Klaus Konrad

Politician on trial for war crimes


Klaus Konrad, politician: born Berlin 22 December 1914; married (three children); died Scharbeutz, Germany 17 August 2006.

As the Germans retreated in Italy after the collapse of the Fascist regime in 1943, they were harried by Italian partisans. The Germans and the local Fascists struck back, often killing indiscriminately. In one such incident, in July 1944, Klaus Konrad, lieutenant of the 274th infantry regiment of the German army, was one of three officers in charge of a unit ordered to free 19 German soldiers who had been captured by partisans.

His unit was engaged in a heavy firefight near the village of Pietramala, in Tuscany. The villagers were taken to the nearby village of San Polo, where six suspected partisans were shot instantly. After several hours of interrogation and torture, 48 men were killed. At the time, British military investigators found that 16 of the victims had been buried alive. Bodies were blown up in an attempt to hide the evidence of torture. According to one report, the dead included children and women, one of whom was pregnant.

In post-war Germany, Konrad built up a successful legal and political career, serving as a member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, from 1969 to 1980. When he became the subject of war-crimes investigations, his case was all the more shocking because he had appeared to be the epitome of the honest German army (not SS) officer and later left-of-centre SPD politician, and was an associate of the Chancellor, Willy Brandt. His colleagues found it difficult to believe the accusations against him. Others thought it was time to end the war-crimes investigations, especially against soldiers who were acting under orders and fighting against irregulars.

Born in Berlin in 1914, Konrad studied Law and Politics there. Apparently, he applied to join the Nazi party (the NSDAP), but did not follow it up. He qualified as a lawyer in 1941 and was appointed to a post within the state legal service in the following year. In early 1945, as a lieutenant of the reserve and regiment's adjutant, he was wounded.

After the Second World War, he worked as a labourer, and later resumed his legal career in Eutin, Schleswig-Holstein. It was a state in which many former Nazis sought, and found, sanctuary. Konrad joined the SPD, then the largest party there, in 1949, and was rewarded with election to the regional - Land - parliament of Schleswig-Holstein, in which he served from 1962 to 1969.

In the decisive federal election of 1969, which resulted in the narrow victory of Brandt's SPD, Konrad entered the federal parliament and was appointed SPD spokesman of environmental affairs. For some time he was one of Brandt's legal advisers. He was awarded the order of merit first class of the Federal Republic. By that time, rumours and doubts about his past had surfaced.

In 1969, the Giessen state prosecution service had started to examine the case against seven soldiers, including Konrad, and continued with it until 1972. (Giessen was responsible, because their commander lived within Giessen's area of jurisdiction.) The prosecutors concluded that this was not a crime of murder but merely manslaughter ("Totschlag") and that, by then, under German law, it was no longer prosecutable as it came under a statute of limitations. Konrad seemed to be in the clear.

But the massacre was not forgotten in Italy. A box containing 700 documents relating to the massacre, which had gone missing in the Italian military court in Rome, probably for political reasons, resurfaced in the 1990s. In 2004, the Italian military prosecutor's office in La Spezia took up the case against Konrad.

He resigned from various honorary positions he held in the SPD. In a German television interview in 2004, he admitted to having been present when the civilians were tortured. He expressed regret for the killings, but said he had done so "erst, seit die Italiener mich am Kanthaken haben" - "only since the Italians have got me by the scruff of the neck".

The trial against Konrad for war crimes opened in Italy on 22 March, although he did not attend. He was suspended from his SPD membership in the same month.

David Childs

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup