The Only Good Nazi is... this Guy's Father?

Father-son relationships are interesting things to be sure. There’s not much that would make me throw my Dad under the bus. I think being a leader in the slaughter of millions would be an exception to that. Apparently not for this man, Horst von Wachter whose father Otto von Wachter was that leader. Financial Times Magazine has an interesting profile of Horst proving yet again thatdenial is a powerful force.

Schloss Haggenberg is an imposing 17th-century baroque castle about an hour’s drive north of Vienna and a little short of Austria’s border with Slovakia. Built around an enclosed courtyard, it stands four storeys high, a foreboding stone structure that appears impenetrable aside from the large, double wooden doors at its front. It has seen better days.

For the last quarter century the schloss has been the home of Horst von Wächter and his wife Jacqueline, who live in a few of its many sparsely furnished rooms. Without central heating, the bitter cold is staved off by wood-burning fires and the odd electric heater, improbable under crumbling baroque cornice-work and the fading paint of its walls.

In one room, under the rafters that support a great roof, Horst has kept his father’s library. He has invited me to look around the collection. I extricate a book at random from a tightly stacked shelf. The first page contains a handwritten dedication in a neat German script. To SS-Gruppenführer Dr Otto Wächter “with my best wishes on your birthday”. The deep blue signature beneath, slightly smudged, is unforgiving. “H. Himmler, 8 July 1944”.

The signature’s power to shock is heightened by its context. The book is a family heirloom, not a museum artefact. It was offered to Horst’s father as a token of appreciation, for services rendered. It draws a direct line between Horst’s family and the Nazi leadership.

One floor down, in the main room used by Horst as his study, he has gathered some family photo albums. Horst is equally generous and open with these. They contain the stuff of normal family life: images of children and grandparents, skiing holidays, boating trips, birthday parties. Yet among these unsurprising images, other kinds of photographs are interspersed.

A single page offers the following: August 1931, an unknown man is chiselling around a swastika carved into a wall. Above this is an undated photograph of a man leaving a building under a line of arms raised in Nazi salute. The caption reads “Dr Goebbels” – Hitler’s propaganda minister. Another image records three men in conversation in a covered railway yard or perhaps a market. Under this undated photo are the initials “A.H.”. I look more closely. The man at the centre is Hitler, and next to him I recognise his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, who introduced Hitler to Eva Braun. The third man I don’t know.

Go read the whole thing.

8 comments to The Only Good Nazi is… this Guy’s Father?

  • Tracy,txmom2many

    I feel deeply for him. While no one in my family was convicted of crimes against humanity, my grandfather did some horrible things on a small scale. He also happened to be someone who loved me and created a safe space for me during some important times. My mother has also done some very damaging things, I’ve often said the only thing I learned from her was how NOT to do life. But it’s not true. She is part of me, I did learn things from her that, redeemed and used by God, have actually been wonderful things. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile the awful actions and decisions of a close relative to the fact that their blood runs in you, you are bound to them in a way that can’t be broken. In fact, I would say without Jesus, it’s not possible to see redemption in any of it. Even with Jesus, my most prominent fear is that one day I will wake up and destroy everything I’ve been blessed with because that’s what people do in my family. Laying that down without becoming complacent is a struggle.
    My best guess is that he gives his father cover in order to believe there is the possibility of redemption for himself. But without Jesus, there is no redemption. I do hope he comes to know the Lord and sets this free.

    • Rufus

      Tracy, I think you’ll be fine. I’ve mentioned before; people who know me are surprised when they meet my folks, and my folks are equally confused at how I got here, (my folks arent evil, just very different than me) but I am definitely 50% of them both. I just put the DNA to different use. You have become who you are through conscious effort and choice. That won’t “magically” disappear overnight.

      As I’ve written before, it’s often very hard to “go against your tribe,” but as you learn a new way the knowledge stays with you. I assume Zoon’s father doesn’t play piano as well as he does. One day Zoon won’t wake up and forget all the music he’s internalized and you will never stop being the “you” you have become!

  • Scott M.

    My ancestors in Mississippi owned slaves.Is that supposed to keep me awake at night?

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