The Dark Past Germany's FBI Examines its Nazi Roots

Germany's federal police is admitting that most of its founding members had blood on their hands as active members of Hitler's brutal security apparatus. It's the first time one of Germany's security services is examining its own history. But there may be more to come.

The President of the Federal Criminal Police Force, Jörg Ziercke, wants greater openness about the history of his organisation.

The President of the Federal Criminal Police Force, Jörg Ziercke, wants greater openness about the history of his organisation.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, the equivalent of the FBI in the US, has invited historians to research its origins after World War II when many of its leading members were recruited straight from the ranks of Hitler's police and security apparatus.

Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) President Jörg Ziercke has launched a series of conferences to shed light on the history of the BKA. At one such conference last month at the BKA's headquarters in Wiesbaden, he said the aim wasn't to point fingers but to analyze what role former Nazi organization members played in setting up the new force and to what extent it was damaged in the process.

Only if the BKA takes responsibility for its history "can it fulfil its role in the democratic legal state and live democracy with conviction each day," he told the conference, the first of three such meetings which may be followed by a research project.

The recruitment of Nazi police officers and agents into the security apparatus of West Germany after World War II is a well-known fact -- the country lacked personnel with the relevant experience who hadn't been involved in the Nazi machine.

The BKA is the first of Germany's security organizations to own up to its past in this way. The foreign and domestic intelligence services, the Bundesnachrichtendienst and Bundesverfassungsschutz respectively, also drew heavily on Nazi personnel in their early days.

It's already known that when the BKA was formed in 1951, almost all its 50 top officers had a Nazi past -- in SS units active in German-occupied territories, in the Gestapo, in the secret military police or the Third Reich's criminal police force (RKPA). For example, the man in charge of manhunts at the RKPA, Kurt Amend, took up the same position at the BKA.

Historian and former BKA officer Dieter Schenk said Amend sealed the fate of "hundreds of thousands who were put in a concentration camp or brought before a special tribunal as a result of his intelligent policing methods." Amend's Nazi past was never investigated.

Another example is Bernhard Niggemeyer, a senior officer in the BKA, who had the rank of Sturmbannführer or Storm Unit Leader in the SS and was in charge of several military police units responsible for thousands of executions during the war.

In some cases former Nazi investigators remained in the ranks of the BKA well into the 1960s.

Schenk, who wrote a book about the BKA's Nazi roots in 2003, is convinced that further historical research is needed both for the BKA and for the domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz or Office for the Protection of the Constitution.



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