"Herr Chancellor, when will there be an end to the
impunity enjoyed by German criminals sentenced by France?" |
Madame. In a few days the two governments will sign a new agreement that will
put an end to the present situation."
The press conference ended.
Brandt came over to me. His words went straight to my heart:
courage is refreshing. We talked about you today. We were surprised that you
are continuing your activities because we thought they might have stopped with
Kiesinger's defeat. Your criticism of both East and West is a good thing."
In fifteen months Brandt had done a great deal of good, especially in
the field of foreign relations, in which his personal influence was clearly to
be discerned. He had got the Federal Republic out of its rut. In so short a
time he had become a great German statesman of European stature. On February 2,
1971, the agreement we had talked about was signed in Bonn.
ageement [sic] was signed, but there was still a problem: it had to be ratified
by the Bundestag. Most of the members did not approve of it. There was the
danger that it would be watered down if pressure was not put on them. And even
if the agreement was ratified, that would be only the beginning. It would then
be necessary to conduct an investigation of all those who had been sentenced in
France who were still alive. But the German investigators, who are also
prosecutors, would conduct their inquiry on the basis of whether or not a
particular criminal could be prosecuted under German law. This means they would
decide whether he acted out of base personal motives or because he was obeying
Nazi doctrine in racist crimes, for example.
Rückerl, the general director of the Central Bureau for the Investigation
of German War Criminals in Ludwigsburg, estimates that only 312 of the 1,026
who were sentenced come under the provisions of German law. These are likely to
be prosecuted eventually, but the problem is to find out how the investigation
will end. The files on the convictions in absentia are very meager, which is
quite understandable. Rückerl gives the following example: When the chief
of the Saint-Quentin Gestapo was tried in 1947, the Gestapo's crimes were so
evident that there was no need to prove his personal involvement. He was given
a very severe sentence as a formality, on the condition that the military