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November 11, 2016
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January 26, 1999
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June 13, 1964
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FOIAb3b SUICIDE Of E~-NAZI Wherever Chancellor Erhard went, Ewald Peters was sure to go. How did a Nazi N the last few weeks of his life Ewald Peters was a figure whom many people might have envied. A tall, handsome, smiling man of 49, he had reached the top level of his profession as department chief of the West German secret service, and so he accompanied Chancellor Ludwig Erhard on ceremonious visits to the lead- ers of the Western world. In Texas Peters was a guest at President Lyndon John- son's ranch, attended a Presidential bar- becue, and listened to a chorus of Ger- man-Americans singing Deep in the Heart of Texas in German-Tief in das Herz von Texas. And when he left, they pre- sented him with a ten-gallon hat. . In London, Peters had accompanied Chancellor Erhard to a Lord Mayor's banquet, and in Paris he had shaken the hand of President Charles de Gaulle. Then came Rome, where Peters, a Cath- olic, stood by the chancellor during a Vatican audience with Pope Paul VI. Peters noted down all the details so that he could report them to his elder sister, a nun in a German convent. There were other meetings that also impressed Peters. Chancellor Erhard conferred with Pietro Nenni, the Socialist vice premier whose daughter died in a concentration camp. Erhard publicly expressed his sympathy for Nenni's sufferings, and the Italian press commented favorably on the tactful candor of the new German leaders. Peters understood the importance of such gestures, for he was part of this new Germany. One colleague described him as "shy, compassionate, modest," the antithesis of the strutting Gestapo offi- cial. To his wife, Wanda, Peters wrote that the trip to Rome was the most en- joyable he ever made in the line of duty. Sanitized - Approved exectdioner become Germany's secret-service chief? By EDWARD BEHR On January 3n th calls that he was, "so happy, so gay. Then, while he still had his coat on, two men came. They said they were from the po- lice, and I thought they were subordinates reporting to my husband on some busi- ness or other. 1 was making coffee. A few moments later niy husband came into the kitchen. He was white. In one minute he had changed very much.... He was cry- ing. God, how he was crying." prison. The charge was mass murder. Two days later, on February 2, Peters bed in his cell, knotted them together, and tied one end around the iron bed. Then he made a crude noose for himself. rations, includih the French Legion of Honor; there was a silver-framed photo- graph of President Kennedy, whom Peters had b Jp, d to guard during the inscribed: `;ptwald Peters, with very , best wishes, John.Kennedy." In the West The case of Ewald Peters is not an iso- German prison cell, Ewald Peters slipped lated one, nor can it be isolated from the guards reached mm, veters was aeaa. mans have really purged themselves of the concerned," said Dr. Ernst Bruckner, the, 1945, and Allied troops recoiled at the ' overall head ofwBonn s Security Group, grimacing skeleton creatures who tried to t Q(i tf 110. Hb+l~~ ~,~~1P~51* et! r ~ a skilled etcher, the last person you bulldozed the fetid barracks to avert Conti nt d Wanda Peters, an attractive, intelligent, diminutive blonde who teaches music at a Bonn public school, is also convinced that a "monstrous judicial error" was perpe- trated. "My husband's conscience was absolutely clear," she told me. "We had discussed the war quite freely. When cases of war criminals came up, my hus- band would say, 'I really am lucky not to have been mixed up in that sort of thing,. [ was only in thecriminal police. I wouldn't have liked to have been in their shoes."" But the German prosecutors responsi- ble for tracking down war criminals re- fuse to believe that Peters's death came as the result of any judicial error. "It was tragic that he should kill himself," said Dr. Heinrich Hesse, chief prosecutor for the State of North-Rhine Westphalia, where Peters would have been tried. "But if he had come to trial, justice would have been done. Believe me, our evidence was solid." And the evidence against Ewald Peters indicated that the chief of Chancellor Erhard's security guard was indeed a war criminal, that in German-occupied Russia between October, 1941, and March, 1942, he had taken part in rounding up and 000 Ukrainian Jews. killing 12 CPYRGHT cholera-there firsStgslestjpproJlyF~rt~~l~~'S?