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Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff
May 13, 1900 - July 17, 1984 (aged 84)
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-171-29, Karl Wolff.jpg
Nickname Karele
Place of birth Darmstadt, Germany
Place of death Rosenheim, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (1917–1920)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (1933–1945)
Rank Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS
Unit Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Commands held HöSSPF Italien
Battles/wars World War I:

World War II:

Awards Iron Cross
SS-Ehrenring
Golden Party Badge

Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff (13 May 1900 – 17 July 1984) was a high-ranking member of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS), ultimately holding the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS. He became Chief of Personal Staff to the Reichsführer (Heinrich Himmler) and SS Liaison Officer to Hitler until his replacement in 1943.

Contents

Early life

Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff was born in Darmstadt, Germany. His father was a district court judge, who called him "Karele", which stayed Karl's nickname until his death in 1984. Raised agnostically, after the family spent two years in Schwerte they returned to Darmstadt where Wolff was educated at the local Roman Catholic school.

World War I

After Abitur, Wolff joined the Imperial German Army at age 16, during World War I. He underwent four months of military training as an Fahnenjunker, then volunteered on 5 September 1917 to serve on the Western Front. Commissioned an officer the following year, he was awarded the Iron Cross second class for bravery. Wolff decided to make the army his career. After the Armistice, he joined the Hesse Infantry Regiment, and for actions during the war received the Iron Cross first class.

Inter war period

Wolff was demobilised in 1920 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, which reduced the strength of the German Reichswehr. He became a banker, joining the Bethmann family bank in Frankfurt, where he underwent a two-year apprenticeship. In July 1922 Wollf was engaged to Frieda von Roemheld, whom he married the following year. They moved to Munich, where Wolff worked for Deutsche Bank. Due to raging inflation, however, he was unemployed two years later. He then joined the public relations firm "Ad-Expedition Walther von Danckelmann." On 1 July 1925 he started his own company, "Ad-Expedition Karl Wolff - von Roemheld".

Nazi Party and SS

The 1931 Deutsche Bank economic crisis (brought on by the Great Depression) convinced him that only the more radical parties were capable of resolving the economic and political dilemmas in Germany. For him the only option was the more extreme Right. Drawn by the ideal of a reborn Germany after this economic crisis, Wolff was accepted in July 1931 as a member of the NSDAP (No. 695,131), and the SS (No. 14235). Still working in his own public relations firm, after training in the Reichsführer-SS school system, he served in a mustering squad in Munich, later commissioned as an SS-Sturmführer in February 1932.

Karl Wolff (2nd from the right) together with, from left to right: Heinrich Himmler (far l.), Reinhard Heydrich (l.) and an unidentified assistant (far r.) at the Obersalzberg, May 1939.

In 1933, after the Nazi Party came to power, Wolff became a full-time political party member and was promoted to SS-Captain to serve as SS military liaison officer to the German Army. On 8 March 1933 he became a member of the Reichstag. In June 1933 with the leap from volunteer to full member of the SS, the associated financial security allowed him to relinquish his previous profession and to sell his company. He was personally recruited by SS Commander Heinrich Himmler to head the office of the Reichsführer's Personal Staff. Wolff became Himmler's adjutant (Chief of Staff) on June 15, 1933. By 1937 he was an SS-Gruppenführer and considered third in command of the entire SS (after Heydrich and Himmler).

It was at this point that his friendship with the head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) Reinhard Heydrich was at its height, with whom he helped certain parties in conflict with Nazi party doctrine, including some Jews, to leave Germany.

World War II

As was later revealed in the 1964 trial, during the early part of World War II Wolff was probably "Himmler's eyes and ears" in Hitler's headquarters. Here at the centre of power, he would undoubtedly be aware of all significant events or could easily have access to the relevant information. Apart from the information passing across his desk, Wolff received (as Chief of Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS) copies of all letters from SS officers, and his friends at this point included the organizer of "Operation Reinhard" Odilo Globocnik. His later denial of knowledge of Holocaust activities may be plausible only at the detailed level, but not of the extent of atrocities by the Nazi regime.

