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FTR #768 What the Hell Does Dave Emory Mean by “Underground Reich?” Part 1: The Naumann Coup Attempt of 1953

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

NB: This descrip­tion con­tains mate­r­i­al not includ­ed in the orig­i­nal broad­cast.

Lis­ten: MP3

Side 1  Side 2

Intro­duc­tion: New­er lis­ten­ers may well be con­found­ed by the fre­quent ref­er­ences  to “The Under­ground Reich,” an under­stand­able reac­tion, under the cir­cum­stances. T. H. Tetens’ The New Ger­many and the Old Nazis details the coup attempt of 1953, in which SS offi­cer Wern­er Nau­mann (pro­pa­gan­da min­is­ter Goebbels’ hand-picked suc­ces­sor) tried to seize pow­er, with the assis­tance of oth­er Third Reich alum­ni.

Of con­sum­mate sig­nif­i­cance in this con­text is the exec­u­tive force behind Nau­man­n’s attempt–a fuehrungsring that admin­is­tered the “new” Ger­many on behalf of a Nazi gov­ern­ment in exile in  Spain.

Tak­en in con­junc­tion with the mate­r­i­al in Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile, the dis­clo­sure that Rein­hard Gehlen’s relo­ca­tion of his spy out­fit to U.S. intel­li­gence was cleared with a Ger­man chain of com­mand that had been pre­served intact,  as well as the rela­tion­ship between Helene Von DammOtto von Bolschwing and the Nazi fac­tion of the GOP, the Tetens dis­cus­sion of the Nau­mann coup per­mits us to view much of the struc­ture of this Under­ground Reich.

We also note that BND, the suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion to the Gehlen out­fit, destroyed the files of 250 exec­u­tives of the orga­ni­za­tion, who had held sig­nif­i­cant posi­tions in the SS, SD (the SS intel­li­gence ser­vice) or Gestapo. Fur­ther­more, BND has delib­er­ate­ly recruit­ed from the fam­i­lies of BND per­son­nel, there­by enabling the per­pet­u­a­tion of the Nazi ethos down through the gen­er­a­tions.

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • Once Nau­mann and his fel­low con­spir­a­tors were released into the cus­tody of the Ade­nauer gov­ern­ment and the post­war judi­cia­ry,  all charges were dis­missed.
  • The lawyers for the defen­dants threat­ened to dis­close the full mea­sure of the con­spir­a­cy and its backers–knowledge that would have been dev­as­tat­ing to the West. That infor­ma­tion would have played direct­ly into the hands of the for­mer Sovi­et Union and its pro­pa­gan­da arm. In addi­tion, many in the non-com­mu­nist world would have been gen­uine­ly appalled at the degree of col­lab­o­ra­tion.
  • The fuehrungsring was charged with ini­ti­at­ing con­spir­a­cies in for­eign coun­tries on behalf of Ger­man car­tels.
  • The Nazi under­ground (includ­ing the Nazi Par­ty itself) had pen­e­trat­ed diverse enti­ties, includ­ing com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tions.
  • This infor­ma­tion dove­tails per­fect­ly with con­tent of The Nazis Go Under­ground and Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile, the lat­ter dis­tilled into FTR #305. Note that pro­vi­sions were made for the Nazi par­ty to go under­ground, with Ger­man cor­po­ra­tions embed­ding war crim­i­nals and oth­er impor­tant oper­a­tives in their over­seas staffs. A recent arti­cle in Der Spiegel rein­forces many of the points in this post and the T.H. Tetens text.

1. As the Third Reich was prepar­ing to go from its above-ground phase into its under­ground phase, pro­vi­sions were made for Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists to fund the under­ground Nazi par­ty.

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Man­ning; Copy­right 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stu­art Inc.; ISBN 0–8184–0309–8; p. 26.

. . . A small­er con­fer­ence in the after­noon was presided over by Dr. Bosse of the Ger­man Arma­ments Min­istry. It was attend­ed only by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Hecko, Krupp, and Rochling. Dr. Bosse restat­ed Bormann’s belief that the war was all but lost, but that it would be con­tin­ued by Ger­many until cer­tain goals to insure the eco­nomic resur­gence of Ger­many after the war had been achieved. He added that Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists must be pre­pared to finance the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Nazi Par­ty, which would be forced to go under­ground, just as had the Maquis in France. . . .

