Pour prolonger la conférence de Philippe Sands hier soir, à propos de son merveilleux retour à Lemberg

— Ecrit le jeudi 29 mars 2018 dans la rubriqueCinéma, Histoire, Littératures, Rencontres”.

Philippe Sands,

dont la magnifique conférence d’hier soir, mercredi 28 mars, à la Station Ausone,

à propos de son saisissant Retour à Lemberg _ le podcast en sera très bientôt disponible ; cf déjà mon article du 23 mars  dernier : En avant-première à la présentation par Philippe Sands de son « Retour à Lemberg« … _,

nous a tous profondement impressionnés

et très intensément émus !

_ quel degré d’humanité accomplie là !!! Face à l’innommable…

Quel haut degré d’espérance en l’homme ! En ce temps particulier de retour de la détresse... _

Philippe Sands, donc, vient de se voir décerner le beau Prix Montaigne 2018,

qu’il recevra samedi 7 avril prochain des mains d’Alain Juppé à l’Hôtel de Ville de Bordeaux, à 11 heures 30 :

le prix consiste en 20 caisses de vin des plus prestigieux crus du Bordelais

_ dont voici la très apéritive (!) liste :

DOTATION DU PRIX MONTAIGNE 2018

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion blanc 2010
Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2006
Château Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2011
Domaine de Chevalier 2002
Château Calon Ségur 2006
Château Chasse-Spleen 2004
Château Cos d’Estournel 2008
Château Coufran 2009
Château Fourcas Hosten 2010
Château Gloria 2011
Château d’Issan 2009
Les Forts de Latour 2009
Château Léoville Barton 2005
Château Gazin 2015
Château Trotanoy 2009
Château Bélair-Monange 2009
Château Fombrauge 2015
Château de Fargues 2005
Château de Myrat 2007
Château Rieuses 2009

Que de délices à partager, en perspective…

De quoi assurément combler le très remarquable œnophile _ grand amateur, notamment de Julienas _ qu’il est !

Puis, Philippe Sands viendra signer son magnifique livre aux Escales du livre ;

et il donnera une conférence de 45′, à 15 h à l’IUT du livre, voisin…

Afin de prolonger un peu la lecture de ce livre vraiment majeur _ qui est aussi un immense succès mondial : jusu’au Japon et en Chine _,

je propose de regarder ici le film de Philippe Sands (réalisé par David Evans) My Nazi legacy _ what our fathers did,

dans lequel lui-même (né en 1960) s’entretient avec Niklas Frank (né en 1939, à Vienne) et Hors von Wächter (né en 1939, lui aussi),

fils, le premier, de Hans Frank (Karlsruhe, 29-5-1900 – Nuremberg, 16-10-1946)

et le second, d’Otto von Wächter (Vienne, 8-7-1901 – Rome, 10-9-1949),

deux très hauts hiérarques nazis ayant tous deux _ très criminellement ! _ officié en Galicie,

et à Lemberg même, tout particulièrement _ ville de ma bisaïeule paternelle (1860 – 1937) et de sa famille, les Sprecher.

Voici aussi trois articles liés, directement ou indirectement, à ce film extraordinaire,

le premier, surtout, de la plume de Philippe Sands lui-même, et en anglais : My father, the good Nazi,

le second, en français : Quand un fils ne peut admettre les crimes de son père ;

et le troisième, en anglais : Son of Nazi governor returns art stolen from Poland during second world war.

My father, the good Nazi


Otto von Wächter was an indicted war criminal implicated in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews. So how can his son Horst refuse to condemn him?

Horst von Wächter : ‘I must find the good in my father. My father was a good man, a liberal who did his best. Others would have been worse

 

Philippe Sands MAY 3, 2013

Haggenberg

Schloss Haggenberg is an imposing 17th-century baroque castle about an hour’s drive north of Vienna and a little short of Austria’s border with Slovakia. Built around an enclosed courtyard, it stands four storeys high, a foreboding stone structure that appears impenetrable aside from the large, double wooden doors at its front. It has seen better days.

