West German intelligence infiltrated and influenced trial of senior Nazi

Hans Globke worked on Nuremberg Laws but later sought to ‘ward off talk of his past’

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has refused to comment on revelations that it infiltrated – and influenced – the 1961 Jerusalem trial of senior ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

Documents uncovered by historians in the archives of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) show how Hans Globke, chief of staff to West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, ordered the agency to ensure he was not named in court or called as a witness to explain his Nazi past.

As a senior interior ministry official in the 1930s, Globke helped frame the Nuremberg Laws that legalised the exclusion of Jews from public life and theft of their assets.

Globke’s legal commentary on the laws developed the various Nazi classifications of Jewish identity, putting a “J” in every Jewish citizen’s identity papers.


Industrialised murder

Called as a witness at the postwar Nuremberg trials, Globke said he had been aware of the industrialised murder of European Jewry.

Adolf Eichmann, the logistics man for the mass killing, fled to Argentina after the war but was located and abducted by Mossad agents in May 1960.

Thanks to the work of BND agents and informers inside his Jerusalem defence team, Eichmann had already been found guilty and condemned to death before he realised Globke’s crucial wartime role – and his postwar employer in Bonn.

“Globke felt extremely threatened by the Eichmann trial and didn’t know if he would be named, so he used all means at his disposal to ward off talk of his past,” said Prof Klaus-Dietmar Henke, the historian who discovered the new Eichmann files.

Medals of honour

His 1,600-page report into the operations and culture of the BND in the 1950s and 1960s is the latest publication in a research project launched by the agency in 2011.

Asked about its operation to infiltrate and influence the Eichmann trial, a BND spokesperson said: “The working results of the independent historical commission speak for themselves.”

Before his death in 1973, Globke was awarded two of Germany’s highest civilian medals of honour. For the second, in 1963, Adenauer praised Globke’s “great service to the reconstruction of the democratic order”.

Asked by The Irish Times if these honours had ever been withdrawn, a spokesman for Berlin’s federal government said there was “no provision for posthumous withdrawal”.

“In the history of the order of merit there have been awards that would be unthinkable today,” he added. This “reflects the history of the early federal republic with its delays in addressing Nazi injustice”.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin