Dead as Mutton? Interpol at the End of World War II

Jens Jäger, Historisches Institut, Universität zu Köln

This article examines the history of Interpol (the International Criminal Police Commission until 1956) during the Second World War. While the Allies believed that the organization had ceased to exists - and this was also claimed when it was re-established in 1946 - the evidence indicates that this was not the case. The sources from German, American and British archives demonstrate that the organization continued to function even after its headquarters relocated from Vienna to Berlin in 1941. Furthermore, they reveal who was responsible for the day-to-day work. It is evident that Interpol was integrated into the Nazi police apparatus while maintaining the fiction of an independent international organization. From the perspective of the Nazi system, Interpol was not merely a matter of prestige; it was also presumed to serve as a conduit for facilitating communication and collaboration between the police forces of occupied and neutral states, thereby supporting the policies of the Nazi regime.

Interpol – or rather the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) 1, as it was known until 1956 – was the only international organization to fall entirely into German hands after 1933. In contrast to the Nazi policy towards international organizations, which was generally ambivalent if not hostile 2, the new leaders of the German police took a keen interest in the ICPC. Most notably, Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and its affiliate organizations in 1933. When it suited the regime, however, other international organizations were used to promote Nazi causes. A case in point was the International Olympic Committee, which stood by its decision to hold the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany (the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Summer Games in Berlin). This provided Germany with an excellent propaganda opportunity. Other organizations were dissolved, such as the International Union of Penal Law in 1933, and some German agencies loosened their ties with their international coun-terparts, such as the German Red Cross with the Committee of the International Red Cross. The case of the ICPC, founded in Vienna in 1923, was different. All law enforcement agencies were central to Nazi policy. They were at the core of the repressive apparatus that was rapidly built up.

As research has shown, the police were easy prey for the regime, not only because many police officers had supported the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) before 1933, but also because the party’s future plans for the country’s criminal policy promised a much harsher treatment of crime and criminals and more leeway for the police.3 In the early years after 1933, the police were centralized and control of all its branches was delegated to Berlin. Despite internal conflicts over who should be in charge, by 1936 Heinrich Himmler and the Schutzstaffel (SS) had proven the winner. Reinhard Heydrich became the most powerful man in the security apparatus, which was merged into the SS, with him heading the political and criminal police. As a result, anyone who wanted a career in law enforcement was urged to become a member of the SS.4

From Heydrich’s point of view, any functional cooperation with foreign police forces was crucial, increasing the chances of tracking the opposition in exile and obtaining necessary information about the police forces themselves and, more importantly, about “enemies” of the regime 5, especially those with suspected international support. As such, the international platform offered by the ICPC could be used to promote the Nazi view of crime and its causes, which was heavily biased towards criminal biology and racist prejudices. The ICPC thus provided an op-portunity to enhance formal and informal cooperation under the guise of an apolitical organiza-tion that claimed to fight only “ordinary” crime. However, the Nazi regime blurred the distinction between “ordinary” and “political” crime and so-called antisocial behaviour. In short, “criminal” meant anyone deemed a threat to the Volksgemeinschaft.

The annual meetings of the ICPC from 1934 onwards reflected the growing influence of the German police, and the German delegations increasingly comprised members of the NSDAP and the SS. The international members turned a blind eye to this development and ignored the political convictions of the German colleagues, whom they preferred to regard as mere experts in the field of criminal investigation.6 Neither the growing influence of the Nazis nor the annexation of Austria in 1938, which placed the ICPC’s Vienna headquarters under Hitler’s control, aroused any effective opposition among other members. Thus, the takeover of the ICPC by the German police was accepted; even after the outbreak of war, only France and Great Britain suspended their cooperation. Heydrich became president of the ICPC in 1940, and the head-quarters were moved to Berlin in 1941. Most of the historical studies of Interpol state that the organization was inactive during the war, and even less is known about its fate from 1941 to 1945.7 Closer examination offers new insights into Interpol’s history during the war and its role in the regime’s security apparatus.

A View from London

In December 1941, Stephen Gaselee (1882–1943), a Foreign Office diplomat, asked the Metropolitan Police about the fate of the ICPC. “Dead as mutton” 8 answered Norman Kendal (1880–1966), assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. A counsellor of the Greek embassy had approached the Foreign Office – J.A. Romanos 9 – whether allied ICPC members should not organize themselves as an alternative to the official ICPC, which resided since 1941 in Berlin and was headed by Heydrich. Kendal, who had been the British delegate to the ICPC since 1928 and served as its vice-president from 1938 onwards, was the one person in Britain who knew most about the ICPC. But ties to the organization were cut after the outbreak of World War II and Kendal reported that some exiled police officers had approached him to “put forward a suggestion that it would be a good thing to revive the I.C.P.C. in this country by calling together the Police Officials who were from the various occupied countries and wanted me to be the President.” Among the exiled police functionaries mentioned was Vladeta Milićević (1898–1970), who had been at the Yugoslav Ministry of the Interior prior to the German and Italian attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the Austrian Dr Viktor Altmann (1900–1960), who was an acquaintance of former ICPC president Johannes Schober (1874–1932). From Kendal’s point of view, the ICPC had not been functioning since the outbreak of the war, but an informal gathering of foreign police functionaries might be of use. However, he had “doubts regarding the advisability of setting up an organisation in this country whose only immediate practical utility might be to give some occupation to some of the Allied police chiefs now in this country.”10 Officially the matter was closed, and no action was taken to set up an organization or to give exiled “police chiefs” an occupation.

British archival documents seem to confirm Interpol’s official history, which can summarize the years between 1938 and 1946 in two sentences: “In 1938, the Nazis assumed control of the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) after deposing President Michael Skubl. In 1941, the Commission’s headquarters were relocated to Berlin, at ‘Am Kleinen Wannsee 16’, and the Organization remained under Nazi control until the end of World War II.”11 What happened to the organization after 1941/42 seemed to be unknown to British officials. But if the organization had been “dead as mutton” as Kendal claimed in 1941, the cadaver of ICPC was surprisingly still able to move and even to act. Its demise came as late as spring 1945. The following observations not only summarize what is known on Interpol’s history during the war and especially in 1944 and 1945 12 but draws on archival sources hitherto rarely – if at all – used in historical accounts on Interpol. This allows for some preliminary conclusions on the end of the “old” Interpol and offers a thesis on the role Interpol played in Nazi criminal policies.

More than a Prelude: How Interpol’s Headquarters was Moved to Berlin

When the Germans took over the Vienna police in March 1938, the headquarters of the ICPC fell into their hands. The SS journal Das Schwarze Korps claimed, that the Sicherheitspolizei (security police), established in 1936 by combining the newly formed Reichskriminalpolizeiamt and the Gestapo 13, served now as trustee for the management of ICPC 14, which meant that Heydrich himself was now in charge. Heydrich was keen to become officially the president of the ICPC, but the plan was provisionally cancelled due to scepticism among some of its influential members, notably the Dutch, Belgian, and British.15 So, Otto Steinhäusel (1879–1940), an SS veteran and Austrian police officer was nominated the president of the Vienna police and by this function the president of the ICPC as well. To foreign observers, the ICPC seemed to still be independent and far away from the epicentre of the German police. Since its foundation in 1923, it had gained a good reputation and was appreciated generally in Europe and abroad. German influence had always been considerable in the organization although the Austrian police was in control of the headquarters. This influence only grew after 1933.

When Heydrich gained control of the criminal police and the political police in 1936, he still concentrated on the reorganization of the German police by erasing the remnants of the old federal police system and installing a strict hierarchical order. One of those remnants was the individual membership of the larger police forces in the ICPC; by 1933, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Dresden, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Munich, and the German Ministry of the Interior, had sent all their members, making the Germans the largest group in the organization.16 This was never changed, a context that was very convenient for the architects of the Nazi security apparatus after 1933. At the ICPC conferences since 1934, the Germans assembled a delegation headed by a leader probably selected through an agreement between Wilhelm Frick, Himmler, and possibly Heydrich17, making sure that the Germans presented themselves as a bloc.

It seems clear that the German leadership of the security apparatus agreed that the organization should be continued as an “independent” and international one. Apart from their considerable influence due to multiple votes, one specific myth helped the German police in achieving its goal. Since its foundation in 1923, the ICPC had presented itself as a body of experts only helping each other in suppressing ordinary crime by strictly abstaining from any form of political policing. A revised constitution that came in force in 1938 18 explicitly claimed in the French version that it only served the cooperation of the criminal police (Art. 1 a) whereas the German version spoke of mutual assistance of all police authorities. This clarification in the French version seemed to exclude any abuse for political policing or other forms of ideologically motivated persecution of people. It did not, of course. Even before the constitution was revised there was an understanding that the ICPC would keep an eye on communism and terror-ism although it was far from being a key priority.19
The reform of the police in Germany was aimed at blurring the differences between the criminal police and the political police. The whole concept of “criminality” distinguished less and less between ordinary crime, political crime, and ethnic policing; opposition to the regime became in itself a “crime”. When the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) 20 was finally established in autumn 1939, the departments may have been separated and formally independent, but they were urged to work as closely together as possible. The RSHA consisted of several departments: the Reichskriminapolizeiamt (Amt V), the Gestapo (Amt IV), and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service, SD, scattered over Amt I, II, III, and VI). Rivalries between the branches remained and many high-ranking police officials maintained the differences, but this did not prevent close cooperation.
When Otto Steinhäusel, who had been suffering from ill health, died in June 1940, Heydrich finally installed himself as president of the ICPC, claiming that this had been universally acknowledged by all members.21 Notwithstanding the uneasiness of a couple of members who understood Heydrich’s main task was organizing all branches of the political police and the persecution of everybody marked as enemy of the regime, as well as Jews, Sinti, and Roma, his presidency was not challenged. The Western allies did not answer the call, the occupied states had no real choice, and the neutral members (among them Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, the USA 22, and Spain) did not officially object. Although Heydrich presided over all branches of the RSHA, as president of the ICPC he could be perceived by the members only in his function as head of the criminal police, which, in turn, was led by Arthur Nebe. It was the first president of the organization, Johann Schober, who had set the example: as president of the police of Vienna, he had been also in charge of the political police of the city and even served as chancellor of the republic and as foreign secretary while in office as ICPC president, but neither he nor any of the members thought of this as problematic or being at odds with the apolitical character of the organization.23
Heydrich ordered that the ICPC headquarters had to move to Berlin, and by spring 1941, it was installed in a mansion locaed at Am Kleinen Wannsee 16. The location seemed separated from the centres of the German police: the RSHA and the Reichskriminalpolizeiamt (RKPA), the central criminal investigation department, resided at the heart of Berlin, roughly 25 kilometres away. However, a circular issued by Heydrich on 8 December 1941 stressed that all police forces should cooperate with the ICPC: criminal police, Gestapo, as well as SD.24

The ICPC in Berlin

The personnel of the new headquarters consisted of around 20 people.25 The organization was officially led by the president, Heydrich, General Secretary Oskar Dressler (1878–1959) 26 and the two permanent rapporteurs, Bruno Schultz (1872–1954) and Florent Louwage (1888–1967). The facade of the ICPC was still very international, with its parade of vice-presidents, rapporteurs, and editorial board of Internationale Kriminalpolizei, but the organization was run by German staff that was recruited from the RSHA 27, supplemented by Pieter Arend van Noothoorn (1904–1971) from the Dutch criminal police, who joined the “foreign language service” in 1942.28 Neither the president nor the two permanent rapporteurs were habitually present, just as the vice-presidents or the editorial board. This raises the question: who ran the ICPC?
The important positions were the newly created “special envoy” 29 to the president, Karl Zindel (1894–1945), and the liaison officer to the criminal police, Werner Thomas (1895–1945), who assisted the chief of the “international bureau”, headed by Nebe, who was also rarely present.
Thomas 30 was born into a middle-class family; his father Heinrich worked as a high-ranking official of the Reichspost. He served in World War I and began his career in the criminal police of Berlin in 1925. Though he had no formal training in (criminal) law, being an army officer allowed him to gather enough experience to fulfil the requirements for a leading position. From 1928 until 1941, he worked in the Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung von Rauschgiftvergehen, the central agency in Germany for combating drug offenses, which he led since 1931. In 1934, he became member of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and switched to the SS in 1937, where he was af-filiated with the SD. He joined the NSDAP in 1940. At the beginning of 1942, he was installed as an advisor at the ICPC headquarters, working closely with Nebe, and in 1943, he was promoted to the Kriminal- und Regierungsrat. His SS rank (which he held since 1941) was Sturmbannführer (equal to the military rank of major). Thomas gained a reputation in combating drug offences 31 during the Weimar years and kept this position after 1933. He served as the German delegate at international conferences pertaining to drug abuse and had been on missions abroad since 1926.32 He knew some French and English and was probably known to European colleagues working in the same field.
Zindel was born into a merchant family. From his birth up to 1907/08, he lived with his family in Palermo (Sicily) and then moved to Stuttgart. He served in World War I and studied law afterwards. In 1923, he began his career as a civil servant at the police in Stuttgart and the Ministry of the Interior in Württemberg, where he held various posts. By 1934, he was promoted to the Ministry of the Interior at Berlin and climbed the career ladder. In the following years, he gained the trust of Heydrich, who entrusted him with various tasks in the security apparatus of the Third Reich. From 27 September 1939 to December 1941, Zindel served as the group leader of Department Ia (“Law”) at the RSHA and during this time was sent to North Africa as a representative of the chief of the Sicherheitspolizei and the SD at the Corpo di Polizia dell’Africa Italiana. After his return in 1941, he resumed his post as “special envoy” to the president of the ICPC, a function revoked by Ernst Kaltenbrunner in 1943. On 16 September 1944, he became head of the Attachégruppe, which coordinated the police officers serving at various embassies.33 Whatever his other functions were, he remained at the headquarters of the ICPC until spring 1945.34 However, Zindel’s experience with the ICPC began well before 1941. In 1934, he succeeded his then chief Rudolf Klaiber (1873–1957) as member of the ICPC for Württemberg, a position he held while he attended the ICPC conferences in 1934 (Vienna), 1935 (Copenhagen), and 1938 (Bucharest). In the mid-1930s, he was equally responsible for drafting the law to persecute Sinti and Roma in Germany.35 Zindel joined the NSDAP in 1933 and by the same year was a supporting but not an active member (Förderndes Mitglied) 36 of the SS, which he officially joined in 1937 (rank: Sturmbannführer) and was as well assigned to the SD. A year later, he was promoted to Standartenführer (equal to the military rank of colonel). Zindel was an ideal choice for running the ICPC: he was intimately familiar with the whole security apparatus of the Third Reich and had enough experience with international police cooperation.

Dressler, the only person who moved from the old headquarters in Vienna to Berlin in 1941, was always loyal to the presidents of the ICPC and had even managed to postpone his retirement in 1938 to remain in service.37 He was the man most members had met in person, and he signed most of the official correspondence. As general secretary from 1923 onwards, he seemed to guarantee continuity and the trustworthiness of the organization as well as conformity to the rules. Dressler was not as familiar with the German police institutions as he had been with the Austrian police. But his powers were now limited; Zindel and Thomas were in charge. What he did was to write a handbook on the tasks and facilities of his organization for internal use.38 When it was finally delivered in 1943, Heydrich was already dead and Zindel “degraded”. Dressler praised Heydrich’s reforms. According to him, all was done to foster international police cooperation and to streamline the prosecution of transnational criminals. All this, Dressler stressed, was in line with the resolutions of the ICPC conferences. Since 1935 at the latest, these resolutions were influenced by Germany’s criminal policies – a topic that should be elaborated further and merits closer scrutiny. The German police kept close contact with the ICPC, and an exchange of files was organized twice a day.39 The circular mentioned above featured in Dressler’s handbook but significantly in an abridged version: Art. V urging the cooperation of the criminal police, Gestapo, and SD with the ICPC was skipped.
After Heydrich’s death, Nebe temporarily led the ICPC but was replaced in May 1943 by Kaltenbrunner because he – as chief of the RSHA – was, from the German point of view, entitled to the presidency of the ICPC. He initiated some changes: Zindel was no longer “special envoy” to the president and the traditional executive committee was reestablished. The role of the general secretary regained its former importance. In the circular that detailed these changes, Kaltenbrunner maintained that all branches of the police should cooperate with the ICPC and to support its duties.40 It is difficult to assess if this really changed his day-to-day work at the mansion at Am Kleinen Wannsee 16 because the executive committee, apart from the general secretary, was as absent from Berlin as before.

In fact, most work was done under the auspices of Zindel and Thomas. Both were career police officials and had distinct fields of expertise (Zindel: persecution of Sinti and Roma; Thomas: combating drug abuse), which were not controversial in international policing. To most European colleagues, they seemed to be specialists and professional criminalists as well. Their careers had started well before the Nazi takeover, and both had not distinguished themselves as ardent followers of Hitler. Especially Zindel evoked sympathetic memories after 1945: Harry Södermann, the Swedish delegate to the ICPC, characterized him as a “mild Nazi” who completely renounced Nazism after a while 41, and affidavits from witnesses like Fritz de Magius (former police chief of Copenhagen) and Kristian Welhaven (former police chief of Oslo) given to Zindel’s widow in 1947/48 when she had to undergo denazification claimed more or less the same.42

Thomas, in turn seems to have had much less contacts with foreign colleagues during his term at the ICPC, which should not be surprising since he coordinated the work with the RSHA and not between the headquarters and foreign police forces. It must be kept in mind that most foreign witnesses had no insight into the actual work of the ICPC and even less into the activities of the German criminal police. The latter had after all still a (very) good reputation in the years after World War II, and it was widely believed that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by the Gestapo, SD, and SS but not by the criminal police.43

Uses and Abuses: The ICPC in the German Police System

It is difficult to assess what exactly was done by the ICPC during the last years of the war. The volumes of Internationale Kriminalpolizei offer some glimpses, although the issues became thinner and thinner the longer the war lasted. The content consisted of calls for wanted persons as well as requests for information (all in all, 367 notices were printed in the issues published between January 1943 and February 1945) and of a few articles on diverse topics of general criminological interest as well as reviews. The continuing expansion of the radio network was noted with satisfaction.44 References to racial45 or political implications of Nazi criminal policy were carefully avoided. The paper Zindel gave on the “Zigeunerproblem”46 at the meeting in November 1943 was not published in Internationale Kriminalpolizei, and in 1944, there was only one allusion to Jewish pickpockets in an article by Bruno Schultz on the work of the ICPC since 1938.47
Kaltenbrunner convened an informal gathering of members in Vienna in November 1943, where he stressed camaraderie and the apolitical character of the organization.48 At the meeting in Vienna, the Berlin staff – comprising Zindel, Thomas, Nebe, Dressler and Walter Zirpins (1901–1976) – were present, together with members from Romania, Spain, Norway, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Denmark.49 The overall picture suggests that “normality” was the main message the ICPC was communicating. Research on the German police during the war has shown time and again that all branches of the police were deeply entangled with war crimes, with the criminal police itself being responsible for the mass murder of Sinti and Roma, so-called Berufsverbrecher, and others considered enemies of the Volksgemeinschaft.50 It would be surprising if the German-led and -administrated ICPC were untouched by the de-velopments in Germany, operating according to the principles established prior to 1938.

The evidence suggests that the Nazi regime took the ICPC seriously. Especially Heydrich was keen to control the institution and to attach it firmly to “his” apparatus. But the question remains, why did Heydrich and his successor Kaltenbrunner value an organization such as the ICPC? In the early years of the war, the German police gained direct access to the police forces of the occupied countries, making the indirect official cooperation unnecessary it seems. Further, the data on criminals held by the ICPC was not exhaustive and – in fact – relatively small. As a tool to detect and persecute people the Nazi regime considered as opponents, the organization was not the first choice to work with, although the databases could contain some information the Nazi police did not have or could not acquire otherwise. These flaws should not obscure the actual value of the ICPC.
Maintaining a “civil” form of cooperation had its propaganda value, presenting the German police as effective, modern, cooperative, and law-abiding.51 Further, the ICPC was considered as a nucleus of a worldwide-operating but German-controlled police.52 Many reforms of the German police and the criminal code after 1933 were positively received in Europe 53; not only was criminal biology “popular” in German criminology but also the conviction that Sinti and Roma were criminal in character.54 All of these viewpoints were in alignment with the members of the ICPC and therefore not perceived as a German Sonderweg or as a problematic influence of the Nazi regime.

