They’re old and their world is fading, but for old Nazis still running from justice, someone is out there to help them.
“Stille Hilfe” – or “Silent Aid” – has existed since 1951, helping accused Nazi war criminals find refuge, avoid extradition, get a lawyer or pay for an old age home. Its figurehead is 81-year-old Gudrun Burwitz, daughter of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuehrer of the SS, who co-ordinated the extermination of European Jewry. Burwitz, reportedly a die-hard National Socialist, lives today outside Munich.
According to news reports, the organisation has recently been helping Klaas Carel Faber, 89, avoid extradition from Holland to stand trial for war crimes in Germany.
The group is also assisting former Danish SS officer Soren Kamm, now a German citizen, who is wanted in his the country of his birth.
However, no one knows the exact extent of the help offered by Stille Hilfe, said Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. “They have helped people like Anton Malloth, a supervisor at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, get into a fancy old age home. And they helped with legal fees for the defence of SS labour camp commander Josef Schwammberger.”
The group is “symbolically important, but what their impact is, is hard to say,” he added.
Burwitz is secretive – like the organisation itself. She told the Daily Mail: “I never talk about my work… I just do what I can when I can.” Reportedly, she also recently turned away a Dutch TV team, who managed to capture her on film but were unable to get a statement.
“Stille Hilfe is very quiet about what it does,” said Thomas Walter, a German investigator of Nazi war crimes. “The name is fitting.”
Mr Walter, a key witness for the prosecution in the recent trial of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk in Munich, said it is highly unlikely that any money from Stille Hilfe went towards the defence in that case.
But the organisation did provide some support money to the Demjanjuk family during his trial in Israel in the 1980s, said Michael Quelle, a German educator and activist who successfully campaigned in the 1990s to have Stille Hilfe’s tax-free charitable status removed.
Stille Hilfe is mainly active in assisting old Nazis, but it does also extend a hand to younger ones, according to Andrea Roepke, co-author of Silent Aid for Nazi Comrades.
Nowadays, the job of supporting young Nazis is being done by ultra-nationalist groups such as the Help Organisation for Nationalist Political Prisoners and their Families, which provides financial assistance to those who are on trial or in prison, Mr Quelle said.