It is a silent story of the early Cold War. After the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the anticommunist government of Konrad Adenauer choose to release many war criminals. Many of those who were pardoned by the conservative Adenauer, were guilty of crimes against humanity. Yet the West-German justice commuted people like Hermann Reinecke, who was responsible for the creation and implementation of the POW policy that resulted in the deaths of approx. 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war!
There was a clear ideological reason for this. In many post-war countries, anticommunist governments decided that many Nazi’s and their collaborators ”deserved” an early release from prison. Left-wing groups protested, especially the communist parties. However the anticommunist climate of the 1950’s made their protest marginal. The Red Scare was far more powerful in indoctrinating millions into hating leftists and their ideas. In this hostile climate many high-ranking Nazi’s were set free. They were all welcomed by capitalist companies who employed many. By the end of the 50’s, West-Germany had pardoned most war-criminals who were supposed to spend the rest of their lives in jail!
Here is a list of Nazi war-criminals who were pardoned by Konrad Adenauer in the 1950’s:
Albert Kesselring: General of the Luftwaffe, sentenced to death in 1945 for ordering the murder of 335 Italian civilians and for inciting and commanding his troops to kill civilians in reprisals. Winston Churchill and many allied leaders opposed his sentence. They respected the man who killed 335 Italians as a ”good commander”. Therefore he was released in 1952!
Hermann Reinecke: Head of the General Office of the Armed Forces, responsible for the creation and implementation of the POW policy that resulted in the deaths of approx. 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war. Sentenced to life in prison in 1945, released in 1954!!
Walter Warlimont: Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff, responsibility for drafting the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order, which allowed the murder of civilians on the pretext of counteracting partisan activity. Sentenced to life in prison in 1945, released in 1954!!!
Walter Blume: Mid-ranking SS commander and leader of Sonderkommando 7a. The unit perpetrated the killings of thousands of Jews in Belarus and Russia. Blume was responsible for the deportation of over 46,000 Greek Jews to Auschwitz. Sentenced to life in prison, released in 1955!!!!
Waldemar Klingelhöfer: SS-Sturmbannführer, responsible for the murder of 2,500 Soviet citizens. First sentenced to death in 1948, then life in prison in 1951 and finally released in 1956!!!!!
These people were responsible for the deaths of many innocents. Yet the capitalist government of Adenauer released most of them. Why? Simply: West-Germany was ruled in the first 10 years after the war by the same bureaucrats who governed between 1933-1945 under Hitler. Konrad Adeneaur never purged German society of high ranking Nazi’s. Also during the 1950’s, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) adopted many ex-members of the now banned: National-Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Chancellor: Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966-1969) was a member of the NSDAP for 12 years, before joining the Christian conservative party!
The propaganda of East-Germany was partially correct when it claimed that West-Germany was run by ex-Nazi’s. Although Konrad Adenauer did not joined the Nazi Party, many ex-Nazi’s remained on important functions during his chancellorship (1948-1963). Most of them never abandoned their hatred of communists, leftists and democracy in general. They put up a democratic facade by joining Adenauer’s CDU and supporting the USA. One ex-Nazi who did that was Carl Schmitt, a close friend of Chancellor Kiesinger. Schmitt played the role of crown jurist of the Third Reich. After the war, he supported the Franco dictatorship in Spain and gave many lectures for the Spanish far-right!
Just six years after the war in 1951, a German armed force was set up. It became known as the Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Guards) and its weapons, helmets and uniforms were identical to those of the former Nazi army. Reinhard Gehlen was a specialist for the Wehrmacht military-intelligence on the Eastern Front. After the war, he was allowed by the CIA to set up the Gehlen Organisation. Its members got recruited from former Wehrmacht general staff officers. The Americans had no problems with these officers since most were anticommunist and pro-American. Gehlen created the Bundesnachrichtendienst in 1956, the successor to his CIA group. He served as its leader for 12 years. West-Germany’s army was by all accounts set up by former officers who hailed Adolf Hitler!
Because ex-Nazi’s made up civil society and the new military, it is no surprise that many war-criminals got to be commuted. West-Germany portrayed itself: ”democratic”, yet it banned the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1956, on the grounds that it was a ”undemocratic” party. The KPD was by no means a threat to West-Germany, its Stalinist ideology had turned the West-German communists into a sect of propagandists for the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Yet because of the Red Scare, the Adenauer government choose a witch hunt and banned the KPD. Party members who used to be trialed by Nazi jurists under Hitler, found themselves trialed again by the same people. This is because many state prosecutors and judges had started their careers under the Nazi: People’s Court (1934-1945)!
The western allies did not complained about the release of so many war-criminals. This is because the German far-right gave support to NATO. This is ironic because today the far-right claims to stand against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But in the 50’s, most ex-Nazi’s gave their full support to the USA led alliance. There was only one far-right party in Germany who opposed NATO and claimed it would support the USSR. This political party (made up of ex-Nazi’s) got banned by Adenauer, while at the same time many Nazi war-criminals were released from jail. The Socialist Reich Party (SRP) was set up in 1949 and led by Otto Ernst Remer. This neo-Nazi party turned out to be anti-western and pro-Stalin. Why? Because the Soviet-Union was financing the SRP!
Stalin did not gave financial aid to the KPD, instead Moscow gave money to the Socialist Reich Party. Otto Remer never criticized Stalin and said that his supporters would welcome a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. This was something Konrad Adenaeur could not tolerate. He was willing to accept former Nazi’s if they put up a democratic facade, but pro-Stalin Nazi’s could not be tolerated by ”democratic” Germany. The SRP got banned in 1952, four years before the KPD. By the dawn of the 1960’s most high ranking war-criminals were free again. Only the top leaders of the Third Reich remained in jail, this included people like Albert Speer and Karl Dönitz. Out of all Nazi leaders only Rudolf Hess served a true life sentence. He was in prison from 1941 until 1987!
As Hitlers killers were released, the West-German state sentenced many KPD members. Their crime? They were ”antidemocratic” because their party supported the Soviet-Union and the DDR. West-Germany between 1948 and 1969 did not confront itself with the crimes of Nazi Germany. By all accounts, the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) tolerated ex-Nazi’s as ”ordinary” Germans. 10.000 prison sentences were carried out against West-German communists, who were stigmatized after their release from prison. Even after 63 years it remains painful for the victims of anticommunist hysteria, who have never received an official apology from the BRD!
In the history books of the western world, the BRD is portrayed as a ”free democracy”. East-Germany is portrayed as ”communist” and ”undemocratic”. The reality is not as black and white. Yes, West-Germany was more democratic compared to East-Germany. But under Konrad Adenauer there was a stigma against leftism, while far-right ideas were tolerated. The anticommunist state was very selective over what was ”democratic” and what was ”undemocratic”. In the same year the KPD was banned, the Bundeswehr was set up with many former Wehrmacht officers joining. In the 21st century, it is reported that far-right ideas are part of this ”democratic” Germany Army!