2. In addi­tion, Ger­man cor­po­ra­tions were prepar­ing to “embed” promi­nent Nazi war crim­i­nals in their staffs abroad.

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Man­ning; Copy­right 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stu­art Inc.; ISBN 0–8184–0309–8; p. 27.

. . . . Dr. Bosse closed the meet­ing, observ­ing that ‘after the defeat of Ger­many, the Nazi Par­ty rec­og­nizes that cer­tain of its best known lead­ers will be con­demned as war crim­i­nals. How­ever, in coop­er­a­tion with the indus­tri­al­ists, it is arrang­ing to place its less con­spic­u­ous but most impor­tant mem­bers with var­i­ous Ger­man fac­to­ries as tech­ni­cal experts or mem­bers of its research and design­ing offices. . . .

3. We set forth the out­line of the Nau­mann coup attempt. Note, again, that the great­est sig­nif­i­cance of this event is the fact that “team Nau­mann” was being run by the Nazi gov­ern­ment in exile in Madrid.

In the text read dur­ing the actu­al pro­gram, note that Nau­mann asso­ciate Eugen Doll­man spent much time in Lugano, Switzer­land. Bank al-Taqwa head Youssef Nada resides in Lugano, which was also the home of Hein­rich Thyssen-Borne­misza.

Anoth­er of the Nau­mann cir­cle was Johann von Leers, who was a men­tor to al-Taqwa’s direc­tor Achmed Huber.

 The New Ger­many and the Old Nazis; pp. 24–33.

. . . . The next morn­ing short­ly after sev­en, the head of the press divi­sion of the For­eign Office, Sir William Rids­dale, dis­trib­uted a com­mu­nique which stat­ed that a group of sev­en for­mer high Nazi offi­cials had been arrest­ed in Dues­sel­dorf and Ham­burg for hav­ing plot­ted the over­throw of the Bonn Repub­lic. The offi­cial announce­ment said that the British author­i­ties had been aware for some time that the sev­en men had been involved in a plot and that the arrest had been made under the author­i­ty of For­eign Min­is­ter Eden. The ring­leader of the group was a Dr. Wern­er Nau­mann, who, until the Ger­man col­lapse, had served as State Sec­re­tary in Dr. Goebbels’ Pro­pa­gan­da Min­istry. Dr. Nau­mann had been with Hitler dur­ing the very last days in the bunker of the Chan­cellery in Berlin, and he was the one des­ig­nat­ed by the Fuehrer in his tes­ta­ment to suc­ceed Dr. Goebbels as Pro­pa­gan­da Min­is­ter. . . .

. . . The British reply was polite but deter­mined. It point­ed out that the occu­pa­tion author­i­ties had been pro­found­ly dis­turbed when they had found evi­dence of an advanced plot,  insti­gat­ed by a vast Nazi net­work  spread­ing from Dus­sel­dorf to Cairo,  Madrid,  Buenos AIres,  and Mal­mo,  Swe­den. They stat­ed fur­ther­more that they had had to pro­ceed with the utmost secre­cy, since the plot­ters had close con­tacts with high gov­ern­ment cir­cles in Bonn. Accord­ing to the New York Times) the British sub­mit­ted evi­dence to the Chan­cel­lor which “revealed a wide-spread plot with ram­i­fi­ca­tions into many polit­i­cal par­ties and oth­er influ­en­tial orga­ni­za­tions of West Ger­many.” Faced with the grave impli­ca­tions of the Nau­mann con­spir­a­cy, Dr. Ade­nauer and his Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Dr. Thomas Dehler, had to con­firm the seri­ous­ness of the case. . . .

. . . After tak­ing over the inves­ti­ga­tion, Dr. Ade­nauer admit­ted at a press con­fer­ence “the exis­tence of a far-flung plot” and that Nau­man­n’s activ­i­ties “had been financed with con­sid­er­able sums by Nazi groups in for­eign coun­tries.” Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Dehler told reporters that the Nau­mann group had devel­oped “a most cun­ning and dia­bol­ic sys­tem of infil­tra­tion” and that the con­spir­a­cy rep­re­sent­ed “an acute threat to the demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions in the Fed­er­al Repub­lic.” The cap­tured Nau­mann doc­u­ments, he said, “gave clear proof that the aim of the group had been to fill key posi­tions m all Right­ist par­ties with hard-core Nazis and there­by cre­ate pro­pa­gan­da vehi­cles which lat­er could be used for a broad neo-Nazi mass move­ment.”  Accord­ing to the Wies­baden­er Kuri­er of May 6, 1953, Dr. Dehler quot­ed from one doc­u­ment in which Nau­mann expressed the hope that, if his scheme suc­ceed­ed, “the com­ing elec­tion might be the last of its kind.”

