Grimmer-Solem’s Work Sheds New Light on Nazi Officer

Kate CarlisleJanuary 11, 20142min
A German general celebrated as a man of moral conscience was involved in war crimes

The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel featured a story on recent work by Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem shedding  new light on a Nazi general currently honored as an anti-Nazi by the German Federal Armed Forces.

Hans von Sponeck  has been celebrated in the post-war era as an example of moral courage, defying orders under difficult circumstances. The general was imprisoned for his refusal to follow Adolf Hitler’s orders in December 1941, saving the lives of many thousands of his soldiers. He was later executed following the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944.

Von Sponeck came to embody the West German military’s ideal of an officer with moral conscience and courage, a concept known in the German military as “innere Fuhrung” or inner leadership, and intended to remedy the problem of blind obedience in the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich.

But Grimmer-Solem’s work, as reported by Der Spiegel, uncovered evidence that von Sponeck was involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity during the German invasion of the Ukraine in 1941.

The research was originally published in a German scholarly journal and can be read here.