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Old 06-15-2019, 02:40 PM
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de Gaulle and Nazi pardons


In reading about Paris in the Second World War, I discovered that Nazis Carl Oberg and Helmut Knochen, having been sentenced to death and later life, were pardoned by Charles de Gaulle. Theses were some really bad guys, who transported French Jews to concentration camps, and killed French citizens. Why on earth did de Gaulle pardon them?

Last edited by carnivorousplant; 06-15-2019 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:49 PM
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Both also may have had a role in the 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler which included the seizure of Paris by the plotters. They at a minimum were wildly incompetent if not cooperating. They were arrested and held for a while but there wasn't evidence and they escaped execution by the Nazis. Knochen was demoted from the SS equivalent of a US Colonel to Private and literally sent to the eastern front, though. There's a Hogan's Heroes joke to be made about his reality but I'm not feeling very creative at the moment.

Additionally, from his wiki page Oberg was pushing back against Himmler's orders to an extent.
Quote:
By 1943, however, he was resisting some of the orders issued by Himmler and Hitler. On 18 January Himmler demanded a cleansing of Marseilles with 100,000 arrests and explosive demolition of the city's crime district. Working with the French police, Oberg supervised a "minimalist" response of 6,000 arrests, 20,000 people displaced, and partial destruction of the harbour area. In 1944, Oberg blocked an attempt to establish an Einsatzkommando of the Waffen-SS in France.
I suspect they both were a lot more willing to talk up support for the attempt to assassinate Hitler when it wasn't going to get them hung from a meat hook.

Last edited by DinoR; 06-15-2019 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 06-15-2019, 05:58 PM
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If they had killed every Frenchman who collaborated, France would have been a wasteland.

After liberation, there was the épuration sauvage (wild purge), a wave of lynchings.

Then there was the épuration légale (French "legal purge") when they used the courts to bring collaborators to justice. They did not always observe all of the niceties of modern civil rights conventions.

After the emotions subsided, there was a recognition that the good guys had committed some excesses, and people opted for more leniency. Some of the bad guys benefited from that leniency.
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Old 06-15-2019, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mbh View Post
If they had killed every Frenchman who collaborated, France would have been a wasteland.
Apparently, they sure as hell tried to.

Thanks.
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Old 06-15-2019, 08:23 PM
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From Avenue of Spies: By the time Knochen was sentenced to death for a second time, the Cold War was raging and, to cement clase realtions between Germany and other Western democracies, many convicted Nazis had their sentences reduced. (cont)

Last edited by carnivorousplant; 06-15-2019 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 06-15-2019, 08:31 PM
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This was the case with both Knochen and Oberg, whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Knochen was finally pardoned and released along with Oberg on November 28, 1962 by none other than the French Fifth Republic's first President, Charles de Gaulle...Knochen "Let me sat the greatest crime in history was the extermination of the Jews by Hitler, and the greatest tragedy of my life was the fact that in an indirect way, and being quite unaware of it, I was mixed up in it. At no point did I know, or even suspect that the Jews of France, deported to the East, were murdered."

Bullshit.
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Old 06-15-2019, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
This was the case with both Knochen and Oberg, whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Knochen was finally pardoned and released along with Oberg on November 28, 1962 by none other than the French Fifth Republic's first President, Charles de Gaulle...Knochen "Let me sat the greatest crime in history was the extermination of the Jews by Hitler, and the greatest tragedy of my life was the fact that in an indirect way, and being quite unaware of it, I was mixed up in it. At no point did I know, or even suspect that the Jews of France, deported to the East, were murdered."

Bullshit.
(ITA)
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Old 06-16-2019, 12:24 AM
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Like Charles de Gaulle, we mustn't judge too harshly. For all he knew, all those Jews were leaving on holiday (the East was famous for its Happy Camps) which they all spontaneously decided to do of their own free will; who wouldn't?

