Arthur Nebe was the head of the Kriminalpolizei (a.k.a. KIRPO, in English the Criminal Police) and, briefly, the Einsatzgruppen-B death squad during World War II. Despite being involved directly with groups like the Einsatzgruppen and the Gestapo, SS, etc, Arthur Nebe became sympathetic to the cause of anti-Nazi conspirators after incidents such as the Night of the Long Knives (when Hitler took steps to murder as many of his political enemies as he could) and the attempted framing of Colonel General Werner von Fritsch (charged with homosexuality in an attempt to be removed from office) and was convinced to remain within the Nazi-controlled Criminal Police by friend and resistance member Dr. Hans Bernd Gisevius. Nebe's continued involvement with the Nazis was done in order to collect evidence of the Nazis' war crimes and provide key inside information for the resistance. Nebe's choice to remain in the Nazi system and even reportedly volunteer to lead a death squad have led many to claim he is responsible for some of those war crimes (and, indeed, he may be). As Nebe is believed to have been executed in 1945 for treason, he was never brought to trial for those crimes.
Nebe was born on 13 November, 1894. His father was a teacher in Berlin and, as a young man, Nebe learnt Hebrew during a time when he wanted to be a theologian. During World War I, Nebe volunteered to join the army and rose to the position of lieutenant before being discharged in March of 1920. The next month he joined the Criminal Police and on 1 July, 1923, was appointed their commander. At this time, the Criminal Police weren't under the control of the Nazis and Nebe earned a strong reputation as a crime fighter prior to any involvement with Hitler and his party.
In the summer of 1931, Nebe joined the Nazi party and spoke in a racist and nationalist manner which, prior to joining the party, was something he had apparently not done. This behavoir is most likely the result of Nebe wanting to advance quickly within the party. On 1 April, 1933, Hermann Göring, a high-ranking Nazi, assigned Nebe to work within the Gestapo. On 30 June, 1937, he was reassigned to the Criminal Police as Reichskriminaldirektor (director of the Reich Criminal Police), thus becoming their leader.
By 1938 Nebe had become disillusioned with Hitler and the Nazis. The only reason he remained in his position was to accumulate information to be used by the German resistance against the Nazis and evidence to present to Germany and the rest of the world of the vicious war crimes that the Nazis would carry out. In September of 1938, just prior to the German annexation of the Sudetenland, a coup d'état was being organised by German military leaders dissatisfied with Hitler, the Nazi party, and their policies. Hitler was to be removed from power by storming the Chancellory where he would be, capturing (or, as some resistance members planned without the approval of other conspirators, killing) him, and taking control of Berlin through force. In order for this to work, the conspirators would need to know the locations of hidden SS substations located throughout Berlin. Nebe's access to the Gestapo's secret files made him able to provide the plotters with the necessary information. When the Sudetenland was given to Germany without the need for force (as a result of many opposing countries' policy of appeasement), however, the planned coup fell apart. Several of the coup's supporters had only pledged support to avoid plunging Germany into an unwinnable war but when the Sudetenland was simply given the Germany, many members of the military withdrew their support and the coup had insufficient manpower to be carried out.
Still maintaining the guise of a loyal Nazi, Nebe aided Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann in the deportation of gypsies from Berlin to camps in Poland. In August of 1941, Nebe volunteered to command the Einsatzgruppen-B (Einsatzgruppen translates to task force) death squad. Reports of his volunteering for such a gruesome command come from Nazis being tried for war crimes themselves after the war and while it is quite possible he did, in fact, volunteer for the position, there is also the distinct possibility that he was assigned the position and the war criminals were lying (they were, at the time, attempting to clear SS Intelligence Chief Reinhard Heydrich of war crimes). However Nebe came into the command of Einsatzgruppen-B, he holds the position until sometime in 1942. During this time Nebe made false reports to his superiors of slaughtering far more people in occupied Soviet territory than he actually did, thus saving some lives. In addition, the massacres that Nebe was forced to carry out were limited compared to others conducted by the Einsatzgruppen.
Unfortunately, several massacres were organised by other command-level members of the Einsatzgruppen forces and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler using Nebe's squad during his absences (Himmler and others felt Nebe was too soft). The total number of people executed by the Einsatzgruppen-B squad (which wasn't under Nebe's command its entire existence) reportedly comes to 45,467. While this is a horrifyingly large number, it's roughly half the number killed by Einsatzgruppens C and D and considerably less than the nearly 230,000 people wiped out by Einsatzgruppen-A.
In 1942, Nebe aided the resistance by informing them of plans being laid for the Final Solution, the killing of all the Jews in Europe. Nebe had attended several meetings chaired by Himmler, who Hitler had assigned the task of running the concentration camps, in which proposals of how to go about solving the "Jewish problem" and, ultimately, how to kill off as many as they could were discussed. Nebe was, however, apparently not present for the infamous 20 January, 1942 Wannsee Conference.
When Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to kill Hitler with a time bomb and put into motion Operation Valkyrie (a military take-over of Berlin and removal of the Nazis from power) on 20 July, 1944, Nebe waited with co-conspirator General Paul von Hase for orders to move out and arrest several key Reich ministers and other government figures. Due to the failure of this coup attempt, Nebe and von Hase never received the orders to move. As resistance members were being rounded up shortly thereafter, Nebe first aided in arresting some of them but then fled on 23 July, fearing that suspicion of being involved in the conspiracy would fall on him. Nebe managed to evade capture for roughly half a year until a former mistress of his betrayed his whereabouts to the Gestapo. In February of 1945, Arthur Nebe was arrested. The next month he tried, convicted of treason by the courts, and, supposedly, hanged the same day. Contrary to this, sightings of him were reported in Tunin during 1956 and in Ireland during 1960. Whether these reports are truthful or not is still unknown.
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