Beyond its propaganda value, the ICPC facilitated direct inconspicuous contacts between lead-ing police officials 55, especially with those of neutral countries (e.g., Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal) and those of dependent countries, which still were officially in charge of their police forces (e.g., France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway). Thus, the communication channels of the ICPC could be used to gather information on people without disclosing the real purpose of the requests, which, although issued by the German criminal police, in reality served the Gestapo or SD.56 The enlargement of the radio network of the ICPC since the 1930s enhanced the means for rapid enquiries without any judicial preparation or permission, for example from the foreign office or any other institution of the state.
Face-to-face communication between high-ranking police officials was always at the centre of ICPC politics and culture. The new headquarters in Berlin was well suited to welcome foreign guests, with Florent Louwage (Belgium) or Karel H. Broekhoff (Netherlands), among others, visiting the mansion at Am Kleinen Wannsee 16 during the war. The meeting in November 1943 served the same purpose. The strong conviction to serve a common goal ensured cooperation on a personal level between the members, relations not easy to detect in the archives.57

Among the leading police officers, the organization had a very good reputation. Therefore, references to the ICPC could be used to pave the way for closer cooperation, suggesting that the aim of an action was suppressing “international criminality” and nothing else.58 Thus, Carl Oberg (1897–1965), the German chief of the police in France, referred in 1942 to the ICPC when negotiating closer collaboration with René Bousquet (1909–1993), the chief of the Vichy police.59 Established contacts helped to select liaison officers, such as Pierre Mondanel (1890–1986), a French member of the ICPC since 1930 who served in 1940 on the so-called Kundt-Kommission 60 to monitor German inmates in the internment camps in the “free” part of France. The commmission’s main purpose was to detect opponents of the Nazi regime and, if found, to prepare requests of extradition. For such purposes, the sheer existence of the ICPC and its good reputation was of considerable value.

The uses of the ICPC were manifold and accounts for the eagerness with which the German regime maintained the organization until the very end of the war are multiple. This in itself indicates that it was more than an object of prestige or served the ambition (or vanity) of Heydrich or to a lesser degree Kaltenbrunner. Even though it is difficult to assess if and how ICPC data was used to support the murderous policies of the Nazi regime, it became a part of the German security apparatus. It was run by personnel of the RSHA, used by all branches of the German security forces, and helped to maintain the myth of an apolitical German criminal police with which cooperation seemed less problematic than cooperation with any other German institution. The Allies and the neutral countries saw no reason to object to the resurrection of the ICPC in 1946, and they did not give a second thought to the role the organization had played during the war.


The ICPC was not “dead as mutton” by 1941. On the contrary, it flourished in Berlin, although conditions worsened 1944 with the advance of the Allies. What happened to the organization and its personnel at the end of the war? By 1944, or a bit later, Dressler had moved back to Vienna, but it is still unclear whether he left Berlin before the end of the war or after.61 Nebe was arrested in early 1945 due to his alleged involvement in the 20 July plot and later executed. Zindel and Thomas both left Berlin shortly before the Red Army encircled the town in late April 1945. Just like the leading personnel of the RSHA, they probably also burned materials and made sure that the Allies would not find any compromising papers.62 Zindel, together with his wife, made it to his hometown Tübingen, where he was arrested by the French on 19 April. He died the same night while being interrogated.63 Thomas was reported to have been killed in action on 3 May near Falkensee, at the outskirts of Berlin.64 Kaltenbrunner went into hiding in Austria and was arrested by the Americans near Altaussee on 12 May. He was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials and executed in 1946.65 The ICPC’s two permanent rapporteurs, Schulz and Louwage, were not in Berlin: Schulz was probably in Vienna, Louwage in Brussels. The head of the international bureau, Friedrich Panzinger (1903–1959), left Berlin by plane on 22 April and arrived safely in Salzburg.66 He never showed any interest in the organization and, as far as is known, his signature never appeared on any ICPC document. He was not arrested until October 1946 near Linz.
As far as is known, the rest of the staff remained in Berlin, and after the Americans took over their sector in July 1945, Paul Spielhagen, who had been responsible for the ICPC files, offered them some material that was considered valueless.67 The mansion at Am Kleinen Wannsee 16 was unharmed and is still standing. When the ICPC reappeared in 1946 by the initiative of Louwage, it was uncontaminated by any compromising papers or memories of those responsible during the war.68

