Domination as service to those under our rule: is there a greater entitlement to our leadership claim imaginable than this attitude towards the fundamental questions of life between peoples and the German accomplishments tried at the forum of a thousand-year-long history?

— An SA-Rottenführer, summarizing Germany’s ‘mission’ in eastern Europe, July 19411

On the evening of 20 July 1941, SA-Obergruppenführer Adolf-Heinz Beckerle sat in his room in the prestigious Hotel Kaiserhof in the heart of Berlin and contemplated the events of the day.2 He had just arrived from his home town of Frankfurt am Main, where he had served as police president, and was now making a stopover on his way to Sofia. Three days before, Beckerle had been appointed the new German envoy to Bulgaria, where he would spend the next three years. Unlike some Wehrmacht soldiers on their way to the eastern front to whom Beckerle had listened for a while during the train’s stop at Magdeburg’s central station that afternoon, the thirty-nine-year-old was full of optimism about the war. He noted on the hotel stationery: ‘It is really annoying that most people are hardly aware of the importance of the times they are living in, as this is a time that guarantees the national future in such an astonishing and cheerful way.’ However, his personal feelings were mixed. He felt exhausted and in need of a change: ‘No fighter can cope with such high levels of intensity [Raubwirtschaft]!’3

Beckerle was one of five SA generals who served as ambassadors of the German Reich in southeastern Europe from 1940 onward. In line with older German geopolitical planning, the Nazi regime perceived the region as an Ergänzungsraum, a ‘complementary space’, that would provide natural resources, food, and men for the Greater German Reich’s war effort. From the military point of view, a close alliance with the states of the region was advisable in order to avoid opening another front.4 Besides Beckerle, the other men chosen to represent German interests in this economically and politically close ‘informal empire’ were Manfred von Killinger, Hanns Elard Ludin, Siegfried Kasche, and Dietrich von Jagow. Ludin, who had previously served as the leader of the SA-Gruppe South-West, was assigned to Preßburg/Bratislava, Slovakia, in December 1940. At the same time von Killinger, who had previously been in charge of the recruitment department at the Foreign Office and had also served for a few months as Ludin’s predecessor in Bratislava, was sent to the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Both men reported for duty in January 1941. Several months later, and after an eight-week ‘probationary period’, the former SA settlement expert Kasche was assigned as envoy to the new German Embassy in Agram/Zagreb in Croatia. Finally, Dietrich von Jagow, who had previously led the SA-Gruppe Berlin-Brandenburg, took over as German ambassador in Hungary’s capital of Budapest in July 1941, at about the same time that Beckerle assumed his new responsibilities in Bulgaria.5

This chapter aims to explain why these five SA generals were appointed to serve as German envoys to southeastern Europe at this particular historical moment and to what extent they championed a particular SA style of diplomacy. Their involvement in the murder of European Jewry will come under particular scrutiny. Although considerable effort has been made to study the Holocaust in all five of the countries examined here, the role of those German diplomats with SA backgrounds in this effort has hardly been touched upon. The following analysis will demonstrate that each SA general-diplomat was actively involved in shaping German foreign policy toward the Third Reich’s allies in southeastern Europe. I will also discuss why the attempts of surviving family members to restore the public memory of these diplomats failed and explain why the SA diplomats retained a special status in the Erinnerungspolitik of the Foreign Office after 1945.6

Stormtroopers in the Foreign Office

All five men who entered the diplomatic service from the SA were highly decorated ‘Old Fighters’. The ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in the summer of 1934 had left its scars on these SA generals – von Killinger, Kasche, Beckerle, and Ludin had only narrowly escaped the death squads – but had guaranteed their loyalty to the party and to Hitler, who could expect them to assert his interests on three fronts: against possible resistance from the professionally trained diplomats in the Foreign Office, whom the Führer (by and large needlessly) regarded with suspicion; against possible objections from the High Command of the Wehrmacht, for whom military needs were ultimately more important than ideological positions; and against the ever-growing influence of the SS.7 However, the appointment of SA diplomats was not without risk. Although all of them shared a common belief in core National Socialist values, they lacked proper diplomatic training. They formed a distinct group within the Foreign Office, supported there by a few fellow stormtroopers and committed National Socialists like Undersecretary Martin Luther, the ‘almighty man in the Foreign Office’ until his fall from grace in 1943.8 At least some career diplomats regarded their new colleagues from the SA with suspicion, as one of Beckerle’s diary entries makes plain. Several days after he arrived in Sofia, one of his assistants told him that many members of the Foreign Office in Berlin were critical of the new SA diplomats and believed them to be ‘brutal KZ-men’ with a ‘personal concentration camp’ at their disposal.9

In sharp contrast to this perception, Beckerle – who had studied economics (Volkswirtschaft), philosophy, and law in the 1920s – regarded himself as a political leader, a Führungspersönlichkeit with cultural interests and taste, and an artist.10 He used his spare time in Sofia to dry-point and to write short stories and poems.11 The pseudonym he chose for his only published book, an autobiographical travel account that recounted his adventures in South America during the 1920s, is revealing: Edelmann – a person of noble rank. This pseudonym must also have pleased the woman Beckerle married in 1935: the actress Silke Edelmann.12 Unlike Beckerle, who could only aspire to high social rank, von Jagow descended from the Prussian aristocracy and held its values in high esteem, blended together with Nazi ideology. In a letter to his son, written at the beginning of the Second World War, von Jagow reminded his five-year-old of the family’s ‘tradition of honour, loyalty, knightliness and bravery’, while also urging the boy not to be a ‘moral coward’ (Duckmäuser) and to remain faithful to the ‘National Socialist idea’ unto death.13

This group of SA diplomats in southeastern Europe was headed by the significantly older Manfred von Killinger, a former Navy lieutenant, Freikorps leader, and a leading member of the extreme right-wing paramilitary Bund Wiking who had been involved in the murder of Matthias Erzberger, the former Reich Finance Minister, in 1921. Von Killinger entered the ranks of the SA in 1928, was appointed Minister President of Saxony in May 1933, and served as German consul in San Francisco from 1937 to 1939. In 1939 and again in 1940, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, sent him on two extensive journeys through the Balkans to collect information on the activities of German institutions and organizations such as the embassies and the Sicherheitsdienst, or SD, the Security Service of the SS.14 Von Killinger was thus already a kind of ‘expert’ on southeastern Europe by the time he was appointed German ambassador to Slovakia in July 1940.15

The five SA diplomats operating in the region knew each other from their paramilitary activities in the 1920s and later repeatedly met at Nazi Party rallies, SA meetings, and training courses. Together, they formed an old boys’ network that was bound together by a common past in the Kampfzeit-era SA and an imagined bright future in a German-dominated Europe after the Second World War.16 Their correspondence and personal papers reveal that they trusted their ‘SA comrades’ more than their professionally trained colleagues in the diplomatic service. These bonds were so close that their families spent holidays together, a practice they continued even after 1945.17 At least in the initial phase of their missions, Beckerle and Kasche – whose personal papers have survived – were anxious to learn about the perspectives and aspirations of their colleagues.18 They all seemed to understand that their new positions were temporary ones, albeit further steps in their careers.

