A Distinguished Antifascist
2013/02/18

MUNICH
(Own report) - Following the scandal of awarding a prize in honor of the Nazi propagandist, Rudolf Vogel, a state-financed German foreign policy organization has announced, it would assess its own history. Its president, Gernot Erler (SPD) declared that there may be a "continuity of personnel" between Nazi organizations and the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft - SOG). In fact, influential Nazi personnel had participated in the founding of not only the SOG, but also of other German institutions involved in Southeast Europe. Years ago, high-ranking SOG officials had denied that Vogel had been involved in Nazi activities. Obviously, in full knowledge of West German media reports on Vogel's work for Nazi propaganda, the SOG's honorary president, for example, claimed that Vogel had been a "distinguished antifascist." He also said that Vogel had discovered "his devotion to Southeast Europe" while he was stationed in Thessaloniki, where, as is known today, he worked as a "consultant with special expertise" - at the time when 50,000 Jews were being deported. The Southeast Europe Association describes itself as "one of the important pillars of External Cultural Politics" for the German government.



The Rudolf Vogel Medal
The Southeast Europe Association announced it would assess its history, including the Nazi activities of its founders. This announcement follows a scandal that arose over its having awarded the "Rudolf Vogel Medal" for years. Since 1992, the medal has been awarded annually to journalists, who, according to the institution, have made a special contribution "to enhancing knowledge of Southeast Europe." Twenty persons have received this medal, including 18 employees or agents of German media (such as ARD, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Deutsche Welle). None of these recipients has objected to the award. The Suisse historian, Andreas Ernst, reporting out of Belgrade for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, was scheduled to receive the award February 9. He is the only candidate, who has initially refused acceptance of the "Rudolf Vogel Medal" [1] because of Vogel's earlier Nazi activities, of which all other recipients feign ignorance.

"Eliminating Jewish Influence"
Already in the first half of the 1950s, serious accusations had been raised about Rudolf Vogel's Nazi past. These appeared not in marginal publications that could have been ignored, but rather in the "Spiegel," one of West Germany's most influential magazines. A dispute had arisen over Bonn's official film promotion, in which Vogel was involved. In 1953, the "Spiegel" pointed out that Vogel had worked as a journalist making Nazi propaganda. On September 5, 1938, he described the Nazi party rally in Nuremberg as a source "of new élan and enthusiasm arising from the participants' common commitment, who converged from all districts of Germany."[2] Referring to the German invasion of Poland he wrote: "We (...) cannot do otherwise" than "go through thick and thin" with Adolf Hitler. One year later, the Spiegel caused another éclat, when it quoted Vogel's February 25, 1939 explanation of Nazi anti-Semitism: "Jewish influence in the world has always been synonymous with the free trade of Jewish bankers and wholesalers." "Since National Socialism's purposeful struggle against the Jewish claim to world domination," one can note a "development of trade policy matching the elimination of Jewish influence from many countries."[3]

Consultant with Special Expertise
At the time, the "Spiegel" articles had attracted broad attention. Today, there is even reason to suspect that Vogel had been involved in deporting the Jews from Thessaloniki to German extermination camps. Beginning in 1942, Vogel had been stationed in that city as an employee of the "Southeast Propaganda Section." In February 1943, the SS-Hauptsturmführer Alois Brunner arrived in Thessaloniki and, with the support of the German occupation officials with precise knowledge of the local situation, prepared the deportation of nearly 50,000 Jews. According to a recent report,[4] quoting from a file memo dated March 26, 1943, accessible in the National Archives, Vogel had been listed as a "consultant with special expertise" since March 1, of that year. A few days later, deportations began. Which "special expertise" the "consultant" Vogel had applied in Thessaloniki is not yet clear. Whether Vogel really did assist the Nazi mass criminal, Alois Brunner, in fleeing to Syria in the early 1950s is just as unclear. According to the above mentioned press report, this conclusion could be drawn from the files in the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg.[5]

