Otto Wächter: Wikis

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The Baron Otto Gustav von Wächter (born July 8, 1901 in Vienna, died August 14 or September 10, 1949, in Rome, Italy), was a lawyer, an SS general officer and a National Socialist politician, successively governor of the Cracow and Galicia districts under the General Government. In spite of having escaped trial in Nuremberg, Wächter's responsibilities for the persecution and mass murder of Jews in Poland and Ukraine have since been fairly documented.

Contents

Early member of Nazi party

From 1923 he was a member of the SA, from 1930 a member of the Nazi party NSDAP holding high positions in Vienna. From 1933 he was an SS Sturmführer (Second Lieutenant), from 1935 an SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain), from 1938 an SS Oberführer (Brigadier General), from 1939 an SS Brigadeführer (Major General), and in 1944-1945 an SS Gruppenführer (Lieutenant General) and Police Lieutenant General[1].

Dr. Otto Wächter worked as an attorney in Vienna from 1932 to 1934. He played a leading role in the July Putsch of 1934 in Vienna, which led to the assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss, who had suspended democracy and was governing by decree since March 1933. After the failed Nazi coup of July 25, 1934, Wächter fled to Germany and was deprived of Austrian citizenship. Hitler allegedly thanked him by sending him to Dachau for a while, but Wächter was still an SS officer in October 1934 and got three successive promotions in 1935[2].

Persecution of Jews after Anschluss

Following the Anschluss, from May 24, 1938 to April 30, 1939 Wächter held the post of state commissaire in the "Liquidation ministry" under the Nazi governor of Austria Seyss-Inquart. The "Wächter-Kommission", the government body he headed and which was named after him, was responsible for the dismissal and/or compulsory retirement of all Jewish officials in Austria[3].

Organizes mass murder in Poland

From October 1939, he was the governor of the administrative district of Cracow, where in December 1940 he issued a decree organizing the persecution and expulsion of the city's 68,000 Jews. On 3 March 1941 Wächter issued another decree ordering the remaining 15,000 Jews to move into the newly created Ghetto ("Jewish Residence Zone"). According to Holocaust researcher Robin O'Neil, in 1941 Otto Wächter was among the leading advocates in the General Government who were in favor of "total Jewish extermination" by gassing[4]. O'Neil adds that «At a meeting in Cracow [with Governor-General Hans Frank] on October 20, [1941] Wächter commented that "an ultimately radical solution to the 'Jewish Question' is unavoidable".»[5].

Continues murder operations in Ukraine

In 1942-1944, following the Nazi occupation of Soviet Ukraine, Wächter was made governor of the new Galicia District of the General Government. Over half million Jews were living in the district's area when the Germans invaded Ukraine. The mass murder of Jews began under the military occupation, which lasted until 1 August 1941, when the civil administration took over. From that date on 32 ghettos were established in the Galicia district. On August 17, 1942 the planning for the fate of the Jews in the Lvov region of Galicia was being discussed at a conference chaired by Himmler at his own residence, which was attended by Otto Wächter and three other SS officers, namely his fellow Austrian Odilo Globocnik (the chief of Operation Reinhard), Fritz Katzmann, and Losacker[6]. In The Murderers Among Us Simon Wiesenthal wrote that he saw the Galicia governor, SS Brigadeführer Dr. Otto Gustav Wächter in person in the Lvov Ghetto (established in August-September 1942), when four thousand elderly Jews were rounded up, including his mother, to be sent to death camps[7]. By the end of 1943 virtually the whole Jewish population had been killed or sent to the Belzec death camp.[8]

Wächter was also the proponent for the creation of a Ukrainian unit of volunteers in the German armed forces, whose formation was approved by Himmler after the Stalingrad defeat. Wächter made the proposal to Himmler on March 1, 1943 and on April 28 the SS Division 'Galicia' was publicly inaugurated.[9] Nearly 100,000 men from western Ukraine volunteered, with 30,000 being accepted. [10] It was a Waffen-SS unit commanded by German officers. Himmler didn't allow the unit to use the name "Ukrainian", as Wächter had suggested, arguing that the use of the word "Galician" was psychologically and politically unwise.[11]

Transfer to northern Italy

In September 1943, Wächter was sent to Northern Italy as "Chief of the military administration to the plenipotentiary General of the German Wehrmacht in Italy", coincidentally with the transfer of the Operation Reinhardt personnel (including chief exterminator Odilo Globocnik) to Italy[12], and stayed there until 1945.

Avoids trial for crimes after war

After the war, Wächter found refuge in Rome under the protection of Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal, rector of the Teutonic College of Santa Maria dell'Anima. He lived "as a monk in a Roman monastery"[13], under the false name of Otto Reinhardt, until his death in 1949, thus escaping the Nuremberg Trial, where some of his already documented criminal practices were referred to in his absence[14]. He died in a Roman hospital "in the arms" of Bishop Hudal[15].

Notes

  1. ^ "Axis Biographical Research", page "Generalgouvernment" [1] and page "SS-Dienstalterliste, Stand vom Oktober 1934" [2]
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Die "Wächter"-Kommission (Wächter is third from left in the photo), in "1938: NS-Herrschaft in Österreich" (1938: The Nazi Rule in Austria) [3]
  4. ^ Robin O'Neil, Belzec: Prototype for the Final Solution. Hitler's Answer to the Jewish Question, chapter 5 [4].
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ Robin O'Neil, op. cit., chapter 10, note 10, citing Peter Witte, "Two Decisions Concerning the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question'", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 9/3, London/Jerusalem, 1995.
  7. ^ The Murderers Among Us, McGraw-Hill, New York,1967.
  8. ^ "Galicia District" [5].
  9. ^ Basil Dmytryshyn, "The Nazis and the SS Volunteer Division 'Galicia'", American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Feb., 1956), pp. 3-6.
  10. ^ Mazower, Mark (2008) Hitler's Empire, pp 458-459
  11. ^ Basil Dmytryshyn, op. cit, p. 7. Wächter sustained that the word Galician "would represent a German attempt to denationalize these people [the Ukrainians of Galicia], which, he said, was not in Germany's interest, for it would weaken the resistance of these people to Bolshevik revolutionary appeals".
  12. ^ Robin O'Neil, op. cit., chapter 13
  13. ^ "Axis Biographical Research", above cited.
  14. ^ Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, Vol. 12, 112th day (April 23, 1946), p. 106, where Dr. Wächter's "criminal practice of taking hostages" in Cracow are referred to.
  15. ^ Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945, S.Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2003.

Bibliography

  • Nikolaus von Preradovich, Österreichs höhere SS-Führer, Berg am See, 1987.
  • Peter Witte, "Two Decisions Concerning the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question'", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 9/3, London/Jersusalem, 1995.
  • Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945, S.Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2003.
  • Basil Dmytryshyn, "The Nazis and the SS Volunteer Division 'Galicia'", American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Feb., 1956), pp. 1-10.

External links

  • aeiou, Encyclopedia of Austria, "Wächter, Otto Gustav" [6].
  • aeiou, Encyclopedia of Austria, "July Putsch of 1934" [7].
  • Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, Volume 12 [8].
  • Axis Biographical Research, page "Generalgouvernment" [9] and page "SS-Dienstalterliste, Stand vom Oktober 1934" [10]
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