WHEREVER THEY MAY BE
© 1972, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
 
 
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"Herr Chancellor, when will there be an end to the impunity enjoyed by German criminals sentenced by France?"

"Soon, 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:

"Your 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.

The 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.

Adalbert 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 tribunal would
    
   
 
WHEREVER THEY MAY BE
© 1972, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
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