WHEREVER THEY MAY BE
© 1972, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
 
 
Previous Page Back  Contents  Contents Page 162 Home Page Home Page  Forward Next Page 
     
were thought to be old because they had held such high positions; everyone forgot that Nazism banked on the energy of its young people. Franz Six did not reach forty until 1949. Helmut Knochen, his disciple and later his protégé in the S.D. and the RSHA, was only thirty one years old when Heydrich made him head of the S.D.-Security Police in Occupied France.

Knochen was brought back to Paris in 1947 and tried, along with General Karl Oberg, the top man in the S.S. and the German police force in France. In view of the heinous crimes of which they were accused, the only possible sentence was death. The sooner the trial took place, the more likely the sentence would be carried out.

But Six had become a powerful person again, and he remained loyal to Knochen.

At that time the United States had considerable influence in France, and so Knochen and Oberg were not tried until 1954. They smiled when they heard the death sentence pronounced, confident that it was merely a formality. It was, in fact, commuted to life imprisonment. And in 1962, at the time of the reconciliation between Adenauer and de Gaulle, the Chancellor, among other things, had a chance to oblige the powerful Six. The two S.S. chiefs were pardoned and returned to Germany.

Knochen and Oberg were exceptions; the vast majority of German war criminals were not even arrested. When the Federal Republic became practically independent in 1954, the problem of punishing these criminals became acute. A number of them had been convicted in absentia by a French military tribunal. Preliminary investigations that had been suspended in France were now speeded up so that once the Paris Agreements were signed, there would be no more cases to investigate.

From September 1944 to October 1954, a total of 1,026 Germans were convicted in absentia for war crimes. The French authorities then rightly feared that if the German courts acquired jurisdiction over these war criminals, the courts would prove very lenient. Due to the influence of the numerous Nazi judges still on the bench, a criminal who had been sentenced to death could benefit in Germany from having his case dismissed or from receiving just a token punishment. That is why, in Article 3 of the October 29, 1954, Agreement, France denied German courts access to its non-classified files on German war criminals. Those who had been tried in France, therefore, could not be tried again in the Federal Republic. Once the Agreement was signed, the criminals
    
   
 
WHEREVER THEY MAY BE
© 1972, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
Previous Page  Back Page 162 Forward  Next Page