In example, as the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto resulted in rail transport bottlenecks, Wolff telephoned deputy Reich Minister of Transport Dr. Albert Ganzenmüller. In a later letter dated 13 August 1942, Wolff thanked Ganzenmüller for his assistance:[1]

I notice with particular pleasure your report that for 14 days a train has been going daily with members of the chosen people to Treblinka...I've made contact with the participating agencies, so that a smooth implementation of the entire action is ensured.

After the assassination of Heydrich, Wolff fell out of favor with Himmler. Himmler after making Wolff a full SS-Obergruppenführer, dismissed him in 1942. In 1943, Hitler assigned Wolff SS adjutant to Benito Mussolini's Italian Government, personally granting him equivalent General's rank in the Waffen-SS.

When Italy surrendered to the Allies, from February to October 1943 Wolff became the Higher SS and Police Leader of Italy, and served as the Military Governor of northern Italy. On 6 March 1943 his divorce from Frieda von Roemheld was finalized. He had gone over Himmler's head and obtained permission from Hitler. Thereafter on 9 March he married Ingeborg Countess Bernsdorff.

As the Nazi Army retreated and Hitler dismissed various commanders, 1943 to 1945, Wolff was the Supreme SS and Police Leader of the 'Italien' area.[2] By 1945 Wolff was acting military commander of Italy.

A modern report in the Italian newspaper Avvenire in 2005 suggested that Hitler ordered Wolff to kidnap Pope Pius XII, but in collaboration with Germany's Vatican diplomat Ernst von Weizsäcker, he refused. Wolff also removed important art treasures from Monte Cassino, and went ill on the day that the Allies entered Rome, leaving German forces immobilised. According to historian Peter Gumpel, Pope Pius XII told senior bishops that should he be arrested by the Nazis, his resignation would become effective immediately, paving the way for a successor, according to documents in the Vatican's Secret Archives.[3]

By now again in agreement with Himmler on the issue of futility of continuing the war, from February 1945 Wolff under Operation Sunrise took over command and management of intermediaries including Swiss-national Max Waibel, in order to make contact in Switzerland with the headquarters of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, under Allen W. Dulles. After initially meeting with Dulles in Lucerne on March 8, 1945, Wolff resultantly negotiated the surrender of all German forces in Italy, ending the war in Italy six days before the war in Germany, on May 2, 1945.

Later life

Arrested on 13 May 1945 by U.S. Army troops (on the promise he would be reunited with his family) he was imprisoned in Schöneberg. During the Nuremberg Trials, Wolff was allowed to escape prosecution by providing evidence against his fellow Nazis, and was then transferred in January 1947 to the British Army prison facility in Minden.

Although released, in 1947 he had been indicted by the West German government as part of the denazification process. Detained under house arrest, after a German trial Wolff was sentenced in November 1948 to five years' imprisonment due to his membership of the SS. Seven months later his sentence was reduced to four years and he was released. Wolff worked after his discharge as a representative for the ad department of a magazine and took his family to his new residence in Starnberg. Until his rearrest in 1962, it is alleged that Wolff worked for the CIA,[4] while continuing to successfully build his reformed public relations firm.

In 1962 during the trial in Israel of Adolf Eichmann, evidence showed that Wolff had organised the deportation of Italian Jews in 1944. Wolff was again tried in West Germany and in 1964 was convicted of deporting 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp, the deportation of Italian Jews to Auschwitz, and the massacre of Italian Partisans in Belarus. Sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in Straubing, Wolff served only part of his sentence and was released in 1969 due to ill health, with his full civil rights restored in 1971.

Wolff has been a controversial figure because many believe he was far more privy to the internal workings of the SS and its extermination activities than he acknowledged. In fact, he claimed to have known nothing about the Nazi extermination camps, even though he was a senior general in the SS.

After his release, Wolff was quiet for a while and retired in Austria. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wolff returned to public life, frequently lecturing on the internal workings of the SS and his relationship with Himmler. This resulted in him appearing in television documentaries including The World At War, saying that he witnessed an execution of Jewish prisoners in Minsk in 1941 with Himmler, going so far as to describe the splatter of brains on Himmler's coat.

During this period, Wolff also became involved with former Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann and Stuttgart military dealer Konrad Kujau, for whom he in part authenticated the later discredited Hitler Diaries.

