A Stranger’s Kindness That Helped a Family Escape Nazi Germany Actually Affected The Whole World

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One fateful night in 1938, a stranger asked a Russian-American Jew named Barnet Yudin if he would legally declare financial support for an immigrant family by the name of Penzias that was fleeing Nazi Germany, even if he had never met them. In fact, he didn’t even know the stranger that was knocking door-to-door asking people to help the Jewish family hoping to make a new life in America.

Although Yudin had never become the doctor he had hoped to become one day, his family was comfortable in their home in Belleville, New Jersey, working as a paint salesman where he earned $120 a month, which in those days was more than enough to survive.

But it wasn’t just a monetary donation that Yudin was being asking for, but to sign an affidavit of support for the entire family. It said that he would financially keep them afloat if needed until they managed to survive financially on their own.

In addition, he had to hand over his banking information, his monthly income, net worth, and other details to help the family get their immigration visas, all in the hopes that they would be spared from being placed in Nazi concentration camps.

From the goodness of his heart, Yudin not only did as asked, but he was also promised that the family would never contact him despite his very good deed.

Incredibly, the Penzais family finally made it to North America, all because of Yudin’s kindness. The older of the two sons, Arno, would even go on to become physicists that would eventually discover the Cosmic Microwave Background, which is considered one of the strongest pieces of evidence that supports the Big Bang Theory of the universe. He would even go on to receive a Nobel Prize for his discovery.


These days, 89-year old Arno is a retired senior living in Northern California. In recent news, National Geographic even reported that his son, David, discovered some family papers that contained an envelope, and inside it was a copy of the affidavit signed by Yudin, along with his personal bank documents that were required of him, certifying that the documents were real.

Surprised by the incredible kindness that this stranger had shown his family, David looked further into the story and found the name of someone he was pretty sure was a close relative of Yudin, a man named Robert who lived in New Jersey. He decided to call him to tell him about the story, despite how very strange it may have sounded to Robert, the story was anything but remarkable.

David requested that the two families get together at the home of Yudin’s grandson, Robert, where they shared lox, bagels, and whitefish for a meal. After which, they exchanged memories, documents, and other stories, mostly centered around a photo of Arno Penzais and his 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

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David shared of his grandfather’s doing, “None of these people would exist today without Barnet Yudin.”

Yudin’s great-grandson, Joe, told Nat Geo what he thought his grandfather might say, “Is this kid going to win the Nobel someday, or play shortstop for the Yankees? He did what he did because it was right and didn’t mention it to anybody. He definitely had this big picture of what humanity should be like.”

Even Yudin’s granddaughter, Sydney Neuwirth, shared with Nat Geo about why he was so willing to help a family he didn’t know, “He knew what it was like to be turned down, turned away,” Neuwirth says. “This was his way of helping. He always wanted to help.”



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