However, the level of satisfaction these men felt for their new tasks differed sharply. On 4 October 1941, Beckerle noted that Kasche had recently told him that rumours that he (Kasche) was going to be assigned to Moscow were true.19 According to Beckerle, this assignment was a matter of friction within the party: the recently appointed Reichsminister for the occupied eastern territories, Alfred Rosenberg, was pressing for such a move, much to the distaste of von Ribbentrop.20 Whereas Kasche – who, as we have seen, maintained a strong interest in the colonization and ‘Germanization’ of eastern Europe – seemed to enjoy his new position in Croatia, the majority of his colleagues had some problems adapting to a life filled with representational duties and social gatherings. Dietrich von Jagow was initially ‘deeply unhappy’ about being called to the diplomatic service and apparently complained about attending meetings and ceremonies while his comrades were fighting at the front.21 Hanns Ludin in Bratislava was rumoured to join the German forces at the eastern front on his holidays, a rumour, however, that cannot be verified and seems unlikely to be true.22

Fighting behind the Scenes

There has been some speculation as to why these men from the ‘uncompromising generation’, who glorified the ideal of the strong German fighter and believed in the power of physical violence as well as rhetoric, were appointed to these diplomatic posts during the first years of the war.23While the existing documents indicate that the reasons for these appointments were primarily political, they contain few details about the key players in, or the overall strategy of, this decision. One reason for the promotion of high-ranking SA generals to ambassadorial posts was certainly to counter the influence of the increasingly powerful SS and SD. In a letter to Himmler from 17 April 1941, Gottlob Berger, the head of the SS main office, complained about a veritable ‘fight against the SS’ within the Foreign Office and identified Undersecretary Luther as the main adversary. By exclusively appointing SA-Obergruppenführer to posts in southeastern Europe, Berger claimed, Luther was attempting to ‘prove his loyalty to the party’ and ‘assure himself of the powerful protection of the SA and thereby the Wehrmacht’.24 According to information from a ‘credible source’, Berger claimed that von Jagow was slated for Budapest, Kasche for Agram/Zagreb, and Beckerle for Sofia. All these predictions proved correct. The only exception was Fritz von Twardowsky, who since 1939 had served as director of the Cultural Department (Kulturabteilung) in the Foreign Office. Von Twardowsky was originally slated for Belgrade but ended up as consul general in Istanbul in 1943.25

A second letter from Berger to Himmler nine days later, on 26 April 1941, contained additional information on the appointment of the SA generals. Berger reported that Hitler had recently conferred with SA Chief of Staff Lutze for over an hour, and that afterward Lutze and von Ribbentrop had spoken for ninety minutes.26 In the course of this conversation Lutze allegedly offered his best men to von Ribbentrop, assuring him that the SA leadership would abstain from any direct interference with the Foreign Ministry once these appointments were made.27 From Lutze’s point of view, this was not an altruistic offer, but an attempt to bring the SA back into the front row of wartime politics, if only through the back door. Its motive was to reaffirm the important role of SA leaders in the colonization and ‘Germanization’ of eastern Europe, in competition with Himmler’s SS.28This insertion of the SA in ‘his’ affairs infuriated the Reichsführer-SS. In early 1943 he lost his temper when the name Kasche was mentioned and insulted him as an ‘enemy of the Reich’ whom he would ‘smash’.29

The documents also make clear that the appointments of SA generals to diplomatic posts must be seen against the background of the radicalization of German foreign policy during the Second World War and the implementation of the so-called Generalplan Ost. A memorandum of a meeting between Hitler, Rosenberg, Göring, and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel at the Führer’s headquarters on 16 July 1941 provides some insight into the political motives as well as problems of these appointments.30 Hitler explained that the approach toward eastern Europe was a matter ‘of cutting up the giant cake according to our needs, in order to be able first, to dominate it; second, to administer it; and third, to exploit it.’31 Detailed plans of which territories should be annexed to the Reich and who should govern those areas only temporarily occupied by the Wehrmacht were made. Rosenberg supported Lutze’s idea of appointing high-ranking SA leaders as Reichskommissare, or governors. Apart from the names already mentioned, those present discussed the possible assignment of Wilhelm Schepmann to Kiev; Arno Manthey, Heinrich Bennecke, and Karl-Siegmund Litzmann to Estonia; and Otto-Heinrich Drechsler to Latvia.32 Furthermore, Rosenberg informed Hitler that he had received a letter from von Ribbentrop asking for active participation of the Foreign Office in the territories under discussion. Rosenberg, however, took a different view, arguing that ‘the internal organization of the newly acquired areas was no concern of the Foreign Ministry’. According to the memorandum, Hitler ‘absolutely’ shared this view and likewise voiced no objections to the employment of SA leaders in a diplomatic capacity.33

A short essay written in the autumn of 1941 by a certain Dr Otto from Budapest, and sent to the OSAF for publication, contains further information on the appointment of SA generals as diplomats. Entitled SA-Obergruppenführer und Diplomat, it set out to present the recent appointments of SA generals to the diplomatic service as the latest step in a policy that Otto von Bismarck had begun in the second half of the nineteenth century. Based on the assumption that ‘the true National Socialists of all peoples’ would respect each other ‘as National Socialists’, the appointment of the SA generals as diplomats was, Dr Otto argued, a clear sign of paradigmatic change. From now on, diplomats would no longer act on the interests of states, but would work to further the interests of peoples. Particularly in southeastern Europe, with its many German allies, Dr Otto argued, a process had begun in which Western role models would be replaced by a ‘realistic understanding of life [wirklichkeitsnahe Lebensauffassung]’, according to which the legitimate interests of peoples would be more important than legal claims for territory and state sovereignty: ‘The reactionary tricky diplomacy [Winkeldiplomatie] of the cabinets is wiped out. The clear, honest and generous diplomacy of the peoples, of their delegated political soldiers, is at work, to serve the vital needs of the peoples and Europe’s destiny as honest brokers faithful to Bismarck’s legacy.’34 Whether the governments of southeastern Europe would understand such reasoning as a promise or a threat is hard to determine. The Foreign Office in Berlin feared the latter and prevented the publication of the essay, arguing that although its reflections were essentially correct, a public discussion of the points raised would not be in the German interest ‘for the time being’, especially as its ally Italy might reap some unwelcome consequences.35

