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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. . . .