Soon after the British had trans­ferred the pros­e­cu­tion of the case to the Ger­man author­i­ties, the lawyers of the arrest­ed plot­ters began to put pres­sure on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to sup­press the case and release their clients. The Bre­mer Nachricht­en report­ed on June 15, 1953, that the Nau­mann lawyers had even threat­ened to dis­cuss “the true back­ground of the case open­ly” if their clients were not released soon.

By the end of June 1953 Dr. Nau­mann and his co-plot­ters were sud­den­ly released, in vio­la­tion of the most rigid stip­u­la­tions of Ger­man law and court pro­ce­dure. A year and a half lat­er, in Decem­ber 1954, in spite of the fact that the pros­e­cu­tor had brought an indict­ment against Nau­mann charg­ing con­spir­a­cy against the con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­er­al Repub­lic, the high­est court qui­et­ly dis­missed the case with­out any tri­al or hear­ing. Even before the plot­ters were released, the British became sus­pi­cious about the han­dling of the Nau­mann case and leaked some of the incrim­i­nat­ing mate­r­i­al to a staunch­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic Ger­man news­pa­per which had gained quite a rep­u­ta­tion for its reveal­ing arti­cles on the infil­tra­tion of for­mer Nazis into the Ade­nauer admin­is­tra­tion. Dur­ing the ear­ly part of June 1953 the Frank­furter Rund­schau pub­lished five arti­cles deal­ing with Nau­man­n’s tapped tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions, notes from his appoint­ment cal­en­dar, cor­re­spon­dence between the plot­ters, and sig­nif­i­cant excerpts from his diary. The pub­lished mate­r­i­al gave a full inside view of the scope and char­ac­ter of the con­spir­a­cy. The descrip­tion of the intri­cate struc­ture of the plot and the back­ground of the many peo­ple involved filled whole pages in the Frank­furter Rund­schau. Here it is suf­fi­cient to state the main objec­tives as they emerged from the con­fis­cat­ed mate­r­i­al:

1] Use the demo­c­ra­t­ic con­sti­tu­tion as a facade behind which a new Nazi move­ment could be orga­nized, designed to take over the appa­ra­tus of the state when time and cir­cum­stances would make such a step nec­es­sary and prof­itable.

2] Let Chan­cel­lor Ade­nauer serve as a front, exact­ly as Gus­tav Stre­se­mann did dur­ing the twen­ties, behind which a new Ger­man pow­er could devel­op undis­turbed with­out arous­ing pre­ma­ture sus­pi­cions.

3] Apply a new method of infil­tra­tion (Unter­wan­derung) in order to con­quer the exist­ing par­ties and the admin­is­tra­tive machin­ery of the state from with­in. Avoid noisy nation­al­is­tic demon­stra­tions, flag-wav­ing and inci­dents; use the more effi­cient and unsus­pi­cious pro­ce­dure of work­ing in small cells, which some day, at an oppor­tune moment, might con­sol­i­date them­selves into a broad mass orga­ni­za­tion.

The detailed plan, which the Ger­mans soon called the “Nau-Nau” strat­e­gy, instruct­ed for­mer well-known Nazi lead­ers to stay dis­creet­ly in the back­ground until the time was ripe for action. In the mean­time the lead­ers were to use all their con­nec­tions to bring bright and capa­ble young Nazis, espe­cial­ly those trained in the Hitler Youth, into influ­en­tial posi­tions, not only in the Ade­nauer coali­tion par­ties but also into all oth­er polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions.

