June 21st 2014


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CANBERRA OBSERVED: 
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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Canada: political campaign to outlaw Christian lawyers

HUMAN RIGHTS: The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre remembered

UNITED STATES: Servicemen, small businesses targeted for 'homophobia'

EUROPE: Nazi veterans created secret army in postwar Germany

EUROPE: Euthanasia for infants: Europe's shame

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Growing inequality in an era of economic stagnation

SOCIETY: How booze buses changed Australia's leisure culture

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EUROPE:
Nazi veterans created secret army in postwar Germany


by Joseph Poprzeczny

News Weekly, June 21, 2014

The old saying that old soldiers never die, but just fade away, is contradicted in just-released documents in a long forgotten German intelligence file.

Anyone who has studied World War II knows how the Allies in April 1945 finally defeated Hitler’s formidable armed forces and occupied Germany. After the war, many leading Nazis, including many senior military officers, were put on trial at Nuremberg for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But what was not known until recently was that less than five years after their crushing defeat, thousands of “old soldiers” who had fought for Hitler refused to fade away.

Instead, they created a clandestine army within Allied-occupied West German to help counter an expected Soviet invasion.

According to the Hamburg weekly, Der Spiegel (May 14, 2014): “Newly discovered documents show that in the years after World War II, former members of the Nazi Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS formed a secret army to protect the country from the Soviets. The illegal project could have sparked a major scandal at the time.

“For nearly six decades, the 321-page file lay unnoticed in the archives of the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency — but now its contents have revealed a new chapter of German postwar history that is as spectacular as it is mysterious.”

The file shows that 2,000 former Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS officers created a 40,000-strong force in postwar West Germany under the noses of the American, British and French occupying powers: “They made their preparations without a mandate from the German government, without the knowledge of the parliament and, the documents show, by circumventing Allied occupation forces,” Der Spiegel reports.

“The goal of the retired officers [was] to defend nascent West Germany against Eastern aggression in the early stages of the Cold War and, on the domestic front, deploy against the Communists in the event of a civil war.”

It is noteworthy that the Western allies at the time also became increasingly preoccupied with Soviet designs on West Germany. Clearly, many former Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS personnel weren’t prepared to wait patiently until the Americans, British and French decided to rise to the challenge.

The Iron Curtain was by then an established reality. Soviet army units were poised to exploit any weakness in Western resolve.

Only slowly did Washington under President Truman comprehend the nature of the new global stand-off that came to be known as the Cold War.

Moscow attempted to control Berlin by blocking Western access to the jointly-administered city. The Western allies responded by launching the Berlin Airlift to supply essential food and fuel to the besieged Berliners. The siege lasted from June 24, 1948 until May 12, 1949.

According to Der Spiegel, German historian Agilolf Kesselring has unearthed papers that show that the BND’s predecessor, the Gehlen Organisation — an intelligence agency established in June 1946 by U.S. occupation authorities — was aware of moves by German army veterans to create a secret counter-force.

Kesselring, whose grandfather, Albert, was a famous Wehrmacht field marshal during the war, has recently been employed by an independent historical commission to investigate the early history of the BND and to determine how many staff it employed.

He accidentally came across the long-forgotten classified papers in a file with the strange title of “Insurances”. The papers revealed that the secret army project began in the region surrounding the southern German city of Stuttgart, with veterans of the 25th Infantry Division playing a key role.

The driving force behind the secret army was Albert Schnez who had been a colonel in World War II. He would continue his military career in the Bundeswehr, Germany’s post-war army, which was founded in 1955.

By the end of the 1950s, he was a close adviser to Franz Josef Strauss, who was Defence Minister in Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) government. Schnez later served the German army chief under Chancellor Willy Brandt and Defence Minister Helmut Schmidt, both of them belonging to the Social Democratic Party.

Der Speigel reports: “According to the papers, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer didn’t find out about the existence of the paramilitary group until 1951, at which point he evidently did not decide to break it up….

“The [secret] army began to take shape starting at the latest in 1950. Schnez recruited donations from businesspeople and like-minded former officers, contacted veterans groups of other divisions, asked transport companies which vehicles they could provide in the worst-case scenario and worked on an emergency plan.”

Der Spiegel’s investigations showed that Schnez was in contact with the famous SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny whom Hitler personally selected to rescue deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in a daring mission in September 1943.

After the war, Skorzeny was tried as a war criminal, but escaped prison and fled to France and Spain, where he spent several years in hiding.

In early 1951, he and Schnez agreed to cooperate. “It is currently unknown exactly when the secret army disbanded, as no fuss was made at the time,” Der Spiegel says.

“Schnez died in 2007 without ever stating anything publicly about these events. His records on the ‘Insurance Company’ have disappeared.”

Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based writer and historian.

 

Reference

Klaus Wiegrefe, “Files uncovered: Nazi veterans created illegal army”, Der Spiegel, May 14, 2014.
URL: www.spiegel.de/international/germany/wehrmacht-veterans-created-a-secret-army-in-west-germany-a-969015.html




























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