In March 1944, Mr. Beitz was drafted by the German army, leaving the Jews in his workforce unprotected. Many were deported to Auschwitz, according to an account in the Swiss Review of World Affairs. But others escaped. Some found work at a munitions factory run by Schindler, the industrialist made famous in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Schindler’s List.”
Mr. Beitz resumed his business career after the war. In 1953, he was hired by Krupp, who was convicted at the Nuremberg trials of using slave labor during the war and had recently been released from prison. Krupp swore off arms production and embarked on an effort to diversify the company. With Mr. Beitz as general manager, it became one of the most powerful businesses in the world.
After Krupp’s death in 1967, Mr. Beitz became executor of his will and head of the foundation that effectively controlled the company. He reportedly kept 1,000 ties in his office wardrobe.
ThyssenKrupp AG was formed in a merger in 1999. Mr. Beitz had retired in 1990 but remained associated with the company until his death.
“I am a businessman,” he once remarked, “so what do I care about politics?”
Berthold Beitz was born Sept. 26, 1913, in Zemmin, in what was then the German Empire. The son of a bank teller, he initially worked in banking before joining Royal Dutch Shell.
Krupp’s decision to hire Mr. Beitz was part of an overarching strategy to remake the business. “I decided we should start looking for a man who did not know steel,” Krupp once said.
In the late 1950s, Mr. Beitz participated in negotiations with a Jewish organization that led to an agreement — one of the early settlements of its kind — in which the Krupp firm promised to pay 5,000 marks (then worth $1,190) to any worker who could show that he or she had been used for slave labor during the war.
His wife, Else, with whom he had three daughters, was recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” in 2006. A complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.
The exact number of Jews saved by Mr. Beitz is not easily determined. Some estimates place the number as high as 800. But he remained haunted by one person whose life he could not save.
Once, he went to the railway station before a transport and recognized among the deportees one of his secretaries and her elderly mother. Mr. Beitz pulled both women from the cattle car. The SS guard, unconvinced of the older woman’s value to the company, ordered her back onto the train.
Unable to bear such a separation, the secretary turned to Mr. Beitz. “Herr Direktor, may I [also] return to the car?” she asked. She never came back.