Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

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Rob - wssob2
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Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 10 Aug 2013 04:25

Historian Adrian Weale in his recent book Army of Evil, a history of the SS, includes a fascinating story about the strange case of Waffen-SS junior officer Hans Zech-Nenntwich:

May 1943, the British Minister in Stockholm is approached by a man named Hans Zech-Nenntwich, who claims that he is a Waffen-SS deserter with important military information and wants to work with the British. The British diplomats negotiate with the Swedish authorities, who agree to let the British take custody of Zech-Nenntwich.

His biographical details:

Born in Silesia in 1916
1937: Served as a pilot in the Condor Legion
1939: Joins the SSVT, assigned to the Heimwehr Danzig in time for the invasion of Poland
1940 ish: Attends Bad Tolz, becomes an officer in the First SS Cavalry Brigade
1941-42: Serves in Russia, WIA and sent to the Regimental Training and Replacement Battalion in Warsaw to recuperate
1943: Arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of passing captured Russian weapons to the Polish underground. Manages to escape through the aid of fellow Waffen-SS officers, and reaches neutral Sweden via Denmark

Now Zech-Nenntwich claimed to be a member of a secret Waffen-SS cell called “The League of Democratic Officers”. This cell was supposedly formed by Waffen-SS officers who wanted to be a professional elite in opposition to the Nazi old fighters. Zech claimed that the group was motivated by their shared disgust and shame over the atrocities they were forced to commit on the Eastern Front, and the bestial treatment of the Polish civilian population by the Gestapo. Zech named the leader of the group as Wilhelm Bittrich.

The British could never prove or disprove Zech’s story, but they treated him as a sincere defector. For the rest of the war he made propaganda broadcasts for the British and aided in the interrogations of captured SS personnel.

Postwar, Zech was harassed by the West German government in the 1950’s. In 1964, he was tried and convicted for participating in genocide as a member of the SS Calvary Brigade in 1941. Sentenced to four-years imprisonment, Zech bribed his guards sometime during his prison term, escaped prison and fled to Egypt, although he later returned back to West Germany to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Details of the account can be found on pp.145-46 of Weale’s book plus footnotes #32 and 33, citing UK National Archives KV2/397.

Can anyone provide any further details about Zech-Nenntwich and this mysterious “The League of Democratic Officers?

little grey rabbit
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by little grey rabbit » 10 Aug 2013 08:04

A former German diplomat remembers him
Wolfgang zu Putlitz in The Putlitz Doctrine
My house-mate was, apart from Rudolf Hess, the most mysterious Nazi in England. He, too, was an odd-looking creature with red cheeks, piercing blues eyes and a large bald pate. He looked for all the world like a Prussian NCO and insisted on accentuating the fact by having his head shaved. As far as I can recall, I never saw him open a book.

I was unable to discover how important his resistance group was or what it achieved. So far as I could make out, he had under orders form the British Secret Service, sold arms from the arsenals of the SS to the reactionary partisan units of Colonel Borr Komorowski in Poland. The latter were financed by the British, and as a reward for his services he had been in some mysterious way connected with a group of German conspirators with Western sympathies. When the putsch of July 20th, 1944 started, he was beside himself with excitement. In those days he used to talk every day on Delmer's radio service. He began all his speeches with the words: "Comrades! All of you listen to me," and finished with a stream of incomprehensible code words such as "cornflower calls seabird, delphinium wants rhododendron...."
The CIA have released their name file on him, it is available on the web. Google this: Zech-Nenntwich site:www.foia.cia.gov/sites/

Sefton Delmer gives him a very nasty write up in Black Boomerang - possibly because he had informed Adenauer regarding German politicians on British payrolls. There is a lot reports of him entering in East German service, but I am guessing they are all smears for informing on British activities to the German government.

He was Fegelein's adjutant in the pripet marshes campaign, so four years in prison can't be seen as the height of injustice. Although probably if he had kept sweet with the British he could have avoided it.

I have him pegged as a possible back channel communications via Fegelein with Hitler for the British. I wonder if it would have been possible to set up an Enigma machine to have secure communication?

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K.Kocjancic
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by K.Kocjancic » 11 May 2016 11:39

Is there any more info on this? :de WP has an article on him.

steve248
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by steve248 » 13 Dec 2016 16:47

As you might expect, Britain's MI 5 have three "Name Files" on Zech-Nenntwich.
These are available at UK National Archives, KV 2/395 to KV 2/397.

Surprisingly, these files do not have intensive questioning of him but he does mention resistance circles in the Waffen-SS as a result of atrocities in the East. The interrogators did not know what to make of him once they put aside thoughts that he was acting on behalf of the Abwehr or SD intelligence.

This is the first page of an interrogation dated 21 August 1943. He does not mention much else about resistance:
(source is UK National Archives, KV 2/395)
Zech N on SS resistance circles.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

John P. Moore
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by John P. Moore » 13 Dec 2016 21:55

Interesting story Steve. Thanks for posting

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Ironmachine
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by Ironmachine » 14 Dec 2016 08:08

Rob - wssob2 wrote:Historian Adrian Weale in his recent book Army of Evil, a history of the SS, includes a fascinating story about the strange case of Waffen-SS junior officer Hans Zech-Nenntwich:
[...]
1937: Served as a pilot in the Condor Legion
Did Adrian Weale actually say that he was a pilot, or just that he served in the Condor Legion as the report posted by steve248 says?

steve248
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Re: Zech-Nenntwich & the Waffen-SS Resistance Conspiracy

Post by steve248 » 23 Dec 2016 13:14

Once in the UK and in the hands of MI 5, his Luftwaffe career takes a different turn - this from KV 2/397.

1) his father was a German airforce pilot in WW1; shotdown and killed on 6 Nov 1918.
2) from 1 Oct 1934 to 12 Oct 1935, Zech-N began Luftwaffe training as observer (Kampfbeobachter) and Flugzeugkommandant in Böblingen, Schleissheim and Schwäbisch Hall.
3) Jan-3 Nov 1937, "Called up for Luftwaffe, course "Rügen" (Legion Condor) for undergoing Reserve course."

That's all he says about his Luftwaffe days.

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