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 , 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.
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 , 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 , 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 in Belgium is not quite clear, but it seems certain that the date of his death was 21-05-1945, age 43..
The 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) 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.
Death and burial ground of Oppenhoff, Franz.
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.
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..
Franz Oppenhoff is buried with his wife Irmgard, born Nimax, who died age 92 in 2001, on the Hauptfriedhof of Aachen.