For the last quarter century the schloss has been the home of Horst von Wächter and his wife Jacqueline, who live in a few of its many sparsely furnished rooms. Without central heating, the bitter cold is staved off by wood-burning fires and the odd electric heater, improbable under crumbling baroque cornice-work and the fading paint of its walls.

In one room, under the rafters that support a great roof, Horst has kept his father’s library. He has invited me to look around the collection. I extricate a book at random from a tightly stacked shelf. The first page contains a handwritten dedication in a neat German script. To SS-Gruppenführer Dr Otto Wächter “with my best wishes on your birthday”. The deep blue signature beneath, slightly smudged, is unforgiving. “H. Himmler, 8 July 1944”.

The signature’s power to shock is heightened by its context. The book is a family heirloom, not a museum artefact. It was offered to Horst’s father as a token of appreciation, for services rendered. It draws a direct line between Horst’s family and the Nazi leadership.

One floor down, in the main room used by Horst as his study, he has gathered some family photo albums. Horst is equally generous and open with these. They contain the stuff of normal family life : images of children and grandparents, skiing holidays, boating trips, birthday parties. Yet among these unsurprising images, other kinds of photographs are interspersed.


A single page offers the following : August 1931, an unknown man is chiselling around a swastika carved into a wall. Above this is an undated photograph of a man leaving a building under a line of arms raised in Nazi salute. The caption reads “Dr Goebbels” – Hitler’s propaganda minister. Another image records three men in conversation in a covered railway yard or perhaps a market. Under this undated photo are the initials “A.H.”. I look more closely. The man at the centre is Hitler, and next to him I recognise his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, who introduced Hitler to Eva Braun. The third man I don’t know.

I turn to another page: Vienna, the autumn of 1938. Wächter is in uniform at his desk in the Hofburg Palace, pensive, examining papers. The date on the page is November 9 1938. The horrors of Kristallnacht would begin a few hours later.

Another page : Poland in late 1939, images of burnt-out buildings and refugees. At the centre of the page is a small photograph of a crowded street in Warsaw, with people dressed against the cold. My eye is drawn to a white armband that identifies its bearer, an old lady in a headscarf, as a Jew. A few feet behind her, at the very centre of the striking image, a serene young woman looks straight at the photographer, who may have been Wächter’s wife, Charlotte. She studied at architect Josef Hoffman’s Wiener Werkstätte and had a good eye for a line.

These pages hold more pictures of Nazi colleagues: the Wächters with Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer, hanged at Nuremberg for his crimes against Poles and Jews, including the murder of three million Jews, while he was governor general of Nazi-occupied Poland; Wächter with “my Galician SS Division” ; Wächter with Himmler in Lemberg, the capital of Galicia (now the city of Lviv, in Ukraine) where he served as Nazi governor from 1942 and from where more than 150,000 Jews – the entire population – were “resettled” in less than two years.

These photographs place Otto von Wächter at the heart of Nazi operations. They are personal mementos of international crime committed on the greatest scale imaginable. They are in Horst’s family albums and their implications are terrible.

Father and son


I came to Schloss Haggenberg by accident. For several years I’ve been researching a book on the origins of international criminal law and its connection with Lemberg. My grandfather was born there in 1904, when it was on the eastern edge of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the city was the home of two remarkable international lawyers who were deeply involved in the Nuremberg trials: Hersch Lauterpacht (who introduced the concept of “crimes against humanity” into the Nuremberg Charter) and Rafael Lemkin (who invented the term “genocide”). My research also focused on a third lawyer, Hans Frank, whom the Nuremberg judges found guilty of responsibility for the murder of virtually the entire Jewish population of Lemberg and the surrounding towns and villages.

I looked into Frank and came across an interesting book written by his son Niklas. Der Vater, published in 1987, was a bestseller in Germany and deeply controversial. It exposed a son’s horror at the crimes of his father and so broke a taboo: the first time a child of a high-ranking Nazi had made such an unequivocal condemnation. I interviewed Niklas last year at the Hay Literary Festival, where he told the audience that his father had been rightly hanged. He showed me the photograph he keeps in his wallet, of his father’s body immediately after the hanging.