Within this context the role of the SA diplomats in southeastern Europe now begins to take shape. They are best understood not as envoys in the traditional sense, but as designated German governors or future Reichskommissare, who, for the time being and because of diplomatic considerations, officially acted as ambassadors.36 Hitler made it clear that although it would be best at present to convey the impression of exercising a temporary mandate only, Germany would ‘never withdraw’ from the occupied areas of eastern Europe.37 Against this background, one particular detail in the biographies of Beckerle, Ludin, von Killinger, and von Jagow merits closer attention: all had held leading positions in the police of the Third Reich. Beckerle had served as police president in Frankfurt an Main from September 1933 to 1939, and as temporary head of police in the Polish city of Łódź after the German occupation in the autumn of 1939; Ludin as acting police president of Karlsruhe in February and March 1933; and von Killinger and von Jagow as Reichskommissare in Saxony and Württemberg respectively.38 In these roles they had actively contributed to the establishment of the Third Reich by intimidating and incarcerating political rivals of the NSDAP. They had also been complicit in the imprisonment and murder of alleged opponents of the Third Reich during these years, as well as the concealment of these crimes.39

In other words these SA generals might not have been the best diplomats available, but they were experienced and ideologically loyal activists, accustomed to the use of violence for political and personal means. Their big moment was yet to come, or so they thought. Once the war was over these men expected to rule over large parts of southeastern Europe and help establish German supremacy in the Balkans and Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In the meantime, as the war continued, their principal task was to push through Hitler’s agenda in close cooperation with the existing national governments and to ensure that the Wehrmacht’s needs did not take precedence over the long-term political goals of the regime.

In everyday politics the influence of these SA diplomats was nevertheless limited, with notable exceptions. The most prominent and at the same time most controversial example of their influence is their contribution to the murder of European Jewry. Although SS, SD, police, and Wehrmacht units organized the deportations and committed the actual murders of the Jews, often in collaboration with local forces, the SA diplomats actively supported the Holocaust by pressuring the local governments to cooperate with Berlin. In Hitler’s words, the envoys were ‘experienced experts’ of whom he expected support for National Socialist attempts to deal effectively with the ‘Jewish question’ in their respective regions.40 The ‘achievements’ of these individuals, however, differed greatly as a result of their diverse local circumstances. The following section aims to elucidate the role of these SA diplomats in the implementation of the Holocaust in southeastern Europe, a topic that is usually passed over in the otherwise excellent and detailed literature on the murder of European Jewry in the region.41

Organizing the Holocaust in Slovakia

In Slovakia, where von Killinger served as envoy in the second half of 1940, followed by Ludin in January 1941, the task was comparatively easy. Although recent studies have argued that Slovakia, after its declaration of national independence from the Czechs on 14 March 1939, pursued a more independent policy toward the Third Reich than was previously claimed,42 it must be emphasized that the new Slovak Republic had extremely close ties to Germany and was dependent on the Third Reich militarily and economically. However, it is also important to note that Slovakia had implemented its own laws to marginalize its Jewish population politically, economically, and legally before von Killinger and Ludin were appointed to their posts.43 The main task of the two envoys was therefore to exploit these ‘home-grown antisemitic policies’ for the benefit of the Nazi regime’s ultimate goal.44 As became clear to those involved in high-level bi-national talks over the course of 1941 and 1942, this was the notorious ‘final solution’, the murder of all European Jews.45

To understand Ludin’s role in Bratislava, some background information on Slovakia’s policies on the ‘Jewish question’ is needed here, particularly as the Germans initially cooperated closely with the Slovakian government. It was not until relatively late, beginning in the summer months of 1942, that the Slovakian government distanced itself from the Nazis’ attempt to murder all the country’s Jews, but by this time the vast majority had already been deported and killed, and their property confiscated by the state or simply looted. In his defence the former Slovakian head of state, the Catholic priest-turned-politician Jozef Tiso, reasoned after the war that the Slovakian government had ‘tried to solve the Jewish question’ in order to prevent a German occupation in the autumn of 1938.46 In contrast to more radical Fascist attempts by the Foreign Minister, Vojtech Tuka, and by the Interior Minister and leader of the Hlinka guards, Alexander Mach, to incarcerate and deport thousands of (male) Slovakian Jews, Tiso claimed to have favoured a more ‘conservative’ solution that would have reduced the impact of the Jews on the Slovakian economy (down to 4 per cent of the overall economy, in line with their numbers in the overall population) but would not have completely removed them from public life.47 After the Slovakian government issued anti-Jewish legislation targeting non-Slovakian Jews in February 1939, Tiso assured a Jewish telegraph agency reporter that the Slovakian government supported Jewish emigration to Palestine.48

With the beginning of the war, however, emigration was no longer a viable option, and the legal exclusion and deportation of Slovakian Jews, as well as the plundering of their property, increased dramatically, tolerated and in many cases even encouraged by the Tiso government. The situation resembled that which had occurred in Austria after the Anschluss: privately owned Jewish properties, bank accounts, and businesses were strictly regulated or taxed at high rates. After the establishment of the Central Economic Office (CEO) in August 1940, Jewish businesses were increasingly ‘Slovakized’, with the effect that by the end of 1941, 84 per cent of all Jewish businesses had been liquidated. The Jewish population, forced to wear the Star of David starting on 22 September 1941, quickly fell into poverty.49 This process of political marginalization and social exclusion led to numerous attacks on Jews that ranged from blackmailing, looting, and beatings to outright murder. In one of these incidents, several elderly Jews were burned alive in 1940, after being forced to leave their Jewish retirement home in Bratislava and transported to barracks in the former Patrobka cartridge factory that was subsequently set on fire.50

Throughout 1941 diplomatic talks between Ludin and high-ranking representatives of the Slovakian government, particularly Tiso and Tuka, intensified. On 4 December, Ludin finally reported to Berlin that the Slovakian government ‘agrees in principle with the deportation of Jews of Slovak citizenship from within the Reich to ghettos in the east’.51 Soon after the notorious Wannsee Conference held in Berlin on 20 January 1942, the raids on and deportations of the Slovakian Jews began. In late February 1942 the Slovakian government agreed – although the details of the agreement are still not entirely clear – to start deportations of its Jews to German-occupied Poland, where they would allegedly be employed as forced labourers. These deportations were partly overseen by Hlinka guards, in cooperation with the Carpathian-German Freiwilliger Selbstschutz(FS), later known as the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel.52 The Slovakian government agreed to pay the German Reich 5,000 crowns (500 reichsmark) per Jew for its ‘professional retraining’ of the population, and in return the Germans let the Slovaks freely ransack Jewish properties.53Germans and Slovaks worked hand in hand in these efforts, as a statement by Ludin from April 1942 illustrates: ‘In the absence of any German pressure, the Slovak government has agreed to deport all Jews from Slovakia. Even the president has personally agreed to the deportation, in spite of an intervention by the Slovak episcopate.’54

