Silent help for prisoners of war and internees

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The Silent Help for Prisoners of War and Internees is an aid organization founded by Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg in 1951 , which was criticized primarily for its support for Nazi criminals.


On October 7, 1951, the founding meeting took place in Munich and on November 15, 1951 the association was entered in the register of associations. Helene Elisabeth, Princess of Isenburg, was elected as the first president , who became a figure of integration through her good contacts with the high nobility and conservative upper-class circles as well as with the Catholic Church . The founding board of the association, to which the tax authorities in the Adenauer era very readily recognized the charitable status, also included exposed church representatives, such as the Protestant Wuerttemberg former bishop Theophil Wurm , who had good contacts to the resistance and the professing church , and the Catholic auxiliary bishop of Munich Johannes Neuhäusler , who was interned in the Dachau concentration camp as a resistance fighter . The board also included high-ranking former functionaries of the Nazi state such as the former SS-Standartenführer and department head in the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), Wilhelm Spengler , and SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinrich Malz , who had been Ernst Kaltenbrunner's personal advisor at the RSHA .

Objective and activity until the mid-1950s

Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg explained her objective as follows: “At the beginning of its work, the 'Stille Hilfe' mainly took care of the plight of prisoners of war and internees with no rights. Later, their care was given to those accused and imprisoned in the context of the post-war trials, be it in the prisons of the victors or in German penal institutions. "

From the beginning, the war crimes trials and the follow-up trials were criticized as “ victorious justice ” in order to mobilize the public and to save the accused and convicted from the execution of the death penalty .

In press campaigns, personal letters, petitions, interviews, open letters, etc. v. m. Nazi criminals were usually portrayed as innocent victims, pure recipients of orders and impeccable and often deeply religious people who would have to suffer bitter injustice from the “victorious justice”.

Because Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg campaigned primarily for the Nazi perpetrators who were sentenced to death in the Allied War Crimes Prison in Landsberg , she was not only dubbed the "mother of the Landsbergers", but also referred to herself as a "silent help" to appear primarily as a charitable association.

In the early days, legal aid for imprisoned Nazi perpetrators was primarily organized by the lawyer Rudolf Aschenauer (1913–1983), who also formulated and submitted appeals for clemency and revisions. The association also paid vacation , release and Christmas bonuses to the prisoners and also supported their families. The activity of “silent help” also pursued an ideological and revisionist goal.

Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg managed to involve conservative circles and win over high-ranking church representatives as moral authorities: Theophil Wurm , Joseph Cardinal Frings and Johannes Neuhäusler (1888–1973). Neuhäusler in particular, who not only suffered Gestapo imprisonment under the Nazis , but was also imprisoned as a special prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp , was of the greatest public value for the “Silent Help”. The motives of the bishops lay less in a conscious ideological identification with the Nazi perpetrators, but rather in an effort to reconcile with the past and to re-start post-war society in Germany. Neuhäusler z. B. declared that he wanted to "reward bad with good".

The other connections of the princess and the lawyer Aschenauer mainly went to SS alumni organizations and to the Gauleiterkreis around Werner Naumann , some of which were already able to form in the Allied prisoner of war camps. Helene Elisabeth von Isenburg involved a whole range of organizations and associations for her actions, such as B. the “Working Group for Rescuing the Landsberg Prisoners”, which was mainly financed by the churches.

Activity until today

General, chair and seat of the association

After the churches had largely withdrawn from “silent help” with the end of the great war crimes trials and the release of the last Nazi perpetrator incarcerated in Landsberg in 1958, the organization oriented itself almost exclusively to the “old right” scene.

The historical revisionism is one of the major concerns of the "Breastfeeding Help." In the “circulars” it says: “Our aid organization also endeavors to shed light on the historical background, which has such decisive significance for the life of each and every one of our carers.” A later “circular” then spreads under the heading “Auschwitz”: “Unfortunately, the Auschwitz question that has arisen cannot yet be discussed objectively. Nevertheless, here, too, some things have come into flux.

In the following decades, the silent help worked more in secret in a close network with holocaust-denying organizations and prominent protagonists of the " Auschwitz lie " such as Thies Christophersen and Manfred Roeder and worked with relevant organizations and personalities (e.g. Florentine Rost van Tonningen , Léon Degrelle ) together abroad.

Through inheritance and regular donations, the association has consistently had considerable funds at its disposal since it was founded. The 1993 figures are publicly known. According to this, in 1993 Silent Aid received DM 150,253.81 from donations, inheritances and interest, expenses of DM 209,507.47 and assets of DM 318,559.45 in fixed-term deposit accounts.

The chairmen after von Isenburg (until 1959) were the former BDM leaders Gertrud Herr and Adelheid Klug until 1992 . "Silent Help" has been managed since 1992 by Horst Janzen, previously the association's auditor and as a supervisor and observer on behalf of "Silent Help" during the Majdanek trial in Düsseldorf .

For years, “Silent Help” had Gudrun Burwitz (* 1929, † 2018), the daughter of Heinrich Himmler, as a prominent figurehead . She is considered to be the idol of "silent help" in the association and its surroundings. At relevant gatherings such as the Ulrichsberg meeting in Austria , she appeared as a star and authority at the same time. In 2011, she still campaigned for convicted SS offenders in Munich. The widow of Rudolf Heß, Ilse Heß , who was a staunch National Socialist until her death in 1995, was also a supporter of the “silent help” . Since 1976 the seat has been Bremen-Osterholz .