1 The early Interpol was basically a European organization founded to improve cooperation between leading police officials, to implement direct contacts between them, to promote the exchange of data, and to facilitate the pursuit of "international criminals". It had no executive powers. Cf. Jens Jäger, Verfolgung durch Verwaltung. Internationales Verbrechen und internationale Polizeikooperation 1880–1933, Konstanz 2006, pp. 289-342.
2 The standard literature on German foreign policy between 1933 and 1945 reports little to nothing about the country's dealings with international organizations, apart from its withdrawal from the League of Nations. Cf. Johannes Hürter/ Michael Mayer (Hrsg.), Das Auswärtige Amt in der NS-Diktatur, Berlin 2014; Eckart Conze, Das Amt und die Vergangenheit. Deutsche Diplomaten im Dritten Reich und der Bundesrepublik, 3rd ed. München 2010; Marie Louise Recker, Die Außenpolitik des Dritten Reiches, München 2015 (1st ed. 1990). It is also very difficult to estimate the number of international organizations (including NGOs) of which Germany was an official member up to 1933 and beyond.
3 Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten. Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes, 5th ed. Hamburg 2003; Patrick Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten. Die deutsche Kriminalpolizei und der Nationalsozialismus, München 2002.
4 This process allowed higher ranking police officers after the war to claim that their SS rank was imposed on them and not based on any free choice. This process was called Dienstgradangleichung (alignment of ranks) and trivialized after the war into a mere administrative procedure. Cf. Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten, p.155.
5 International cooperation in matters of political policing was also promoted, see: Patrick Bernhard, Der Beginn einer faschistischen Interpol. Das deutsch-italienische Polizeiabkommen von 1936 und die Zusammenarbeit der Diktaturen im Europa der Zwischenkriegszeit, in: The-menportal Europäische Geschichte, 2022, (accessed 3.5. 2024).
6 Mathieu Deflem, The Logic of Nazification. The Case of the International Criminal Police Commission (“Interpol”), in: International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43 (2002), pp. 21-44; Mathieu Deflem, Policing World Society – Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation, Oxford 2003; Jäger, Verfolgung durch Verwaltung, esp. p. 370-377.
7 Ibid.
8 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (London), Norman Kendal (Metropolitan Police) to Stephen Gaselee (Foreign Office), 12.12. 1941, in: PRO FO 371 26598 1941 Germany.
9 J.A. Romanos was a counsellor of the Greek embassy in London.
10 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (London), Gaselee (FO) to Kendal (Mepo), 13. January 1942, in: PRO FO 371 26598 1941 Germany.
11 (accessed 3.5. 2024).
12 The best accounts of Interpol’s history during the Second World War are to be found in: Deflem, The Logic of Nazification; Deflem, Policing World Society; Jäger, Verfolgung durch Verwaltung, pp. 370-376; Robert David Whitaker, Policing Globalization. The Imperial Origins of International Police Cooperation, Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin 2014; Cyrill Fijnaut, A Peaceful Revolution. The Development of Police and Judicial Cooperation in the European Union, Cambridge 2019, esp. pp. 21-72.
13 The Sicherheitspolizei was led by Reinhard Heydrich, the criminal police by Arthur Nebe. The Gestapo proper was in the hands of Heydrich since 1934, and at that time he was already head of the party Sicherheitsdienst (SD).
14 Das Schwarze Korps 4 (1938) 21 April, p. 4.
15 Jos Smeets, Marius van Houten. Marechaussee en diplomaat, Utrecht 2011, pp. 153-158. Van Houten was a long-time member of the ICPC and still influential, although he was officially retired from his functions in the organization.
16 The constitution of the ICPC granted membership to individuals not to states. The founding members remained life-long members no matter if they retired from active police service or somebody else was nominated by the police forces or states. Germany was not the only country to have more than one member. See Jäger, Verfolgung durch Verwaltung, p. 296.
17 Although there exist no protocols, the selection suggests an understanding between Frick, Himmler, and Heydrich. The leaders of the German delegation were in 1934: Rudolf Klaiber; 1935 and 1936: Kurt Daluege; and 1938: Nebe. The conference of 1937 in London was not attended by a German delegation.
18 French version: J. Martha Rutsel Silvestre, The Legal Foundations of Interpol, Oxford 2010, p. 305. German version: Oskar Dressler, Die Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission und ihr Werk, Berlin [1942], p. 17.
19 Michael Skubl, Internationale Polizei [Lecture given at the invitation of the "Bund für internationale Freundschaftsbeziehungen" on 12 March 1937 in the "Industriehaus"], Sonderdruck aus Öffentliche Sicherheit 1937, Nr. 5, S. 20; Bernhard, Der Beginn einer faschistischen Interpol. Bernhard states that the fight against anarchism, socialism, and above all communism was at the forefront of Interpol’s foundation in 1923. There is no evidence given for this contention, and it would be surprising. However, such concerns certainly loomed in the background of the minds of the founders.
20 Still one of the best accounts on the RSHA is: Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten.
21 Gruppenführer Heydrich Präsident der IKPK, in: Das Schwarze Korps 6 (1940) 36, 5.9. 1940, p. 2
22 The USA (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) became a member in 1938 and stopped to communicate with the ICPC in December 1941, see Deflem, Nazification, p. 24.
