The still existing Witikobund1 (“Witiko Union,” WB) is a völkisch Sudeten German association founded by former supporters of the collaborationist Czechoslovakian Sudeten German Party (SdP). It emerged as a nucleus in 1947, although its official foundation dates to October 1, 1950.
The Witikobund had been for decades the far-right cadre organization of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft (“Sudeten German Homeland Association”), an organization representing Sudeten German expellees and refugees from the formerly German-occupied zones in Czechoslovakia, who had settled in Germany after WWII. At the same time the organization was foreseen to secure political weight for the surviving fascists of the Sudeten German Party.
Its seven founding members all had previously a career in the NSDAP or SS, and the foundation was scheduled for the November 9, 1947, exactly 24 years after the Beer Hall Putsch.
In the publication “NS History of Former Members of the Hessian State Parliament,” published by the Hessian Landtag, the Witikobund is described as follows:2
“The aim of the Witikobund was - and apparently still is today - to support a nationalistic German, if not ‘völkisch’ line within the expellees’ associations. The aim was not to be a mass organization, but a cadre organization that exercised its influence through active memberships in various organizations as well as through cooperation with the politically extreme right spectrum. In order to be admitted to the organization, each new member had to present two guarantors from the ranks of the union. Until 1967, the Witiko Union was classified as a right-wing extremist organization in the [yearly] ‘Report on the Protection of the Constitution’ [Verfassungsschutzbericht] by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and in 2008 the Federal Government deemed it ‘a consolidation of actual indications of right-wing extremist aspirations.’”
According to political scientist Richard Stöss, the “völkisch-nationalistic” Witikobund was in the 1950s and 1960s an “influential elitist traditional community” composed largely of former leading Nazis from the Sudetenland. The WB exercised great influence on the Sudeten German Homeland Association, the All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights (Gesamtdeutscher Block/Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten, GB/BHE) and the “All-German Party” (Gesamtdeutsche Partei, GDP).3
The organization was named after the novel character “Witiko,” hero of the 1867 historical novel by Adalbert Stifter with the same title. The starting point for the novel is the ruins of Wittinghausen Castle in the Bohemian Forest, which had fascinated Adalbert Stifter since his youth. In the novel it becomes the castle Witikohaus, which the hero builds at the end of the novel. The dynasty of the Witigons (Witigonen) and their coat of arms sporting a five-leaved red rose are historically documented, as are the rulers of the novel and the figure of Witiko, who was the supreme Truchsess of Bohemia in the middle of the 12th century. The secondary characters of the novel are fictitious.
The approximately 1000 members of the WB are all elected, and are organized in state and district subsections, and a youth association, Junge Witikonen (“Young Witikons”).4 Membership is basically for life: “Who dishonors the ancient duties today, will dishonor the ones to come.”5 The association issues the publication Witikobrief four times a year.6 Notably Manuel Ochsenreiter7 and AfD politician Andreas Kalbitz were involved in the Witikobund.
There are only a handful of search results for “Witikobund” in the CIA FOIA archive. However, there is a lead to a file on Siegfried Zoglmann (1913-2007), an NSDAP member and regional leader of the Hitler Youth in Bohemia and Moravia, and later prominent Sudeten German activist and politician (FDP later CSU). Zoglmann as of 1998 sat in the “Senate” of the Witikobund, according to an official inquiry by the SPD.8 The 18 memos available indicate only that the CIA took a strong interest in the activities of Zoglmann, but there are no indications of any agency projects involving him.9
The Witikobund was preceded by a collection movement launched in 1947 by supporters of the Sudeten German Party (SdP), led by the Freikorps leader Konrad Henlein (1898-1945) in the 1930s, a major pro-Nazi force in Czechoslovakia with the explicit orders to break up the country and merge it with the Third Reich.
At the invitation of the entrepreneur Emil Lode and the former Henlein confidant Walter Brand seven former Nazis met on November 9, 1947, in Waldkraiburg and founded the WB’s precursor organization with the aim of bringing together representatives of the völkisch-nationalistic camp of the Sudeten Germans.
In addition to Emil Lode and Walter Brand, former Hitler Youth leader Rudolf Bayer, former chairman of the Nazi Confederation of German Technology in the Sudetenland Rupert Glaas, Konstantin Höß, former Gestapo chief of Belgrade Karl Kraus, and former senator of the Sudeten German Party Hugo Liehm were present.
The official registration of the association Witikobund e.V. dates to October 1, 1950, in Stuttgart.