('154 Who did these tlungshh.'' oug Hlft?j claim to be victims o ast Cerman om- Himmler and Goering all escaped pun- ishment by suicide, 21 top Nazis were condemned by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. But 21 men could not have operated all the machine guns, the torture chambers, and the gas ovens-yet neither could all 80 million Germans have been guilty of mass mur- der. For those in between the 80 million and the 21, the destruction and chaos of 1945 brought an opportunity for a re- prieve. Not only towns and factories had gone up in flames, but so had archives and records. Some Germans could change their names and become completely new people-as did Richard Baer, the last commandant of Auschwitz, who spent more than 10 postwar years as an obscure woodcutter named Neumann. Still others could forget the details of the past and maintain that they had only followed their chosen careers as doctors, lawyers, bank- ers, diplomats, generals and policemen. As time passed, and memories faded and prosperity returned, Germany came to need its doctors, lawyers, bankers, dip- lomats, generals and policemen. With the start of the cold war, says Prosecutor Henrich Hesse, "it seems an incontro- vertible fact that the Allies lost interest in prosecuting war criminals." It is taken almost for granted that nobody asks questions about the Krupps, the Flicks and the Opels-the leaders of Germany's huge industrial combines, which were substantially operated with concentration- camp slave labor during the war. As for the belated prosecution of war criminals, the German police magazine Krimina/- statistik recently complained that there was "public reaction against dragging up States and Britain for photostatic copies Nazi crimes ... causing deep emotional of essential documents. Under the Bonn distress among the police involved...." . constitution, moreover, criminal prosecu- In such a tolerant climate of amnesia, it tions are the primary responsibility of lo- was only natural that a number of ex- cal state governments, and the federal Nazis should find room at the top. De- police have only limited authority. And spite former Chancellor Konrad Aden- there was reluctance of the kind expressed auer's impeccable record of hostility to by one Auschwitz survivor, now a cook in Nazism, his Minister of Refugees, Theo- a restaurant, who refused to give evidence dor Obcrlaender, had to resign in 1960 on the grounds that "my customers dis- after being accused of serving in a approve of the trial, and I don't want t "Nightingale" police battalion in eastern get involved in any unpleasantness which Europe. Despite Chancellor Erhard's would lead to a loss of business." equally impeccable record, his own Ref- It was only in 1958 that Bauer obtaine ugee Minister, Hans Kruger, turned out a full list of Auschwit2r(;uards. A half to have been a Nazi judge in German- charred copy containingitheir names ha occupied Poland. At first, Kruger insisted fluttered from the chiiiiney of a Gestap he had been merely a "nominal" member building in Breslau in 1945. It had bee of the Nazi Party-but the East German picked up by a Gestajo risoner who hel Communists, who have somewhat fuller it as a souvenir forars, unaware o wartime records than the West Germans, its importance. Onl .fli year a cupboard produced documents showing that Krii- full of documents as fWund in a Wes ger had joined every Nazi association German police station. It, contained th open to him, and had even abjured his Order of Battle of the wartime Ein Protestant faith to curry favor with the satzkommandos, the .'special securit Nazis. It was symptomatic of Kruger's troops which arrested .and killed by th attiftMe, and not his alone, that he de- tens of thousands in German-occupie scrib'dd"himself primarily as a victim. In areas of eastern Europe. Yet as the evi his letter of resignation, he wrote that dence kept flowing in, one clue led to an "even today I am still unaware of any other, one prosecution to another. Out o conduct which can be seen as a contra- the fires and shadows of that period, they vention of law anS t ." : ApprQ dtForet leatS?11aet rRD munist propaganda, for the Communists have tirelessly insisted that West Ger- many is run by ex-Nazis. The East Ger- mans themselves, of course, have had no difficulty in finding useful work for ex- Nazis who are willing to profess their support for Communism. But the East German charges have an embarrassing way of turning out to be true. And the theory that