Roeder, Manfred, born 20-08-1900 in Kiel, was a military judge in Nazi Germany. Serving on the highest wartime court, he led the investigation and examinations and later the prosecution of the German Resistance group, the Red Orchestra. The Red Orchestra, Die Rote Kapelle or the Red Chapel as it was known in Germany, was the name given by the Gestapo to anti-Nazi resistance workers during World War II. These included friends of Harro Schulze-Boysen and Arvid Harnack in Berlin, as well as groups working independently of these intelligence groups, working in Paris and Brussels, that were built up on behalf of Leopold Trepper, the organizer of the Soviet spy ring, on behalf of the Soviet Main Directorate of State Security (GRU). Contrary to legend, the Red Orchestra was neither directed by Soviet communists nor under a single leadership but a network of groups and individuals. By name are known to date about 400 members. They printed illegal leaflets hoping to incite civil disobedience, helped Jews and opposition escape the regime, documented the crimes of the Nazi regime and forwarded intelligence to the Allies. To this day, the public perception of the “Red Orchestra” is characterized by the transfiguration of the post-war years and the Cold War. Heinz Harro Max Wilhelm Georg Schulze-Boysen was a German soldier who would become a leading figure in the Red Orchestra group in the German resistance to Nazism during World War II. He was arrested and executed on 22-12-1942, age 33..Leopold Trepper died in Jerusalem on 19-01-1982, age 77. His funeral was attended by the highest echelons of the Israeli army
Roeder shared responsibility for the dozens of death sentences handed down by the Reich court martial to Red Orchestra members. After Germany’s defeat in World War II, there were attempts by survivors, family and the U.S. Army to investigate the prosecutions of Red Orchestra members and others, but Roeder was never convicted of any malfeasance or crime because the Allies thought it more expedient to use his ‘expertise’ to hunt down the Red Orchestra members a second time than to mete out justice for victims of the Nazis; this time to aid the Western Allies with information about the Russians in the nascent cold war.
Mildred Elizabeth Fish was born in Milwaukee USA, in 1902. She met a German fellow student, Arvin Harnack , at the Universaty of Wisconsin in Madison, married him and moved to Germany, where she taught English literature. When Hitler seized power the two helped organize a group of anti-Nazis and became part of a large network of resistance groups, labeled the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle) by the Gestapo. Aside from sticker and leaflet actions, they also established radio contact with the allies, including the Soviets. On 7 September, Arvid and Mildred Harnack were arrested. Arvid Harnack was sentenced to death on 19 December after a four-day trial before the Reichskriegsgericht (“Reich Military Tribunal”), and was put to death three days later at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Infuriated about the diversity of the group, Hitler re-instated the death by hanging for them and secretly had the meat hooks installed at Plötzensee, which became publicly known only 2 1/2 years later during the July 20th executions. Harnack’s wife Mildred was originally given six years in prison, but Hitler swiftly cancelled the sentence and ordered a new trial, which pronounced the desired death sentence, on 16-02-1943, age 40. After execution, both of their bodies were released to Hermann Stieve, anatomy professor at Humboldt University, to be dissected for research. A cenotaph was installed for them after the war by Arvid’s brother Falk Harnack , a member of the White Rose resistance group, at Zehlendorf Cemetery, the location of their remains is unknown. Falk Harnack was married to German actress Käthe Braun , who was often in his films. He died on 03-09-1991 after a long illness, in Berlin. Kathe Braun died age 80, on 09-09-1994 in Berlin.
Roeder, the son of a Landgericht director from Kiel, served in World War I in the 83rd Field Artillery as a leutnant. He was later awarded an Iron Cross (2nd Class) for having been gassed. Following the war, Roeder joined the Freikorps and later went to university to pursue a law degree.
He became a judge in 1934 and soon after, was made a military judge in the legal services of the Luftwaffe in April 1935. Roeder was the original investigating Nazi attorney in the Red Orchestra case and he later became the prosecuting attorney.
Roeder was known to Hitler and Hermann Goering as one of the hardest and most loyal military judges; prisoners nicknamed him “Hitler’s blood judge”, a name also given to Roland Freisler.
On 15-09-1945, former Prussian Culture Minister Adolf Grimme, a friend of the executed Adam Kuckhoff and himself a former member of the Red Orchestra, filed a complaint against Roeder for perversion of justice in his role as investigating attorney and prosecutor of the case. A few months later, the U.S. Army began investigating the case of Mildred Harnack, an American citizen and wife of one of the Red Orchestra’s leading members. She had met and married Arvid Harnack in Wisconsin, then followed him back to Germany in 1929. They were both arrested in connection with the Red Orchestra and accused by the Nazis of being spies for the Soviet Union.
The U.S. Army War Crimes Group began investigating Mildred Harnack’s case for denial of due process in February 1946. Though her arrest had been kept secret and she had been denied the right to hear or confront her accusers and the U.S. Army determined that she and her husband had been tortured, in November 1946, the War Crimes Group determined her case had been properly handled. On 15-01-1947, with the cold war in full swing and Mildred Harnack’s CIC file stamped “SECRET” (see photo), the case was closed with the note that it “should not have been referred for investigation” and ordering the office to halt its investigation.
In 1951, the case being pursued in the German legal system was similarly halted by the state’s attorney in Lüneburg for lack of reasonable suspicion. The final report came to the conclusion that the trials before the Reich court martial were not objectionable and the accused were rightly sentenced to death, since in every age treason has been treated as the “most ignominious crime” and the participants in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler were driven in broad measure by treason and espionage. During the early 1950s Roeder unabashedly continued his public attacks on, and defamation of, the surviving members of the ‘Rote Kapelle’. He cited the cost of their ‘treason’ in terms of German military losses while glossing over the millions of deaths caused by the Nazi regime he himself was still defending.
Adolf Grimme, Günther Weisenborn, and particularly Greta Kuckhoff, tried to file a lawsuit against Roeder for “crimes against humanity” for having used torture, but the case was delayed by the state’s attorney in Lüneburg until the end of the 1960s, at which point it was closed and dropped. No case was never brought against Roeder to determine if his method of using torture to obtain information or the sentences he pursued in court constituted crimes.
Death and burial ground of Roeder, Manfred.
After the war, Roeder was a visible and active member of the CDU, serving in a number of capacities, including deputy mayor in his community, Glashütten, in Taunus.
Manfred Roeder died 18-10-1971, age 71 in Glashütten and is buried on the local cemetery.