German Government initiates discussion about renaming military base sparked by Grimmer-Solem’s published research on a Wehrmacht General suspected of war crimes
On Monday, February 17, 2014, the Government of Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to questions submitted in the German Bundestag by a caucus of the party Die Linke In the response submitted to the Bundestag, the German Government affirmed that the German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) reject all associations with suspected war criminals of the former Wehrmacht and noted that the Bundeswehr has made a positive contribution toward uncovering the truth about General Hans von Sponeck’s past because Professor Grimmer-Solem’s article was published by The Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr. This organization made Professor Grimmer-Solem’s article known to the Government on December 20, 2013. It noted further that knowledge of General Hans von Sponeck’s possible involvement in war crimes was not known when the Air Force (Luftwaffe) base at Germersheim was named in his honor in 1966. To the Government’s knowledge, Prof. Grimmer-Solem’s is the first scholarly article that deals specifically with Sponeck’s involvement in war crimes based on a thorough examination of the available military documents, and it notes that his article assesses Sponeck’s possible involvement in these crimes in a nuanced way.
The Government also responded to questions about investigations into von Sponeck’s military career by a Luftwaffe major in 2004, which was first reported in an article appearing in the German news magazine DER SPIEGELin December 2013. The reason for this investigation was a request by the then Battalion Commander at the Luftwaffe base at Germersheim in preparation for the 60th-anniversary commemoration of von Sponeck’s death. The main findings of this investigation were that von Sponeck likely knew about and was involved in war crimes but that additional comprehensive research was necessary in order to clarify the matter. It also recommended that the findings should give impulse to considering renaming the Luftwaffe base. To the knowledge of the Government, this report was never forwarded up the Bundeswehr chain of command. The Government mentioned that it had no explanation for why the Luftwaffe Office failed to conduct additional research into von Sponeck’s military career at the time and why the report was not forwarded to the Ministry of Defense. The Government asserts that on the basis of Professor Grimmer-Solem’s research it can be said that Hans von Sponeck shares guilt for the crimes committed by the Nazi regime during Operation Barbarossa. The Command of the Luftwaffe has consequently initiated a process to form an opinion about renaming the military base. Possible renaming of the base will follow established procedures of the Bundeswehr according to which the affected military base and local community make such a request following approval of the Minister of Defense.