After initial hesitation, last year (2014) Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière commissioned a commission of historians to investigate the Nazi burden of his ministry. With a depressing result. The proportion of civil servants with a brown history was exorbitantly high.
The lawyer Gerhard Scheffler had already served in the Reich Ministry of the Interior during the Nazi era in the 1930s. During the war he was appointed Lord Mayor of Posen in the occupied waiting area - where he was responsible for the Germanization of factories and organized the deportation of Poles and Jews to ghettos. In 1945 he went underground under the false name "Otto Jungfer". After a few years in which he tried not to attract attention, he reappeared in the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 1950 - from 1955 as head of the social welfare department, where he largely prepared the Federal Social Welfare Act, one of the most important legislative projects in the early days of the Federal Republic.
"This transition from a Nazi Germanization and discrimination policy as a prominent mayor in Poznan to a democratic-parliamentary social policy as a leading figure in the BMI for the Federal Social Welfare Act, within just a few years, is remarkable."
Maren Richter from the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich is part of the project group of historians who are investigating the Nazi pollution of his house on behalf of Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. Careers like Scheffler's in the BMI are particularly spectacular. But it is by no means an isolated case. The landlord himself took stock, on which the results of an initial eleven-month investigation were presented.
“We learned that the proportion of NSDAP members at the management level of the BMI between 1949 and 1970 was 54 percent. That number is very high. It is above the values of the investigation, as far as we know it now, of the Federal Ministry of Economics, the Federal Ministry of Justice and those of the Federal Foreign Office. "
The history of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) is browner than expected. From 1949 to the beginning of the 1970s there were more former National Socialists in leadership positions than in other ministries such as the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice, which were also teeming with old Nazis.
This is borne out by the final report of a preliminary study by historians, which appeared on October 29th. In December 2014, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière commissioned a project group led by Professors Frank Bösch (ZZF Potsdam) and Andreas Wirsching (IfZ Munich-Berlin) to investigate the Nazi pollution in the Interior Ministry and to do the same for the former GDR.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior had blocked such a processing longer than most other ministries and authorities. Not surprising, because there was something to hide! According to the results so far, immediately after the establishment of the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 1949, half of all newly hired speakers, department heads and sub-department heads were former members of the Nazi party. This percentage rose to 66 percent in 1956 and 1961. This peak value was only exceeded by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. There the Nazi share was 75 percent.
Among the former NSDAP members were numerous members of the SA. Their share rose from an initial 17 percent to 45 percent in 1961 and then decreased to 25 percent. That means that at the beginning of the sixties almost half of all leading BMI officials and by the beginning of the seventies still one in four had previously been active in the paramilitary assault detachment of the Nazis, whose murderous thugs had helped Hitler to power.
Even former SS members were not uncommon in the BMI. At the beginning of the 1970s, the proportion of former members of Hitler's elite troops, which among other things had operated the concentration camps, was 7 to 8 percent.
In the GDR, too, more Nazi members were accepted into state positions than stated in official GDR statistics. At 14 percent, their share was significantly lower than the 66 percent in the Federal Republic. In addition, the study points out that in the GDR only around 7 percent former NSDAP members were active in the armed organs of the Ministry of the Interior (MdI). In the civil areas considered “non-political”, such as science and culture, the figure was around 20 percent.
The networks of Keßler and Globke
The founding staff of the Federal Ministry of the Interior was personally put together by Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (CDU) after 1949. He commissioned Erich Keßler, once Oberscharführer of the SA and still ministerial director in the Reich Ministry of the Interior in 1945, to prepare the “principles of a new civil servant policy” and to look for “possible candidates for leading positions in the federal administration”.
Kessler stood by Hans Globke, who headed Adenauer's Chancellery from 1953. Globke had been a ministerial advisor in the Reich Ministry of the Interior until 1945 and was involved in the notorious “Nuremberg Race Laws”. When the GDR sued him for this, he resigned in 1963.
The group around Globke and Keßler, which also included the former organizer of the 1936 Olympic Games, Ritter von Lex, was responsible for a “generous recruitment policy” (final report, p. 26). Globke and Kessler quickly abandoned their initial reluctance to bring particularly stressed Nazi officials to exposed positions. Of the 44 senior officials at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 24 were former NSDAP members. 15 percent belonged to the SA and 7 percent to the SS.
Globke and Kessler used networks of former Nazis. One of these networks evidently came from East Prussia, especially the Law Faculty of the University of Königsberg.
The authors clarify the political consequences of each employee's influence and how the administrative culture has changed in East and West.
In the Federal Ministry of the Interior, according to differentiated evidence, the majority of civil servants came from the bureaucracy of National Socialism. Many kept silent about their past, which was hardly checked. They fitted into democracy, but often authoritarian thought patterns persisted, which were reflected in political decisions. In the Ministry of the Interior of the GDR, older communists and young cadres took over the leadership, but individual areas of expertise also showed continuities here. The interior ministries in East and West observed and also mutually influenced how the Nazi past was dealt with.