The father and son theme interested me. At the time I met Niklas I was writing a piece about Saif Gaddafi’s relationship with his father, and about Saif’s failure to break with him at a crucial moment in Libya’s history, in February 2011. Niklas and I talked at length about patricide, literary and political.

Knowing of my interest in Lemberg, Niklas suggested I might want to meet Horst, the son of Lemberg’s Nazi governor, Otto von Wächter, who worked closely with his father, Hans. He added a note of caution: “Horst takes a rather different attitude to mine.

A few weeks later, Niklas, Horst and I spent a day together at Schloss Haggenberg. I liked Horst from the outset, a generously proportioned man in a pink shirt and sandals, with a bespectacled face, grey hair and the same smile as his father. He was engaging and friendly and captivated by the schloss he had bought a quarter of a century earlier. He was proud that the actor Geoffrey Rush had recently filmed there, with director Giuseppe Tornatore, who made Cinema Paradiso (the film is The Best Offer, to be released later this year). I was impressed by Horst’s openness, his willingness to bare his struggle with his family history, and even to share documents and photographs. He opened the doors of his castle without any need to do so.

I was surprised, however, by his attitude to his father, an indicted Nazi leader. Unlike Niklas, who did not shirk from the horrors perpetrated by his father, Horst was struggling to come to terms with his father’s actions, in a way akin to Austria’s failure to fully recognise its role in that period.

I must find the good in my father”, he told me. It was indeed a mission of rehabilitation, against all the odds. Our tentative exchanges began to grow more comfortable. “My father was a good man, a liberal who did his best” ,he said. “Others would have been worse ».

He had sent me a biographical record of Otto von Wächter, which I needed to study. Let’s talk more, I said. “Of course”, Horst replied, “you will come back.

Otto von Wächter

Horst sent me a detailed account of his father’s life, with a passport-style photo of a smiling, handsome blond face, in a Nazi jacket. Otto von Wächter was born in Vienna in July 1901, lived in various parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire and enrolled at the law faculty at the University of Vienna in October 1919 (ironically enough, at the same time as Lauterpacht). He joined the Nazi party in 1923, graduated a year later and started to practise law. By the time Hitler took office in Germany in January 1933, Wächter had married Charlotte Bleckmann, joined the SS and worked as a lawyer for the Austrian Nazis. In 1934 he played a role in the assassination of Austrian chancellor Dollfuss and was forced into exile in Germany. He returned to Vienna on March 13 1938, the day after the Anschluss, and soon got a job working with his friend, the leading Austrian Nazi, Arthur Seyss-Inquart. This was Horst’s godfather – his middle name is Arthur – who gave his infant godson a copy of Mein Kampf. He was later hanged at Nuremberg.

In 1939 Wächter became Nazi governor of Krakow, working with Frank and Seyss-Inquart. In January 1942, Hitler appointed him governor of the recently conquered Galicia, describing him as “the best man” for the job (the same month that, in Berlin, the Wannsee Conference endorsed the “final solution”, largely to be carried out on Hans Frank’s Polish territory). Wächter remained in Lemberg until July 1944, a few days after receiving Himmler’s birthday book, when he left the city. Identified as a war criminal since 1942, he evaded capture, went into hiding in Rome, protected by the Austrian bishop Alois Hudal, and died there of kidney disease in July 1949.

I was interested in Wächter’s activities in August 1942, when he was head of the civilian government in Lemberg. He would have worked closely with the SS, policing the Jewish ghetto created a few months earlier. Over a period of 18 months, Wächter’s administration supported the deportation and murder of just about every Jew in the city and surrounding areas.

Regular “Aktions” against the Jewish population took place during 1942, with the most notorious of the round-ups in August, shortly after Frank visited to mark the anniversary of the conquest of Galicia. Just three months later The New York Times listed Wächter among the “unholy ten”, indicted as a war criminal by the Polish government-in-exile. According to the NYT his speciality was “the extermination of the Polish intelligentsia”.

Among the victims of the August 1942 Aktion was Hersch Lauterpacht’s entire family, with the exception of his niece Inka, who was 12 when Wächter arrived in the city. She gave me a first-hand account of how Lauterpacht’s family was taken by the Germans, aided by Ukrainian auxiliaries. Simon Wiesenthal claimed that Wächter was “personally in charge” in August 1942 when his mother was taken and sent to her death, although this account is challenged.