Essential Influence
Rudolf Vogel made a career in the political establishment of the early Federal Republic of Germany. He was elected to the German parliament in 1949, where he represented the circumscription of Aalen until 1964. From 1949 to 1953, the former Nazi journalist was chairman of the parliamentary Committee for Press, Broadcasting and Film. In 1952, he, co-founded the Southeast Europe Association along with other Nazi personnel, who had also helped create other institutions involved in southeast Europe. (German-foreign-policy.com will report tomorrow.) In this function, Vogel played a quite prominent role. As long-time SOG president, Walter Althammer, wrote nearly thirty years ago in a brief résumé of Vogel's life and works, Vogel, from the very beginning, had "had an essential influence on the objectives of the organization" and "made more and more of an imprint" on the association, also as its president from 1959 - 1965. In his commemorative publication honoring Vogel's 80th birthday, published in 1986 in the "SOG's own publishing house" in Munich, Althammer explicitly expressed the hope that the jubilarian will "continue to support the Southeast Europe Association in word and deed."[6] His Nazi activities must have been known to his SOG colleagues, at the latest, since the 1953 and 1954 "Spiegel" articles.

Devotion to Southeast Europe
This can be - and not just indirectly - seen in the allusion made by the Swedish publicist and 2010 Rudolf Vogel Medal laureate, Richard Swartz that, to his question concerning Vogel's activities at the SOG, he received the answer: "he had been a prominent German journalist, whose field of interest had been Southeast Europe."[7] Vogel's journalistic activities were limited to the period preceding 1945. In the commemorative publication on Vogel, Walter Althammer, who, today, is still the honorary SOG president - obviously alluding to the "Spiegel" articles - mentioned that Vogel felt "even personally under attack," and pointed to the fact that the SOG co-founder had worked as a journalist during the Second World War in several occupied countries. "He could cultivate his devotion to Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean region" wrote Althammer, concerning that period in which Vogel was on mission in Thessaloniki and elsewhere. "He wrote many travelogues and became an expert on this interesting zone of Europe."[8] Althammer found it necessary to mention that Vogel, in his opinion, is "a distinguished anti-fascist."

Pillar of the Foreign Cultural Policy
The SOG describes itself as "a central institution in the area of political, scholarly and socio-cultural engagement with Southeast Europe" and has been "one of the important pillars of German foreign cultural policy" since its founding. The foreign ministry, which finances the SOG, alleges, that it has "never sought to influence the work of the association through finances."[9] Nevertheless, it has delegated a ministry representative to the SOG. The SOG's current president is former State Minister in the Foreign Ministry, Gernot Erler (SPD). Numerous German scholars, whose work revolves around Southeast Europe, are involved in the presidium of its advisory board, as well as, German foreign policy proxy organizations, such as the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IFA) and renowned major companies with business relations in Southeast Europe, for example the Deutsche Bank and Siemens.

[1] February 8, 2013, the Southeast Europe Association renamed the Rudolf Vogel Medal the "Journalist Award of the Southeast Europe Association." Andreas Ernst then accepted the award.
[2] Durch dick und dünn; Der Spiegel 33/1953
[3] Mit Freuden zugegriffen; Der Spiegel 28/1954
[4], [5] Durch dick und dünn mit Adolf Hitler; www.faz.net 12.02.2013
[6] Walter Althammer: Rudolf Vogel - ein Leben im Dienste internationaler Verständigung, in: Werner Gumpel, Roland Schönfeld (Hg.): Südosteuropa. Politik und Wirtschaft. Festschrift für Rudolf Vogel, München 1986, 7-13
[7] "Höchst peinlich, dass so etwas passiert ist"; www.faz.net 10.02.2013
[8] Walter Althammer: Rudolf Vogel - ein Leben im Dienste internationaler Verständigung, in: Werner Gumpel, Roland Schönfeld (Hg.): Südosteuropa. Politik und Wirtschaft. Festschrift für Rudolf Vogel, München 1986, 7-13
[9] Kein Nazi-Preis mehr; www.faz.net 09.02.2013
http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/58511