The granddaughter of a former SS official who was responsible for the massacre of a Czech village has said she feels “deep shame because of my grandfather’s crimes”.
Jacqueline Gies spoke to reporters during her visit to the Museum House of Anne Frank in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital where she participated in activities to increase awareness of the dangers of antisemitism and xenophobia. She has reportedly not been interviewed in her home country of Germany.
Her grandfather Robert Gies joined the Nazi political party in 1933 and was promoted inside the regime until 1935 when he became part of the SS.
Two years later he joined the intelligence service run by Reinhard Heydrich, and was later named to run the Bohemia and Moravia protectorship in what was then Czechoslovakia.
When Heydrich moved to Prague in 1939 Gies followed him as his main adviser and was one of the perpetrators of the Lidice massacre in 1942 after Heydrich’s murder.
Hitler ordered the massacre of all men above the age of 15 in reprisal for the assassination of Heydrich. All 173 males from the village who were over 15 years of age were executed on 10th June 1942. The 184 women and 88 children in the village were sent to concentration camps.
In 1963, Robert Gies was charged for the massacre but he was absolved a year later. He died in 1974, aged 72, in freedom, without confessing to his children what he had done.
His granddaughter told local media outlet Infobae that if she met her grandfather now “my first question would be, I think, how was it possible for you that after committing all those crimes you could keep living without paying for it, without being responsible for anything?”
She never spoke to her grandfather and added: “I cannot avenge those crimes. I cannot release my (dead) father of the ghost tormenting him. But I can keep alive the memory and reveal the truth over the crimes committed by my grandfather. Those have been covered up for a long time and were never condemned.
“In the end, I think he only wanted to do his job. Joining the Nationalist Socialist party, his post in the SS, his work in the intelligence service… he always tried to build a career without consideration. Without taking anything or anybody into account.”
She said that the massacre of Lidice “was under the responsibility of my grandfather. Not only did he authorise and order it, but he came up with the idea. Thousands of people were condemned to death, deported to concentration camps, tortured and murdered for the actions done in Prague.”
After the war, her grandfather hid in a monastery and began calling himself Peter Corres.
He was reunited with his son in 1952 having divorced his wife when the boy was six. Jacqueline said: “My grandfather never gave a sincere answer to my father when he asked him about what he had done in Prague. He always answered him with evasive or general ideas, he said that his activities were linked with cultural activities.
“In the trials, he had in Germany where he was found not guilty, he did not tell the truth, he always lied. That is why that I can be sure that my granddad always denied what he did and I even believe that he thought that what he did was right, that it was correct.”
She concluded: “I have a double feeling of guilt: for being his granddaughter, for the fact that he is part of my history and for being German. But the strongest feeling is shame, shame for what he did, but at the same time, I feel it as my mission, something I inherited from my dad, to talk about the facts, about the crimes.
“Especially because while my grandfather was alive the subject was not talked about and he was not condemned. That is why it is important I make it public.”
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