The Nau­mann doc­u­ments revealed much more than a mere strate­gic blue­print of how to sub­vert a state appa­ra­tus or the exist­ing par­ties from with­in. There was a detailed record of how Dr. Nau­mann had used his con­tacts with top indus­tri­al­ists and lead­ing politi­cians to fill well-paid posi­tions in the Free Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty with scores of young, able Nazis who once had learned the tricks of the trade in the Goebbels’ Pro­pa­gan­da Min­istry. Dr. Nau­man­n’s most devot­ed col­lab­o­ra­tor in this enter­prise was his inti­mate friend, Dr. Ernst Achen­bach, a for­mer Ribben­trop diplo­mat who, after the war, had become a promi­nent lawyer in the Ruhr dis­trict. It was report­ed that Achen­bach and Nau­mann had been close friends dur­ing the war when they served togeth­er in impor­tant posi­tions under Ambas­sador Otto Abetz in the Ger­man Embassy in occu­pied Paris. It was Dr. Achen­bach who, in 1943, rec­om­mend­ed to the For­eign Office that two thou­sand Jews be shipped to the East as reprisal for an attack on two Nazi offi­cers. . . .

. . . A lengthy British white paper on the Nau­mann-Achen­bach plot was ready to be released in August 1953, when it was sud­den­ly “with­drawn at the last moment on Cab­i­net instruc­tions, for rea­sons which nev­er have been made quite clear.” There were rumors that the British had yield­ed under the com­bined pres­sure of Wash­ing­ton and Bonn.  The con­fis­cat­ed mate­r­i­al dis­closed that the Achenbach/Naumann group rep­re­sent­ed a so-called Fuehrungsring‑a Nazi high command‑a kind of polit­i­cal Mafia, with head­quar­ters in Madrid, which oper­at­ed by remote con­trol through clever orga­ni­za­tion­al schemes on dif­fer­ent lev­els, serv­ing var­i­ous pur­pos­es. This Gauleit­er group met peri­od­i­cal­ly in the strictest secre­cy, main­ly in Dues­sel­dorf or Ham­burg.

Up to thir­ty for­mer Nazi top offi­cials assem­bled under false names as “old friends” in hotels, where they car­ried on their polit­i­cal schem­ing. Among them were the ex-Gauleit­ers Kauf­mann,  Gro­he,  Flo­ri­an,  Wegen­er,  Frauen­feld,  and Scheel, a num­ber of high offi­cials from the Pro­pa­gan­da Min­istry, some Ribben­trop diplo­mats, and top-rank­ing SS offi­cers. Accord­ing to the British cor­re­spon­dent Alis­tair Horne, the “roll calls of the ex-Gauleit­ers and high SS offi­cials present read like a page from some night­mare Who’s Who of the Third Reich.” These Nazi lead­ers had either escaped the drag­net of the vic­to­ri­ous Allies by false iden­ti­fi­ca­tion papers or had been released from intern­ment after a year or two with­out any sub­stan­tial penal­ty. The aim of the group was “to form the gen­er­al staff of the ‘Nation­al Oppo­si­tion’ ” and build “a new polit­i­cal par­ty out of the exist­ing par­ties of the right.”

Besides the infil­tra­tion of co-con­spir­a­tors into posi­tions of com­mand with­in the exist­ing par­ties and into gov­ern­ment depart­ments and par­ty orga­ni­za­tions on the mid­dle and low­er lev­els, anoth­er task of the Fuehrungsring was to orga­nize and direct mass orga­ni­za­tions, such as vet­er­ans’ and refugee asso­ci­a­tions, which one day could eas­i­ly be used as instru­ments for polit­i­cal action. Oth­er fields of activ­i­ties for the group were polit­i­cal pro­pa­gan­da in for­eign coun­tries, car­ried out in close con­tact with the Nazi head­quar­ters in Madrid, and the ini­ti­a­tion of con­spir­a­cies in for­eign coun­tries on behalf of Ger­man indus­tri­al car­tels. . . .

. . . Long before, they had cap­tured numer­ous key posi­tions in the Ade­nauer admin­is­tra­tion, in polit­i­cal par­ties, and in the Laen­der (state) par­lia­ments. They were exu­ber­ant about their suc­cess­es in one of their secret direc­tives cir­cu­lat­ed by the Nazi head­quar­ters in Madrid. This lengthy doc­u­ment, issued in Sep­tem­ber 1950, spoke  of the total fail­ure of the West­ern occu­pa­tion pol­i­cy and point­ed glee­ful­ly to the suc­cess of the “flex­i­ble and smooth­ly-work­ing orga­ni­za­tion which, at the end of the war, pro­vid­ed the pre­con­di­tion for all the gains that by neces­si­ty emerged for Ger­many out of the chaos of the post­war peri­od .