Asked to attend the trial of Messrs Heidemann and Kujau, Wolff had declined in health by the time he died in hospital in Rosenheim on 17 July 1984. His death brought his name up again in all major German newspapers, where he was described as "one of the most enigmatic figures of the Nazi regime". He was buried in the cemetery at Prien am Chiemsee on the 21 July 1984.

In the preface to the biography of Wolff Claus Sybill writes: Wolff could be described as a classic case study for the Nazi representative of the upper bourgeoisie are: "Wolff himself is and remains (...) the idealist, always wanted the good. And because he himself had never conceived or planned something evil, though there were still so many crimes happening around him - he almost never noticed anything like this."

Wolff was portrayed by Vasily Lanovoy in the Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring in a subplot concerning Sunrise Crossord and meeting with Dulles. He was also portrayed in the 1983 Gregory Peck film The Scarlet and the Black, as "General Max Helm."

Summary of SS career

Dates of rank

Awards

Other service

References

  1. ^ Gerald Riedlinger: The Final Solution, Berlin 1956, p. 288 ( "correspondence between the Under Secretary in the Ministry of Transport Theodor Müller and Ganz Himmler Field adjutant, SS-Ober Gruppenführer Karl Wolff; process IV, p. 2184f), quoted in: The yellow star. The persecution of Jews in Europe from 1933 to 1945 (Gerhard Schoen Berner), Hamburg 1960, p. 78
  2. ^ Yerger, p 23, 24
  3. ^ Vatican planned to move to Portugal if Nazis captured wartime Pope
  4. ^ http://www.feldgrau.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=29689

Bibliography

  • von Lingen, Kerstin (Spring 2008). "Conspiracy of Silence: How the “Old Boys” of American Intelligence Shielded SS General Karl Wolff from Prosecution". Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Oxford University Press) 22 (1): 74–109. 
  • Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS. Atglen, PA: Schiffler Publishing. 
  • Kurzman, Dan (2007). A Special Mission: Hitler's Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pope Pius XII. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

My Führer, if it's not possible for you to give me a date for the wonder weapons, we Germans must approach the Anglo-Americans and seek peace.

Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff (1900-05-131984-07-17) was a high-ranking member of the Nazi SS. He held the rank of Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS. In May of 1945, Wolff negotiated the surrender of all German forces in Italy during the controversial secret Operation Sunrise. Wolff was imprisoned in May 1945 by US troops. He was further transferred to a British prison in Germany, tried by a German court and sentenced to five years imprisonment in November 1948 due to his membership of the SS. Seven months later his sentence was reduced to four years and he was released. In 1962 Wolff was again tried and convicted of deporting 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Wolff served only part of his sentence and was released in 1969 due to the condition of his health.

Sourced

  • We found a round figure of three million Jews in Poland, and then immediately after that came the Russian campaign and we found another five million Jews in Russia. How on Earth could we manage to emigrate this eight million by using long and tiresome official methods if we could not, as was planned somehow or other after the war organise a general and mass-protected and organised emigration to Madagascar? We had conquered France, after all, and we could have compensated France adequately from our other colonial possessions so we could have used Madagascar — the island was big enough to accommodate such a number of Jews — but in the war we were cut off. We had no other choice.
    • Quoted in "Holocaust and the Moving Image" - Page 143 - by Toby Haggith, Joanna Newman - 2005
  • My Führer, if it's not possible for you to give me a date for the wonder weapons, we Germans must approach the Anglo-Americans and seek peace.
    • To Adolf Hitler. Quoted in "The Last 100 Days" - Page 173 - by John Toland - 1966
  • My Führer, I know, it is obvious from interrogations for one thing and from evidence I have from my particular field, that there are naturally differences among these unnatural Allies, but please do not be offended if I say that I do not believe the alliance will split up of itself without our own active intervention. Before that happens we shall be dead or beaten to the ground, and that must not happen — we must do something first.
    • To Adolf Hitler. Quoted in "A Special Mission" - by Dan Kurzman - 2007 - Political Science - Page 233
  • If you repeat to the Führer the story of the radio message from your agent, I won't go to the gallows alone. You and the Reichsführer will hang beside me.

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