Those events continue to have consequences. In March 2007, a US district judge stripped one of the Ukrainian auxiliaries involved in the August 1942 Aktion of his US citizenship, having found John Kalymon to be directly involved in killing Jews. The judge relied on an expert report prepared by a German academic, and his report included references to Wächter. From this report I was directed to three documents held by the US Department of Justice that directly implicated Wächter in the events in Lemberg in 1942.

The conversation

My second conversation with Horst took place last December, in an office in the schloss that doubled as a bedroom. It lasted seven hours. We broke only for lunch and a short walk in the courtyard (the image it recalled was of Rudolf Hess, in Spandau prison). Snow and an arctic chill had descended on Haggenberg and the room was barely warmed by a great wood-burning stove, its white tiles blackened by decades of use. Horst installed himself in a large armchair. I sat opposite in a smaller wooden chair. On the other side of the room, above the bed, hung a portrait of his grandfather, a distinguished Austrian military figure. We were surrounded by pictures and maps including a 17th-century map of Krakow that Horst said his mother might have stolen from Poland.

Horst was born in April 1939, the second son and fourth of six children. He moved to Lemberg with his family in 1942, but has no recollection beyond memories jogged by photographs (and some home movies that seem to have been hidden or lost). During his childhood his father was mostly absent, and after the war, when Otto was in hiding, the family moved to Salzburg.

Horst’s mother Charlotte dominated the household. She wanted him to follow in his father’s footsteps, so he enrolled at the law faculty in Vienna, but never graduated. He joined the army, resumed his studies, and moved between short-term jobs. Eventually he was introduced to the Austrian artist Hundertwasser, working as his secretary from 1965, and later sailing his boat to New Zealand. Horst drifted around, married and divorced Jacqueline, and following his mother’s death in 1985 bought Haggenberg with the inheritance. He got back together with Jacqueline, and dreams about restoring the schloss.

He had few actual memories of his father, and fellow family members did not wish to engage on the subject. His nephew Otto, also a lawyer, had counselled against our conversation. The family silence has entrapped Horst. “They don’t want to know anything, if I mention my father”, he said. There was a sense of shame. “For them”, he quickly added, “not me”. All four of his sisters left Austria and their dominating mother, who had revered Wächter until her death.

The last time Horst saw his father was in 1948, around Christmas. He remembered a man with a moustache who visited at night, but recalled no conversation, or any real connection. This made his desire to rehabilitate Otto even more incomprehensible.

My whole life is dominated by him”, Horst offered. After the war the family was ostracised even in Salzburg, and this caused a great feeling of insecurity and led to a recurring question: “Was my father really a criminal ?” In the face of overwhelming evidence he was unable to confront the reality.

It was plain that Horst had developed various techniques to sanitise the facts. There was a distinction between Wächter and the system, between the individual and the group. “I know that the whole system was criminal”, Horst says, “and that he was part of it, but I don’t think he was a criminal. He didn’t act like a criminal.

The answer was bemusing, but I understood the reluctance. He was not alone in Austria. (After my first visit to Horst, I had collected my 15-year-old daughter at the airport, and in response to my inquiry as to which museum she might want to visit, she suggested the Museum of the Anschluss. There is of course no such place, and we made do with a single room at the small, private Third Man Museum – named after the classic film – which rather impressively tries to make up for the state’s unwillingness to confront its own past.)

The more I pushed, the more Horst insisted on varnished truth. Wächter was a father. He saved Jews. He had responsibilities to others. He followed orders and an oath (to Hitler). He had to provide for the family. He was an idealist. He was honourable. He believed the system could be improved. In a court these arguments would be hopeless. Yet Horst maintained that Wächter was “very much against the criminal system” even if hard put to offer any convincing examples.

Could his father have walked away from Lemberg and the murderous operations his administration oversaw ?

No, after 1934 he had no chance to leave it. He had an idealistic idea of a better system.

If there had been a chance to walk away in August 1942, before the “Great Aktion”, would he have taken it ?


