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Bonn Denies Collaboration in Kappler’s Escape; Says It Will Study Italy’s Request for Extradition

The West German government has denied collaboration in the escape of former Rome Gestapo chief Herbert Kappler from Italy to West Germany and says it will “carefully study” the Italian government’s request for extradition. In a statement apparently intended to cool rising foreign criticism of its handling of the issue, the government said it “declared anew its respect for the victims of the shootings in the Ardeatine Cave and its sympathy for their relatives.” This referred to the 335 Italian Jews and non-Jews who were shot in 1941 on Kappler’s order in reprisal for a partisan attack on Rome’s SS headquarters.

The statement added, “The Federal government is convinced that the Italian government’s attempts to clarify the circumstances of Kappler’s escape will confirm that there is no ground for a cooling of the friendly relationship between both countries. Neither the Federal government nor any of its agencies were involved in the preparation or execution of Kappler’s escape, which it only learned about subsequently.

Through cooperation in the European community and NATO, West Germany–like Italy–sought to “guarantee Europe’s peoples a future in which the atrocities of the past cannot recur,” the statement affirmed.

CRITICISM CREATES BACKLASH

The spate of criticism and anti-German resentment that has erupted especially in France, Italy and Holland since the escape last Monday is causing a strong backlash here. Not only is public opinion, as expressed in past opinion polls and in current media reporting, solidly in sympathy with the 70-year-old, cancer-ridden Kappler, but the press in neighboring countries is being accused of whipping up anti-German feeling out of resentment of Germany’s postwar successes and its current dominant position in Europe.

In one typical reaction, a Sunday night international affairs program carried a documentary on Japanese war criminals active in contemporary Japanese politics, asking why this was not also condemned by the world.

The influential weekly, “Spiegel,” yesterday carried a cover story on “The Image of Evil Germany.” It commented that the kidnapping of a dying Nazi who had served almost 30 years imprisonment was once again conjuring up among foreigners the image of a “giant in a pose of victory: Germany.”

Swedes, said “Spiegel,” were “already seeing a fourth Reich, Britons, a “dangerous swing to the right,” and Americans were suddenly discovering a “Nazi revival.” Commented “Spiegel”: “The Germans will have to learn to live with foreigners’ doubts–for which they (Germans) are often to blame–about democracy at home or economic imperialism abroad. There will be no shortage of pretexts in the future. Another Kappler is bound to come.”

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