Former NS members
Many members of the Witikobund had been Nazi functionaries during the Third Reich. The journalist Thilo von Uslar stated in a 1966 Zeit article that of 634 Witikobund members on a 1958 membership list more than 600 persons had exercised such functions before 1945.10
For example, among the founding members are:
- Walter Brand (1907-1980), once a member of the executive committee of the Sudeten German Party, head of the law firm of Konrad Henlein, and from 1938 first general advisor for the Four Year Plan. As a result of the so-called Dresden Trials, in which the NSDAP settled its account with the Kameradschaftsbund, Brand spent the years 1939 to 1945 in various concentration camps. From 1950-1952 he was federal chairman of the Witikobund and member of the Sudeten German Council (Sudetendeuter Rat).
- Konstantin Höss (1903-1970), NSDAP district leader in Prague, Gitschin and Königgrätz.
- Karl Kraus, SS Obersturmbannführer in the SD and Gestapo chief of Belgrade.
- Walter Becher (1912-2005), Bavarian MP of the parties Deutsche Gemeinschaft (“German Community”) (1950-1954) and the All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights (1954-62), as well as Member of the Bundestag for the CSU (1965-80). He was federal chairman of the Witikobund (1956-1958) and spokesman of the Sudeten German Homeland Association (1968-82). Before 1945, he was head of the NSDAP Gau publication Die Zeit, later a member of the Bavarian Broadcasting Council.
- Walter Stain (1916-2001), a former member of the Sudeten German Freikorps, who was chairman of the WB from 1986-89. Before 1945, he was head of the Hitler Youth in the Sudetenland, then Minister of State, and from 1982 for several years chairman of the Sudeten German Homeland Association.
- Frank Seiboth (1912-1994), was in 1939 Gau training manager for the NSDAP, and from 1953 to 1955 chairman of the Witikobund. He was an MP from 1953 to 1957, and from 1958 to 1966 Member of the Landtag in Hesse for the All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights and the GDP, of which he was chairman since 1961. In 1966 he joined the SPD and became State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Economic Affairs.
- Siegfried Zoglmann (1913-2007), former regional leader of the Hitler Youth in the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and since 1942 a volunteer in the Waffen-SS. In the Federal Republic Zoglmann was an FDP MP and Deputy State Chairman of the FDP in Bavaria, who after a party change sat in the Bundestag for the CSU.
- Ernst Lehmann (1906-1990), Sudeten German völkisch activist and educator. In his memoirs Um tiefere Wurzeln he describes in 1979 the transformation of ethnic ideologies from the Nazi era into the ideology of the expellees.
In addition to the founding members, numerous other leading members of the Witikobund had a Nazi past, for example:
- Ernst Anrich (1906-2001), SS-historian and temporarily Dean of the Philosophical Faculty of the Reich University of Strasbourg, where he was a staff planner for the Nazis; later in the NPD;
- Franz Karmasin (1901-1970), Nazi ethnic group leader, leader of the Deutsche Partei (“German Party”), Waffen-SS officer, Undersecretary of State in the government of Jozef Tiso in Slovakia, sentenced to death in Czechoslovakia after 1945, managing director of the Witikobund from 1957 until his death in 1970;
- Albert Smagon, NSDAP district leader (Kreisleiter) and counselor at the German Embassy in Bratislava;
- Rudolf Staffen, Gauamtsleiter of the NSDAP.11
Radicalization and infiltration of expellees organizations
The Witikobund always represented the right wing of the Sudeten German expellees community and radicalized other expellees organizations, seeking to lead them to a “völkish-nationalistic line.”2
Members of the Witikobund tried - often successfully - “to occupy specific offices in parties or other organizations.”2 These included the NPD, municipal party offices, state parliamentary positions, the Sudeten German Homeland Association, the Confederation of Expellees, other far-right organizations, publishers, the media, as well as government and business positions.
The Federal Assembly of the Sudeten German Homeland Association consisted “for decades to over fifty percent” of WB members. In many cases the school subject “Ostkunde” (“Eastern Research”), introduced in the 1950s in the Federal Republic of Germany, was influenced or usurped.11
According to their statute, the Witikobund e.V. describes “the promotion and support of legitimate concerns of refugees and displaced persons,” “the redress of eviction injustice on the basis of international law” and the “return of confiscated property on the basis of fair compensation” as its main tasks.4
In the opinion of critics, these demands indicate the approval of a re-appropriation by Germany of the Sudetenland, now part of the Czech Republic. The “Sudetenland should be brought home to the Reich,” and the German borders of 1939 should be restored.
