[Source:] Reinefarth went on to live a normal life similar to other Holocaust perpetrators living in West Germany including SS-Obersturmführer Strippel from Majdanek concentration camp,[4] and Oberscharführer Fiedler from Chełmno extermination camp.[5] In December 1951, he was elected Mayor of the town of Westerland, the main town on the island of Sylt. In 1962, he was elected to the parliament (Landtag) of Schleswig-Holstein.[6] After his term ended in 1967, he worked as a respected lawyer. Despite numerous demands by Poland, he was never considered guilty, as the German courts ruled, there was no evidence of him committing any crimes whatsoever. Instead, the government of West Germany rewarded him with a General's retirement pension.

I read that 'despite Polish demands for extradition, he was never convicted of any war crimes.' Yet how could even a Nazi with known involvement in such many genocides able to thrive, as a mayor and parliamentarian?

  • 4
    "...as the German courts ruled, there was no evidence of him committing any crimes whatsoever." Isn't that reason enough? Or do you believe a simple accusation is sufficient for conviction? – jamesqf Mar 19 '15 at 4:16
  • @jamesqf a simple accusation should NOT suffice for conviction. But there's 'probable cause'. He did write: In one of his reports to the commander of the German 9th Army Reinefarth stated that "we have more prisoners than ammunition to kill them". Also, he oversaw soldiers who did commit genocide. This should raise suspicion, no? – Accounting Mar 19 '15 at 21:46
  • After WW2 there was only the highest nazis that was of interest. Lower ranking nazis was intentionally ignored (possibly to avoid a backlash). Also after WW2 former nazis was important for the western powers as they a) had military experience of fighting against the soviets and b) you could be sure they weren't communists. – liftarn Oct 6 '16 at 10:48

"Hindsight is an exact science", but the aftermaths of wars (and of course wars themselves) are messy. From what I have read the reconstruction of Japan became a success partly because the victors left Emperor Hirohito on the throne: was he a war criminal? Remember how Paul Bremer, then a top representative of the victors in Iraq was criticized for his handling of De-Ba'athification in 2003, which put soldiers out of work and soon rearmed on the streets: perhaps he wanted to cut through the messiness but certainly he did not succeed. "History is written by the victors", but don't expect great consistency across all chapters.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.