The German television show "Derrick" was one of the most successful crime show exports in the country's history, with broadcasters in 102 countries running it in syndication over the years. It emerged on Friday that the actor who played the enormously popular television detective, Horst Tappert, had a secret. He served as a member of the SS during World War II.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Friday that Tappert was a member of an SS anti-aircraft group (SS-Flakabteilung), in Arolsen, Germany, that was under the command of the notorious Waffen-SS.
Sociologist Jörg Becker uncovered a document showing Tappert had been a member of the SS while conducting research at the German agency WASt -- which maintains records of members of the former Wehrmacht, the German military under the Nazis -- for a memoir he is writing about another person. Becker told the newspaper the document shows that Tappert became a member of the Waffen-SS as a low-level grenadier by March 1943 at the latest, at the age of 19.
Prominent Dresden-based historian Jan Erik Schulte, an expert on the history of the SS, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the circumstances of Tappert's membership in the SS and the question of whether he was pressured or coerced to join remains unclear.
Tappert played the role of Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick from 1974 to 1998. A total of 281 episodes were filmed by German public broadcaster ZDF.
Tappert's affable portrayal of Inspector Derrick, an elegant, serious and empathetic official, embodied the character of an upstanding, postwar citizen in West Germany. It also helped to make the series popular abroad and Tappert one of the country's best-known actors internationally. He died in 2008 at the age of 85. In his comments about the war period and in his later memoir, Tappert never revealed any role in the SS.