„Ich habe nur als Mensch gehandelt und wollte ja niemandem weh tun.“
("I have just acted as a human and I did not want to hurt anyone.")
When his conviction became known in Vienna, several neighbours spoke snidely to Mrs. Schmid about the "Landesverräter" (Traitor of his Country). Someone smashed one of her house's window panes.
In 1961 Hannah Arendt wrote about Anton Schmid: "During the few minutes it took Kovner to tell of the help that had come from a German sergeant, a hush settled over the courtroom; it was as though the crowd had spontaneously decided to observe the usual two minutes of silence in honor of the man named Anton Schmid. And in those two minutes, which were like a sudden burst of light in the midst of impenetrable, unfathomable darkness, a single thought stood out clearly, irrefutably, beyond question - how utterly different everything would be today in this courtroom, in Israel, in Germany, in all of Europe, and perhaps in all countries of the world, if only more such stories could have been told."
On 8 May 2000 the post-war Federal Republic of Germany renamed a military base in Rendsburg "Feldwebel-Schmid-Kaserne" in honor for his courage. By invitation of German Federal Minister of Defense Rudolf Scharping, President Heinz Fischer attended the barracks-naming as President of the National Council of Austria in Rendsburg. However, it was closed down in 2010.
In Haifa, Israel, the entry to town from the southern freeway is named "Anton Schmid Circus" in his honor.
On 16 May 1967, the Israeli government paid tribute to Sergeant Anton Schmid. Yad Vashem awarded him recognition as "Righteous among the Nations" and presented his widow with the medal bearing the inscription: "Whoever saves one life - saves the world entire."
On July 10, 2013 President Heinz Fischer presented 50 books from Wolfram Wette, sponsored by the city of Vienna, to the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Servants at the annual Holocaust Memorial Service reception with the purpose of passing them on to their service locations abroad.
On June 22, 2016 the barracks in Blankenburg (Harz) were named after Sergeant Anton Schmid.