In this and other regards, the Witikobund is accused of inciting xenophobia. For example, the longtime WB federal president Horst Rudolf Übelacker said in the Witikobrief, among other things: “The Germans, crowded together in the remaining areas of West and Central Germany and in Austria and besieged by ‘a million strong army’ of foreigners, would face a gradually crumbling facade of contemporary history.” Furthermore, there are several reports about Holocaust denial amongst the WB members. In this regard, in the Witikobrief of 1974 the following assertion can be found: “Among the most powerful historical lies of the recent past are the 6 million Jews.”12
Federal chairmen of the Witikobund
- 1950-1952: Walter Brand
- 1953-1955: Frank Seiboth
- 1956-1958: Walter Becher
- 1959-1983: Heinz Lange
- 1984-1985: Reinfried Vogler
- 1986-1989: Walter Stain
- 1990-1996: Walter Staffa
- 1996-2006: Horst Rudolf Übelacker
- 2006-2009: Hans Mirtes
- 2009-2012: Roland Schnürch
- since 2012: Felix Vogt-Gruber
Connections to the NPD
In the 1960s, the Witikobund had close relations with the NPD, and several party members such as Heinz Flöter and Ernst Anrich were in 1967 on the board of the Witikobund. Some of these connections continue to this day.
The NPD federal press spokesman and former national chairman of the “National Democratic University Federation” (Nationaldemokratischer Hochschul-Bund, NHB) and the “Young National Democrats” (Junge Nationaldemokraten), Karl-Heinz Sendbühler, and the former NHB federal managing director Günter Schwemmer are “Witikons,” as well as the two former NPD deputies in the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament Rolf Kosiek and Karl Baßler.
Connections of other right-wing parties and politicians
In addition to the NPD, several Witikonen are or were former candidates of the party “The Republicans” (Die Republikaner) for the Bavarian State Parliament, among them Henning Lenthe, Carl-Wolfgang Holzapfel (*1944), Horst Rudolf Übelacker (*1936) and Hellmut Diwald (1924-1993). Alfred Ardelt, a publicist and functionary of the Federation of Expellees was for many years a member of the CDU, which he left in the 1990s.
Several persons recognized in the bourgeois camp are or were WB members, such as the longtime CDU official Rüdiger Goldmann (1965 to the mid-1990s), the former parliamentary group leader of the CDU in the Hesse State Parliament Wolfgang Egerter (1930-2008) (Deputy Federal Chairman of the WB) and Herbert Fleissner (1928 -2016).
Relations with right-wing publicists and writers
In the Witikobund and especially among its board members were and are numerous right-wing and extreme right-wing writers and publicists, such as:
- Alfred Ardelt (1931-2011)
- Ernst Frank (1900-1982)
- Wigbert Grabert (b. 1941)
- Bernd Kallina (born 1950)
- Günther Kissel (1917-2011)
- Hans-Ulrich Kopp (b. 1962)
- Walter Staffa (1917-2011)
Many WB members have published in the New Right weekly Junge Freiheit. The former deputy editor-in-chief of Junge Freiheit and organizer of the Junge Freiheit summer university of 1993, Hans-Ulrich Kopp, has been a WB member since 1983 and is since 1992 editor of the Witikobrief, the publication of the Witikobund. One WB member who went on to have a rather impressive editorial career is the far-right “neo-Eurasianist” Manuel Ochsenreiter,7 who became editor of the Deutsche Militärzeitschrift and later of Zuerst!, a successor to Nation Europa (1951-2009), a central organ of the Nazi diaspora after WWII.
Walter Staffa, functionary of various expellees organizations, was chairman of the German Seminar until his death in November 2011, an organization on the radar of the Office of the Protection of the Constitution because of its right-wing extremist tendencies.13
Werner Nowak was for 26 years the head (Landesobmann) of the Sudeten German Homeland Association in Baden-Württemberg.14 The headquarters have been in Nürtingen since 1984. In 1988 Rolf Kosiek, an NPD politician and neo-Nazi functionary also residing in Nürtingen, joined the board.
An essential component of the German Seminar’s program was the dissemination of its historical revisionist presentation of history, i.a. absolving Germany of the culpability for the Second World War and the offsetting of Nazi crimes against the “crimes of the victorious powers,” including the expulsion of the German population between 1944 and 1948.15
Until 1981, the German Seminar published the monthly Politischer Zeitspiegel, and in 1982 it merged together with the Klüter Blätter into the Deutsche Monatshefte (=Nation und Europa). In the Politischer Zeitspiegel, historical-revisionist and anti-democratic theses were rampant (“… through the establishment of a fully entitled directorate we consider a temporary elimination of the parliamentary majority struggle to be indispensable.” (Politischer Zeitspiegel, No. 7/1978).
In 1997, together with the right-wing extremists Werner Nowak, Karl Bassler and Rolf Kosiek, Staffa founded an “action group” (Aktionskreis) of the WB in the Haus der Heimat in Nürtingen. Later he worked in the “German Study Community” (Deutsche Studiengemeinschaft), a right-wing extremist think tank with headquarters in Leonberg.
