Los Angeles — A Nobel Prize medal that belonged to a German doctor who shielded Jews in pre-Holocaust Germany fetched $395,000 at an auction.
The medal auctioned off on Thursday through Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles had a gold value of about $8,700 and was put on the market by the grandson of Heinrich Otto Wieland, a German doctor who won in 1927.
Wieland, a biochemistry pioneer, received the distinction for his research on the constitution of bile acids. Subsequently, he determined the chemical structure of cholesterol.
After the passage of the racist Nuremberg Laws in 1935, which called for the expulsion of all Jewish, or partially Jewish, students, Wieland used his prestige and position as professor at the University of Munich to retain his Jewish students as his “personal guests.”
Bidding started at $325,000, according to Sanders spokesman Sam Heller. In line with company policy, Heller did not disclose the name of the successful bidder.
One of Wieland’s protected students was the half-Jewish Hans Conrad Leipelt, a member of the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance group, who was denounced to the Gestapo.
In a rare display of civic courage, Wieland testified on behalf of Leipelt, who was nevertheless condemned by a Nazi court and executed in early 1945.
Since 1901, a total of 889 Nobel Prize medals have been awarded, of which only eight were sold or auctioned off by the recipients or their descendants. The prize for Wieland’s 23-karat medallion is in the middle range of the eight sold.