Die Entdeckung des Befehls zur Liquidierung Elsers

Befragung von Sigismund Payne Best 1951 durch das Landgericht München II

Der sogenannte "Liqidierungsbefehl", in dem am 5. April 1945 die heimliche Ermordung Georg Elsers angeordnet wurde, ist eine der wichtigsten Quellen der Georg-Elser-Forschung. Wie wurde dieses Dokument entdeckt?


VON PETER KOBLANK (2006)

Am 31.8.1951 befragte Landgerichtsrat Dr. Nikolaus Naaff, Untersuchungsrichter beim Landgericht München II, den ehemaligen Agenten des britischen Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) Captain Sigismund Payne Best zum Fall Stiller. Das Landgericht untersuchte bereits seit 1950 die Umstände, unter denen Georg Elser im KZ Dachau ums Leben gekommen war.

Die schriftlichen Antworten Bests deckten sich weitestgehend mit seinen diesbezüglichen Ausführungen in seinen 1950 erschienenen Memoiren The Venlo Incident. Erstmals bekannt wurde durch Bests Antwort auf Landgerichtsrat Naaffs Frage Nr. 8, wie der Geheimbefehl zur Liquidierung Elsers von Best Anfang Mai 1945 in Südtirol entdeckt wurde:

Am 25. April 1945 wurden, nachdem die Amerikaner immer näher rückten, über hundertdreißig Sonderhäftlinge aus dem KZ Dachau evakuiert. In Begleitung von SS-Bewachern unter Leitung der SS-Offiziere Stiller und Bader, die den Auftrag hatten, die Gefangenen im Zweifelsfall zu liquidieren, brachen sie mit Bussen und Lastwagen zu einer dramatischen Odyssee auf. Über Innsbruck und den Brenner kamen sie schließlich nach Niederdorf im Pustertal, wo sie Ende April mit Unterstützung von Wehrmachtssoldaten ihre SS-Bewacher dazu bringen konnten, aufzugeben.

Nach Bests in Beantwortung von Frage Nr. 8 erläutert, erhielt er den Liquidierungsbefehl am 2. oder 3. Mai 1945 in Südtirol im Prags Wildbad Hotel bei Niederdorf durch einen Zufall:

Ein großer SS-Mann aus Stillers Wachmannschaft mit einer Lederjacke, vermutlich ein Fahrer, kam zu Best mit einem unordentlichen Papierbündel und sagte: "Obersturmführer Stiller verbrennt gerade alle Papiere, die er bei sich hat. Ich habe die hier in meine Tasche gesteckt, als er nicht aufpasste. Vielleicht sind sie für Sie interessant." Der Mann führte aus, in Wirklichkeit Wehrmachtsangehöriger zu sein. Man habe ihn nach der Entlassung aus dem Krankenhaus in die SS gezwungen. Er zeigte zum Beweis sein Soldbuch und bat darum, sich der Wehrmachtseinheit anschließen zu dürfen, die die inzwischen aus den Händen der SS-Mannschaft befreiten Sonderhäftlinge beschützte.

Als Best die Papiere untersuchte, stellte er fest, dass die meisten reine Routinebefehle waren. Es war jedoch ein Umschlag dabei, der wie folgt beschriftet war: "Nur von SS U.Stuf. Edgar Stiller oder einer von ihm bevollmächtigten Person zu öffnen. Ungeöffnet zu vernichten, falls U.Stuf. Stiller tot ist." In diesem Umschlag steckte der Schnellbrief, in dem u.a. die Liquidierung Georg Elsers angeordnet wurde.

Konkreter Anlass für die Befragung von Best: SS-Oberscharführer Edgar Stiller. Stiller wurde am 25.1.1904 in Hermannseifen geboren und bis 1938 als Polizeibeamter in Wien-Mödling tätig. Er kam am 1.1.1941 nach Dachau, wo er ab Herbst 1943 für die Betreuung der Sonderhäftlinge zuständig war. Diese bestätigten ihm nach dem Krieg eine überaus korrekte Behandlung. Niemals habe er Häftlinge misshandelt. Stiller transportierte kurz vor Kriegsende über 130 Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge mit einem SS-Kommando von Dachau nach Südtirol. Nach dem Krieg musste er eine fünfjährige Gefängnisstrafe in Landsberg verbüßen. 1951 saß er in München erneut in Untersuchungshaft, diesmal wegen Beihilfe zum Mord an Georg Elser.

Hier das vom Münchener Gericht ins Englische übersetzte 3-seitige Schreiben an Best im Original (Zum Vergrößern auf die Abbildungen klicken) und Abschrift sowie die beigefügte Kopie des "Schnellbriefs", der die Liquidierung Elsers anwies:

Zum Vergrößern klicken Zum Vergrößern klicken Zum Vergrößern klicken Zum Vergrößern klicken Zum Vergrößern klicken

Translation:

File No. 1 Js Gen 106/50 Munich 35, 31st August 1951
Palace of Justice
Prielmayerstrasse 5, room 476/I
Phone 58521, Ext. 216

Der Untersuchungsrichter
bei dem Landgericht München II

Subject: Edgar Stiller for Accessory to Murder

An Captain S. Payne Best
Gidleigh Park Bungalow
Chagford, Devon.
England.

Your Honour,

As the committing Magistrate with the "Landgericht München II" Court I am conducting the investigations against Defendant Edgar Stiller for accessory to murder.

The basis for this proceedings are the following facts:

In April 1945 - the exact date has not as yet been established - the "Sonderhäftling" (special prisoner) Georg Elser was shot in the Dachau Concentration Camp. The execution was effected on the basis of an order which was contained in the letter, dated 5 April 1945, signed by SS Obergruppenführer Müller of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt Berlin.

Said letter (special delivery) was addressed to Defendant Stiller, whose name appeared on the envelope, the front side of which showed the following notice:

"May be opened only by SS U.Stuf. Edgar Stiller
or by such person commissioned by him.
Must be destroyed unopened in case of U.Stuf.
Stiller's death."

Defendant Stiller, to whom said letter was allegedly delivered by Wilhelm Gogalla, has allegedly turned over same to the camp chief SS-Obersturmbannfiihrer Weiter, who, in turn, initiated the execution of Elser.

Georg Elser was the sole person who committed the [Rest der Seite fehlt]



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where he was detained, strictly separated from other inmates.

I herewith apply to you, Your Honour, and ask you to answer the following questions, which could clarify the facts of this matter, since I know from your book that you are well acquainted with said incidents.

In this connection I should like to request your answering my questions in such way that same could serve as a basis for a possible interrogation by an English judge.

In the interest of justice I further request you to answer my questions very conscientiously and to return same as soon as possible, as the Defendant Stiller is in pre-trial detention and to save time I postponed an interrogation of your person by an English judge. Stiller was recently released after having served a term of five years in the Landsberg prison and now he was again detained on the basis of my warrant of arrest.

Now follow my questions I invite you to answer same to the best of your knowledge and belief:

1.  At what time were you brought to the Dachau Concentration Camp?

2. Where have you been housed in the Dachau Concentration Camp? (If possible give exact local conditions together with a sketch).

3. When did you get acquainted with Defendant Stiller? Did you frequent him often and what kind of a function did Stiller have in the Camp?

4. What kind of person (character) was Stiller? Have you seen or heard that he mistreated prisoners and participated in executions (whiping, hanging on a tree, shooting, hanging to death)? (In such cases please give exact details as to individual incidents together with time, location, name of victims, the way of executing the offence, its consequences, and names of further participants.

5. Did you know "Sonderhäftling" Georg Elser? (When, where, and under what circumstances did you make his acquaintance?)

6. Where was Elser detained.

7. When, where, and by whom was Elser executed (shot), and what details do you know about this, by own knowledge or by hearsay? Who did tell you anything about this matter? Or whom do you know capable of giving pertinent information (kindly state name and address, if possible)?

8. How did you come into possession of the above designated letter (Schnellbrief) dated 5 April 1945, together with the envelope and with the above address? (Kindly give



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exact information on this matter, especially about the fact, whether you found, said "Schnellbrief" on the person of Defendant Stiller or on another person, if so state name of such person.

9.Do you positively know whether said "Schnellbrief" dated 5 April 1945 was in the envelope which showed the above designated notice concerning authorization to open sane and various imprints "Geheime Reichssache" (highly confidential), or did the envelope have any other contents, especially private notes of Defendant Stiller, or, among others, copy of a declaration concerning Stiller's personal responsibility for the "Sonderhäftlinge"?

10.   Was the envelope sealed or opened at the time when it came into your hands.

11. Did said envelope contain only said "Schnellbrief" dated 5 April 1945, or any other papers.

12. When (exact date), and where did you come into possession of said "Schnellbrief" and said envelope? Under what circumstances did this occur (kindly give all details)?

Inasmuch as you are the only witness available in this case I again request you to give the respective answers very exactly and carefully. As already stated Defendant Stiller is being held in pre-trial confinement, and I, therefore, have to apply to you in this matter in order to save time.

Der Untersuchungsrichter
beim Landgericht München II
Dr. Nikolaus Naaff
Landgerichtsrat
München, Justizgebäude an der Prielmayerstr. 5
Zimmer 476/I.




Sigismund Payne Best antwortete dem Gericht am 7.9.1951 mit einem Anschreiben und einem 4-seitigen Anhang mit den Antworten zu dem Fragenkatalog. Hier das in englischer Sprache verfasste 5-seitige Schreiben im Original (Zum Vergrößern auf die Abbildungen klicken) und Abschrift:

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7th September 1951

Der Untersuchungsrichter
bei dem Landgericht München II
München, Justizpalast
Prielmayerstrasse, 5

 




Your ref: File No.l Js Gen 106/50

Sir,

I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 31st August.

May I start by saying how extremely sorry I am to hear that this unfortunate man, Edgar Stiller, after serving a five years sentence at Landsberg, has again been arrested and now faces prosecution in connection with the death, or execution of Georg Elser. I am particularly grieved that this fresh charge against him should have arisen from my chance possession of the letter and envelope which form its basis. I wish therefore to say that I have no personal animus against Edgar Stiller who, in my experience always behaved quite decently and who certainly showed no slightest sign of cruelty in his behaviour. He was just an unimportant subaltern snatched up in the Nazi machine under circumstances when his life and liberty depended on unquestioning obedience to orders. Even if Stiller knew of Georg Elser's end and even if he gave orders for his execution and was present when these were carried out, it was not he who committed murder but the man who signed the order and whose liberty is concealed by illegibility.

I have from the very first been bitterly opposed to the whole policy of War Crimes trials which served to convince no one of the guilt of the defendants and merely engendered feelings of bitterness which will probably increase rather than decrease as time goes on. It is easy to assume now that a general popular revolt leading to the disobedience to orders which resulted in the acts which have been stigmatised as War Crimes was theoretically possible, but anyone who has any real understanding of the conditions in Germany under Nazi rule must know that the very idea is an absurdity.

Nothing that Stiller could have done would have saved Elser's life; it is indeed most doubtful if even the camp commandant could have done so. At Dachau at the time, the Gestapo machine was still running its course and, there was still an automatic adherence to the bonds of discipline. When, however the group of prisoners of which I was one reached the South Tirol, and Stiller felt himself out of reach of his immediate superiors he did display his wish to save our lives and when the agreement was reached that he should hand over his command to me he kept his word and did everything that he could to help. It is therefore my sincere hope that, since it will certainly be impossible to prove Stiller's active participation in the murder of Georg Elser he may be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to return to life as a free man. My answers to your questions are attached and I shall of course always be ready to give you any additional information.

I am Sir, Your obedient Servant



To the Untersuchungsrichter
Langsgericht München II

Answers to questionnaire contained in letter File No. 1. Js. Gen. 106/50
re EDGAR STILLER dated 31st August 1951

1.   Question: At what time were you brought to the Dachau Concentration Camp?

Answer:In the late evening of 9th April 1945.

