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Nazis Shaping Postwar German Government? No Kidding!

COMMENT: Substantiating much of what I’ve been saying about the postwar role of Third Reich alumni in the Federal Republic of Germany, Der Spiegel has set forth information about many of the Nazis shaping the institutions of the Federal Republic.

I would note that, as refreshing as it is to see the German government and mainstream press finally confronting this issue, the story is “modified limited hangout.”

Several considerations in this regard:

“From Dictatorship to Democracy: the Role Ex-Nazis Played in Early West Germany” by Ralf Beste, Georg Bonisch, Thomas Darnstaedt, Jan Friedmann, Michael Frohlingsdorf and Klaus Wiegrefe; Der Spiegel; 3/6/2012. [11]

After World War II, West Germany rapidly made the transition from murderous dictatorship to model democracy. Or did it? New documents reveal just how many officials from the Nazi regime found new jobs in Bonn. A surprising number were chosen for senior government positions. . . .

. . . The document revealed that Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who governed Germany from 1966 to 1969, had been a member of the Nazi Party ever since Adolf Hitler seized power. According to the Interior Ministry list, German President Walter Scheel, a member of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) who was in office from 1974 to 1979, had been a Nazi Party member “from 1941 or 1942.”

The list names ministers of all political stripes and from a wide range of social backgrounds. Some, like leftist Social Democratic Party (SPD) mastermind Erhard Eppler (Minister of Economic Cooperation), did not become Nazi Party members until the end (at 17, in Eppler’s case). Others, like conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) agitator Richard Jaeger (Minister of Justice), had been part of Hitler’s paramilitary organization, the SA (since 1933, in Jaeger’s case). Even FDP luminary Hans-Dietrich Genscher (first interior minister and later foreign minister), who denies to this day that he knowingly joined the Nazi Party, is listed as a Nazi Party member.

According to the government list, former SPD Finance Minister Karl Schiller was in the SA, while his fellow cabinet minister Horst Ehmke was a Nazi Party member, as were (“presumably,” the list notes) former SPD Labor Minister Herbert Ehrenberg and Hans Leussink, a former education minister with no party affiliation. On the conservative side, the report names several former Nazi Party members, including former CDU Foreign Minister Gerhard Schröder and former CDU Minister for Displaced Persons Theodor Oberländer, as well as former CSU Post and Communication Minister Richard Stücklen and former CSU Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann. . . .

. . . . How many Nazis took part in the rebuilding of the government after World War II? How much influence did the surviving supporters of the Nazi dictatorship have on the establishment and operation of Germany’s first functioning democracy?

Officials at the Interior Ministry, the source of the most recent government document, have issued an EU-wide call for assistance in addressing Germany’s Nazi past. Historians from the western city of Bochum are now poring over old files from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) which stretch for about 500 meters (1,640 feet) to determine how many of the Nazi dictatorship’s helpers hid under the coattails of the domestic intelligence service in the early years of the Federal Republic — and how this could have happened. . . .

. . . In truth, it wasn’t just a few implanted Nazis who participated in the Holocaust through the so-called Judenreferat (Jewish Department). In fact, the entire ministry implemented the political dictates of the rogue regime with the practiced effectiveness of a functioning government agency. The Foreign Ministry was “part of this monstrous dictatorship, and it performed its duties,” says Norbert Frei, a historian from the eastern German city of Jena and one of the authors of the study. . . .

. . . The restoration of the old elites also had consequences for foreign policy, which veteran diplomats still deny to this day. Old Nazis were usually sent to posts in South America and Arab countries, where they shaped the image of the supposedly new republic. The diplomats repeatedly took steps to protect Nazis hiding abroad and accused war criminals from persecution.

In the 1950s, the German embassy in Buenos Aires unquestioningly issued travel documents to the family of Adolf Eichmann, one of the key organizers of the Holocaust, for a trip to Germany. No one bothered to draw any conclusions about Eichmann’s whereabouts.

As SPIEGEL revealed in 1968, the main legal protection office at the Foreign Ministry even developed into a “warning service” for old Nazis. With the help of the Red Cross, the diplomats informed about 800 Germans and Austrians that they should avoid traveling to France, because they had been convicted of war crimes there and could run into “difficulties.” . . . .

. . . The chancellor, for his part, entrusted himself and his chancellery to Hans Globke, a former official in Hitler’s interior ministry and one of the authors of the Nuremberg race laws. The man Adenauer once called “my dear Herr Globke” was the most powerful government official in Germany for a time, even though anyone who wanted to know could easily consult the abominable lawyer’s anti-Semitic concoctions. He was responsible for the mandatory assignment of the first names Israel and Sara to Jews in Nazi Germany. The ability to quickly identify someone as a Jew was one of the preconditions of the Holocaust.

Globke was the most capable civil servant that the new country believed it had at its disposal. Part of his competence had to do with the precision with which he once distinguished among different classifications of Jews: “The three-eighths Jew, who has one fully Jewish and one half-Jewish grandparent, is considered a crossbreed with one fully Jewish grandparent, while the five-eighths Jews with two fully Jewish grandparents and one half-Jewish grandparent is considered a crossbreed with two fully Jewish grandparents.” With the same Prussian bureaucrat’s sense of perfection, Globke also developed Adenauer’s center of power, the Federal Chancellery at Schaumburg Palace. . . .

. . . Saevecke embarked on a career in law enforcement at the BKA. He had joined the Nazi Party in 1929, when it was still very small, and eventually reached the rank of Hauptsturmführer in the SS. While with the SS, Saevecke organized forced labor operations involving Tunisian Jews and ran the Milan office of the security police, where he was responsible for hundreds of executions.

After the war, the senior official openly described himself as a “former old National Socialist.” He remained staunchly true to his worldview. As a CIA contact noted, Saevecke would “literally stop at nothing to suppress the communist movement, against which he has felt an elementary hatred since the 1920s.” While with the BKA, Saevecke was in charge of the police effort surrounding the 1962 SPIEGEL scandal, before going into retirement. . . .

. . . . Roughly 80 percent of the judges and prosecutors who had served Hitler’s regime of terror until May 8 were soon dispensing justice once again — but this time in the young Federal Republic. “Perhaps there is truly evidence,” wrote Nazi expert Jörg Friedrich, “that a constitutional state can stand on a judicial mass grave.” . . .

. . . Now the halls of justice were even staffed with judges who had once served on the Nazis’ People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof), which was set up in 1934 to handle “political offenses” and became notorious for the frequency, arbitrariness and severity of its punishments. Nevertheless, the civilian courts handling the de-Nazification process merely classified them as “hangers-on.” In 1953, at least 72 percent of judges on the Federal Supreme Court, Germany’s highest court for criminal and civil law, had former Nazi connections. The number increased to 79 percent by 1956 and, in the criminal division, it was at 80 percent by 1962. . . .

When the British wiretapped a group of former Nazis surrounding Werner Naumann, the former deputy of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, they gained the impression that the ex-Nazis were infiltrating the FDP in North Rhine-Westphalia. On the night of Jan. 14, 1953, British military police officers surrounded the houses in the western and northern cities of Solingen, Düsseldorf and Hamburg where the Nazi conspirators were staying and arrested them. The next morning, the occupying power informed an astonished public that the Nazis had been pursuing “plans to regain power in West Germany.”

In retrospect, the threat was probably not as great as the British portrayed it, and the case against Naumann and his associates was dropped. But the episode illustrates how seriously the occupiers took the situation. . . .