Nazi Secret Report Reveals 'Derrick' Actor Was SS Member

He was known far beyond Germany's borders for his portrayal of Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick on television. On Friday, information emerged suggesting actor Horst Tappert served as a member of the notorious Waffen-SS and hid the fact for years.

A 1993 archive photo of actor Horst Tappert playing the role of Stephan Derrick

A 1993 archive photo of actor Horst Tappert playing the role of Stephan Derrick

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.

dsl -- with wires

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Kofi 04/26/2013
1. Waffen SS
I don't understand why that is an issue. As I understand that was like an external branch of the Wehrmacht with more international participants and slightly different uniforms. In the last days of the war many Wehrmacht soldiers became Waffen SS.
ochreface 04/26/2013
2. Heroes and Villains
It would be interesting to consider another angle instead: Commonly nowadays, there would appear to be people who love nothing more than to dig away with glee...trying to find another story to bring someone down. What about a different view? Why not try to find heroes instead? How do you know good old 'Derrick' wasn't an SS member who at great personal risk, saved a busload of refugees, or something like that? It would have been far nicer if that were the motivation for this. But, sadly, I expect that it is not the motive of the 'diggers'. There is a difference between investigating crimes and digging for dirt on celebrities (and others). Germany... I love being here as your guest. This beautiful country you have. Such nice people you are. I haven't met many Germans who aren't really nice people. Evil isn't a German thing. It is in some people in all nations. Yes the scale of the crimes that were committed here is horrendous. But this does not mean it is a German tendency. Evil is everywhere. Even today. Yes, find war criminals hiding in Germany (and elsewhere), bring them to justice. I fully agree. But be fair on Germany too. There were very many good people. Would you stand up and speak out against an evil if the consequence for that was almost certain death? It is a pity we don't have people telling their stories as much as we hear of the criminals. I never heard of Sophie Scholl until I came to Germany. Why do you think this is? What a pity she isn't as famous outside of Germany as what she is here. Come on Germans! Tell the world about your heroes too. No one else is going to do that for you.
Addams 04/28/2013
3. Why...
does Spiegel Online international writes in the headline, that Horst Tappert was in the SS, while the German edition of Spiegel online is speaking about the Waffen-SS. Abroad, the concept of SS is mainly associated with the guards of the concentration camps. From the magazine SPIEGEL I would have expected much more journalistic sensibility.
ckosuda 06/24/2013
4. ckosud
why do so many Germans believe it is ok to "forgive and forget" the atrocities of the Nazis, and their foot-soldiers in the name of simpering, sugar-coated "politeness"?
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