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Sippenhaft, Terror and Fear in Nazi Germany: Examining One Facet of Terror in the Aftermath of the Plot of 20 July 1944

  • ROBERT LOEFFEL (a1)
Abstract

The methods used by the Nazis to control elements of German society have been the focus of intense historical debate. This paper attempts to analyse the implementation of Sippenhaft (family liability punishment) after the 20 July 1944 assassination plot against Hitler. Sippenhaft was advocated for use against the families of the conspirators involved in this plot and also against members of the armed services. Consequently, its implementation became the personal domain of the Reich leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, as well as local army commanders, army courts and the Nazi party itself. This article will argue that the inadequacies of its imposition were largely compensated for by its effectiveness as a device of fear.

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1 Gellately, Robert, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Johnson, Eric, Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, the Jews, and Ordinary Germans (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

2 Gellately, Backing Hitler, vii, and Johnson, Nazi Terror, 373.

3 Reuband, Karl-Heinz and Johnson, Eric, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (London: John Murray, 2005), 355.

4 Geary, Dick, ‘Working Class Identities in the Third Reich’, in Gregor, Neil, ed., Nazism, War and Genocide (Exeter: Exeter University Press 2005). Manuscript kindly loaned by the author.

5 Eley, Geoff, ‘Hitler's Silent Majority: Conformity and Resistance under the Third Reich’ (Part II), Michigan Quarterly Review, 42, 3 (2003), 561.

6 Hoffmann, Peter, German Resistance to Hitler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 3.

7 Schlie, Ulrich, ‘Today's View of the Third Reich and the Second World War in German Historiographical Discourse’, The Historical Journal, 43, 2 (2000), 559.

8 Mommsen, Hans, ‘Gesellschaftsbild und Verfassungspläne des deutschen Widerstandes’, in Walter, Schmitthenner and Hans, Buchheim, eds., Der deutsche Widerstand gegen Hitler (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1966), 75–6. All translations are by the author.

9 Nositz, Siegfried von, ‘Dictatorship and Resistance: The Problems of How to Resist’, The Western Political Quarterly, 20, 1 (1967), 164. See also Reitlinger, Gerhard, The SS: Alibi for a Nation (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1957), 410.

10 Fitzgibbon, Constantine, The Shirt of Nessus (London: Cassell, 1956), 220.

11 Hoffmann, Peter, The History of the German Resistance, 1933–1945 (London: MacDonald & Jane's, 1977), 519.

12 Fest, Joachim, Plotting Hitler's Death: The German Resistance to Hitler (London: Phoenix, 1997), 304.

13 Ibid., 304, and Hoffman, History of the German Resistance, 519.

14 Peifer, Douglas, ‘Commemoration of Mutiny and Resistance in Postwar Germany: Public Memory, History, and the Formation of Memory Beacons’, Journal of Military History, 65, 4 (2001), 1046.

15 Kitterman, David, ‘The Justice of the Wehrmacht Legal System: Servant or Opponent of National Socialism?’, Central European History, 24, 4 (1991), 454.

16 Müller, Ingo, Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 185.

17 Kitterman, ‘Justice of the Wehrmacht Legal System’, 458.

18 Gellately, Backing Hitler, 230.

19 Ibid., 201; see also 257.

20 Hitler, Adolf, Reden und Proklamationen 1932–1945, ed. Max, Domarus (Wiesbaden: R. Löwit, 1973), 2127–9. Hitler said to Albert Speer in private that ‘[h]e would annihilate and exterminate every one of them’. Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (London: Phoenix, 1995), 525.

21 Peter, Archiv für Historische und Zeitgeschichtliche Dokumentation, Spiegelbild einer Verschwöung. Die Kaltenbrunner-Berichte an Bormann und Hitler über das Attentat vom 20. Juli 1944. Geheime Dokumente aus dem ehemaligen Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Stuttgart: Seewald, 1961), 811.

22 Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 525.

23 Personal Files of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, Bundesarchive Berlin (BAB), NS 19/4015 (hereafter BAB, NS 19/4015): Himmler at Grafenwöhr 25 July 1944

24 BAB, NS 19/4015: Himmler's speech at Bitsch, 21 July 1944.

25 BAB, NS 19/4015: Notes from meeting between Himmler, Hitler and Keitel, 30 July 1944.

26 Hett, Ulrike and Johannes, Tuchel, ‘Die Reaktionen des NS-Staates auf den Umsturzversuch vom 20 Juli 1944’, in Steinbach, Peter and Tuchel, Johannes, eds., Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus (Bonn: Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 1994), 383.

27 Private correspondence between the author and the daughter of Major-General von Oster, Barbara von Krauss, 10 Nov. 2002.

28 Christa von Hofacker, ‘Unsere Zeit in Bad Sachsa: Das schwere Jahr 1944/45’ (1946), 7, unpublished manuscript in the possession of and kindly supplied by Alfred von Hofacker, private correspondence, 16 April 2002.