2.   Question:Where have you been housed in the Dachau Concentration Camp?

Answer:In a long single-storey building which was always referred to as the "Sonderbau" until the afternoon of 21st April when I was moved to a wooden barracks in the camp which had previously been used as the camp brothel where I stayed until the evening of 27th April.

3.   Question:When did you get acquainted with Defendant Stiller? Did you frequent him often and what kind of a function did Stiller have in the Camp?

Answer:To the best of my recollection I met Stiller first on the morning of 10th April when he addressed the assembled members of the group of prisoners with whom I had arrived at Dachau on the previous evening and gave instructions regarding our use of the garden for exercise. He told us that, although we could associate with any other prisoners who came for exercise to this garden we were on no circumstances allowed to speak to any prisoner not belonging to our group we might chance to meet elsewhere in the building.
Except when he was away from the camp, Stiller paid us a visit every day whilst I was in the 'Sonderbau' and I always made a point of talking to him with the object of inducing him to assist us.
I have no knowledge as to what Stiller's exact function was at the Dachau Concentration Camp except that he appeared to be in charge of the 'Sonderbau' and all people imprisoned there.

4.   Question:What kind of person (character) was Stiller? Have you seen or heard that he mistreated prisoners and participated in executions?

Answer:My assessment of Stiller's character was, that he was a naturally kind-hearted and easy-going man but extremely weak and irresolute. I should think it most improbable that he had any inclination towards cruelty and on the contrary believe that he had real sympathy for the prisoners in his charge and was ready to do what lay in his power to be of service to them. I should think too, that he greatly disliked his duties and the fact that he had been posted to Dachau. He was, however, an SS Führer and subject to the merciless discipline of the corps; his life depended on his obedience to orders.
I have no information about the second part of the question.



Landesgericht München II
Questionnaire re Edgar Stiller Page 2.

5.   Question: Did you know "Sonderhäftling" Georg Elser?

Answer:Although Georg Elser occupied cell No. 13 in the 'Zellenbau' at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where I also was imprisoned for a period of about four years I only set eyes on him once when, escaping his guards, he rushed into the 'Waschraum' at the above mentioned Zellenbau where I was taking a shower. He was only there for a second or two before my guards handed him over to his guards who were at his heels.
For about two years I carried out an intermittent correspondence (Kasibas) with Elser whilst I received many personal details about his mode of life and his character from my guards. He was always described as a 'Todeskandidat' and from his letters it was quite clear that he knew that he was under sentence of death.

6.   Question:Where was Elser detained?

Answer:According to information given to me in his letters he was from 9th November 1939 to January or February 1941 detained in a room in the attics of Gestapo Headquarters in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse at Berlin.
From January or February 1941 he occupied cell No. 13 (this was in reality three cells, Nos. 11, 12 & 13 which had been knocked into one so as to accommodate Elser's carpenter workshop).
At the end of 1944 or very beginning of 1945 Elser left the Sachsenhausen camp and according to information given to me by other prisoners there, he was brought to the 'Sonderbau' at Dachau.

7.   Question:When, where, and by whom was Elser executed (shot), and what details do you know about this, by own knowledge or by hearsay?

Answer:On my arrival at the 'Sonderbau' at Dachau on the evening of 9th April 1945 almost the first person I saw there was the Kalfakter PAUL WOUWER whom I had known when in 1940 or 1941 he had been the barber at the Zellenbau in Sachsenhausen. He said to me as soon as we met 'Der kleine Georges (Elser was always referred to in this way at Sachsenhausen) war auch hier. Mann hat ihn soeben weggeholt und erschossen'. I thought at the time and still believe this to be true that Elser was shot in the evening of 9th April during the time between our arrival at Dachau and our entry into the Sonderbau. Later, I heard more about Elser's death from Paul Wouwer and from another Kalfakter, Wilhelm Visintainer and the impression which these conversations left is summarized at the bottom of Page 205 of my book 'The Venlo Incident'. I would here like to point out that the fact that Elser was taken away by Stiller does not necessarily imply that the latter was actually present at his execution and it is quite possible that his part in the matter was limited to carrying out an order for the discharge of Elser from the Sonderbau and his removal elsewhere in the camp.