Between April and October of 1942 at least 58,000 Slovakian Jews were deported and by far the majority of them killed in German-occupied Poland, either by mistreatment, starvation, excessive slave labour, or outright execution. Most of these deaths took place in the death camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Majdanek.55 Contrary to post-war testimonies, Ludin neither criticized these deportations nor was unaware of their ultimate purpose. On 26 June 1942 he reported to Berlin that while ‘the deportations of the Jews from Slovakia’ had come ‘to a dead end’, he recommended a ‘100 per cent solution to the Jewish question’.56 Confronted with protests from the Vatican and growing unease within the Slovakian population, Tiso finally stopped the transports in late 1942. By this time rumours had already spread throughout Slovakia that those deported would be ‘boiled to soap’.57 A second wave of deportations started only with the German occupation of Slovakia in September 1944, this time organized and carried out by SS-Hauptsturmführer Alois Brunner, who had succeeded the ‘Jew Councillor’, SS-Hauptsturmführer Dieter Wisliceny, after the latter was transferred to German-occupied Hungary.58 Ludin’s involvement in the deportations of 1944 is clear from his personnel file at the Foreign Office. A cable from the Foreign Office alludes to a meeting arranged for late July or early August in Budapest between Ludin and SS Brigade General Edmund Veesenmayer, since March the Reich plenipotentiary in Hungary, to officially ‘discuss the handling of the Jewish question [Behandlung Judenfrage]’.59 Overall, current estimates of the total number of Jews deported from Slovakia are at least 70,000, with the number of those murdered estimated as 65,000 (or 110,000, if the Slovak-occupied territories of Hungary are included).60

An important ‘connecting link’ between the German officials and the Slovakian government was the engineer, journalist, and politician Franz Karmasin, nicknamed the ‘Slovak Henlein’, the founder and leader of the Carpathian German Party61 and since 1935 also State Secretary for German Affairs in the Slovak regional government.62 In the early 1940s, Karmasin called himself Führer der Deutschen Volksgruppe in der Slowakei, or Leader of the Ethnic Germans in Slovakia. He was also the commander of the FS, the successor of the Slovakian faction of the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps, which in 1938 had so decisively contributed to the dismantling of Czechoslovakia (see chapter 6). The FS was modelled after the German SA and SS, and only Slovakia’s status as an independent state prevented this organization from being officially included in the SA, as its counterparts in the Protectorate of Böhmen und Mähren and the Memelland had been. However, in the propaganda book Sudeten SA in Polen both terms were used nearly interchangeably, and they seem to have operated along the same lines.63 Karmasin was promoted to the honorary positions of SA-Oberführer on 17 May 1939, SA-Brigadeführer on 30 January 1941, and SA-Gruppenführer on 9 November 1944.64 In short, he became an honorary SA general in an Axis state where – for political reasons – the stormtroopers only existed in the form of the FS.

On the German side, Wisliceny, Brunner, and Karmasin were the central figures urging Tiso to take ever more extreme action against the Jewish population.65 The terror they encouraged, however, also targeted some ethnic Germans, as a letter from Karmasin to Himmler dated 29 July 1942 makes plain. In this letter, Karmasin thanked Himmler for his ‘once again generous help by allowing us to resettle asocial elements’. This ‘help’ referred to the deportation of nearly 700 members of the German community – in Karmasin’s words, ‘drunkards’ and ‘imbeciles’ – to nearby Austria, now called the Ostmark of the Greater German Reich. In the following days and weeks the large majority of these deportees were ‘euthanized’, that is, murdered. According to Karmasin, the Carpathian Germans praised this initiative as valuable ‘social aid’, and the German Embassy strongly supported it.66 Envoy Ludin was on an intimate footing with Karmasin, and, according to the latter’s post-war testimony, ‘both men discussed all relevant political questions’. They seem to have established a kind of division of responsibilities: Karmasin, in line with the SS, put pressure on the leading figures within the Slovakian government, while Ludin’s task was to urge Tiso on the diplomatic level to comply with Hitler’s demands.67 There is no evidence that the ‘Jewish question’ was handled any differently. A verbal note from Ludin to the Slovakian Ministry of the Interior from 1 May 1942 explicitly assured the Slovakian government that, as a matter of principle, the German Reich would not send back those Slovakian Jews that had so far been deported to German-occupied territory.68 By that time both sides knew exactly what this meant in practice. Karmasin’s driver, who had accompanied his boss on a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1942, put it bluntly after the war: ‘It was a matter of common knowledge that the people in Auschwitz were killed.’69

Deadly Varieties of a Pattern

The negotiations between the SA diplomats and the national governments of Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary proceeded in many ways along a path similar to that taken in Slovakia, but they resulted in quite different outcomes. Of lasting influence in these negotiations was the German envoy to the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH), Siegfried Kasche (Plate 29). Backed by Hitler, who shared Kasche’s sympathy for the Croatian nationalists, the German ambassador to Zagreb played an important role in Croatian politics between 1941 and 1945, both in influencing the Ustaša regime to fall in line with German war aims and in speeding up the imprisonment, deportation, and execution of the Croatian Jews. The historian Alexander Korb has characterized Kasche as an ‘effective champion of German interests on difficult terrain’.70Kasche maintained close and personal contact with the leading figures of the Ustaša regime and proved to be a strong and lasting supporter of Croatian home rule, a position that between 1942 and 1944 proved ever more problematic and finally earned him the sarcastic nickname of the ‘Don Quixote of German diplomacy in Zagreb’.71

The Ustaša regime, immediately after it assumed power, introduced antisemitic legislation and started a programme of internment of the Jewish population. Because of the devastating conditions in these camps, more than half of the Jewish population in Croatia died in the first twelve months of the NDH’s existence, avoiding the direct intervention of the German ambassador or the SS ‘Jew experts’.72 The deportation and murder of the Jews of Croatia was part of a larger project of resettlement and ethnic cleansing that primarily targeted Serbs and Slovenians but also extended to the much smaller minorities of the Roma and the Jews.73 German and Croatian authorities discussed the framework for this policy in a meeting held at the German Embassy in Zagreb on 4 June 1941, less than three months after Kasche had arrived.74 Most deportations of Jews to Croatian concentration camps took place in the autumn of that year, after Croatian authorities had formally requested the permission to subsequently deport the country’s Jews to the German Reich.75 The Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), however, opposed this solution, either because the practical details of ‘solving’ the Jewish question in its entirety had not yet been fully decided or because the death toll in the Croatian camps had become so high that costly deportations were deemed unnecessary for the time being.76