29 Polizeidienststellen in Frankreich Bundesarchiv Zentralnachweisstelle Aachen, R 70 (Frankreich) / 1: Report on the trial of Bruno Ditter von Dittersdorf, 5 Feb. 1944.

30 Hassell, Freya von and Forbes-Watt, David, A Mother's War (London: John Butler, 1990), 154.

31 Vermehren, Isa, Reise durch den Letzten Akt: Ein Bericht 10.2.1944 bis 29.6.1944 (Hamburg: Christian Wegner Verlag, 1947), 43.

32 Hett and Tuchel, ‘Die Reaktionen’, 380; San Diego Union Tribune, 22 Jun. 2002.

33 Hett and Tuchel, ‘Die Reaktionen’, 380.

34 His final letter to his parents, written on 8 Aug. 1944, indicates that either they were not under arrest or he was not aware of their arrest. Reich Security Central Office, BAB, R 58/1075: ‘Investigation into the 20 July Assassination Attempt’.

35 It should be noted that Clarita von Trott zu Solz was not arrested until 17 Aug. 1944, two days after her husband's trial. Giles MacDonogh, A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Solz (London: Quartet Books, 1989), 303. See also Dorothee von Meding, Courageous Hearts: Women and the Anti-Hitler Plot of 1944, trans. Michael Balfour and Volker Berghahn (Providence RI: Berghahn Books, 1997), 167; It cannot be determined whether any other members of the Klamorth family were arrested.

36 Private correspondence between the author and the son of Colonel Finckh, Peter Finckh, 22 Aug. 2002.

37 Armed Forces and German Reich File, BAB, NS 1/641: Himmler to Breithaupt, 27 Aug. 1944.

38 Von Meding, Courageous Hearts, 144.

39 See respectively ibid., 167; Bethge, Eberhard, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 827; von Meding, Courageous Hearts, 105; private correspondence between the author and the son of Count Ulrich Schwerin von Schwanenfeld, Count Wilhelm Schwerin von Schwanenfeld, 3 Oct. 2002; von Meding, Courageous Hearts, 118; Wartenburg, Marion von, The Power of Solitude: My Life in the German Resistance (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 54, and von Meding, Courageous Hearts, 38; private correspondence between the author and the daughter of Major-General von Tresckow, Dr Uta von Aretin, 24 Aug. 2002; Georgi, Friedrich, ‘Wir haben das Letzte gewagt’. General Olbricht und die Verschwörung gegen Hitler (Freiburg: Herder Taschenbuch Verlag, 1990), 123.

40 Private correspondence between the author and Ingrid von Seydlitz, the daughter of Lieutenant-General von Seydlitz, 17 Oct. 2001. Also von Hofacker, Unsere Zeit in Bad Sachsa, 8.

41 Koch, Hans-Joachim, In the Name of the Volk: Political Justice in Hitler's Germany (New York: I. B. Tauris, 1997), 215.

42 Private correspondence between the author and Walter von Stülpnagel, the son of Lieutenant-General von Stülpnagel, 21 Feb. 2003.

43 Private correspondence between the author and Major-General (retd) Count Berthold von Stauffenberg, 22 Feb. 2002.

44 Private correspondence between the author and Hans-Christof von Sponeck, the son of Lieutenant-General von Sponeck, 2 Dec. 2002.

45 Private correspondence between the author and Deitland von Seydlitz, the daughter of Lieutenant-General von Seydlitz, 9 May 2001.

46 Deitland von Seydlitz, 9 May 2001.

47 Private correspondence between the author and Gero von Lenski, the son of Major-General von Lenski, 23 Nov. 2002.

48 Private correspondence between the author and Pastor Hans-Dietrich Schröder, the son of Pastor Schröder, 31 Oct. 2003.

49 Wegner-Korfes, Sigrid, Weimar–Stalingrad–Berlin: Das Leben des deutschen Generals Otto Korfes (Weiden: Verlag der Nation, 1994), 191–2, also 119.

50 Ibid., 191.

51 Leonhard, Wolfgang, Child of the Revolution (London: C. M. Woodhouse, 1958), 279.

52 Magazine of the League of German Officers, Freies Deutschland, 50 (10 Dec. 1944).

53 Captured Armed Forces documents, Institut für Zeitsgeschichte, München (hereafter IfZ) Fd 44/ 105: Directive of High Command of the Armed Forces, 2 Aug. 1944.

54 Copies in the possession of Herr Otto Bonnemann kindly loaned to the author, private correspondence, 14 April 2003.

55 High Command Armed Forces Leadership Staff File, Bundesarchive, Freiburg, RW 4/v. 702: Directive, Commander-in-Chief West, 31 Oct. 1944.