the West can rely on ex-Nazis as stanch anti-Communists has an em- barrassing way of turning out to be false. For years the CIA subsidized the unoffi- cial intelligence apparatus of General Reinhard Gehlen, wartime intelligence chief of the German Army High Com- mand, but last year three of Gchlcn's ex- Nazi associates were convicted of passing everything they knew to the Soviets. "You must remember," says Frank- furt's chief prosecutor, Fritz Bauer, "that 80 percent of the Germans were for Hit- ler. The reaction of most adult Germans, confronted with war criminals on trial, is: There, but for a certain amount of luck, go I." Bauer is more outspoken than many other Germans, for he is Jewish, one of the 30,000 Jews still alive today o a prewar population of about 500,000. It was Bauer-and younger men similarly interested in remembering justice more than in forgetting the past-who gathered the evidence which led to the present trial of 21 staff members of Auschwitz. But i was not easy. Germany recovered her full sovereignty only in 1955, and the firs trials of German war criminals in German courts took place only in 1958. The Wes German government lacked background information, and had to go to the United CPYRGHT '75-00149 R000600300023-1 Devoutness and death Ewald Peters was born Ewa_FdC`zempReF_ in the long-disputed province of Silesia, now part of Poland. His father was a small-grocery-store owner, and the family was devoutly Catholic. He began study- ing law at Leipzig University, but, accord- to his superior, Bruckner, "he gave up his university studies because his father died suddenly, and he lacked money to con- tinue. As a young man he worked in a bank. He joined the criminal police only because opportunities for promotion were good for someone like himself, with a knowledge of accountancy." He was "well-noted" by his superiors, says Wanda Peters, adding that he was ex- tremely thorough and meticulous, spend- ing endless hours in tracking down minor criminals. "He liked his work and was good at it," says Wanda, "but he was per- haps too humane, too soft. He was al- ways an easy touch and often helped destitute ex-criminals out of his own pocket." Despite his softheartedness, Peters apparently kept in mind what Bruckner describes as "opportunities for promotion." Not too long after he joined the police in 1935, he dutifully became it member of the Nazi Party. And in 1940, under a "Germanization" law which en- abled German Aryans with foreign- sounding names to adopt new ones, Ewald Czempiel became Ewald Peters. By this time Germany was at war- 1940 was the year of the great break- through in the Low Countries, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, and, for a moment, we lose sight of Ewald Peters, although his police duties took him to Gotenhafen after that Polish seaport was annexed by Germany. Then he reappears with Einsatzkommando 6 in the Ukraine in 1941. There is a group photograph of officers of the unit, with Peters in SS uniform. Wearing the uniform did not mean that Peters was a full-fledged SS member. His name appears nowhere in the register of SS members discovered after the war. Peters refused to abjure his Catholic faith, says Wanda, and this barred him from the SS. But the Einsatz- kommandos were created to help carry out Hitler's "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem." Peters himself, confronted by two denazification boards before reenter- ing the police, explained that he had sim- ply been a sort of provost marshal at an army headquarters in Kiev in 1941, to investigate crime in the German units. At the time, there was no evidence that he had been in the Einsatzkon>nandos. But there was considerable confusion about all members of these commando groups. After June 22, 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the German Army's advance was speedy and relatively bloodless. in Lithuania, in the Ukraine, in certain parts of Russian-occupied Poland, hatred for the Soviets took the form of 1 3 ( PYP( .l~T Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600300023-1 and Poles were hastily enrolled in ~11_ some five years. They married in 1946. The former soldiers of Einsatzkom. Immediately after his marriage, Peters mando 6.gave further details. The platoon man-officered militia units, some of them was arrested by a U.S. Army investigator. commander called Peters, they said, had in Einsatzkomnxmdos, moving in the This time it apparently was a judicial been born in Polish Silesia; before the war wake of advancing German army units. error. The