The situation changed in 1942 when the Italians openly provided protection for 4,000 to 5,000 Jews who had fled to the cities of Mostar and Dubrovnik.77 In response, Kasche, in close cooperation with the SS and the Foreign Office in Berlin, pushed for the deportation of Jews from Croatian territory in its entirety, regardless of possible conflicts with the Italians. Between August 1942 and May 1943, Germans and Croats in a joint undertaking deported thousands of Jews from Croatian territory to Auschwitz.78 In October 1942 the Croats agreed to pay the Germans 30 reichsmark per deported Jew, a much cheaper rate than that granted to the Slovaks. The local authorities passed on at least part of the costs to the Jewish communities, while simultaneously profiting from the looting and robbing of their properties.79 With the Italian capitulation in September 1943, those Jews in Croatia who had formerly been protected were included in the deportations. In April 1944, Kasche informed the Foreign Office that Croatia had been entirely ‘cleansed’ of Jews, with only a few exceptions.80 According to current estimates, up to 30,000 Jews in Croatia fell victim to the Holocaust, half of whom were killed in Jasenovac, in other camps, or shot on the spot, and the other half in Auschwitz.81

In contrast to Ludin’s and Kasche’s impact on their respective countries, Beckerle’s and von Killinger’s influence on Bulgarian and Romanian politics respectively remained limited. Von Killinger arrived in Bucharest on 24 January 1941, with clear instructions from Hitler to prevent any further tensions between the Third Reich and Marshal Ion Antonescu’s regime.82 Just days earlier, Antonescu had violently cracked down on the highly antisemitic Legionary Movement, known as the ‘Iron Guard’, which had attempted to overthrow the government. Because the legionaries enjoyed the support of the SS and the SD, the new ambassador was from the start greeted with distrust and caution.83 Von Killinger encountered a complicated political framework in Romania that he failed to navigate adequately in the following years, as both his Romanian counterparts and the German Foreign Office quickly realized. Personally, von Killinger never warmed to his new surroundings. He publicly called Romania a Scheißland, a ‘fucking country’, and in October 1941 complained that the best thing one could do for the Romanian capital, which was in his eyes an ‘absolute shambles’ (einziger Saustall), would be to set it on fire.84 He preferred to escape to the Carpathian Mountains some 150 kilometres north of the capital, where he ranged the woods for days or even weeks at a time hunting brown bears, armed with his rifle and a bottle of cognac.85 At least with regard to the Holocaust, however, it is doubtful whether a more qualified diplomat would have been able to meet a larger number of German demands. In Romania, as in the neighbouring southeastern European states allied with Germany, the handling of the ‘Jewish question’ was a complicated affair that involved foreign, internal, economic, and moral policies, as well as, above all, the course of the war.

In von Killinger’s first year in Bucharest, things still went relatively smoothly – at least from his perspective. Unfamiliar with diplomatic habits and also unwilling to fully accept them, he took Antonescu’s statements at face value until August 1944, when King Michael sacked the marshal and the new Romanian government changed sides to support the Allies.86 One of von Killinger’s main fields of activity was the ‘Jewish question’. In June 1940 – several months before he was formerly appointed envoy – von Killinger visited Romania for the first time and met with General Mihail Moruzov, who was then head of the Romanian state security police force. The men discussed the ‘Jewish problem’, and von Killinger suggested that Moruzov invite qualified German experts to Romania to consult its leaders on the matter.87 Half a year later, in April 1941, SS-Hauptsturmführer Gustav Richter, a legal expert from Himmler’s Reich Security Main Office, arrived in Bucharest. In the following years Richter officially operated as ‘counsellor for Jewish affairs at the Bucharest legation’. As had occurred in Slovakia, Richter negotiated with a ‘government plenipotentiary for Jewish affairs’, a position filled in Romania by Radu Lecca.88 Von Killinger was regularly informed of the progress of these negotiations, as his reports to Berlin illustrate. On 13 November 1941 he wrote to the German Foreign Office that the Romanians had agreed to the deportation of Jews with Romanian citizenship who lived in Germany or German-occupied territory.89

Initially, the Romanian government was also willing to sacrifice those ‘non-Romanian’ Jews who were living in territories that had only recently become part of the state. In June 1940, Romania had annexed the northern Bukovina region, and a year later, in July 1941, it also retook Bessarabia with the support of German troops from the Soviet Union. The Romanian authorities regarded the Jews living in these two regions as national traitors who had sold out Romanian interests to the Soviets.90 With the aim of creating an ethnically homogeneous ‘Greater Romania’, both Romanian and German official units and local militia either murdered the Jews in these areas on the spot or deported them to Transnistria, a small strip of land on the River Dniester in southern Ukraine. Between the summer of 1941 and March 1944, 130,000 to 150,000 Jews were deported to this region, the majority of whom were shot in mass killings, died of illnesses such as typhus, or starved to death.91 By December 1943 only 50,000 of these Jews were still alive. Estimates of the total number of Jews killed in Romania and Transnistria during the Second World War range from 250,000 to 410,000.92

Over the course of 1942 the German authorities urged the Romanian government to agree to an extensive deportation programme for the country’s Jews but were only partially successful. On 28 August 1942 von Killinger informed the Foreign Office that no definite agreement had yet been reached,93 and the situation did not change in the following months. Antonescu was clearly playing for time – continuing the talks and assuring the Germans of his agreement with their position – but taking few concrete steps toward a general implementation of the Holocaust.94 When in 1942–3 the Antonescu regime attempted to ‘sell’ up to 80,000 of its remaining Jews in Transnistria to Syria and Palestine, the German Foreign Office urged von Killinger to intervene, as these plans ‘represented a partial resolution unacceptable within the framework of the fundamental lines followed by the German government for a European solution to the Jewish problem’95 – in short, the ‘Final Solution’.96 However, Antonescu in the autumn of 1942 had decided ‘not to carry out antisemitic reforms for the Germans and under the doctrine of Dr Rosenberg [. . .] We must make our antisemitic reform a creative reform, not a demagogic one.’97 Because of Romania’s strategic importance to the German war effort, putting more pressure on the Antonescu regime was not advisable, and consequently von Killinger’s attempts to press for further deportations gradually halted over the course of 1943.98