“. . . Five years after Pots­dam, we can look back with pride at our accom­plish­ments .... Noth­ing hap­pened by chance; every­thing was care­ful­ly planned.” There is con­sid­er­able mate­r­i­al avail­able which gives con­clu­sive proof that the Nazis had made prepa­ra­tions long before their col­lapse to train an army of agents, often skill­ful­ly cam­ou­flaged as “resis­tance fight­ers.” About the suc­cess­ful con­tin­u­a­tion of the Nazi sub­ver­sive activ­i­ties, the Madrid Cir­cu­lar Let­ter had this to say: “Even after the col­lapse, the Nation­al Social­ist par­ty con­tin­ued to work in a cam­ou­flaged way [getarnt] in dozens of seem­ing­ly innocu­ous soci­eties and groups, in order to keep the nation­al out­look of the Ger­man peo­ple alive and undi­lut­ed. Just as many small brooks go toward mak­ing a mighty stream, the var­i­ous nation­al­is­tic and rad­i­cal groups in the Zonen-Reich car­ried out, almost with­out excep­tion, worth­while and pow­er­ful pro­pa­gan­da. Each of these groups had its spe­cial task and had to adjust its work to cer­tain sit­u­a­tions and cir­cum­stances. How­ev­er, it was of chief impor­tance to direct the under­ly­ing trend of the patri­ot­ic pro­pa­gan­da toward the same goal. The more diverse and dis­con­nect­ed these groups appeared on the sur­face, the less they were apt to arouse sus­pi­cion that they were direct­ed and influ­enced by a cen­tral orga­ni­za­tion. We  have placed our con­fi­den­tial agents, observers, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives for spe­cial assign­ments in all par­ties, even among Com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tions and their fronts. The greater the num­ber of orga­ni­za­tions con­trolled and influ­enced by us, the more effec­tive will be the results of our work.” . . . .

4. The entire text of the 1950 Madrid cir­cu­lar let­ter can be found in: Ger­many Plots with the Krem­lin by T.H. Tetens; Hen­ry Schu­man [HC]; 1953; pp. 209–232. The same text con­tains numer­ous oth­er doc­u­ments that pro­vide remark­able insight into the Third Reich’s remark­ably suc­cess­ful plans for going under­ground.

5a. Note that the Gehlen spy orga­ni­za­tion oper­at­ed as an exten­sion of the Ger­man gen­er­al staff, with the Ger­man chain of com­mand hav­ing remained intact.

“The Secret Treaty of Fort Hunt” by Carl Ogles­by; Covert Action Infor­ma­tion Bul­letin; Fall 1990.

. . . . Gehlen met with Admi­ral Karl Doenitz, who had been appoint­ed by Hitler as his suc­ces­sor dur­ing the last days of the Third Reich. Gehlen and the Admi­ral were now in a U.S. Army VIP prison camp in Wies­baden; Gehlen sought and received approval from Doenitz too!44

In oth­er words, the Ger­man chain of com­mand was still in effect, and it approved of what Gehlen was doing with the Amer­i­cans. . . .

Note 47. . . .  As Gehlen was about to leave for the Unit­ed States, he left a mes­sage for Baun with anoth­er of his top aides, Ger­hard Wes­sel: “I am to tell you from Gehlen that he has dis­cussed with [Hitler’s suc­ces­sor Admi­ral Karl] Doenitz and [Gehlen’s supe­rior and chief of staff Gen­eral Franz] Halder the ques­tion of con­tin­u­ing his work with the Amer­i­cans. Both were in agree­ment.” Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 61.

5b. We review the cur­ricu­lum vitae of Ernst Uhrlau.

“Ernst Uhrlau”; Wikipedia.

. . . . From 1996–98, Ernst Uhrlau was the Chief of Ham­burg Police. In 1998, Uhrlau was appoint­ed a Coor­di­na­tor of the Intel­li­gence Com­mu­nity in the office of the Chan­cel­lor. [This was dur­ing the peri­od in which Ger­man intel­li­gence had the Ham­burg cell of 9/11 plot­ters under sur­veil­lance.

On 1 Decem­ber 2005, he was appoint­ed to the post of the head of the BND. . . .

6. In FTR #761, we not­ed that Ernst Uhlrau had an inter­est­ing cur­ricu­lum vitae. Chief of the Ham­burg police dur­ing a peri­od in which Ger­man intel­li­gence had mem­bers of the Ham­burg cell of 9/11 hijack­ers under sur­veil­lance, Uhrlau was appoint­ed spe­cial advis­er to the Chan­cel­lor on intel­li­gence mat­ters in 1998. He became head of the BND in 2005.

