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Arthur Nebe

SS-Gruppenf hrer (13 November 1894 21 March 1945) was a member of the NSDAP (Nazi) party with card number 574,307. In July 1931, he joined the SS and his membership number was 280,152.[1] His early career included the Berlin position of Police Commissioner in the 1920s. In 1942 1943, he was the President of Interpol which fell under the control of Nazi Germany during the Anschluss in 1938. Nebe perpetrated mass murder in the Holocaust, serving as commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe B deployed in the Bezirk Bialystok district (modern Belarus) behind Army Group Centre during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.[2] Nebe commanded the Kripo (Criminal Police) until he was denounced and executed after the failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler in July 1944.[3]



Born in Berlin in 1894, the son of an elementary school teacher, Nebe volunteered for military service in the 17th Pioneer Battalion during World War I, where he was wounded twice by gas.

In 1920 Nebe joined the Berlin detective force[4] Kriminalpolizei, or Kripo (literally, "Criminal Police", a similar organization to the United Kingdom's Criminal Investigation Department) and attained the rank of Police Commissioner in 1924. Nebe joined the Nazi party on 1 July 1931. He became a contributing member of the SS on the same day.[4] Nebe became the Nazis' liaison in the Berlin criminal police, with links to the SS group led by Kurt Daluege. In early 1932 Nebe and other Nazi detectives formed the NS (National Socialist) Civil Service Society of the Berlin Police.[4] Following the Nazi seizure of power, Daluege recommended Nebe, in April 1933 to be as Chief Executive of the State Police.

In October 1933 Nebe was ordered by Rudolf Diels, then head of the Gestapo, to arrange the liquidation of Hitler's rival Gregor Strasser. This began the process of turning Nebe against the Nazis. In 1933 he came to know Hans Bernd Gisevius, then an official in the Berlin Police Headquarters and Gisevius introduced him to Hans Oster. Heinrich M ller]], planning the investigation of the bomb assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler of 8 November 1939 in Munich.

In July 1936, the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) became the Criminal Police Department for the entire Reich. It was merged, along with the Gestapo into the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) or Security Police. At that point, Reinhard Heydrich was in overall command of the SiPo (Gestapo and Kripo) and the SD. Nebe became an SS Gruppenf hrer and was appointed head of the Kripo.[5] As head of the Kripo, Nebe reported to Heydrich. His aversion to Heydrich and Himmler grew even though he continued to regularly lunch with them.[6] On 27 September 1939, the SiPo was folded into the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA. The Kripo became Department V of the RSHA.[7] Department V was also known as the Reichskriminalpolizeiamt (Reich Criminal Police Department or RKPA).

In 1938, Nebe joined forces with future fellow conspirator Dr. Karl Sack (Judge Advocate-General of the Wehrmacht) to spoil Himmler's plot against General Werner von Fritsch.[8] That same year, Hans Oster recruited Nebe into the conspiracy for the September 1938 coup attempt, a plot to overthrow Hitler if he went to war with Czechoslovakia over the Sudetenland. Nebe supplied the conspirators with information regarding SS strength, logistics, and safehouses throughout the Berlin area.

World War II

Einsatzgruppe B

In 1941, just prior to Operation Barbarossa, Heinrich Himmler selected Nebe to command Einsatzgruppe B behind Army Group Center in the east. Included among his work in the east, Nebe, with the technical assistance of Albert Widmann, experimented with several different methods as a means to kill mental patients:

Another source states that instead of adding a second car, the first car was replaced with a truck.[9] The idea to use gas was partly inspired by an incident involving Nebe. One night after a party Nebe had driven home drunk, parked in his garage and fell asleep with the car engine running. He nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust fumes.[9]

Of his work in the east, historian Gerald Reitlinger stated: Foreseeing the crimes in which he would be involved, he tried to escape it by asking for a move to the International Police Commission but is said to have been persuaded by Ludwig Beck and Hans Oster to accept the appointment, which would place him in a position where he could give them information on what was happening inside the SS and the Gestapo.[10] He worked with Henning von Tresckow and Fabian von Schlabrendorff to reduce the atrocities committed, and often massaged the numbers reported to his superiors (including one claim that his task force was responsible for more than 45,000 killings).[11]

He returned from Russia convinced that the war would end with the military defeat of Germany. In late 1942 after the Wannsee Conference, Nebe informed his fellow conspirators of Himmler's plans for the so-called Final Solution.

In March 1944, after the 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III POW camp, Nebe was ordered by Heinrich M ller, Chief of the Gestapo (Amt IV, or Department 4, of the RSHA), to choose 50 of the 73 captured prisoners to be executed in the Stalag Luft III murders.[12] It is reputed that this selection caused Nebe distress.[13]

Guenter Lewy, however, in his book The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, describes a different picture of Nebe. He describes how Nebe held a demonstration, on Himmler's request, of a mass-shooting of 100 people in Minsk. On learning it was distasteful to the troops, Himmler wanted Nebe to come up with something less distressing. Nebe decided to try experimenting by murdering Soviet mental patients first with explosives near Minsk and then with automobile exhaust at Mogilev.[14]

Lewy also lays out other issues with the question of Nebe's innocence. Among other things:[14]

  • "As head of the RKPA," (the Kripo, or Criminal Police), "Nebe played a leading role in the formulation of Gypsy policy".[15]
  • Nebe told Adolf Eichmann to put Gypsies with the Jews on the transports to Nisko, in October 1939.
  • In September 1941, Nebe helped give a course named 'The Jewish Question with special attention to the partisan movement', which included the murdering of 32 people at Mogilev.
  • In 1944, Nebe suggested to Grawitz that the Gypsies interned at Auschwitz would be good people to use for medical experiments at the Dachau concentration camp (Himmler had asked Grawitz for advice on the question).
  • Bernd Wehner of the RKPA claimed Nebe was worried the Allies would punish him for his crimes, and that this was the only reason he joined the resistance.

1944 plot against Adolf Hitler

Arthur Nebe was involved in various plots including the 20 July 1944, bomb plot against German dictator Adolf Hitler. As part of the plot, Nebe was to lead a team of 12 policemen to kill Himmler but the signal never reached him.[16] Historian Reitlinger characterized Nebe as "a very questionable member of the Resistance Circle at the time of the great bomb plot."[17] After the failure of the assassination attempt he went into hiding on an island in the Wannsee but was later arrested after a rejected mistress betrayed him. Nebe was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court) and according to official records, was executed in Berlin at Pl tzensee Prison on 21 March 1945, by hanging with piano wire from a meat hook[18] as that was the punishment ordered by Hitler – who wanted the July 20 conspirators to be "hanged like cattle".[19]


  • Hans-Bernd Gisevius: Wo ist Nebe? Erinnerungen an Hitlers Reichskriminaldirektor. Zuerich, Droemer, 1966

In fiction

  • In the novel Fatherland, set in an alternate history in which Germany has won the Second World War, Arthur Nebe is depicted as an SS-Oberstgruppenf hrer, still commanding the Kriminalpolizei in the 1960s.
  • Nebe also plays a significant role in Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir novels where he survives the war under an assumed name and is part of a secretive ex-SS members group called "the Org".
  • SS-Gruppenf hrer Nebe is mentioned in Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes as involved in early tests to use gas chambers for mass killings of Jews.

Notes and references

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