56 Nuremberg High Command of the Armed Forces documents, IfZ, NOKW-547: Directive of the Commander, Army Group ‘G’, 5 Nov. 1944.

57 SS and Police Legal Office Files, BAB, NS 7 / 261: Directive of High Command of the Armed Forces, 19 Nov. 1944.

58 Kuby, Erich, Das Ende des Schreckens (Munich: Paul List Verlag, 1961), 5051; IfZ, Fd 44/118: Führer directive, Reich Chancellery, 5 March 1945.

59 Messerschmidt, Manfred and Wüllner, Fritz, Wehrmachtjustiz im Deinste des Nationalsozialismus: Zerstörung einer Legende (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1987), 310.

60 Manoschek, Walter, ed., Opfer der NS-Militärjustiz Urteilspraxis–Strafvollzug–Entschädigungpolitik in Österreich (Vienna: Mandelbaum-Verlag, 2003), 484.

61 Shils, Edward and Janowitz, Morris, ‘Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War Two’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 12, 2 (1948), 291.

62 National Archives, Washington, NA RG 338: Seventh Army G-2 Reports, Box 10, Feb. 1945.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Lasch, Otto, Zuckerbrot und Peitsche: Ein Bericht aus russischer Kriegsgefangenschaft 20 Jahre danach (Pfaffenhofen/ Ilm: Ilmgau Verlag, 1965), 21.

66 Völkischer Beobachter, 13 April 1945.

67 Horbach, Michael, Out of the Night (London: Vallentine, 1967), 38.

68 War Office of Military Intelligence, Public Records Office, Kew Gardens, London (hereafter TNA PRO) WO 208 / 4168 (S.R.G.G 835): Von Thoma conversation, 14 Feb. 1944.

69 Spiegelbild einer Verschwörung: Die Opposition gegen Hitler und der Staatssreich vom 20 Juli 1944 in der SD-Berichterstattung. Geheime Dokumente aus dem ehemaligen Reichssicherheitshauptamt, ed. Hans-Joachim Jacobsen (Stuttgart: Seewald, 1984), 1, 278.

70 New York Times, 2 Aug. 1944, 10 Aug. 1944.

71 The Times, 18 Aug. 1944.

72 BAB, NS 19/ 2222: Admiral von Friedeburg to Himmler, 7 Aug. 1944; Files of the Party Chancellery Office, BAB, NS 6/25; Count Schwerin von Krosigk to Himmler, 18 Aug. 1944, Dr Otto Meissner to Himmler, 24 Aug. 1944, and Frau von Tirpitz to Himmler, 31 Aug. 1944.

73 National Archives and Records Administration (M1623), National Archives Washington, DC: ‘History of the Office of Strategic Services in London 1942–1945’ (hereafter National Archives, ‘History of Strategic Services’): Roll 3: 5, ‘Morale Operations Branch’.

74 National Archives, ‘History of Strategic Services’.

75 BAB, NS 19/ 3098: d'Alquen to Himmler, 21 Nov. 1944.

76 BAB, NS 6 /3: Kaltenbrunner to Bormann, 25 Oct. 1944.

77 IfZ, Fa 91/1/1: Statement of Duty, Volkstrum, 2 Nov. 1944.

78 Dollinger, Hans, Decline and Fall of the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (New York: Crown Publishers, 1968), 116.

79 Georgi, ‘Wir haben das Letzte gewagt’, 119.

80 BAB, NS 6/3: Wächtler to Bormann, 25 July 1944.

81 Private correspondence between the author and Major-General (retd) Count Berthold von Stauffenberg, the son of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, 12 June 2002.

82 National Archives, Washington, NA RG 338, Box 71. Report 806: ETO Seventh Army Interrogation Center, 13 Feb. 1945.

83 Private correspondence between the author and Eberhard von Drebber, the son of Major-General Moritz von Drebber, 17 Nov. 2003.

84 Ibid.

85 BAB, Security Central Office Files, R 58/1027: Directive of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD Ernst Kaltenbrunner, 14 Dec. 1944 (emphasis in original).

86 TNA PRO, WO 208/ 4140 (SRM 1142): Major Schuster conversation, 24 Dec. 1944.

This article is based on my doctoral thesis research completed at the University of New South Wales in July 2004. I should like to thank Professor Dick Geary for encouraging me to pursue this topic in an article format, Professor Konrad Kweit from Sydney University and Dr David Welch from Melbourne University for ongoing research assistance. I should also like to thank my colleague, Dr David Martin, for his thoughts and comments on this paper.

Robert Loeffel is a history master at Sydney Grammar School, Australia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales in 2004, for a thesis which analysed family liability punishment across the entire period of the Third Reich. He has held positions as a tutor of History at the University of Sydney as well as the University of New South Wales, where he also lectured in modern warfare.

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