Dur­ing Uhrlau’s tenure as BND direc­tor, files on BND offi­cials with SS and Gestapo back­grounds were shred­ded. Note that the indi­vid­u­als whose files were destroyed were BND exec­u­tives, not field agents, and that they has held “sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence posi­tions in the SS, the SD (the intel­li­gence agency of the SS and the Nazi Par­ty) or the Gestapo.”

Accord­ing to Der Spiegel, BND offi­cers were recruit­ed from the fam­i­lies of BND oper­a­tives, per­mit­ting a per­pet­u­a­tion of Nazi ide­ol­ogy and method­ol­ogy from the orig­i­nal Gehlen SS and Gestapo recruits!

“Obscur­ing the Past: Intel­li­gence Agency Destroyed Files on For­mer SS Mem­bers” by Klaus WiegrefeDer Spiegel; 11/30/2013.

His­to­ri­ans con­duct­ing an inter­nal study of ties between employ­ees of the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence agency and the Third Reich have made a shock­ing dis­cov­ery. In 2007, the BND destroyed per­son­nel files of employ­ees who had once been mem­bers of the SS and the Gestapo. . . .

. . . . Now, only one week before Uhrlau’s retire­ment, the com­mis­sion has uncov­ered what is a true his­tor­i­cal scan­dal. The researchers have found that the BND destroyed the per­son­nel files of around 250 BND offi­cials in 2007. The agency has con­firmed that this hap­pened.

The com­mis­sion claims that the destroyed doc­u­ments include papers on peo­ple who were “in sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence posi­tions in the SS, the SD (the intel­li­gence agency of the SS and the Nazi Par­ty) or the Gestapo.” They added that some of the indi­vid­u­als had even been inves­ti­gated after 1945 for pos­si­ble war crimes. His­to­rian Klaus-Diet­mar Henke, spokesman for the com­mis­sion, told SPIEGEL ONLINE he was “some­what stunned” by the occur­rence.

Did Agency Employ­ees Seek to Sab­o­tage Inves­ti­ga­tion? . . .

. . . . It is no secret that some peo­ple with­in the BND are unhap­py about Uhrlau’s project. Some employ­ees are fun­da­men­tally opposed to the agency shed­ding light on its own past. Oth­ers are wor­ried about the rep­u­ta­tions of their own fam­i­lies — for many years, the BND delib­er­ately recruit­ed new staff from among the rel­a­tives of exist­ing BND employ­ees. . . .



One comment for “FTR #768 What the Hell Does Dave Emory Mean by “Underground Reich?” Part 1: The Naumann Coup Attempt of 1953”

  1. This should prob­a­bly fall under the “hor­rif­ic if late, but way bet­ter late than nev­er” cat­e­go­ry of his­tor­i­cal “whoop­sies”:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    AP Inter­view: Ger­many still untan­gling Nazis’ legal lega­cy
    Oct. 6, 2015 10:00 AM EDT

    BERLIN (AP) — Ger­many’s jus­tice min­istry is embarked on a wide-rang­ing effort to exam­ine the influ­ence that the Nazis had on the coun­try’s legal sys­tem, includ­ing the role some Ger­man offi­cials played in pre­vent­ing for­mer Nazis from being pros­e­cut­ed after the war.

    The project, 70 years after the end of World War II, comes amid a fresh push to bring sur­viv­ing Nazi war crim­i­nals to jus­tice.

    Two tri­als of alleged death camp guards would have been impos­si­ble until recent­ly due to legal hur­dles and the exis­tence of a net­work of for­mer Nazis who worked as lawyers, pros­e­cu­tors and judges after the war.

    “Too many who bore guilt cov­ered for each oth­er,” Jus­tice Min­is­ter Heiko Maas told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press in an inter­view. “Even at the start of the 1960s, 80 per­cent of the judges at the Fed­er­al Court of Jus­tice had been judges under the Nazis. That illus­trates the extent to which the Ger­man jus­tice sys­tem failed.”

    Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, cau­tious­ly wel­comed the move.

    “The stakes are cer­tain­ly not as high as they once were,” Zuroff told The AP on Tues­day. “Hav­ing said that, this is a very, very impor­tant his­tor­i­cal inquiry that I think will have an impor­tant impact on the way Ger­man soci­ety views the judi­cial effort and the whole ques­tion of bring­ing Nazis to jus­tice.”

