The American Jewish Congress has condemned as “astonishing and shocking” the testimony by West German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger that he did not realize until World War II was nearly over that “something ugly was happening to the Jews of Europe.” Mr. Kiesinger was “either blind to what was happening” around him “or deliberately closed his eyes,” Dr. Joachim Prinz, chairman of the AJCongress’ Commission on International Affairs, said in a telegram to the West German Chancellor.
Dr. Prinz of Newark, N.J., a former rabbi of Berlin who was expelled from Germany in 1937 for his repeated public criticism of the Hitler regime, noted that Mr. Kiesinger had been a member of the Nazi Party before and during the war and said it was “inconceivable” that he could not have seen or known that “something ugly” was happening to the Jews of Germany starting in 1933 and to the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe starting in 1941.
Mr. Kiesinger’s testimony was given last week as a defense witness in a war-crimes trial for a man accused of complicity in the murder of over 30,000 Bulgarian and Greek Jews during 1942-43. During the war years, the Chancellor was deputy leader of the radio monitoring department of the Nazi Foreign Ministry. Observers at the trial had the impression that Mr. Kiesinger seemed to be defending his own past as much as testifying for the defense.
Dr. Prinz told the Chancellor in the telegram that “you and the German people stand charged with knowledge of the Nazis’ morally malevolent design for Europe from Hitler’s first pronouncement in which he made no secret of his intention to destroy German Jewry and to subject European civilization to a reign of barbarism and terror. Your testimony before the court is a sign of the inexcusable moral torpor that characterized the German people during World War II and that renders them responsible and accountable for the awful and ugly extermination of six million of Europe’s Jews.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.