Oppenhoff, Franz.

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Oppenhoff, Franz.

Oppenhoff, Franz, born 18-08-1902 in Aachen,  received a law degree from Cologne University, and worked as a lawyer until World War II. Oppenhoff was an expert on Nazi law, had been legal representative for the Bishop of Aachen Coat of arms of the Diocese of Aachen, Johannes Joseph van der Velden , and had defended some cases for Jewish companies. Knowing that the Gestapo was interested in him, he had taken refuge in Eupen, across the border in Belgium, in September 1944, taking his wife and three daughters with him. Van der Velden died age 62 on 19-05-1954.

Following the occupation of Aachen after the Battle of Aachen, in October 1944, Allied officials wanted to appoint a non-Nazi to take over administration of the city. Assisted by the Bishop of Aachen, officials managed to make contact with a group of local business people, one of whom was willing to become the first German mayor under American rule. This was Franz Oppenhoff, who was then 42 years old.

  Franz Oppenhoff (far left) talking to American officers.

When Oppenhoff was sworn into office on 31-10-1944 no press photos were permitted and his name was not divulged, the reason being that he still had relatives in Nazi Germany who might be liable to reprisals from the Nazi regime  Also, earlier in October the SS newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps DasSchwarzeKorps1937.jpg, had written that there would be no German administration under the occupation because any official who collaborated with the enemy could count on being dead within a month.

Oppenhoff was considered a traitor and a collaborationist by the Nazi regime, and his assassination, codenamed Unternehmen Karneval (“Operation Carnival”), was ordered by Heinrich Himmler,   planned by SS Obergruppenführer Hans Adolf Prutzmann  ,  here with Himmler, and carried out by an assassination unit composed of four SS men and two members of the Hitler Youth . Shortly before the war ended, Prützmann was captured by the Allies. While in their custody, he ended his own life. Whether his suicide happened in Lüneburg, or as another account has it, at an interrogation camp at Camp 020 Interrogation Centre at Fort Diest is not quite clear, but it seems certain that the date of his death was 21-05-1945, age 43..

Camp 020 at Latchmere House in southwest London was a British interrogation centre for captured German agents during the Second World War. It was run by Lieutenant Colonel Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens

  Although other wartime interrogation centres were alleged to have used torture to extract confessions, Stephens denied claims that torture had been used at Camp 020. His instructions for interrogators ordered: “Never strike a man. In the first place it is an act of cowardice. In the second place, it is not intelligent. A prisoner will lie to avoid further punishment and everything he says thereafter will be based on a false premise.” By all accounts, Stephens was a hard man, but a professional one. He believed that the quick benefits an interrogator might gain through physical abuse were outweighed by the long-term consequences of those acts. The only way to induce a prisoner to give all the relevant information he knew, was to follow a strict rule of non-violence

The Schwarze Korps unit was commanded by SS Untersturmführer Herbert Wenzel, who was a training officer at Prützmann’s Werwolf training facility at Hülchrath Castle; Wenzel arranged the necessary equipment and decided on methods. Unterscharführer (Sergeant) Josef Leitgeb, also a training officer at Hülchrath, was second-in-command. IIlse Hirsch , 23-year-old, a Hauptgruppenführerin in the BDM (League of German Girls) BDM Untergauwimpel.svg was supposed to provide supplies but turned out to play an important part in the operation. Wenzel also picked a Werwolf   trainee from Hülchrath to accompany them, 16-year-old Erich Morgenschweiss. Two former members of the Border Patrol (Karl-Heinz Hennemann and Georg Heidorn) completed the team, to act as guides in the area around Aachen.

The unit parachuted from a captured B-17 bomber into a Belgian forest on 20-03-1945. They killed a Belgian border guard at the frontier, then moved on to set up camp near the target. Hirsch became separated from the rest and made her own way to Aachen, where she contacted a friend in the BDM and discovered Oppenhoff’s whereabouts.

The Belgium border guard was the 21 years old Jozef “Jeu” Salve.

Border guard Jozef Saive was talking to his girlfriend when he discovered the six. The border guards had been warned by the Americans about German saboteurs, so he asked his girlfriend to quickly get help. The girl ran as fast as she could to the Wolfhaag border office. Saive aimed his rifle at the six. This was immediately answered with a hail of bullets. Saive returned fire but was hit in the abdomen. Moments later, his colleagues rushed over. ‘They were about seven men. They were Germans and they fired from a submachine gun,’ Saive groaned. He appeared to be hit in his left knee, right side of the chest and groin. At 9 o’clock in the evening Jos Saive died of his wounds in the border office 20-03-1945, age 20.

Death and burial ground of Oppenhoff, Franz.

  Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Franz Oppenhoff The rest of the unit arrived in Aachen on March 25. Wenzel, Leitgeb and one other confronted Oppenhoff on his own doorstep after he had been fetched from a party at his neighbours’ house in the Eupener Strasse 251. They pretended to be German pilots who were looking for the German lines. Oppenhoff tried to persuade them to surrender. Wenzel hesitated, and Leitgeb shouted “Heil Hitler” and shot Oppenhoff in the head. Just before a US patrol arrived to check the telephone line which Wenzel had previously cut, the three assassins scattered. While making their escape from the city, Hirsch activated a landmine which injured her and killed Leitgeb. Hirsch died in 2000.

Following the war, the surviving members of the assassination squad, with the exception of Wenzel, were tracked down and arrested. At their trial in Aachen in October 1949, all were found guilty and sentenced to between one and four years in prison, and Ilse Hirsch plead guilty in the involvement of the attack on Oppenhoff, was  acquitted, founded a family in 1972 in Aachen and got two children, living close to the crime spot.. A monument was erected for Franz Oppenhoff in Aachen. The plaque at the monument is part of the project “Wege Gegen Das Vergessen” (Wegen against forgetting).

Franz Oppenhoff is buried with his wife Irmgard, born Nimax, who died age 92 in 2001, on the Ostfriedhof of Aachen.

The Dutch resistance man Josef Saive was a victim of the same group, member of the resistance belonging to the Dutch Home Forces.

The motto of the Werewolf organization was: Anyone who does not participate is against us. In 1947 the Kaiserallee in Aachen was renamed Oppenhoff-Allee. In October 1949 the Werewolf trial took place: In addition to members of the commando, direct backers were also charged. Initially, prison terms of between one and four years were imposed, and two defendants were acquitted. In two follow-up proceedings, the prison sentences are lessened and finally waived entirely (according to the Law on Exemption from Punishment of 1954) – due to a lack of orders.


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