23 Johann Schober (1874–1932) served as the chancellor of Austria in 1921/22 and in 1929/30. In the next government, he held the posts of vice-chancellor and foreign secretary.
24 Circular dated 8. Dec. 1941, in: Befehlsblatt des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 3 (1942), No. 1, 10.1.1942, p. 1f. According to Oskar Dressler, Karl Zindel was de facto in this position since 1940. Dressler, Die Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission, p. 267, foot-note 2.
25 Arolsen Archives, Sign. 9029500, Jahrbuch 1939 / 1940 und Geschäftsverteilungsplan des RKPA (Amt V des RSHA) [not dated but probably 1942]. It is likely that there were more people, as the directory only lists those with a direct telephone line.
26 Werner Sabitzer, Der erste „Mr. Interpol“, in Öffentliche Sicherheit 7-8 (2010), p. 47-49; Werner Sabitzer, Die IKPK von 1923 bis 1945, in: Öffentliche Sicherheit 7-8 (2023), p. 43.
27 August Starbatty (director of administration), Kurt Juwig (foreign language service), Paul Spielhagen, Josef Kittenberger, Ms Zehe (responsible for the ICPC publication and the files), Mr Schäfer, and Mr Hitschler (bureau work and registry). A cook, a gardener, and an assistant were also employed by the ICPC.
28 Internationale Kriminalpolizei 5 (1942) 5, p. 4.
29 II (1) of the Circular dated 8. 12. 1941, in: Befehlsblatt des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 3 (1942) 1, 10.1.1942, p. 1.
30 Landesarchiv Berlin, Justizbehörden, Generalstaatsanwaltschaft beim Kammergericht, B Rep. 057-01 Nr. 3069, „Personenheft“ Thomas, Werner.
31 Werner Thomas, Vorbeugende, sichernde und bessernde Maßnahmen gegen rauschgiftsüchtige Rechtsbrecher, in: Kriminalistik 5 (1938), p. 103. Werner Thomas, Zusammenarbeit der Gau- und Kreisarbeitsgemeinschaften für Rauschgiftbekämpfung mit der Kriminalpolizei, in: Der öffentliche Gesundheitsdienst, Teilausgabe B (1937/38), p. 309. See also: Jan Haverkamp, Rauschmittel im Nationalsozialismus. Die gesetzliche und therapeutische Entwicklung 1933–1939, in: Sozial.Geschichte Online 7 (2012), pp. 40–71.
32 Landesarchiv Berlin, Justizbehörden, Generalstaatsanwaltschaft beim Kammergericht, B Rep. 057-01 Nr. 3069, „Personenheft“ Thomas, Werner, fol. 39.
33 According to Wildt, Heydrich attempted to install a form of independent foreign policy in security matters by placing police officers in embassies. Ernst Kaltenbrunner kept this organization, but Wildt concludes that already by 1941 “any attempt, if there was one, by the SS and police leadership to pursue its own ‘SS foreign policy’ failed". This should be reconsidered. Wildt, Generation, p. 648f.
34 Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Staatsarchiv Sigmaringen, Wü 13 T 2 Nr. 2688/221, Zindel, Martha. The file contains the denazification papers Zindel’s widow had to present to keep her pension. The home of the Zindels until spring 1945 was Berlin (Lohengrinstrasse 16, Berlin Wannsee) and his office at the mansion at Am Kleinen Wannsee 16.
35 Tobias Joachim Schmidt-Degenhard, Robert Ritter (1901–1951). Zu Leben und Werk des NS-„Zigeunerforschers“, Tübingen 2008, p. 191.
36 Landesarchiv Berlin, Justizbehörden, Generalstaatsanwaltschaft beim Kammergericht, B Rep. 057-01 Nr. 3403, „Personenheft“ Zindel, Karl, [handwritten CV by Karl Zindel], fol. 11.
37 Franz A. Pichler, Polizeihofrat P. Ein treuer Diener seines ungetreuen Staates, Wien 1984, p. 138f.: „the head of the 'International Criminal Police Commission', Hofrat Dressler, also tried to come to terms with the National Socialists. According to Pichler's diary entry of October 22, 1938, 'he turned to the supreme police chief Himmler and thereby managed to postpone his retirement. The creation of the infrastructure for cooperation between the Italian, Austrian and German police in the fight against 'international Marxism' must have been worth something to Himmler after all’.“ (author’s translation).
38 Dressler, Die Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission. It was marked „For internal use only“. Although the manuscript was finished by autumn 1942, the book included supplemental content until July 1943.
39 Dressler, Die Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission, p. 23.
40 Befehlsblatt des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 4 (1943) 39, 21.8.1943, p. 232f. The executive committee consisted of the president, general secretary, the two permanent rapporteurs, and the (temporary) rapporteurs.
41 Harry Södermann, Auf der Spur des Verbrechens. Lebenserinnerungen eines Kriminalisten, Köln 1957, p. 343. Harry Södermann wrote the same about Nebe.
42 Cf. affidavits by Fritz v. Magius (former police chief of Copenhagen) and Kristian Welhaven (former police chief of Oslo); Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Staatsarchiv Sigmaringen, Wü 13 T 2 Nr. 2688/221, Zindel, Martha. Södermann himself provided an affidavit for Martha Zindel and recommended to her to write to Louwage as well who would “testify to your husband's convictions” (author’s translation).
43 Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten.
44 [Karl] Zindel, Die Entwicklung des internationalen Funkverkehrs im Rahmen der Internationalen Kriminalpolizeilichen Kommission, in: Internationale Kriminalpolizei 7 (1944) 5-6, p. 2f.
45 One exception was the inclusion of the term „Rasse “(race) in the search warrant forms of the ICPC. See, Dressler, Die Internationale kriminalpolizeiliche Kommission, p. 53.
46 Oskar Dressler, Die Zusammenkunft der Internationalen Kriminalpolizeilichen Kommissi-on in Wien, in: Internationale Kriminalpolizei 7 (1944) 1, p. 3
47 Bruno Schultz, Meine Tätigkeit seit der XIV. Tagung, in: Internationale Kriminalpolizei 7 (1944), No. 3, p. 4. Schultz wrote, that pickpockets, who according to his knowledge were mostly polish jews were successfully „deterred“ by the German criminal policies since 1933.