investigator was looking for a ' he had been a detective with the criminal Recruitment into the battalion-sized subordinate of the Nazi agent Otto Police and he had held a police job in Einsatzkommandos was haphazard-one judge at the Nuremberg trials described Skorzeny with the name of Peters. Ewald Gotenhafen; and he had changed his Peters remained in a U.S. Army detention name to Peters only recently from some the recruits as "an intellectual riffraff." A barracks in Regensburg for several foreign-sounding name. Then came an large proportion of officers were ex- months until the other Peters was traced. anonymous tip: "The man you want is policemen. German soldiers who had With some embarrassment, the American living in the Bonn area." Peters is a committed minor offenses were offered authorities in Regensburg offered Peters common German name, but the investi- the choice of volunteering for "special and his wife jobs teaching in a school for gators finally came across Ewald Peters During the summer of 1941, Hirnmlcr the children of U.S. servicemen. Wanda of the security police. Three people recog- taught music and physical train i ng; Ewald, nized him from a photograph. ordered the Einsatzkommandos to remain Latin. "We got on marvelously well with This was sufficient to convince a Ger- on the sidelines as much as possible. They everyone connected with the school," ,man magistrate that a warrant should be were to lull the eastern Europeans into a Wanda recalls. "Parents and other school- issued for the arrest of Ewald Peters. And sense of security and compile a list of all teachers were so nice to us. It was as on January 30, two men called at the Jews in their areas, with the help of local though there had never been a war." Peters home in Bonn. That was the mo- Jewish leaders. Jews were told this was necessary because they would shortly be did not teach Latin long. West nient that Wanda Peters recalls with Germany "resettled" in Germany was rapidly building up its bewilderment. "He said that the men had areas specially set aside for them. Then, in October of 1941 ' the economic strength, and there was a come to take him away for something shortage of accountants. For seven years th'it had haprered during the war in Einsatzkommandos struck. Jews were told Peters worked for a Regensburg factory It nssia, hut. he said, 'I had nothing to do to assemble with their portable belong- i as an accountant while Wanda taught at will tl.esc t' ings.' I helped him pack, for "resettlement." They were taken the U.S. dependents' school. "His em- "Tic next day I saw him for 40 min- to remote spots where mass graves had ployer," said Wanda, "was most reluc- utcs. He was very depressed. I comforted already been dug, and where the noise of tant to let him go." He wrote Peters a hint. and he did not cry anymore. He gunfire could not be overheard. One survivor, a merchant named Oskar glowing testimonial. even cracked a joke with the policeman Berger, recalled the operation this way: Reinstated in the police in 1952, Peters who sat with us. He said: 'I will see this "Just before the 'resettlement,' all the was transferred to the secret service squad thing through if you will.' He again said sick, in homes as well as in the hospi- in 1956, and eventually headed it. He was lie had nothing to do with any atrocities talc-some four or five hundred per- respected, liked, and trusted-"several during the war." In a letter written just sons-together with the inmates of the cuts above the usual police officer," says before his suicide, Peters assured Wanda, homes for the aged and the orphans in the orphan homes, were either shot or killed by injection.... The bodies were flung into the pits dressed as they were, after we had searched them for jewels, gold and money, which had to be delivered to the SS. When the work had been done, we were assembled in the synagogue and Gestapo Chief Thomas picked some of us for shipment to Treblinka. The trip was a nightmare. We crouched in the cars, crowded together, children crying, women going mad.... We were herded out of the carriages as German and Ukrainian Bruckner. "A cultivated man, with a "I am not involved. I did not do the knowledge of music and so on." things I am accused of. If there are wit- But unknown to Peters, or to any of messes, they are not telling the truth." his superiors, some prosecutors investi- After Peters's death, all his neighbors gating war crimes were gathering evi- called on Wanda to express their sym- dence. When the first Einsatzkommando patty. She received hundreds of letters trials before German courts occurred in from friends, dozens of telephone calls. 