Collaboration with other far-right groups
In the 1970s, several activists of the Viking youth participated in the “founding ceremonies” of the Witikobund, commemorating the Proclamation of the German Empire. In the 1980s, there existed also relationships with the “Southern Africa Aid Committee” (Hilfskomitee Südliches Afrika).
Assessments by the BfV
In 2001,16 200817 and 201118 , in response to parliamentary inquiries, the German Government announced that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees in the Witikobund a “consolidation of evidence of right-wing extremist aspirations.” Such an indication would be, for example, the “accumulation of anti-Jewish passages in particular” in the publication Witikobrief.
In November 2003 Alfred Mechtersheimer, Neue Rechte politician and author, appeared as a speaker at events of the WB.
- 1Witikobund e.V., http://www.witikobund.de/.
- 2 a b c “NS-Vergangenheit ehemaliger hessischer Landtagsabgeordneter,” Dokumentation der Fachtagung 14. und 15. März 2013 im Hessischen Landtag, 2014, 187-188, https://hessischer-landtag.de/sites/default/files/scald/files/NS-Vergangenheit%20ehem.%20hess.%20Abg.pdf.
- 3Richard Stöss, Parteien-Handbuch: die Parteien der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945–1980, 2. Band, Westdeutscher Verlag 1984, p. 1452. (not checked)
- 4 a b “Satzung,” Witikobund e.V., http://www.witikobund.de/linkliste/satzung-2/.
- 5Andreas Kossert: Kalte Heimat. Die Geschichte der Deutschen Vertriebenen nach 1945; München 2008, p. 183. (not checked)
- 6“Witikobrief,” Witikobund e.V., http://www.witikobund.de/category/witikobrief/.
- 7 a b Bernhard Clasen and Gabriele Lesser, “The Firebugs,” taz, March 15, 2019, https://taz.de/taz-Recherche-auf-Englisch/!5580571/.
- 8“Ruhestandsbeamter N. und der Witikobund,” Antrag der Abg. Wolfgang Bebber u. a. SPD und Stellungnahme des Innenministeriums, Drucksache 12 / 2550, February 25, 1998, Landtag von Baden-Württemberg,https://web.archive.org/web/20010701230122/http://www.landtag-bw.de/wp12/drucksachen/2000/12_2550_d.pdf.
- 9Search results for “Siegfried Zogelmann,” FOIA Electronic Reading Room, Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/search/site/Siegfried%20Zoglmann.
- 10Thilo v. Uslar, “Der "ehrenwerte" Karmasin,” Zeit Online, June 24, 1966, https://www.zeit.de/1966/26/der-ehrenwerte-karmasin/komplettansicht.
- 11 a b Andreas Kossert, Kalte Heimat. Die Geschichte der deutschen Vertriebenen nach 1945 (München, 2008), 182 ff. (not checked)
- 12“Der Witikobund: Späte Erkenntnis,” hagalil.com. December 16, 2001, http://www.klick-nach-rechts.de/gegen-rechts/2001/04/witiko02.htm.
- 13“Rechtsextremistische Vereine, Organisationen und Parteien in Baden-Württemberg,” Antrag der Abg. Stephan Braun u. a. SPD und Stellungnahme des Innenministeriums, Drucksache 13 / 1171, Landtag von Baden Württemberg, July 7, 2002, https://web.archive.org/web/20071026093531/http://www.landtag-bw.de/wp13/drucksachen/1000/13_1171_d.pdf.
- 14“Stabwechsel in Baden-Württemberg - Verjüngung des Vorstands,” openPR, March 26, 2014, https://www.openpr.de/news/785721/Stabwechsel-in-Baden-Wuerttemberg-Verjuengung-des-Vorstands.html.
- 15“Profil: Deutsches Seminar e.V.,” Antifaschistisches Pressearchiv und Bildungszentrum Berlin e.V., https://www.apabiz.de/archiv/material/Profile/Deutsches%20Seminar.htm.
- 16“Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Ulla Jelpke und der Fraktion der PDS,” Drucksache 14/7560, Deutscher Bundestag, December 13, 2001, https://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btd/14/078/1407865.pdf.
- 17“Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Ulla Jelpke, Sevim Dagdelen, Petra Pau und der Fraktion DIE LINKE,” Drucksache 16/10755, Deutscher Bundestag, November 3, 2008, https://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btd/16/107/1610755.pdf.
- 18“Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Volker Beck (Köln), Claudia Roth (Augsburg), Monika Lazar, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN,” Drucksache 17/5725, Deutscher Bundestag, May 5, 2011, https://dipbt.bundestag.de/doc/btd/17/057/1705725.pdf.
- 19Stefanie Mayer, “Totes Unrecht”?: die “Beneš-Dekrete2 - eine geschichtspolitische Debatte in Österreich (Peter Lang, 2009), 113. (not checked)