Remer Dies in Exile
War Hero Fled to Spain to Avoid 'Thought Crime' Imprisonment
by Mark Weber
Otto Ernst Remer -- a wartime German army officer who played a key role in putting down the July 1944 plot against Hitler, and an important postwar revisionist publicist -- died on October 4, 1997, at the age of 85. Since 1994 he had been living in exile in the Spanish resort of Marbella. In poor health for some months, he died of natural causes.
He is survived by his wife, Anneliese. At the time of his death, it was announced that his remains would be cremated, with the ashes to be buried later in Germany.
Born on August 18, 1912, Remer volunteered for service in the German army in 1930. During the Second World War, he served as a front-line officer in France, the Balkans and on the eastern front.
After promotion to Major and then Colonel, in 1944 he was chosen to command the "Grossdeutschland" guard regiment in Berlin. In this post, the 31-year-old officer played a historically pivotal role in putting down the attempt by a small circle of insurgent officers to kill Hitler and seize control of the government.
On the afternoon of July 20, 1944, General Paul von Hase, the military commander in Berlin and a leader in the anti-Hitler conspiracy, announced to Remer that Hitler was dead, that civil disorder had broken out, and that the army was assuming overall authority in Germany. Hase ordered Remer immediately to seal off key government buildings in central Berlin.
Hesitating to carry out this highly unusual order, Remer decided to contact Joseph Goebbels to confirm its validity. After telling the skeptical and uncertain Remer that Hitler was not dead, the propaganda minister and Berlin Gauleiter arranged for him to speak directly with the Führer by telephone at his military headquarters in East Prussia. (Although the bomb planted by conspiracy leader Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg during a conference had killed four officers, Hitler escaped with only minor injuries.)
"Major Remer, can you hear me, do you recognize my voice?," Hitler began. After explaining that an attempt on his life had failed, he gave Remer complete authority in Berlin to suppress the conspiracy. Remer and his men moved quickly to put down the revolt, which had been poorly planned and organized.
Five months later, Remer commanded the elite "Panzer Führer-Begleitbrigade" during the ill-fated "Battle of the Bulge" offensive. Following his promotion by Hitler on January 30, 1945, to the rank of Major General he was given command of tens of thousands of soldiers of the legendary "Panzer Führer-Begleitdivision." During the war's final months, he and his men fought off vastly superior Soviet forces, thereby rescuing hundreds of thousands of refugees who were fleeing the advancing Red troops.
Remer showed exemplary courage and valor in combat, and was wounded numerous times in battle. He was awarded some of the nation's most distinguished military decorations, including the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the German Cross in Gold, the Oak Leaves of the Iron Cross, the Golden Wounded Badge, and the Silver Close Combat badge.
At the end of the war he came into American captivity, and remained a prisoner of war until 1947. During this period, the American commander of a camp for German prisoners, First Infantry Division officer Stanley Samuelson, said of him: "Of the 87 German generals in this camp, General Remer is the only one whom I respect as courageous and honorable."
Remer played a leading role in the formation of the postwar "Socialist Reich Party," which, after winning 16 seats in a state parliament, was banned in 1952. Remer than lived in exile for several years in Egypt and Syria. He also wrote two books, including "Conspiracy and Treason Around Hitler" (Verschwörung und Verrat um Hitler), a memoir and study reviewed by H. Keith Thompson in the Spring 1988 Journal.
As a featured speaker at the Eighth (1987) Institute for Historical Review Conference, Remer spoke on "My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944." (His address was published in the Spring 1988 Journal, and is available on both audio CD and DVD video from the IHR.)
In October 1992 a German court in Schweinfurt sentenced him to 22 months imprisonment for "popular incitement" and "incitement to racial hatred" because of allegedly anti-Jewish "Holocaust denial" articles that had appeared in five issues of his tabloid newsletter, Remer Depesche. The judges in the case flatly refused to consider any of the extensive evidence presented by Remer's attorneys. (See the March-April 1993 Journal, pp. 29-30, and the May-June 1994 Journal, pp. 42-43.)
To avoid imprisonment, in February 1994 Remer sought exile in Spain. (See the July-August 1995 Journal, pp. 33-34.) German authorities sought his extradition, but Spain's highest court rejected these requests on the basis that Remer's "thought crime" was not illegal in Spain. Nevertheless, until the final weeks of his life, German authorities persisted in their efforts to extradite the dying octogenarian so that he could be imprisoned in Germany.
Many of the numerous newspaper reports that have appeared about Remer over the years have contained demonstrable falsehoods. For example, he has repeatedly, and inaccurately, been referred to as a former "SS man" or "SS officer." In fact, he was never even a National Socialist party member.
Newspapers also reported that Remer "denied the murder of Jews" or "declared that no Jews were murdered under the National Socialist regime." Actually, Remer pointed out, "I have never denied that Jews were killed during the Third Reich, but have only disputed the figures of Jews who died in Auschwitz and the alleged method of killing" (that is, in gas chambers).
In challenging the gassing claims, Remer cited the various forensic studies of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz, particularly the investigations carried out by German chemist Germar Rudolf and American gas chamber specialist Fred Leuchter.
The Remer case points up the strange and even perverse standards that prevail in Germany today. Although his "crime" was a non-violent expression of opinion, to dispute claims of mass gassings in wartime concentration camps is regarded in today's Germany as a criminal attack against all Jews, who enjoy a privileged status there.
More than half a century after the end of the Third Reich and the Second World War, Germans are ceaselessly exhorted to "never forget" the anti-Jewish measures of the Hitler era, to atone for what is called the most terrible crime in history, and to regard themselves as a nation of criminals and moral misfits. As a further expression of the country's "national masochism," the July 1944 conspirators are officially venerated, while outstanding wartime combat heroes and selfless patriots such as Remer are dishonored.
Particularly in Germany, the struggle on behalf of historical truth is not merely an academic question -- it is an issue of national survival.
If Germany were ever to find itself in another major war, it would be suicidal stupidity to cite as role models for its soldiers and officers the individuals who, at a time of national emergency, tried to assassinate the nation's leader and overthrow the government in a murderous putsch.
Every nation with a healthy survival instinct naturally venerates, particularly in time of war, individuals of exemplary self-sacrifice, patriotism, and heroism -- men of the caliber of Otto Ernst Remer.
From The Journal of Historical Review, January/February 1998 (Vol. 17, No. 1), page 7.