From 1989 to 1993 the seat of the association was in Rotenburg (Wümme) . The founding member Adelheid Klug lived here. The association was registered as a non-profit association in the Rotenburg register of associations for 40 years . The Rotenburg city director Ernst Ulrich Pfeifer, later candidate of the Rotenburg CDU for the post of district administrator, was accused of supporting the "silent help" for some time. A Rotenburg CDU member and senior officer of the Lent barracks did office work for the "silent help". The Rotenburg entrepreneur Gustav Wordelmann was treasurer of the "silent help" at that time. He ran for the WfB party for the city council. His candidacy for the city council election was supported by Adelheid Klug and the entrepreneur and Holocaust denier Ernst-Otto Cohrs ( WSL ). According to its own information, Silent Help had 100 active members at that time. During this time, the lawyer Klaus Goebel, who was appointed to the board of trustees by Silent Help, also became involved.

In 1992 the headquarters were relocated to Wuppertal . In 1993/1994 there was a political debate in the Bundestag about the charitable nature of the revisionist right-wing radical association and an examination by the tax authorities. It was not until November 1999 that the Federal Fiscal Court decided that the “non-profit” should be revoked.

At the last known point in time (beginning of August 2006) the “old rights” association had around 40 members with a decreasing tendency. At the same time, however, contacts with the “ Aid Organization for National Political Prisoners and Their Relatives ” (HNG) were intensified, so that continuity initially seemed to be secured. After the HNG was banned by a decree by the Federal Minister of the Interior in September 2011 and a lawsuit brought against it by the Federal Administrative Court was rejected in December 2012, this connection is no longer possible.

Since then, Silent Help has not appeared as an association or organization in public. The term “silent help” is still used in a figurative sense for (financial) solidarity support in circles of supporters of the National Socialist ideologies and Holocaust deniers . One must therefore assume that there are informal successor organizations that continue the work of the silent help.

As of December 2017 in the register (VR 170231) is the District Court Walsrode the Stille Hilfe eV registered based in Rotenburg (Wümme) and address in Wuppertal.

Well-known cases of support by the "silent help"

The "Silent Help" supported the convicts in the Düsseldorf Majdanek trial. B. the former concentration camp guard Hildegard Smiles ("bloody Brigitte") and later z. B. Klaus Barbie , Erich Priebke , Martin Sommer , the "hangman of Buchenwald", and Josef Schwammberger , from 1942 to 1944 commander of the German labor camps in Poland Przemyśl and Rozwadow . It is not clear whether the silent help was involved in the liberation of Herbert Kappler from a prison in Rome in 1977.

The imprisoned SS-Obersturmführer Wilhelm Braune also stated in a letter to IM Peter (Paul Walter) in 1977 that he was supported by the "silent help".

The help provided by “Silent Help” was particularly evident in the Anton Malloth case : Malloth, who had lived undisturbed in Merano for around 40 years , was expelled from Italy to Germany in 1988 , but only one year for his actions as a guard in the small fortress Theresienstadt In 2001 sentenced to life imprisonment by the Munich District Court I. The Munich public prosecutor's office had previously taken over the proceedings from the Dortmund public prosecutor's office, which had delayed the process for years. From 1988 to 2000 Malloth lived in Pullach on the southern edge of Munich . Gudrun Burwitz had found him a room in a senior citizens' home with a high standard on behalf of the “silent help”, which was built on a property that had belonged to the “Deputy Leader”, Rudolf Hess , during the Nazi era . When it became public at the end of the 1990s that the social welfare administration (and thus the German taxpayers) had largely taken over the considerable running costs for Malloth's retirement home, there was considerable criticism in the media - including the participation of the Himmler daughter Gudrun Burwitz .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Norbert Frei : Past Policy. The beginnings of the Federal Republic and the Nazi past. Munich 1999, ISBN 3-423-30720-X ; or Jörg Friedrich : The cold amnesty. Nazi perpetrators in the Federal Republic. Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-596-24308-4 .
  2. Margot Käßmann: God wants to see action . In: Margot Käßmann, Anke Silomon (Eds.): CH Beck .
  3. Ulrike Bachhofer: Church of sinners, sinful church? Ed .: Rainer Bendel . LIT Verlag Münster.
  4. a b c d e Oliver Schröm, Andrea Röpke: Silent help for brown comrades: The secret network of old and neo-Nazis. An inside report . Ch. Links Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-86284-085-4 ( [accessed on December 4, 2016]).
  5. At the age of 81. Himmler's daughter collects for the SS. In: Express , June 19, 2011.
  6. Unsuitable for the post of district administrator. In: Retrieved December 4, 2016 .
  7. a b Working in the Secret - The Nazi Aid Organization “Stille Hilfe” | Michael source. In: Retrieved December 4, 2016 .
  8. Joint register portal of the federal states. Retrieved on December 18, 2017 (search for “silent help for prisoners of war and internees”; “search result” and “company sponsors”).
  9. ^ David Wingeate Pike : Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, the Horror on the Danube. Routledge, London 2000, p. 380.
  10. ^ Henry Leide: Nazi Criminals and State Security: The Secret Past Policy of the GDR . Ed .: Henry Leide. 3rd edition 2007. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, ISBN 978-3-647-35018-9 .
  11. The beautiful Toni , Der Spiegel , June 1, 1998
  12. Fabian Leber: Gudrun Burwitz and the "silent help": The dazzling Nazi princess , Der Tagesspiegel , June 10, 2001