Like von Killinger in Romania, Beckerle in Bulgaria also had only limited ‘success’ in his attempt to bring about a complete annihilation of the Jews, despite the fact that he portrayed himself as a strongman from the start of his diplomatic mission. In his diary he frankly admitted that his initial task when appointed was to ‘end the national independence of Bulgaria’.99 In a first private meeting on 26 July 1941 the ‘new tough German ambassador’ urged the Bulgarian king to take resolute action against Serbian partisans operating in Bulgaria. Such ‘hordes’ should be ‘eliminated once and for all’, claimed Beckerle.100 Several weeks later the German envoy requested severe reprisals against the perpetrators of a partisan attack on a German guard in Bulgaria – specifically, the shooting of 100 Bulgarian Jews. This excessive demand caused widespread indignation among the Bulgarian authorities and was refused.101

With regard to the full implementation of the Holocaust, Beckerle’s task was complicated by the fact that antisemitism had not been an important element in Bulgarian politics prior to the beginning of the Second World War. However, between 1940 and 1942 the Bulgarian government under Prime Minister Bogdan Filov increasingly made concessions to German demands in return for territorial gains and a close military and political alliance with the Axis powers.102 In 1941, Bulgaria introduced antisemitic legislation, including the imposition of forced labour for male Jews, and at the same time started confiscating Jewish assets.103 Like the Slovakian government half a year earlier, the Bulgarian government finally agreed to the deportation of its Jews from Germany and German-occupied territory in July 1942.104 Over the autumn of 1942 the German Foreign Office intensified its efforts to deport the 50,000 Jews living on Bulgarian soil, who amounted to roughly 1 per cent of the country’s overall population. Beckerle received instructions on this matter from Undersecretary Luther in a three-hour meeting in Berlin on 9 October 1942. After his return to Sofia, Beckerle discussed the issue with Filov, who in principle agreed to the German initiative but argued that 10,000 Jewish forced labourers were needed for construction work in Bulgaria. He also informed Beckerle that his government considered the price the Germans had demanded for the deportations – 250 reichsmark per Jew – to be ‘extremely high’.105

Despite pending questions the Germans in late 1942 thought that the ground had been prepared for mass deportations.106 Consequently, in January 1943, SS-Hauptsturmführer Theodor Dannecker of the Reich Security Main Office arrived in Sofia with instructions from his superior, SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, to deport as many Jews from Bulgaria as possible.107 He succeeded in this effort only in part: the Bulgarians allowed the deportation of 11,343 Jews from Macedonia and Thrace (regions that since 1941 had been part of Bulgaria) between 2 and 29 March 1943,108 but prevented the deportation of those Jews living in the Bulgarian heartland.109 The reason for this compromise was threefold. First, as in Slovakia and Romania, details of the Holocaust became widely known in Bulgaria beginning in 1942, alarming the government and drawing protests from the Bulgarian population. Second, the Bulgarian government rightly interpreted the ultimate German defeat in Stalingrad in early February 1943 as a turning point of the war. They therefore thought it advisable to consider other options and not compromise their position with a record of war crimes. The third reason was purely economic: the deportations would have ended all Bulgarian chances of further exploiting and robbing ‘their’ Jews.

Between April and the summer of 1943, Beckerle and Dannecker repeatedly discussed the best timing for further deportations.110 In July, however, Beckerle realized that ‘to insist on the deportation [of Jews from the Bulgarian heartland] at the present time makes no sense whatsoever’. He nevertheless expected the deportations to resume when Germany’s military success became ‘apparent’, a possibility he still thought realistic in early 1944.111 When interrogated by the Soviets after being captured in September of the same year, Beckerle took pride in the success he had achieved in deporting Jews from Macedonia and Thrace.112 His extreme antisemitism is best illustrated by a brief report from Beckerle on his time in Litzmannstadt, the former Łódź. In it he compared the German reconstruction efforts after the occupation of Poland most favourably against the traditional life in the Jewish quarters of that city, for him ‘the most dirty places of the most disgusting East European Jewry’. All antisemitic clichés were present. He was repelled by orthodox men with long beards, ‘draped in dirty caftans’, as well as by the ‘insolent’ Jewish women, and obsessed with the idea of Jewish dirt.113

Beckerle’s diaries, today held in the German Foreign Office’s Political Archive, also shed light on his self-image and his interpretation of his diplomatic mission. Although he still felt closely attached to his men in SA-Gruppe Hesse (and struggled with giving up its command in 1942), Beckerle the diplomat saw himself as someone who had to ‘represent National Socialism in its entirety’.114 He was not very popular in Bulgaria, even among the ethnic Germans. In his diaries he repeatedly expressed feelings of loneliness and, at times, revealed signs of a mid-life crisis.115He became sentimental and homesick when thinking of the SA in Germany but consoled himself with the fact that he was nevertheless better off than the German soldiers and civilians at home, who were increasingly suffering from the Allied bombings of German cities.116 In Sofia, however, rumours spread that Beckerle’s wife had greeted the first Allied bombings of the Bulgarian capital with the words: ‘Thank God! Finally, there is some work for us, too’ (Gott sei Dank, nun kriegen wir auch mal Arbeit).117

Last but not least, we now turn to the role of Dietrich von Jagow as German envoy in Hungary. Only four years the junior of von Killinger, von Jagow had also enjoyed a similar career as his colleague prior to joining the German Foreign Office in late June 1941. He fought in the First World War as a lieutenant and later senior lieutenant in the navy, and in 1919 joined the Marine Brigade Ehrhardt and took part in the Kapp Putsch of 1920. At about the same time he became a member of the NSDAP and between 1921 and 1923 served as inspector of the nascent Württemberg SA. After the party re-emerged later in the decade, von Jagow rejoined and began a stellar career in the SA, leading the SA-Gruppe Berlin-Brandenburg between 1934 and 1939. With the onset of the Second World War he returned to the military, fighting for two years in the Wehrmacht, before being appointed a diplomat.118

However, like von Killinger, von Jagow struggled to meet the requirements of his new position. Prior to his appointment, Hungary and Hungarian politics were terra incognita to him, and his deep-rooted contempt for civilian life did not help him warm to his new job.119 Von Jagow’s main tasks as envoy were to recruit ethnic Germans from Hungary for the Waffen-SS, to monitor the military situation in the Balkans, particularly in light of a possible Allied invasion, and to deal with the ‘Jewish question’.120 However, Miklós Horthy, the regent of Hungary who had introduced antisemitic legislation as early as 1938, insisted that the latter task was a purely Hungarian affair. In contrast to the other states discussed previously, Hungary initially faced only relatively mild pressure on the ‘Jewish question’ from von Jagow and the Foreign Office. This was, however, a tactical decision, framed as giving the Hungarian side more time to ‘prepare’ the ground for the pending ‘final solution’.121 As early as August 1942 the Hungarian ambassador in Berlin noted that the Germans had made it very clear to him that the ‘Jewish question’ needed to be solved immediately. In the spring of 1943, German pressure further intensified with the first official visit to Hungary of SS Brigade General Edmund Veesenmayer, who later became plenipotentiary there.122 In the meantime Hungarian Jews were compelled into forced labour but were not (yet) deported.123 Consequently, in March 1944, 762,000 Jews still lived in Hungary, 150,000 of them in Budapest alone.124