There was no chance to leave the system”, Horst said quietly.

The US Justice Department documents said otherwise, and to these we turned. Horst had seen plenty of evidence tying his father to those times, but he had managed to find a way to rationalise the material, which was merely “unpleasant” or “tragic”. Now I showed him new material. He took each document and read it carefully, head lowered, eyes intent.

The first document was a note of a meeting held in Lemberg on January 10 1942, shortly before Wächter arrived in the city. It was entitled “Deportation of Jews from Lemberg”, ostensibly the removal of the economically unproductive to the countryside. The reality was a one-way trip to Belzec concentration camp and the gas chambers, in late March 1942. “If feasible, the term ‘resettlement’ is to be avoided”, the note said.

The second document was an order of March 13 1942, actually signed by Wächter. Intended to restrict the employment of Jews throughout Galicia, it was issued two days before the first ghetto operation (March 15), and took effect the day after the transfers to Belzec (April 1). It cut off access to the gentile world for working Jews, making them more vulnerable to later Aktions. Horst’s improbable reaction ? His father acted against the order, he employed Jews in his own household.

How did he feel reading his father’s signature on such a document, in black and white ?

He paused, then suggested that Wächter must have known what this would mean. “He was helplessly involved.

Helplessly ? He could have left, I said. Horst’s answer floored me.

He knew that if he left Lemberg, they would put some brutalists there, instead of him.

More brutal than killing every Jew ?

Horst is unable to offer an answer.

We proceeded to the third, devastating document. It was a short memorandum from Heinrich Himmler to Dr Stuckart, the Reich minister of the interior in Berlin, on Wächter’s future. It was dated August 25 1942, the last day of the Great Aktion that had begun on the 10th.

I recently was in Lemberg and had a very plain talk with the governor, SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Wächter. I openly asked him whether he wants to go to Vienna, because I would have considered it a mistake, while there, not to have asked this question that I am well aware of. Wächter does not want to go to Vienna.

Himmler had spoken with Wächter about his future career. What transpired was unclear, but Himmler offered him a chance to return to Vienna. This was declined, no doubt, as a career-killing move. Himmler ended with an additional thought :

It now remains to be seen how Wächter will conduct himself in the General government as Governor of Galicia, following our talk.

Wächter must have conducted himself well, as he finished the job and stayed on in Lemberg for two more years.

The context was important. Himmler met Wächter in Lemberg on August 17, and by the time he wrote to Stuckart the operation to remove 40,000 Jews to Belzec was under way. Among them were the parents and siblings of Hersch Lauterpacht and, apparently, Simon Wiesenthal’s mother. As civilian leader, Wächter supported the operation.

The document offered no ambiguity, or escape.

Horst stared at it, without expression. If his father stood before him, what would he say ?

I don’t really know”, Horst said. “It’s very difficult … Maybe I wouldn’t ask him anything at all.

A silence hung around the large, magnificent room. After a while it was punctured by Horst offering an exonerating thought : his father had simply been overwhelmed by the situation, by its inevitability and catastrophic proportion, by the orders and their immediacy.

Nothing was inevitable, I said. Not the signature, not the oversight. He could have left. There was another long silence, the sound of snow. Faced with such a document, could he still not condemn his father ? Was it love, or something else?

I cannot say I love my father”, Horst said. “I love my grandfather.” He looked towards the portrait of the old military man.

I have a responsibility for my father in some way, to see what really happened, to tell the truth, and to do what I can do for him.

He paused.

I have to find some positive aspect.

This family past had damaged him, he knew that, but it was his father’s “gift”. It had brought him to the schloss, he explained, which he hoped to restore. The gulf between that great project and the small, cold, uncomfortable space he occupied inside of himself seemed very great.

It was impossible to comprehend, yet I felt an unexpected sadness, not anger. By failing to condemn, was he not perpetuating the wrongs of the father ?

No”, he said bluntly. Yet friendly, warm, talkative Horst offered nothing more. He simply could not bring himself to condemn. It was the fault of Frank’s Government General, of the SS, of Himmler. But not of Otto von Wächter.

We had reached the end, and then he said :

I agree with you that he was completely in the system.