    “There’s no ques­tion that the ini­tial decades could be clas­si­fied as a very seri­ous fail­ure. Not a com­plete fail­ure but a seri­ous fail­ure,” he added.

    Among the obsta­cles to pros­e­cut­ing for­mer Nazis was that Ger­man law required proof of direct involve­ment in a killing for a mur­der charge — the only crime not cov­ered by the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

    This meant that thou­sands of peo­ple who played an impor­tant role in the Holo­caust weren’t pros­e­cut­ed.

    That changed in 2011 when a Ger­man court accept­ed Munich pros­e­cu­tors’ new legal rea­son­ing in the case of John Dem­jan­juk. They argued that Dem­jan­juk was a guard at Sobi­bor, a death camp whose sole pur­pose was mur­der, so even if there was no evi­dence he par­tic­i­pat­ed in a spe­cif­ic crime he could be con­vict­ed as an acces­so­ry for help­ing the camp func­tion.

    The con­vic­tion unleashed an 11th-hour wave of new inves­ti­ga­tions, even though it was­n’t legal­ly bind­ing because Dem­jan­juk, who always denied serv­ing as a death camp guard, died before his appeal could be heard.

    “Ger­man jurispru­dence took a long time to con­clude that it was­n’t nec­es­sary to play a per­son­al, con­crete, active part but (that it was suf­fi­cient) if some­one had worked else­where to make the death camp func­tion in the first place,” said Maas. “I think that’s absolute­ly right.”

    Though most sus­pects are now in their 90s, hold­ing them to account is impor­tant for sur­vivors, vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and the Ger­man state, Maas said.

    “It’s nev­er too late for jus­tice,” he said.

    After the high-pro­file Nurem­berg tri­als of top Nazis and some less­er-known tri­bunals car­ried out by the vic­to­ri­ous Allied pow­ers, Ger­many’s judi­cial sys­tem was left to deal with oth­er Nazi-era crimes on its own.

    Maas said it was impor­tant to con­vey to a new gen­er­a­tion of law stu­dents how post-war Ger­many ini­tial­ly failed in that task.

    “The point of this project is to acknowl­edge the great­est mis­take of Ger­many’s post-war legal sys­tem, which was that the jus­tice sys­tem — which between 1933 and 1945 was noth­ing but a stooge of the Nazis — did­n’t help to atone for the Nazi crimes after World War II in the young Fed­er­al Repub­lic,” he said.


    Maas said sev­er­al laws tinged by the past are also being re-exam­ined.

    One is Ger­many’s law on mur­der, which was shaped by Roland Freisler, who held a senior posi­tion in the Nazi jus­tice min­istry and lat­er became pres­i­dent of Nazi Ger­many’s Peo­ple’s Court where he over­saw many promi­nent tri­als of oppo­si­tion fig­ures.

    The law, passed in 1941, has long been con­sid­ered prob­lem­at­ic because it draws on the Nazi idea that mur­der is a crime com­mit­ted by a cer­tain type of per­son, such as some­one act­ing out of “low­ly moti­va­tions” or killing some­one in a “sneaky” fash­ion.

    This has led to cas­es where a man who repeat­ed­ly beats his wife, even­tu­al­ly killing her, was con­vict­ed of manslaugh­ter, while an abused woman who kills her hus­band in his sleep is con­vict­ed of mur­der.

    We don’t want the lan­guage of the Nazis in our crim­i­nal code any­more, espe­cial­ly not in one of its cen­tral parts that deals with mur­der and manslaugh­ter,” said Maas.

    Anoth­er law in the process of being changed con­cerns the han­dling of loot­ed art. The issue gained promi­nence two years ago when it emerged that a reclu­sive art col­lec­tor, Cor­nelius Gurlitt, had more than 1,200 valu­able art­works — some of them tak­en from Jews per­se­cut­ed by the Nazis.

    A draft law would shift more of the bur­den of proof to the own­ers of sus­pect­ed Nazi loot to demon­strate they acquired it in good faith.

    “Too many who bore guilt cov­ered for each othe...Even at the start of the 1960s, 80 per­cent of the judges at the Fed­er­al Court of Jus­tice had been judges under the Nazis. That illus­trates the extent to which the Ger­man jus­tice sys­tem failed.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 7, 2015, 3:08 pm

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