Von Jagow’s role in enforcing the German ‘Jew policy’ in Hungary is difficult to assess from the remaining documents. Compared to Ludin and Kasche, who are best characterized as diplomat-politicians with personal agendas, von Jagow remained in the background, more an observer than a man of diplomatic initiative. He conveyed the German demands for a ‘radical solution’ of the ‘Jew question’ to the Hungarian premier Miklós Kállay via Foreign Minister Jenő Ghyczy on 17 October 1942.125 Therefore, it is certain that he knew the regime’s ultimate goals, but it is unclear whether he had a strong personal commitment to the cause, as his official reports abstain from personal commentary. In any case, von Jagow reported to the Foreign Office in late October and again in mid-November that he did not expect the Hungarians to give in to the German demands.126Over the course of the following year the Foreign Office as well as the RSHA slowly but surely lost faith in von Jagow’s ability to impose the German will on the Hungarians, whom they regarded as increasingly problematic after the German defeat at Stalingrad and the subsequent advance of the Red Army.

The situation of relative calm changed dramatically on 19 March 1944, when German troops occupied Hungary. As an official ambassador was no longer needed, von Jagow was relieved of his duties, and Veesenmayer took over as the plenipotentiary of the Greater German Reich in Hungary.127 In the following months the new Szálasi regime, supported by the Arrow Cross militia and instructed by Eichmann and Veesenmayer, efficiently ghettoized, deported, and expropriated the holdings of the majority of Hungary’s remaining Jews.128 Between 16 May and 8 July alone 437,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, the vast majority of whom were killed immediately upon arrival there. Only 255,500 of the previously 762,000 Hungarian Jews survived the fall of Fascist Hungary.129

On 8 May 1944 von Jagow was officially recalled to Berlin, where he reported for duty on 1 June but was not given a new role in the Foreign Office. In September he returned to his proper realm, the world of the military, where he was placed in command of a Volkssturm battalion in Upper Silesia. His family moved to a mansion in Groß-Münche in the Warthegau, today’s Polish Mnichy near Kwilcz.130 In January 1945 von Jagow and his men shot down four Russian tanks by panzerfaust, a military achievement that earned him an honorary mention in the Wehrmacht report of 21 January 1945.131 However, during the action, von Jagow was struck in the head by flying parts of the exploding tanks and lost one eye. After several weeks in hospitals in Dresden and Leipzig, he was reunited with his family for the last time in Constance in March 1945. Shortly afterward the Foreign Office sent him as a messenger to the Italian village of Fasano at Lake Garda, which was serving as the administrative centre for the German occupation of Italy in the last stage of the Second World War.132 The instructions he was given for this trip are unknown. On his way von Jagow took up quarters in Merano in the house of the German plenipotentiary to the Italian Social Republic, Rudolf Rahn, where he shot himself shortly after his arrival on 26 April 1945.133

The Impact of the SA Diplomats

Overall, the trajectories of the different SA diplomats’ activities in southeastern Europe between 1941 and 1944–5 reveal striking parallels. The commencement of these individuals’ duties coincided with a radicalization of the ‘handling’ of the ‘Jewish question’ in their respective states, culminating in the decision in the summer of 1941 to move toward the ‘final solution’.134 The SA diplomats were not the driving forces behind this policy, but they often acted confidently and independently to carry it out. Apart from the Holocaust, their political influence was limited, particularly from 1943 onward. Certainly, they were newcomers to the diplomatic realm, did not speak the local languages, and were not well informed about the peculiarities of the regions to which they were sent. Scepticism about their suitability for their complicated missions was widespread, even among the German leadership. After the war Rudolf Rahn commented that he had always believed that it had not been a good idea to ‘put politically naïve SA leaders in diplomat uniforms, in the belief that foreign policy could be done by party methods’.135 And the Austrian general Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, when first informed about Kasche’s appointment to Zagreb, commented bitterly that ‘he should at least be able to find Croatia on a map’.136 But even von Horstenau, a sworn enemy of the German envoy, acknowledged later that Kasche had been ‘far better’ than he had initially feared.137

A comparative analysis of the roles of the five SA diplomats in southeastern Europe indeed suggests that a balanced assessment is needed.138 Personal shortcomings notwithstanding, their ultimate failures were as much grounded in their individual character traits as they were a consequence of their unusual positions. They were neither Reichskommissare with extensive authority nor conventional diplomats accustomed to dealing with autonomous governments. Given the fluidity of the political situation between 1941 and 1944 in southeastern Europe, one may be surprised to learn that at least Beckerle and Kasche extensively researched the peculiarities of their respective regions. As long-term stormtroopers, all five of these SA diplomats sympathized with the paramilitary organizations of the Fascist right in their host countries.139 In the autumn of 1939, SA Chief of Staff Lutze paid the first official NSDAP visit to Tiso’s Slovakia, where he met with Karmasin to lay a wreath at the grave of Andrej Hlinka, the namesake of the Slovak Fascist militia.140 Both the Hlinka Guard and the SA shared strong antisemitic convictions, and later Ludin in his negotiations with his Slovakian counterparts would stress the natural bonds of the new Slovak state with the Brownshirts’ Third Reich. Because of such sympathies, however, he failed to notice the growing scepticism and anti-German sentiment among the Ludaks, a failure for which he was sharply criticized by the German SD in 1943. For the Sicherheitsdienst, it was by then obvious that Tiso and his followers were playing a double game.141 In Hungary von Jagow also advocated closer cooperation with the Fascist Arrow Cross movement but was restrained by the German Foreign Office. In consequence, he lacked recognition even among those who shared his ideological convictions.142 In the Balkans, Kasche in late 1943 expressed more faith in the ideological power of National Socialism than in violent oppression. Drastic measures might be justified for the time being, he argued, but a lasting alliance with the Ustaša and other nationalists in the region could only be achieved through a cooperative policy that respected national traditions and the people’s welfare.143 Finally, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Bogdan Filov criticized Beckerle for being ‘too friendly with right-wing extremists’ in his country, as well as for being an ‘extremely limited person’.144