A crack.

Indirectly he was responsible for everything that happened in Lemberg.”

Indirectly ?

Horst was silent for the longest moment. I noticed his eyes were moist.


Philippe Sands is a writer and barrister who teaches international law at University College London. This article is drawn from research for a book on the origins of international crime, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Et maintenant, le second article :

Quand un fils ne peut admettre les crimes de son père


Dans le film Un héritage nazi, l’amour d’un fils est éprouvé par les preuves accablantes de la participation du père à des meurtres de masse

Par URIEL HEILMAN
2 mai 2015, 13:47


New York (JTA) – Difficile de ne pas s’émouvoir en regardant Un héritage nazi : Ce que nos pères ont fait.

Mais contrairement aux nombreux documentaires sur l’Holocauste, ces sentiments ne sont pas une immense tristesse, c’est plus de l’exaspération et de la colère.

Dans le film, dont la première aura lieu ce mois-ci au Tribeca Film Festival de New York, l’avocat juif britannique Philippe Sands raconte l’histoire de deux hommes, tous deux enfants de nazis de haut rang.

Niklas Frank est le fils de Hans Frank, avocat d’Hitler et gouverneur général de la Pologne occupée. Frank (le père) a été pendu en 1946 après avoir été reconnu coupable au procès de Nuremberg pour complicité dans l’assassinat de 3 millions de Juifs de Pologne.

Horst von Wächter est le fils d’Otto von Wächter, un Autrichien qui était gouverneur nazi de la Galicie, à Lemberg (aujourd’hui Lviv, Ukraine) et est mort en 1949, alors qu’il se cachait sous la protection du Vatican.

Frank, auteur et journaliste, est connu en Allemagne pour son best-seller controversé de 1987 Le Père : un règlement de comptes, qui détaille son dégoût pour l’homme qui devint célèbre sous le nom de « Boucher de Pologne ». Dans son portefeuille, Frank conserve une photo du cadavre de son père prise juste après sa pendaison.

En revanche, Wächter tient son propre père en haute estime, refusant de reconnaître son rôle dans l’assassinat de masse des Juifs, alors même que Sands lui présente des preuves de plus en plus claires et troublantes.

Sands, dont le grand-père Leon Buchholz vivait dans la zone commandée par Wächter et Frank, et qui a perdu la majorité de sa famille pendant l’Holocauste, raconte l’histoire de l’amour d’un fils pour son père qui entre en collision avec les faits immuables de l’Histoire.

Frank et Wächter – qui se connaissaient enfants et sont restés amis depuis – sont tous deux nés en 1939. Wächter décrit une enfance idyllique brisée par la défaite de l’Allemagne en 1945. Chez lui, il montre à Sands un album de photos de famille qui mêle des clichés de sorties en famille à des photos de son père et de ses collègues nazis – dont Heinrich Himmler, le commandant militaire SS. Sous une autre photo, il est griffonné « AH » – pour Adolf Hitler.

« J’étais transporté 70 ans en arrière, dans le cœur d’un régime épouvantable, mais Horst regardait ces images avec un œil différent du mien», raconte Sands. « Je vois un homme qui a probablement été responsable de la mort de dizaines de milliers de Juifs et de Polonais. Horst regarde les mêmes photographies et voit un père bien-aimé jouer avec des enfants et il pense à la vie de famille. »

En revanche, les souvenirs qu’a Frank de ses parents sont souvent amers. Leur mariage fut sans amour et son père voulait divorcer. Mais la mère de Frank a fait appel à Hitler, qui a interdit le divorce jusqu’après la guerre. Hans Frank a obéi.

Frank se rappelle avoir visité enfant le ghetto de Cracovie avec sa mère qui allait y « faire du shopping » de fourrures, parce qu’elle savait que les Juifs ne pouvaient refuser le prix qu’elle déciderait. Frank est impitoyable sur son père.

