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No2Nato: NATO, Nazis and West Germany

by Workers GB Writers Group

At the end of 1945 the vast majority of humanity were celebrating the close of the most deadly war in history, the Second World War. In Europe, the Nazi menace had been crushed on the plains of Eastern Europe and in the streets of Berlin by the Red Army, at that time our greatest ally. In Western Europe the British and American’s had finally opened a second front in France that had the Germans penned in. Between the Soviet hammer and the Anglo-American anvil the Nazi regime was shattered, and Hitler had blown his brains out as Soviet soldiers were closing in, liberating Berlin street by street.

Germany had succumbed to fascism over a decade prior. The vast majority of Germans who had fought fascism had died bravely, usually with a bullet in the head – untold numbers of martyrs; communists, socialists, trade unionists, Jews and democrats lay in many still unmarked graves or lost in mass graves. It took six years of total war to destroy Nazi Germany, and til the bitter end few desired to discard their fascism, which they had either willingly adopted or passively accepted.

As such, a shocking number, particularly in Germany, saw liberation as subjugation. But had it not been so and liberation not come, no doubt fascism in Germany would have gone on much as it did in Portugal and Spain, with a death toll that one could hardly grasp in scale, had it not been for the liberation of Europe with bullets, blood and sacrifice.

Therefore following the War a process of denazification was an essential component of the post-war period. Yet the sheer scale of the nazi network amongst the population was so staggering that the Americans left it to the Germans themselves, and took many former technocrats back to the USA to work on a variety of projects.

Mass Murder of Soviet civilians by Axis troops 1941

The eleven-month long Nuremberg Trials judged that out of hundreds of thousands of NSDAP members at large, Wehrmacht and others guilty of war crimes and atrocities during the Second World War, a grand total of merely twenty-four defendants were tried. Others would be found guilty in consequent trials but would all too often spend a handful of years in prison. Thousands remained at large, thousands more imported to the United States and paid well, courtesy of “Operation Paperclip”, and others would carry on in West Germany with free reign in the sphere of politics and the military after the government granted amnesties in 1951 to German war criminals and largely reneged on denazification.

Researchers found that some 77 percent of senior officials in the Justice Ministry had once identified as Nazis, a portion higher than during the Third Reich, the period between 1933 and 1945 when Adolf Hitler controlled Germany, and much higher than researchers expected. The group included Nazi-era prosecutor Eduard Dreher, a man who sought the death penalty for petty criminals, and Max Merten, who played a role in deporting Jews from Greece.” – 2016 Christian Science Monitor Study

Many Nazis returned to a life of prosperity funded by the American taxpayer. Many infamous Nazis would become high profile employees of West Germany, the United States and NATO itself.

Nasa and the Nazi

The most well known example was rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, whisked away by the United States at the wars end during Operation Paper Clip. His ‘wunderwaffe’ – wonder weapons, were responsible for thousands of deaths from both their deployment and also for the slave labour worked to death building them. His reward was to become the head of NASA’s Apollo programme.

Heinz Reinefarth posing for camera bearing his Knights Cross with Oak Leaves awarded for the butcher tens of thousands of Poles in the Warsaw Uprising

Heinz Reinefarth posing for camera bearing his Knights Cross with Oak Leaves awarded for the butcher tens of thousands of Poles in the Warsaw Uprising

One individual the Polish government tried to get their hands on but the West Germans just would not give up was SS Gruppenführer Heinz Reinefarth, responsible for the Wola Massacre that butchered 60,000 Poles in the early stages of the Warsaw Uprising. Despite the ongoing requests by the Polish authorities for his extradition he enjoyed the rest of his years as a respected Mayor of Westerland and a member of the Landtag, never to face justice.

But if a celebrated rocket scientist in the United States or a respected mayor in Germany were not sickening enough many a decorated Nazi war criminal climbed the ranks of NATO and the West German military courtesy of the concerted effort by the West to peddle the ‘clean Wehrmacht myth’. A myth produced to facilitate the rehabilitation of Nazi military men so as to use them as a bulwark against socialism.

Some such as Nazi General Hans Speidel, chief of staff to Erwin Rommel, courtesy of the clean Wehrmacht myth went on to serve in the Western German army before promotion in 1957 to Supreme Commander of NATO’s ground forces in Central Europe until 1963.

Johannes Steinhoff, recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, the highest award of Nazi Germany, and later the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and numerous foreign awards including the American Legion of Merit and the French Legion of Honour. Steinhoff, a Nazi Luftwaffe fighter pilot would rise to the rank of full general of the West German Luftwaffe. Steinhoff then in 1960 rose to German Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee, then in 1965 NATO Acting Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe, Inspector of the Air Force in 1966 and finally Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1971–1974.

Many others would also rise up the ranks of NATO, such as Johann von Kielmansegg, who was in 1942 til 1944 General Staff officer to the High Command of the Wehrmacht, would become NATO’s Commander in Chief of Allied Forces Central Europe in 1967. Ernst Ferber, Karl Schnell, Franz Joseph Schulze are but a handful of other notables courtesy of the ‘clean Wehrmacht’ myth.

Soviet prisoners of war paraded naked by Nazi German guards at Mauthausen concentration camp

Most notorious of this rabid bunch however is the man who had at one time risen to become Chief of the General Staff of the Army in Nazi Germany. A career soldier from 1915 onwards, rising to number three in the hierarchy of the army of Nazi Germany he would assist in the planning of the invasions of Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries and France, the critical opening blows of a war that lead to tens of millions of deaths.

After the War, Adolf Heusinger, instead of facing trial for war crimes became military advisor to Konrad Adenauer, the first West German Chancellor and played a key role in forming the West German army, the Bundeswehr in 1955 and was consequently re-enrolled in the military as Lieutenant General late that year. He would replace the aforementioned Spiedel in March 1957 as Chief of the All-Armed Forces Department and in short order be promoted to full General and the Inspector General of the Army in June that year.

Heusinger with Robert McNamara in Washington DC 1964 – Robert McNamara was Secretary of Defence 1961-1968 and key instigator of the Vietnam War

Heusinger however would rise to newer and higher heights. In 1961 he was promoted to Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, in that position he was head of that Committee which advises the North Atlantic Council on strategy and tactics. It made him the most senior military figure of the alliance and effectively its Chief of Staff.

Unlike many of those who were murdered under his command, Heusinger retired in 1964 and lived til the ripe old age of eighty-five. Whilst he was detained for two years post war he never faced trial nor paid for the war crimes and atrocities he and those under his command committed. Instead, he was employed by the West German state as an advisor and then later a general before he was snapped up by the international military alliance that purports to defend democracy. Heusinger enjoyed eighteen years of retirement.