Wächter, Otto Gustav von.

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Wächter Otto Gustav von, born 08-07-1901, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the third child and only son of Joseph Freiherr von Wächter and Martha Pfob. His father had fought in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He rose to the rank of Generalmajor/SS Gruppenführer and was briefly defense minister in newly formed Austria..Wächter studied law in Vienna. In 1924 he received his diploma. During his studies, Wächter joined several nationalist groups, including the SA. He was also a successful rower and became Austrian champion in the coxed eight.

In 1929 he started working as a lawyer. He acted mainly as a defender of members of the NSDAP, of which he himself became a member in 1930. NSDAP Nr 301093 from 24-10-1930 and the SS, SS-Nr.: 235368  from 1935.

Wächter had a leading role during the July Putsch of 25-07-1934 in which Prime Minister Engelbert Dollfuss was assassinated. He escaped to Germany, where he went into military service. In 1935 he was stripped of his Austrian nationality. Instead, he became a German citizen. Wächter started working as a lawyer and was active in an organization to help refugees who had been forced to leave Austria because of their National Socialist background.

The day after the Anschluss on 12-03-1938, Wächter returned to Austria. He was State Commissioner under Governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart

 from May 1938 to April 1939. He was responsible for the removal of opponents of Nazism from the government apparatus. Many of his victims had Jewish backgrounds or were politically unreliable. Wächter was very consistent in his work. More than 15,000 people were fired or reprimanded because of him.

Some of the victims of the execution in Bochnia, of which Wächter was the principal. After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Government General was formed, headed by Govenor General Hans Frank

. His deputy was Seyss-Inquart until his departure to the Netherlands in May 1940. Seyss-Inquart had taken Wächter to Poland, where he was appointed Governor of the administrative district of Kraków (the Government General was divided into four districts).

As governor of Kraków, Wächter played an important role in the persecution of the Jews. Mass deportations were carried out from May 1940. Of the more than 68 thousand Jews in the city, 15 thousand were allowed to stay in a specially created ghetto, the rest were scattered around the area. In December 1939 he signed the execution order of 52 Poles in Bochnia who were shot for an attack on two German police officers.

After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the eastern part of the province of Galicia was annexed to the Government General. The capital was Lemberg, today known as Lviv. On Adolf Hitler‘s intercession, Wächter was appointed governor of the new district in January 1942. He succeeded Governor Karl Lasch.   Lasch was arrested on 24-01-1942 and imprisoned in Kraków. He was charged with corruption and financial fraud. He died on 01-06-1942, age 38, before the trial was over. The exact cause of death has never been made clear. He may have been shot on Heinrich Himmler’s orders, another option is that Lasch committed suicide.

Wächter’s first visit was to Andrij Aleksander Szeptycki, the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In this way he hoped to win the favor of the local population. Wächter regularly clashed with SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, the highest ranking soldier in the Government General. Krüger wanted to relocate a large part of the population. Wächter feared that this would lead to the collapse of production. SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger was taken prisoner of war by American troops and committed suicide on May 10-05-1945 in Gundertshausen, Austria, two days after his 51st birthday.

After the fall of Stalingrad in January 1943, Wächter received permission from Heinrich Himmler

  to form the SS Division Galicia, the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician), , under command of SS Gruppenführer Walter Schimana, consisting of Ukrainians who could take on the hated Bolsheviks under German supervision. Schimana was arrested by the Allies after the war and committed suicide while awaiting trial, on 12-09-1948 (aged 50).

After the capture of Galicia by the Red Army in July 1944, Wächter was transferred to Italy. He was put in charge of the military administration in northern Italy, where he collaborated with the puppet government of Benito Mussolini who led the Republic of Salò. In February 1945, Wächter was recalled to Berlin, where he found work at SS headquarters.

Death and burial ground of Wachter Otto Gustav von.

After the German surrender, Wächter hid for four years together with a young SS man in the Austrian mountains. Wächter’s wife provided food and equipment. In April 1949, Wächter left for Italy. From there he hoped to make the crossing to South America. He found shelter in the monastery Vigna Pia. in a suburb of Rome, where he stayed under the name Alfredo Reinhardt. Otto, in a letter to his wife Charlotte, describes it as ‘half ruin, half Roman bath, half prison, dirty but also romantic’. Wächter was in contact with Bishop Alois Hudal who had helped several high-ranking Nazis to flee. After the end of World War II, perhaps partly because of this, possibly in collaboration with Argentina and with money from the CIA, he created a rat line that helped prominent Nazi leaders to avoid criminal prosecution. Many took advantage of this opportunity and fled to South America. Hudal himself saw this escape aid to many wanted German soldiers, scientists and others as a humanitarian task and as a means to protect these persons from unfair “victors’ justice”. In 1947, by order of Pope Pius XII and after the intervention of Cardinal Siri Giuseppe, Hudal was suspended and his diplomatic Vatican passport was taken away. Hudal went to live in Grottaferrata, near Rome, where he had bought a villa with an inheritance from wealthy Austrian relatives, and died there in 1963. He defended his help to Nazi and other German leaders until the day of his death. end of the war; the Nuremberg Tribunal he called “victor’s justice” of the Allies and the Soviet “Bolsheviks”. Bishop Hudal died in Rome on 13-05-1963, age 77.

Watchmen often swam in the polluted Tiber. As a result, he became ill and died on 14-07-1949, probably of Leptospirosis. On his deathbed he admits that he was poisoned. Bishop Hudal administered the last rites to him.

Otto was buried in the section reserved for foreigners of German and Catholic descent, in Section 38 , Row 4 and grave 13, of the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome.

Wächter’s body was smuggled out of Italy by his wife Charlotte in 1960 and reburied in her own garden. Later he found his final resting place in the cemetery of Fieberbrunn, Austria.

Wächter and his wife Charlotte Bleckmann had six children.

His youngest son Horst, Horst comes from the Horst Wessellied, the Nazi party anthem, continued to defend his father in public for a long time. According to him, Wächter was a “good Nazi”. Wachter’s son Horst (left) refuses to believe that his father was evil. But despite his unwillingness to accept the truth he has an extraordinary friendship with Frank’s son Niklas (right) and Philippe Sands (centre), a British lawyer whose family died in the Holocaust

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