But how does pardoning and releasing Nazi scum "cement relations between Germany and other Western democracies"??
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Old 06-16-2019, 11:30 AM
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If they had killed every Frenchman who collaborated, France would have been a wasteland.
But they weren't "Frenchmen who collaborated," they were Germans who invaded and occupied, and were senior figures who participated in mass murder.
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Old 06-17-2019, 11:32 AM
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But how does pardoning and releasing Nazi scum "cement relations between Germany and other Western democracies"??
Probably trying to get in good with Western Germany so they would contribute towards defending against the Russians. I don't recall the name of the German WWII Ace who flew F-104s for the German air force during the cold war. But I digress. I would imagine the USA asked de Gaulle to pardon some of them to encourage the Germans post war. I can't imagine de Gaull getting touchy feely with Germans, but neither can I imagine him taking advice from the USA.
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Old 06-17-2019, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
Probably trying to get in good with Western Germany so they would contribute towards defending against the Russians. I don't recall the name of the German WWII Ace who flew F-104s for the German air force during the cold war. But I digress. I would imagine the USA asked de Gaulle to pardon some of them to encourage the Germans post war. I can't imagine de Gaull getting touchy feely with Germans, but neither can I imagine him taking advice from the USA.
[My bold]

Oh, he could be very friendly and emotional towards Germany, here is his speech from 1962 in Bonn, de Gaulle exclaiming (in German): "Es lebe Bonn! Es lebe Deutschland! Es lebe die deutsch-französische Freundschaft!". ("Long live Bonn! Long live Germany! Long live the German-French friendship")

Konrad Adenauer and de Gaulle had a special relationship, which almost could be called a friendship, that led to a rather quick German-French reconciliation after the war. Of course, French mistrust against the USA and transatlantic relations between the USA and the Federal Republic also was a big part in that process.
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:22 PM
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I knew someone who did a Masters course on French resistance. She said the big myth - post liberation - was that the French were 95% resistance and 5% collaborator. After the initial defeat, apparently most were apathetic and maybe 10% max were resistance. After the initial orgy of revenge on the blatant collaborators post-liberation, it was swept under the rug - nobody wanted to talk about it.

The other part, of course is the conundrum of who knew what when about the "final solution". Concentration camps, IIRC, were named by the British during the Boer war and then utilized by Mussolini against the Libyan resistance to his conquest. It's not inconceivable that people buried in the hierarchy assumed that these were not holiday camps, but that they were slave labour camps for control of "enemies of the people", not mass slaughter sites. AFAIK there were some who had to know what was happening, but for many the illusion and/or willful blindness was that these were actual prison camps. After all, for some - like Dachau - these camps had been used for collecting "undesirables" for almost a decade since the Nazis came to power.

So that's the question - who really knew, when?

Last edited by md2000; 06-17-2019 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 06-18-2019, 06:45 AM
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The timing seems significant. Both were pardoned in 1958 and released in 1962.

Due to the ongoing Algerian war, the fourth republic was ousted in May 1958. This lead to de Gaulle returning to power after a 12 year absence and to the eventual establishment of the Fifth Republic.

Algeria was granted independence in 1962.

A lot of the people behind this were right-wingers. It's possible that de Gaulle did this to solidify the support of these people.

Yes, there were still right wing fascists in France, some holding political, opolice, and military offices. Take Maurice Papon who was the police chief behind the 1961 massacre and another in 1962. He had been a Vichy guy. And then a buddy of de Gaulle.
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:36 AM
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...He had been a Vichy guy. And then a buddy of de Gaulle.
At least my thread is fighting ignorance.
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:49 AM
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I knew someone who did a Masters course on French resistance. She said the big myth - post liberation - was that the French were 95% resistance and 5% collaborator. After the initial defeat, apparently most were apathetic and maybe 10% max were resistance.
So, 'Allo 'Allo was kinda true?
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Old 06-18-2019, 11:55 AM
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I don't recall the name of the German WWII Ace who flew F-104s for the German air force during the cold war.
Most notably, Erich Hartmann. But really, the reconstituted Luftwaffe of West Germany depended generally on veterans of the Nazi Luftwaffe - it pretty much had to.
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Old 06-18-2019, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
From Avenue of Spies: By the time Knochen was sentenced to death for a second time, the Cold War was raging and, to cement clase realtions between Germany and other Western democracies, many convicted Nazis had their sentences reduced. (cont)
Thanks for the info; I just bought a copy and I'm looking forward to reading it.
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Old 06-18-2019, 12:23 PM
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Thanks for the info; I just bought a copy and I'm looking forward to reading it.
Now for my kickback...
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