48 Dressler, Die Zusammenkunft, p. 3.
49 Dressler, Die Zusammenkunft, p. 3. Walter Zirpins a high-ranking police official in the RSHA was for some time responsible for international police cooperation (from Nov./Dec. 1938 to Nov./Dec. 1939), which accounts for his presence. He also served as chief of the criminal police in the ghetto in Łódź from 1940 to 1941. After the war, he resumed his career and in 1961 became chief of police in Hanover.
50 Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten, pp. 75-113; Wildt, Generation, pp. 230 ff.
51 In a report on the meeting in Bucharest, it was highlighted that if the commission could be moved to Berlin this would be “a very valuable means of propaganda”: Bundesarchiv (Berlin), Hauptamt Sicherheitspolizei, [Reinhard Heydrich] to Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei [Kurt Daluege], 24. June 1938, Bericht über den Verlauf der XIV. ordentlichen Tagung der Internationalen Kriminalpolizeilichen Kommission in Bukarest R 19 / 429. Arthur Nebe probably edited the report.
52 See e.g. IV. (1): Befehlsblatt des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 3 (1942) 1, 10.1.1942, p. 2.
53 Deflem, The Logic of Nazification, p. 36.
54 Jäger, Verfolgung durch Verwaltung, pp. 349-355; Thomas Huonker / Regula Ludi, Roma, Sinti und Jenische. Schweizerische Zigeunerpolitik zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Beitrag zur Forschung, Zürich 2001; Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten, pp. 143-149.
55 This was an asset no member of the ICPC would deny. For instance, it was highlighted in a report on the ICPC conference in Vienna from the Ministry of the Interior to the Chancellery in 1934 with the wish to present the report to Hitler. Bundesarchiv, Reichskanzlei, Internationale Kongresse R 43 I /559.
56 Landesarchiv Berlin Pr.Br. Rep. 30 Polizeipräsidium C Tit.198 A Gen. 33, Reichskriminalpolizeiamt 34, Vol. 2 [1937-1940]; Amt V [Nebe] to Amt I [Heydrich], 28. November 1939: Nebe stressed that the RKPA was already used to gather information from abroad on behalf of the security apparatus. The RKPA was the only institution allowed to communicate with foreign police forces and esp. with the ICPC. He explicitly wrote: “This opportunity has often benefited the Gestapo in particular” (author’s translation).
57 See the exchange of letters between Van Houten, Zindel, and some members of the ICPC during the war in: Smeets, Marius van Houten, pp. 165-180, and the hints on foreign visitors in: Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, 99517 83-60E Internationale Polizeikongresse 1941-1945.
58 Highlighting the combat against ordinary international crime: Reinhard Heydrich, Entwicklung und Aufbau der Sicherheitspolizei im Lande Österreich, in: Kriminalistik (1938) 4, p. 75. Gruppenführer Heydrich Präsident der IKPK, in: Das Schwarze Korps 6 (1940), 5.9., p. 2; In-ternationale Kriminalpolizei 7 (1944) 1, p. 3. Kaltenbrunner explicitly stressed: „[The ICPC is an] international, independent and strictly non-political institution.“ (author’s translation).
59 Serge Klarsfeld, Vichy-Auschwitz. La ‘solution finale’ de la question juive en France [1983], Paris 2001, p. 156f.
60 The commission consisted of officials from the foreign office, officers from the Wehrmacht, members of the Gestapo, police, and two Red Cross doctors. See: Christian Eggers, “Unter den hohen Bäumen”. Jubitz' Reise durch die Internierungslager im Süden Frankreichs, in: Cahiers d’Études Germaniques 1989/17, p. 21–31; Das Tagebuch von Jubitz [ed. Christian Eggers], in: Cahiers d’Études Germaniques 1989/ 17, p. 31–91.
61 Sabitzer, Der erste ‚Mr. Interpol‘, pp. 47-49.
62 Wildt, Generation, p. 727.
63 Standesamt Karlsruhe, Sterberegister 1945, Nr. 1677 with supplement.
64 Landesarchiv Berlin, Justizbehörden, Generalstaatsanwaltschaft beim Kammergericht, B Rep. 057-01 Nr. 3069, „Personenheft“ Thomas, Werner. Some doubts were raised if this was true.
65 During the trial, he once mentioned his role in the ICPC when the question of forced interrogation was raised. Kaltenbrunner said: “I was President of the International Criminal Police Commission, and in this capacity, I had the opportunity to speak about this topic at a meeting in the autumn of 1943. From this conference and also from my reading of the foreign press over a number of years I gathered that the police system of each state also makes use of rather severe measures of interrogation”, cf. Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 11, One Hundred and Sixth Day, Friday, 12 April 1946 (Morning Session), p. 311. The judge was not interested to hear more on the ICPC.
66 Wildt, Generation, p. 728. As far as in known, Panzinger never took up the office of the chief of the international bureau.
67 Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Police, File No.94-01-2061. The file covers the years 1945 and 1946. Louwage mentioned in his opening remarks at the conference at Brussels that he had been to Berlin and “thanks to the kindness of the American and British Military Police […] was lucky enough to find again many documents from our committee, concerning administrative matters.” The International Conference in Brussels, Brussels [1946], p. 11.
68 Cyrill Fijnaut, A Peaceful Revolution. The Development of Police and Judicial Cooperation in the European Union, Cambridge 2019, esp. pp. 21-72. The published papers of the first conference of the ICPC after the war confirm that no one showed any interest in the years from 1938 to 1945. See: The International Conference in Brussels.

Editors Information
Published on
Dieser Beitrag enstand im Rahmen des Fachforums 'Connections'.