Landesgericht München II
Questionnaire re EDGAR STILLER Page 3.

7.   Answer (continued) As far as I can remember it was Visintainer who told me that Elser had been killed by a
              'Genickschuss' and also that the SS-man who had shot him, a man taken from one of the death cells, had been executed immediately after Elser's death. I cannot, however, state definitely from whom I had this information. It was a time of great stress and I was also suffering from dysentery and was very weak. I certainly do not think that it was possible for Elser to be removed from the Sonderbau without Stiller's knowledge and since other prisoners such as Mr & Mrs Lothar Rohde, Pastor Martin Niemöller certainly knew of his execution and told me about it, it is most improbable that Stiller did not know what had happened to him. I wish, however, to make it quite clear that I have no valid evidence that Stiller transmitted the order for Elser's execution or was present when it was carried out. In my own case, Stiller gave me the order to pack my luggage and make ready to leave the Sonderbau but I was actually conducted to my new quarters at the brothel by two of the guards on duty there.

The addresses given to me by the two Kalfakters mentioned above were:

Wilhelm Visintainer, Wupperthal-Elberfeld, Bärenstrasse, 8.

Paul Wouwer, Breslau 29, Weidebrückestrasse

8.   Question:  How did you come into possession of the above designated letter (Schnellbrief) dated 5 April 1945, together with the envelope?

Answer:On either 2nd or 3rd May 1945 an SS man belonging to Stiller's guard troop came up to the Prags Wildbad Hotel and asked to see me. He was a tall man wearing a leather jacket and was, I believe, one of the drivers. He pulled out of his pocket an untidy bunch of papers saying: "Obersturmführer Stiller is burning all the papers he had with him. I put these in my pocket when he wasn't looking. Perhaps they might interest you. He then went on to say that he was really Wehrmacht and not SS and had been drafted to the SS after his release from hospital; he showed me his Soldbuch in proof of his statement and asked whether I would let him stay with us and rejoin the Wehrmacht troops who had been sent by General von Vietinhof to protect us. We had, had several similar cases and I believe Colonel von Bonin arranged with von Alvensleben for the man to be incorporated in the Wehrmacht troops under the latter's command.
When I examined the papers given to me by this man I found that most of them were merely daily routine orders regarding the running of the Sonderbau but amongst them I found the envelope containing the 'Schnellbrief' both of which I handed over some months ago to Dr. Josef Müller, Bayrisch Justizminister.



Landesgericht München II
Questionnaire re Edgar Stiller Page 4.

8.   Answer (continued) The envelope had of course been opened and it was impossible for me to
                 ascertain at the time nor have I any certainty now whether this envelope at the time when it was received and opened had actually contained this particular letter. At the time I did not question that this was the case and even now it seems to me improbable that Stiller or someone else transferred one important letter into an envelope which, from the superscription had originally contained an equally important communication.
The envelope contained nothing except this one letter and from the appearance I think that any reasonable person would have taken it without question that the two belonged together. According to the man who handed it to me all the papers had been Stiller's possession amongst the papers which he had taken with him from Dachau. Why, if this letter was never rightfully in his possession should Stiller bring it with him to the South Tirol only to burn it there.

9. 10.11. & 12. are all dealt with under No. 8. above

Chagford, Devon 7th September 1951
S.Payne Best




Das Gericht kam im Laufe der 1954 abgeschlossenen Untersuchungen zum Ergebnis, dass der Mörder Georg Elsers der SS-Oberscharführer Theodor Bongartz war.

Die fünf Bände mit den Akten dieses Ermittlungsverfahrens liegen im Staatsarchiv München unter 'Staatsanwaltschaften 34475/1-5'.

Sigismund Payne Best
Ermordung Elsers
Hellmut G. Haasis: Georg Elsers Ende im KZ Dachau
Ulrich Renz: Landgerichtsrat Dr. Nikolaus Naaff
SS-Dienstgrade Ist der Befehl zur Liquidierung Elsers eine Fälschung?
Die Befreiung der Sonder- und Sippenhäftlinge in Südtirol

Dieser Artikel ist Teil der Online-Edition Mythos Elser.