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Q: Nazi Member? ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: Nazi Member?
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: sclemens-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 08 Nov 2006 07:33 PST
Expires: 08 Dec 2006 07:33 PST
Question ID: 781044
I am being asked   to take on a  business partner/investor  in my
business. Unfortunately, there is a cloud of doubt hanging over one of
the most qualified candidates and I would like to clear it up. My wife
 is Jewish and my potential business partner age 45  was born in
Germany, became American citizen years ago but retains a strong German
accent and is obviously proud of his heritage.  A friend of my wife's
has told her that he (my potential partner) has bragged in private in
the past that his father (and/or grandfather)  was a member of
Germany's  SS during World War II.  My potential partner has heard
this rumor and has made a point of vehemently denying it but the
source of the rumor equally vehemently stands by the  story.  Thus my
question:  Is there any organization inside or outside of this country
that could confirm the membership of a person in the SS? Is there a 
geneology  organization in this country or in Europe which could give
me the  family name of someone's maternal grandparent?
Subject: Re: Nazi Member?
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 08 Nov 2006 11:15 PST
Dear sclemens,

Being German myself, I take particular interest in this matter. I'd
like to help you as good as I can.

Before I come to practical advice, some general things that might be
useful to know:

Actually, there were basically two SS branches. One of them, the
SS-Totenkopfverbände ("SS Skull Units") were the concentration camp
guards and as such directly involved in the Holocaust. The otherwas
the Waffen-SS ("Armed SS"), mainly a combat force. The latter was also
considered an "Aryan elite force", and involved in numerous crimes;
but especially during the last war years, the Waffen-SS was filled up
with non-voluntary conscripts who often had no more solidarity with
the Nazi ideology than soldiers of the regular armed forces. In
neither of the branches, membership in the Nazi party was mandatory.
Of course, both SS branches were rightfully considered criminal
organizations by the Allied courts after the war. But membership in
the field combat units of Waffen-SS alone does not necessarily
constitute that an SS soldier ever committed war crimes or was a
convinced Nazi.
Forgive me if the comaparison I'm about to make sounds like playing
down things; but in some regard, having an ancestor who served in the
Waffen-SS is a bit like having an ancestor who fought with the
Confederate Army during the Civil War. It was fighting for a bad
cause, on the wrong side, but probably without "individual guilt" of
the respective soldier.
The myth that the Waffen-SS was, regardless of the cause they fought
for, was a military superior elite force (which is not true at all),
still lives today. Even in the minds of people who deeply detest the
Nazis, this idea is often still present as a spectre that stresses how
dangerous the Nazis were.
So for someone who is not a Nazi, but deplorably insensitive about the
historical and ethical connections, bragging about a grandfather who
served in the Waffen-SS might just express a strange pride of having a
grandfather in the allegedly "best army" of all times (which is utter
nonsense). However, it takes lots of ignorance to be naively proud of
an ancestor in the Waffen-SS. It can, of course, also express sympathy
for some or all aspects of Nazi ideology.
On the other hand, bragging about an ancestor who served in the
SS-Totenkopfverbände who guarded the concentration camps is quite
certainly a sign of Nazi attitude, since those units had only one
assignment: Mass-murder and torture.

Therefore, it is necessary to ascertain what exactly your potential
business parter was bragging about. If he just said that he had a
grandfather who served in the SS, the statement is too vague to draw
any conclusions about his mentality. If his bragging related
exclusively to his grandfathers deeds in combat as a Waffen-SS
soldier, this may be considered very bad taste and most ignorant, but
not yet a reliable indication for his personal views concerning Nazis
ideology (however, it is undoubtedly a certain danger signal). But
should it turn out that his grandfather served in the
SS-Totenkopfverbände, the situation would be clear enough. No
ethically sound person would brag about an ancestor who was part of an
organization of torturers and deathsmen.

So what can you do? The most important step is to find and interrogate
persons who witnessed his statements and his bragging. Every single
detail of what he said might prove important. Be sure to gather as
much information as possible. With a little bit of luck, he even
occasionally mentioned his grandfather's name, which would be most
valuable for you to know because otherwise you will not be able to do
more research, as I will explain in the following.

Unfortunately, finding out about the identity of his grandfather will
hardly be possible, unless he mentioned the name himself. Such data is
held by the civil registers in Germany, where he was born, but it is
subject to strict privacy regulations. Only direct relatives, and
second-grade relatives with recognized urgent reasons, can request
information about a person's parentage. Mere speculation that he might
have had a grandfather with Nazi background is under no circumstances

But in case he mentioned his grandfather's name in the past or will do
so in the future, there is something you can do: There is a certain
chance that the personnel file or related documents have survived the
war. If he was either killed in action during the war, or if he is
dead for at least 10 years by now, you can try to request information
about his career from the German federal archive holding most
remaining personnel records:

Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) für die Benachrichtigung der nächsten
Angehörigen von Gefallenen der ehemaligen deutschen Wehrmacht
Eichborndamm 179
13403 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0) 30 41904-0
Fax: +49 (0) 30 41904-100

Some surviving records are held by the German Federal Archive, Dept.
Military Archive. Inquiring with them, too, is advisable:

Wiesentalstraße 10
79115 Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0) 761 47817-0
Fax:  +49 (0) 761 47817-900

There is no guarantee that any of the two archives can provide you
useful information, but there is at least the possibility that you can
find out about the man your potential partner is bragging about. If it
turns out that he was involved in war crimes or even a concentration
camp guard, you can draw the logical conclusions.

This is all advice I can offer. I know that it is not much, but it is
the best anyone can suggest, I'm afraid. I hope it will be of some use
for you.
Best regards,
Subject: Re: Nazi Member?
From: kriswrite-ga on 08 Nov 2006 08:46 PST
It seems to me the important question is whether or not he really
*bragged* that his father or grandfather was a Nazi, not whether or
not that assertion is actually true. Most Germans have ancestors who
were Nazis; this doesn't mean they are of the same ilk. On the other
hand, if someone is bragging that his ancestor was a member, this
would indicate they have some very dubious beliefs themselves.

Subject: Re: Nazi Member?
From: frde-ga on 09 Nov 2006 04:54 PST
I would not be at all worried, as Scriptor points out, the SS was
composed of vastly different elements.

The Waffen SS regiments were regarded as 'crack' or elite.
The Totenkopf were barely soldiers. I read that they were drawn from
customs officers and policemen.

I'm not sure about the Confederate comparison, but in the UK it would
be like having a grandfather who was in a prestigious Guards regiment.
Subject: Re: Nazi Member?
From: frde-ga on 10 Nov 2006 03:43 PST
I should add that the current Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth
- probably involuntary - but even so ...

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