The National Committee’s Impact
The NKFD was supposed to use propaganda sanctioned by the Soviets to encourage Germans to resist the Nazi regime and to address opponents of the regime with widely varying backgrounds and political alignments. Its organ was the weekly newspaper “Free Germany”. The “Manifest to the Wehrmacht and the German Nation” was printed in the first issue of July 19, 1943. It named the NKFD’s central aims: For nation and fatherland! Against Hitler and his war! For immediate peace! For the salvation of the German nation! For a free, independent Germany!
Over radio “Free Germany”, which could be heard throughout Germany, the NKFD called upon the populace in the German Reich to overthrow the Nazi regime. Klein was also a member of its editorial board.
At the front, the committee used loudspeaker announcements, air-dropped pamphlets and radio broadcasts to appeal to Wehrmacht soldiers to desert. Representatives at the front also included pastors, such as Matthäus Klein on the 1st Byelorussian Front and Lothar Lösche who was a frontline representative in the Soviet division that liberated Auschwitz extermination camp on January 27, 1944.
Despite its appeal to German patriotism, the NKFD’s propaganda only aroused little response from German troops and even German prisoners. Some soldiers viewed the calls for retreat and overthrow as “treason”. Others felt bound to their oath to Hitler despite any growing personal reservations.
The Nazi regime and the Wehrmacht command reacted nervously to the founding and the work of the NKFD and the BDO. The High Command of the Armed Forces accused the “Bolshevists” of fabrication and claimed to the officer corps that reputed members of the committee, including the Catholic Wehrmacht chaplain Josef Kayser, were in truth dead.
Attempts were made to conceal the truth about the NKFD from the civilian population in the Reich until mid-October of 1944. General Walther von Seydlitz, president of the BDO, was sentenced to death in absentia for military treason on April 16, 1944 and his assets were confiscated. Relatives of members of the NKFD and the BDO started being taken into “Sippenhaft” in late summer of 1944. Official propaganda claimed there was a direct connection between the NKFD and the men of the July 20 plot.
Source / title
- © Christiane Godt-Schröder