It was recently reported that German TV actor Horst Tappert (1923 - 2008) had been identified as having been a member of the Waffen SS in World War II. However, it was also reported that a German historian had said that the circumstances of his SS membership remain unclear.

What are the facts? Was he or was he not in the SS?

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    Posting this as my own Question because apparently the author of the Question to which my Answer below responded, deleted his Q immediately after my Answer appeared. @Moderators: is this a bug in the SE software? I thought you could not delete your own Q after an A to it has been posted? May 30, 2013 at 7:23
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    I saw that, I was looking for the older question to close yours as a duplicate, and was quite surprised when I found out it was self deleted right after you answered it. Anyway, this isn't a bug, an asker is prevented from deleting their own question only if there's an upvoted answer. Unfortunately, your answer never had a chance of getting an upvote, since the question was deleted almost immediately after you posted it. Glad you took the time to repost it, +1 on both the question and the answer.
    – yannis
    May 30, 2013 at 7:27
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    @YannisRizos Perhaps the Q should be CW?
    – Luke_0
    May 30, 2013 at 22:58
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    @Luke CW's primary purpose is to encourage collaboration by allowing edits from lower reputation users (without review). Its secondary purpose is to discourage people from abusing the edit - bump dance with trivial edits. None of these applies here, I see no reason for this question to be CW. Eugene deserves all the rep from it.
    – yannis
    May 30, 2013 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


Yes, Horst Tappert was a member of the Waffen SS. There is no doubt of that. What historian Jan Erik Schulte may be referring to is whether he might have been "pressured or coerced" into joining the SS.

Tappert never mentioned the fact of his SS membership in public. However, unlike German author and Literature Nobel winner Günter Grass, he did not pretend to be a brave fighter against fascism while keeping quiet about his war record.

Earlier this month, Germany public TV broadcaster ZDF announced that it would not broadcast any more reruns of "Derrick", the detective series that had made Tappert famous. In the Netherlands, "public television channel Omroep MAX said it had scrapped plans to show around 20 episodes of Derrick from July." (BBC).

Tappert was an actor, but his character Inspector Derrick was the creature of Herbert Reinecker, Germany's most prolific TV screenwriter for decades. Reinecker had been a fervent Nazi from the start. He, too, was in the SS (in the same Totenkopf division as Tappert), but he also had a career as an influential propagandist, beating the drums of war from 1935 when he joined the Reich propaganda ministry right up until the last month of fighting in 1945.

The link in the paragraph above goes to a a German-language article in Die Welt from 2011 reviewing a book analyzing Reinecker's war and post-war careers. The author of the book concludes that Reinecker -- who never made a secret of having been in the SS -- remained an apologist for Nazi crimes after WW II, without being explicit about it. Episode after episode of "Derrick" and other TV shows written by Reinecker features protagonists who run afoul of the law with the best intentions.

The tragic dimension in crime was also explored by other writers such as Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret. But Reinecker's writing frequently was barely more than a coded apologetics to vicariously absolve Nazis in particular, and Germany as a nation, of historical guilt. Many episodes condemn the "dredging up of the past" -- again, without explicitly referencing Nazism or WW II, but the underlying message was nonetheless appreciated by the viewership, in a wordless kind of way.

It is unclear whether Mr. Tappert understood this. He was not known for being an intellectual. His appeal as an actor came from an understated virility and his ability to credibly represent the power of the state to catch criminals, a comforting notion to people all over the world. Yet even Tappert is said to have recoiled at playing Derrick in what was to have been the final episode of the series.

According to a 1999 report in Berliner Zeitung, that episode was to feature a photograph of the infamous ramp in the Auschwitz death camp in the service of an abstruse plot about a Ph.D. madman who induces young people to suicide by showing them scenes of great horror. Apparently, such a cynical use of the Holocaust was too much for Tappert and he refused; the episode was never produced.

  • Interesting twist. Some luminaries of contemporary German culture have sometimes quite surprising past. Heinrich Böll was moderately popular in Russia but it was only years after Soviet Union collapse I learnt that he was participating in military actions in Ukraine (although in regular army, not SS). Some of his letters home from that front are very revealing. The series of "Inspector Derrick" were broadcasted in Russia. Needless to say that they were unable to compete with such American production as "Law & Order".
    – Anvar
    Jun 16, 2013 at 18:10
  • @Anvar given the nature of German society in the 3rd Reich, you can safely assume that any men who was a teenager or adult from the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s spent time in either the HJ, SS, military, or other state agencies (SD, Gestapo, SA, etc.). Few exceptions would be those vital for the nation's industry or scientific establishment, and most of them would have had at least honorary rank in one of those agencies.
    – jwenting
    Jun 17, 2013 at 9:22

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