The longer the SA diplomats remained in office, the more they came to the conclusion that the German policy in southeastern Europe was counterproductive; at least insofar as it alienated even those nationalist circles and groups that had initially supported the German advance. The diplomats advocated instead a policy that would grant at least partial autonomy to these groups, in the hope that such a division of power would ultimately strengthen the bonds between the Germans and the nationalist governments in the region. As the war progressed, this became an ever more naive position, as German foreign policy from 1943 onward was increasingly driven by the economic and human exploitation of its southeastern allies and ultimately concerned with its own survival.145 After Martin Luther’s arrest on 10 February 1943 for involvement in a failed putsch that aimed to remove von Ribbentrop from office,146 the SA diplomats lost further support from Berlin. By 1944 they were fighting a losing battle, neglecting or simply ignoring the fundamental political changes that were unfolding in the region. A letter of complaint on Ludin’s failures as a diplomat, written by an Austrian civil servant in Bratislava to the German Foreign Office on 27 October 1944, cut right to the heart of the matter, asking, with deadly irony: ‘After the events in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary – do you have more of such “experts” out there?’147

The Struggle for Reputation

By the autumn of 1944, German diplomacy was effectively over, and the SA envoys’ vision of a German-led southeastern Europe had evaporated. Von Killinger and his embassy staff on 23 August 1944 became de facto Romanian prisoners in the German Embassy in Bucharest. One week later, on 31 August 1944, the Red Army reached the Romanian capital. On 2 September the German diplomats were transferred to the building of a school named after the Romanian national hero Mihai Viteazu. That same day von Killinger first shot his female secretary Helga Petersen, with whom he had had an affair, and then killed himself.148 Von Jagow, as previously mentioned, committed suicide in Merano on 26 April 1945, only days before the end of the Second World War. Three weeks later the Americans took Ludin into custody and, after interning him in the Natternberg camp in Bavaria, handed him over to the Czechoslovakian authorities on 5 October 1946. Ludin faced trial in Bratislava, was sentenced to death, and was executed on 3 December 1947.149 Nearly six months earlier, on 17 June 1947, Kasche had been sentenced to death by the Croatian State Court and was hanged the following day.150 Only Beckerle, who had been caught at the Bulgarian-Turkish border and brought to Moscow by soldiers of the Red Army in late September 1944, survived the immediate post-war years.151 He returned from Soviet detention to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955, where the Frankfurt mayor greeted him with handshakes on the steps of the city’s town hall. Beckerle is even said to have received compensatory damages of 6,000 deutschmark. However, the joy of his return was overshadowed by the news of the suicide of his wife in 1951 that coincided with the successful restitution of the previously ‘Aryanized’ villa she lived in. An attempt to hold the former police president accountable for his involvement in the persecution of members of the German opposition during the 1930s came to nothing, and the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office closed the case in 1957. The general attorney Fritz Bauer then attempted to bring Beckerle to court on charges related to the murder of Bulgarian Jews. In September 1959, Beckerle was arrested, yet the main trial did not begin until November 1967.152The proceedings against him were closed in the summer of 1968 because of his ‘ill health’. Beckerle died a free man on 3 April 1976.153

In post-war Germany the families of these SA diplomats struggled with the involvement of their husband, brother, or father in the Holocaust.154 Malte Ludin’s acclaimed documentary film 2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß illustrates with empathy and exemplary clarity the long-lasting shadow that his father’s life and death cast over his surviving family members.155 Hanns Ludin had been a complex personality: he had been popular among the SA rank and file in southwestern Germany and a loving father, but he had also been personally involved in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews whom he knew were destined to be killed. Unsurprisingly, his children struggled to balance the historical evidence with their private memories.156 Ernst von Salomon’s glorification of Hanns Ludin in the best-selling 1951 novel Der Fragebogen had a particularly deep impact on the family’s memory. Von Salomon first met Ludin in the prisoner-of-war camp run by the Americans at Natternberg in 1945 and later glorified him as ‘the best man in the camp’ and as a model of decency. At one time Salomon even referred to him as a ‘camp-Christ’ (Lager-Christus) – half in jest, but also half in earnest.157 Ludin’s widow and several of his children only too willingly adopted Salomon’s literary image as a realistic description of their husband and father’s personality. Salomon’s novel, Malte Ludin claimed, served as a ‘moral vade mecum’ and a ‘consolation book’. It allowed them to remember Hanns Ludin as a morally superior individual who – despite his conviction and execution as a war criminal – served as a role model and martyr for the nation.158 When asked today about his father’s personality, Dietrich von Jagow’s son Henning refers to private letters that characterize his father in very similar terms as a ‘political idealist, naive and relatively stubborn with regard to political developments, but at the same time a decent man, guided by Christian-ethical principles, for whom morality and honour were important and who, in later years, surely had his doubts’ about the evils of the Nazi regime.159 In this light von Jagow’s suicide in 1945 seems less a flight from political responsibility than a courageous act that was in line with his morality and aristocratic code of honour.

Whereas the Ludin family’s controversial coming to terms with their past is well known to the German public, the parallel process within Kasche’s family has remained a private affair. Files from the German Foreign Office hint at the difficulty that surviving family members had in accepting Kasche’s criminal guilt, particularly as other former diplomats in many cases remained in office or, if sentenced to prison terms by the Allies, were quickly released and had their public honour restored.160 Beginning in 1954, members of the Kasche family requested help from the West German authorities in proving that the Yugoslav authorities had sentenced the former diplomat to death against international law. One of Kasche’s brothers, in a letter to the Ministry of Justice, claimed that the former envoy had been innocent and was only executed ‘because of the well-known Serbian desire for revenge’ for the war crimes committed by the Croatian Ustaša and tolerated or supported by the Germans during the Second World War.161 An important motive behind such a request was the fact that the family of a war criminal could not claim a widow’s or children’s pension.162Although a Bavarian denazification court had initially ruled that Kasche belonged to the category of ‘major offenders’ – with the consequence that 50 per cent of his assets could be confiscated by the state and surviving family members could not claim state pensions – a subsequent appeal was successful, and monthly payments were made to the family from 1954 onward.163 However, the Kasches made a second attempt to gain what they perceived as ‘moral justice’ in 1968, as the new Foreign Minister Willy Brandt was preparing an official visit to Tito’s Yugoslavia. In a personal letter to Brandt one of Kasche’s brothers urged the Foreign Minister to intervene on their behalf and threatened to sue the state of Yugoslavia in The Hague to receive compensation for this alleged injustice. Furthermore, he reminded Brandt of the Foreign Office’s duty to care for its former members of staff and their families, adding pointedly that Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had himself worked for the Foreign Office during the Third Reich and ‘should therefore know my brother’.164Addressing Brandt directly, Kasche’s brother stated that because ‘now for the first time in a generation a member of the SPD is Foreign Minister’, justice should finally prevail.165 However, the matter was simply not important enough to risk offending Tito, a strategically important political partner at a time of ‘détente’, particularly as the former envoy Kasche belonged to that group of Nazi ambassadors from whom professional diplomats wished to distance themselves – by now not only for personal reasons but even more so for ideological ones.

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