Karl-Heinz Priester (* March 20, 1912 in Frankfurt am Main; † April 16, 1960 in Wiesbaden) was the director of the Nazi leisure organization Kraft durch Freude ("Strength through joy"), and after the war publisher for works known for Holocaust denial and historical revisionism, while at the same time getting involved in far-right politics.
During the Weimar Republic Priester joined the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend, HJ) and in 1932 was responsible for the press training of the HJ in the region (Bann) Hessen-Nassau. In 1933 he became leader of the Oberjungbann I, a group of senior HJ members in the area.3 Thereafter he was mainly active in the "German Labour Front" (Deutsche Arbeitsfront),4 and became the director of its sub-organization Kraft durch Freude from 1935 to 1939, a major leisure organization during the Nazi era.5
There are different accounts about Priester's membership in the Schutzstaffel (SS). While some sources portray Priester as member of the Waffen-SS who reached the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer,6 others speak only of an SS candidacy which was finally rejected by the SS.3 From 1939 onward he was front correspondent for the Luftwaffe, later lieutenant in the infantry and liaison officer with the Waffen-SS.5
After the war, Priester was initially not prosecuted in the French occupation zone of Germany. However, in 1946, when he moved to Hesse, he was interned by the American occupying forces and released only in 1948.7
After his release, he remained a political activist of the extreme right. His publishing house, Verlag Karl-Heinz Priester, was located in Wiesbaden. He became known, above, all as a publisher of Holocaust deniers such as Maurice Bardèche, Paul Rassinier,8 Harry Elmer Barnes and F.J. P. Veale.9
In 1948 he joined the Hessian Nationaldemokratische Partei (NDP) and became a close collaborator of the party founder Heinrich Leuchtgens. But Priester had a fallout with the latter when Leuchtgens decided in January 1950 to merge the NDP with the DRP. Priester and his followers demanded a national-revolutionary and not a national-conservative party. Thereupon they founded the short-lived National Democratic Party - National Reich Party.10 Under Priester's leadership it acted as the Hessian regional association of the newly founded Sozialistische Reichspartei (SRP) of Fritz Dorls.1112 Priester became SRP regional chairman and belonged for a short time to the SRP party leadership.13
Deutsche Soziale Bewegung
Priester was keen to develop supranational co-operation between extreme right groups and to this end he was central to the organization of a conference in Rome from October 22–25, 1950, initiated by the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI), at which representatives of several such movements were in attendance.14 There he met Per Engdahl and discussed the founding of a fascist European collection movement. The resulting European Social Movement (ESM) was inaugurated in May 1951 in Malmö/Sweden, where Per Engdahl had invited an illustrious group of European fascists that had been won over for the cause. Although affected by an entry ban, in May 1951 Priester was appointed to the board of the newly founded ESM, together with Maurice Bardèche, Augusto De Marsanich, and ESM chairman Per Engdahl.15 On March 29, 1951, he founded the ESM's German branch, the "German Social Movement" (Deutsche Soziale Bewegung, DSB).
Priester was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of a united Europe16 although his co-operation with another leading light of that position, Oswald Mosley, was hamstrung by the stormy nature of their personal relations.17 A strong opponent of democracy, he would later move to have the MSI expelled from the ESM due to their willingness to co-operate with more mainstream right-wing parties in Italy.14
The Deutsche Gemeinschaft of August Haussleiter absorbed Priester's Deutsch-Soziale Bewegung in 1952, with both becoming part of the Nationale Sammlung the following year.14 Priester would subsequently chair a meeting at Wiesbaden where he made a final attempt to unite the various competing far right groups in Germany, but this was unsuccessful.14
Priester was a featured essayist for Nation Europa from the journal's foundation in 1951 onward.18 Together with Ehrhardt, he acted as an editor of the journal.19 Working with Otto Skorzeny, Priester attempted to utilize the magazine as a rallying point for his dream of European unity and traveled widely promoting this aim, including meetings in London with Oswald Mosley.20 The two even worked together on their shared aim of exporting the idea to South Africa, where Mosley had already secured an alliance with former cabinet minister Oswald Pirow.21 Priester was also a close collaborator of René Binet, helping him to develop his journal La Sentinelle.14
- 1. Hans Frederik, Die Rechtsradikalen (München: Humboldt-Verlag, 1965), 70.
- 2. "Karl Heinz Priester zum Gedächtnis," Nation Europa 10/1960, Oktober 1960, 43.
- 3. a. b. Kurt P. Tauber, Beyond Eagle and Swastika: German Nationalism Since 1945, Vol 2 (Wesleyan University Press, 1967), 1018.
- 4. Richard Stöss, Vom Nationalismus zum Umweltschutz (Westdeutscher Verlag, 1980), 56.
- 5. a. b. Richard Stöss, Parteien-Handbuch: die Parteien der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945-1980 (Westdeutscher Verlag, 1984), 1898.
- 6. Eberhart Schön, Die Entstehung des Nationalsozialismus in Hessen (Hain-Verlag, 1972), 207.
- 7. Hans Frederik, NPD, Gefahr von Rechts? ( Verlag Politisches Archiv, 1966), 102.
- 8. John Michael Steiner, Power Politics and Social Change in National Socialist Germany (1976), 429.
- 9. Graham Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007), 130.
- 10. "Konstituierung des Landesvorstandes der Nationaldemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (Nationale Reichspartei), 29. Januar 1950," Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen, https://www.lagis-hessen.de/de/subjects/idrec/sn/edb/id/3546.
- 11. Manfred Jenke, Verschwörung von Rechts: Ein Bericht über den Rechtsradikalismus in Deutschland nach 1945 (Berlin, 1961), 88.
- 12. Horst Schmollinger, "Die nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands." in Richard Stöss, Parteienhandbuch (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1986), 1908 ff., ISBN 3-531-11838-2.
- 13. Henning Hansen, Die Sozialistische Reichspartei (SRP): Aufstieg und Scheitern einer rechtsextremen Partei (Droste-Verlag, 2007), 68.
- 14. a. b. c. d. e. Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890 (Simon & Schuster, 1990), 304.
- 15. Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, 107.
- 16. Stephen Dorril, Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley & British Fascism (2007), 590.
- 17. Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, 178.
- 18. Dorril, Blackshirt, 591.
- 19. Jens Mecklenburg (Ed.), Handbuch Deutscher Rechtsextremismus (Berlin: Elefanten-Press, 1996), 609, ISBN 3-88520-585-8. S. .
- 20. Dorril, Blackshirt, 592.
- 21. Dorril, Blackshirt, 596−7.