The Undercover Nazi Hunter

The Undercover Nazi Hunter

Wolfe Frank, edited by Paul Hooley.
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
This an interesting book, some 400 pages long of close font is in fact three books in one telling the story of post war Germany through one man’s eyes ears and experiences. The first part relates how Wolfe Frank came to write the articles he wrote. The second part is the articles he wrote for the newspaper and the last part is the written confession of an SS Gruppenfuhrer who was on the list of the top 200 people wanted by the war crimes trials in regard to their actions during the war.

This was narrative written by a man, who in effect, re-infiltrated German society in the immediate post war years. Frank was a native German who left Germany prior to World War Two (WW2), just ahead of the Gestapo who had shoot to kill orders or to take him to a concentration camp leaving his wife behind. His escape and eventual arrival in the UK is a story in itself. When he arrived in the UK he settled and was a successful business man until war broke out. Under the enemy aliens laws he was to be interned for the duration but such a resourceful man was not to be kept down. Many applications and interviews he was allowed to serve as a Captain in the Pioneer Corps and into the Royal Tank Regiment in the later stages of the war through the invasion of Normandy onwards.

He rose to prominence as the Chief Translator to the Nuremberg War Crimes trials providing simultaneous translation of the court proceedings. He was very well respected by the Chief Prosecutor and his colleagues for his skills and abilities. His contacts were somewhat dubious in many cases including Rudolf Diels, first head of the Prussian Gestapo and consummate survivor in the machinations of Nazi Germany even surviving implication in the 20th July plot and indeed World War 2.

With his exposure to the press he became well known and he floated an idea that he should in effect undertake to write an ‘expose’ on German society. Following long discussions and references being provided by people of unimpeachable character this was taken up by the New York Herald Tribune (NYHT). There was much scepticism on behalf of the Herald Tribune and only the European edition management took an interest in his idea.

His re-entry into Germany through Switzerland with in-effect a cover story of why he hadn’t served in the German forces during WW2 so enabling him to re-integrate into German society. His journey through Germany was somewhat fraught as in-effect Germany was projecting a view to the world that wasn’t altogether honest, old style Nazi’s including those who should have in this reviewers opinion should have been prosecuted for their acts during world war two who were now in a position of power and influence.

Frank relates the experiences of those fleeing the draconian regime in East Germany under Russian domination in what was now the division of Germany by the ‘big four’ powers which was a different style of management in regard of how they controlled the civil population in their areas of responsibility. All the Allies had very different approaches to the people of Germany from a ‘laize faire’ American approach to a very draconian Soviet one. The movement of people from the east during world war two brought many problems and this extended into the post war period with people trying to flee the Soviet controlled East Germany. Employment in some places was rumoured only accepted if you had been an ‘old’ party member, but found little evidence to support this. The author relates a large increase in the use of prostitution as a means to ‘make ends meet’ for a number if the civil population. There are letters which were written by those who had read the articles in the NYHT European edition denying that this was a problem. The ‘black-market’ was rife in Germany due to all the shortages of domestic consumables.

The urgency of bringing those with a case to answer for acts or omissions during WW2 waned by 1949 as ‘real politick’ started to take over with the West’s potential of confrontation with the Soviet Union and its vassal states. Also at this time there was a developed attitude by the German population of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ in regard to what happened between 1933 to 1945 and this is borne out by later works by other authors during the later part of the 20th century as related by such historians as Laurence Rees. Frank notes anti-Semitism was still prevalent in 1948/9 and also not that the Jewish population was some 60,000 from a pre-war 600,000.

The appearance in the early chapters is given that the German population approved of Hitler right up to the point he went to war in 1939 and post war that any interest in politics was very little as the population were more concerned with every life and survival than everything else. The German economic ‘miracle’ it is noted was due to the funds pumped into the country under the Marshall Plan. The Volkswagen plant at Wolfsberg is a case in point, built before the war to produce the Volkswagen car, turned to war production, heavily damaged by bombing but by 1949 producing thousands of cars a week mainly for export.

Later chapters show the very great difference in experiences of the population as Germany was attacked from all sides and in particular some of the atrocities in the east by Soviet forces which have been well documented by other authors.

The confession for that read justification; I was a good soldier of SS Gruppenfuhrer Waldmer Wappenhans, former soldier in World War One and a member of the SS from 1934. He became an aviator in WW1, later undertaking operations with the Luftwaffe in WW2 before moving back into the SS and into the police, becoming a senior SS officer in the east. His confession which was delivered to British Admiralty intelligence which interrogated him for six weeks and finally refused to hand him over to the Polish authorities for judgement at trial in 1949. Wappenhans was indeed lucky to have survived the war and even more fortunate to have escaped a trail for war crimes, dying peacefully in 1967. There are few books where a ‘confession’ has been written, I can only think of three such books, two by Gita Serany and one by death camp commandant Rudolf Hoess.

An interesting book which gives a contemporary view of Germany in 1949 from the articles written by the author from a perspective that I suspect no other author would have been able to elucidate.

I award this book 5 Mushroom heads, whilst repetitive in some places it is a perspective of the post war period that has not been written about except in the NYHT in 1949, which I suspect had a limited circulation. There are also parallels in this book that can be seen today!!

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