Le film entremêle des entretiens avec Frank et Wächter à des vidéos et des photos de la guerre. Certains des documents d’archives sont étonnants, y compris des images d’Hitler et d’autres dignitaires nazis. Sands se rend avec Frank à la cellule de Nuremberg où son père était détenu jusqu’à son exécution. Les trois hommes visitent les vestiges de la synagogue où la famille Sands a probablement passé son dernier Shabbat, avant que les nazis ne la réduise en poussière sous le commandement du père de Wachter.

Tout au long du film, Wächter ne peut se résoudre à reconnaître les crimes de son père, offrant une excuse après l’autre et en se fondant sur de vagues généralités pour réfuter la preuve de sa responsabilité dans la mort de dizaines de milliers de Juifs.

Pour nous, les faits sont irréfutables. Otto von Wächter a créé le ghetto juif de Lviv, alors Lemberg. Il a dirigé le transport qui a envoyé les Juifs dans des camps de concentration. Il a refusé l’offre de Himmler de retourner à Vienne, sa ville natale, choisissant de rester sur place et de faire consciencieusement son travail.

Pour Wächter, tout cela ne suffit pas à ébranler sa conviction que son père était un homme bon qui n’a joué qu’un petit rôle dans le régime nazi.

Plusieurs scènes charnières marquent le film. Dans chacune, tout est mis en œuvre pour que Wächter admette les crimes de son père. Dans l’une, une discussion entre Sands, Frank et Wächter, Wächter est pris à partie pour son admiration sans vergogne de son père. Wächter se tortille sur son siège, mais tient bon.


Dans une autre, les trois hommes visitent une salle, à Lviv, où le père de Frank a annoncé en 1942 la mise en œuvre de la Solution finale, félicitant le père de Wächter pour son travail. Un mois après ce discours, 75 000 Juifs locaux avaient été assassinés.

Dans une troisième scène, les trois hommes visitent le site d’une tuerie en Galicie, où environ 3 500 Juifs ont été fusillés par les nazis, dont les membres de la famille de Sands. Wächter erre, résistant obstinément à tous les efforts pour lui faire admettre la culpabilité de son père.

Le film a ses défauts. On ne nous dit pratiquement rien sur Frank et Wächter en dehors de la guerre, ce qu’ils font dans la vie, ou quoi que ce soit à propos de leurs conjoints ou enfants. Mais ces lacunes sont pardonnables.

Vers la fin du film, les trois hommes assistent à une cérémonie commémorative pour les nationalistes ukrainiens qui ont combattu les Soviétiques pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Ils parlent avec un homme d’âge moyen qui porte une croix gammée autour de son cou et leur dit qu’il est fier de l’action de sa division.

Puis ils rencontrent un vétéran de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Quand l’homme apprend qui était le père de Wächter, il serre la main du fils avec enthousiasme, lui disant que son père était un homme bien.

Wächter, affligé tout au long du film, semble enfin à l’aise. Et sourit.

Et enfin, un peu plus anecdotique, ce troisième article-ci :

Son of Nazi governor returns art stolen from Poland during second world war


Handover marks key moment in Poland’s long effort to regain its lost treasure, amid hopes other descendants of Nazi art thieves will follow example

Uki Goñi
Sun 26 Feb 2017 12.40 GMTFirst published on Sun 26 Feb 2017 10.00 GMT

In December 1939 a Viennese woman with chestnut brown hair walked triumphantly into the National Museum in Kraków.

Charlotte Wächter’s husband was the recently appointed Nazi governor of Kraków : SS Gruppenführer Otto Wächter ; she was decorating the new headquarters that he had established at the city’s Potocki Palace – and in the process, she looted every department of the museum.

According to a Polish government assessment from 1946, Frau Wächter took “the most exquisite paintings and the most beautiful items of antique furniture, militaria, etc, despite the fact that the director of the museum had warned her against taking masterpieces for this purpose”.

An estimated half a million art objects were plundered from Poland by the occupying Nazi and Soviet forces during the second world war.

Poland’s ministry of culture still keeps a vigilant watch for any that may turn up on the international art circuit. Unable to force their current holders to return them, Poland often finds itself having to buy the works at auction – sometimes from the descendants of those who stole them.

But Sunday marked a key moment in Poland’s decades-long effort to regain its looted treasure, one that hopefully will set an example for other descendants of Nazi art thieves.

