§ 2.33 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a German war criminal by the name of Wielen has recently been released; what was his crime and original sentence; how much of it he has served and what were the reasons for his release and whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been drawn to the speeches made at a gathering of ex-Nazis at Werden recently.]
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, Max Wielen, who is 69 and in bad health, was recently released from Werl Prison in the British Zone. He was tried on the charge of being concerned in the killing of Allied officers who had escaped from the prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III, and sentenced to life imprisonment. This sentence was subsequently reduced to one of fifteen years. He was released as an act of clemency after having served 7½ years, which, allowing for remission for good conduct, isthe equivalent of an 11-year sentence. Wielen was a regular police officer in charge of the district where the escapes took place. He was convicted of participation in the general conspiracy but not in any of the murders. All the other seventeen accused were, unlike Wielen, members of the Gestapo. They were found guilty on particular charges and fourteen of them were sentenced to death.
156 The second part of the question has nothing to do with the first; but I will answer it on its merits. The speeches at Werden were delivered at a reunion of an organisation of former members of the Waffen S.S., the published aims of which are not in themselves objectionable. An objectionable speech was made by the former General Ramcke. He was not himself a member of the Waffen S.S. and was a guest speaker at the meeting. The organisers of the meeting publicly dissociated themselves from his remarks, which have also been strongly condemned by the German Federal Chancellor and by the German Press of all shades of political opinion. The German authorities are well aware that Her Majesty's Government strongly deplore speeches of this kind, which undermine confidence in the honesty of Germany's intentions and her reliability as a European partner.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, whilst thanking the noble Earl for his answer, which puts the reason for the Question in rather a different light, may I ask this further question? I have referred to this fellow Wielen, but from time to time other German war criminals have been released. Can the noble Earl say what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to these people? Are we to continue to let them loose? Is it done as an act of appeasement to certain sections of opinion in Germany? There was no more ghastly crime than the murder of those R.A.F. officers from Stalag Luft III. I am sure that other noble Lords in this House must remember, far better than I do, the circumstances of the crime. Is it not an awful thing to let this fellow loose when he has served only half his sentence for that horrible crime? With regard to the speeches made at Werden, I do not know whether the action taken by the Germans to repudiate that speech encourages the noble Earl to think the leopard has changed his spots. But I do not.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Earl has asked what is the general policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to war criminals. Each case will be judged purely on its merits. The noble Earl really wishes to know the manner in which clemency will be exercised. In that connection, I am afraid I must say that, by its nature, clemency is very difficult to define, and in this respect I would refer 157 the noble Earl to the words of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place. My right honourable friend said:These cases are only sent forward by the High Commissioner when there is a prima facie case. They are examined by legal officials there, and again by legal officials here, who give me advice. I do my best in each of these cases to arrive at a just conclusion, and I really do not think that I can be asked what my reasons are in a particular case.May I add a word in regard to the second part of the Question? The noble Earl is aware that my noble friend Lord Reading last week made a fairly full statement of the views of Her Majesty's Government, which I think covers fully the point the noble Earl has raised.