1958, more and more names came to Some of the letters were from parents and light. One case was to prove crucial: A fellow teachers they had known during former Einsatzkommando leader, Robert their Regensburg days, and all expressed Mohr, was brought to trial in 1963. their firm belief in Peters's innocence. Mohr's unit had murdered tens of thou- Only one telephone call expressed any. sands of Ukrainian Jews, and the prose- thing but sorrow. A blurred, cracked cutors based their case against Mohr on voice said on the phone, the night after SS men mounted to the roofs and began evidence given by former rank-and-file to shoot indiscriminately into the crowd. members of the Einsatzkommando, who, Men, women and children writhed in as private soldiers carrying out orders their own blood...." from above, were not themselves charged What was Ewald Peters doing during with crimes. Some of the witnesses came this period? The evidence is incomplete. ' from Einsatzkommando 6. They gave In those days of vast military movements' names of platoon commanders. One of across vast areas of southwestern Russia, the platoon commanders of Einsatzkom- there was indiscriminate killing on a vast mando 6, they said, was culled Peters. scale on both sides-some in military ac- They told how they had, under Peters's lion, some not. The actions of Ewald commandondozensofoccasions,rounded Peters, who always had a modest inclina- up Jews, dug mass graves and served on lion to let others take credit for his work, firing squads. Official reports from the remained shrouded in mystery. He ap- Peters unit-sent to Berlin and found in- parently left the Ukraine after 1942, and tact in 1945-had documented '12,000 is known to have held police jobs in Hun- executions in the Kiev area between gary and Romania. In 1945 he was taken October, 1941 and March, 1942. A new prisoner by American troops. He ap-'. file was started: the Peters file. peared before a board grading ex-Nazis and was given grade D, the least important grade. I t was then, in the confusion of de- Peters's death: "Has your old man met the Devil yet?" feat, that Peters aSa~d roved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600300023-1 sweetheart, Wanda, a ter a separation JUN 1 3 1964 4 Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600300023-1 CPYRGHT JUN 13 1964 who received a ten-gallon hat at the LBJ ranch in Texas, died because of the zeal of a relative handful of investigating attorneys. About 100 of them are pursu- ing the guilt of the past into the respect- ability of the present, and theirs is not a popular job. At the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, at the Limburg trial where four doctors are being prosecuted for murdering some 100,000 feebleminded and psychotic patients, the galleries may contain a certain number of young people who come to learn of the crimes of their elders, who gasp at the daily testimony about shootings and gassings, about manacled prisoners set on fire and naked women machine-gunned as they fled through the snow, and children swung by the heels until their heads bashed against stone walls. Nobody can say what the Germans feel about these events today, but it is probably true that a majority of them wish that such testimony did not have to be heard, that such trials did not have to be held. And after May 8, 1965, most such trials will not be held. Except for specific cases of murder, the 20th anniversary of the German surrender will mark the day when the prosecutors' time runs out. A statute of limitations will absolve all war criminals not already charged. How many Germans, one won- ders, are anxiously waiting for 1965- not only the guilty but the innocent too? No trial, however, would have solved the mystery of. Ewald Peters. Here was a man who, from all accounts, was an admirable human being, cultivated, re- fined, kindhearted. Yet for a brief war- time period, according to substantial evidence submitted to German courts, he was prepared to engage in the mass murder of what the German government then termed "subliumans." And when it was all over he showed no signs of re- morse, no signs, even, of remembering that any wrong had ever been done. Perhaps if his prosecutors had been less energetic, or if the Mohr trial had been delayed a year or two, Ewald Peters would be alive today, touring the capitals of the Western world, bowing, shaking hands, and smiling. THE END Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600300023-1