Horst Wächter, the fourth of the SS general’s six children, has spent years trying to return a painting taken by his parents from the Potocki Palace. On Sunday, he attended a ceremony in Kraków at which three stolen works were returned to the Polish government.

This is probably the first time that the member of a family of one of the most important Nazi occupiers is giving back art that was stolen from Poland during the war”, said Ryszard Czarnecki, a vice-president of the European parliament and a member of the Polish Law and Justice party.

Wächter, 78, returned three works that his mother stole:  a painting of the Potocki Palace, a map of 17th-century Poland, and an engraving of Kraków during the Renaissance.

The small painting by countess Julia Potocka (1818-1895) depicts Artur Potocki bidding farewell from the balcony of the Potocki Palace to relatives who are departing in horse-drawn carriages burdened with heavy luggage.

My mother liked it very much” said Wächter. “The painting always hung in the rooms she inhabited. She took the painting out of the Potocki Palace – which was my father’s office – to Austria where she furnished the house we were living in during the war.

An attempt some years ago to return the painting to the Potocki family – the prominent Polish noble family whose Kraków residence Otto Wächter usurped during the war – did not go well.

The Potockis “did not want to have anything to do with me as the son of a Nazi”, said Wächter in an email from Schloss Haggenberg, the 17th-century castle where he resides in Austria.


About 68,000 Jews were expelled from Kraków in 1940 on the orders of Wächter, who the next year created the Kraków ghetto for the 15,000 Jews who remained. Killings under his orders continued when Hitler transferred him to become governor of Galicia in the Ukraine in 1942.

Seventy-five years later, the Wächter surname still rings alarm bells in Poland.

The delicate task of negotiating the return of the painting was finally taken on by Magdalena Ogórek, a Polish politician and historian who had conducted a series of interviews with Horst Wächter for a book she is writing about his father.

Ogórek had spotted the 17th-century map of Kraków in a photograph accompanying an article about Wächter in the Financial Times. When she asked Wächter about it, he admitted that his mother had stolen it, along with the other works.

I have to admit that I did not have to convince Horst to return it, he wanted to return it” says Ogórek, who also attended the handover ceremony on Sunday.

The hard part turned out to be convincing officials in Poland to negotiate with the son of such a notorious Nazi criminal. “Polish officials are reluctant to have contact with the children of Nazis, but I convinced them that our obligation was to do everything we could to return this painting to the city of Kraków.

Wächter says he returned the art works to honour the memory of his mother, who died in 1985. “I am not especially proud of my deeds,” he said. “I do not return the objects for me, but for the sake of my mother.

In a 2015 documentary My Nazi legacy, Wächter admitted to the British lawyer and author Philippe Sands that his mother was “proud” to be a Nazi. “She was convinced that my father was right and did the right things. She never spoke one word bad about him.”

Despite his clear-eyed approach to the looted artworks, Wächter maintains that his father was an unwilling cog in the Nazi killing machine, a position that has won him many critics. “My father became doomed and murdered for something he never planned and executed himself” Wächter said.

Otto Wächter died under mysterious circumstances in Rome in 1949 while waiting to escape to Argentina, where many other Nazis had already found safe refuge. He was administered the last rites by Austrian bishop Alois Hudal, one of the main churchmen involved in rescuing Nazis from Allied justice.

Ogórek believes Wächter may have been murdered in Rome. “I have discovered a Hudal document in the Vatican secret archives that shows he could have been poisoned”, says Ogórek.


Another question is how many other works of looted art might still be in the hands of families of other Nazi officers.

I hope that the return of this painting will encourage other families in possession of looted art to return them instead of trying to sell them at auction”, said Czarnecki.

As the son of a Nazi war criminal, it is perhaps unsurprising that Horst Wächter has a dim view of humanity, one which he says is confirmed by the rise of populist and racist movements across the Europe and the US.

In difficult times there have always been leaders who convince their followers that the others – all those different from them in culture, language or faith – were responsible for their troubles and that their community has to get rid of them. The Nazi period is definitely doomed to repeat itself.

A méditer…

Ce jeudi 29 mars 2018, Titus Curiosus – Francis Lippa

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