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War Criminals

Volume 497: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many war criminals, S.S. men, former Gestapo and concentration camps' staffs have worked, or are working, without guard outside Werl Prison.

During the period October, 1950, to February, 1952, six persons of the types enumerated, comprising four men and two women, have been so employed without guard. They have worked as gardeners and domestic help in the Governor's house and warders' mess close to the prison. No such person is now working outside the main part of the prison without guard.

In view of the dreadful nature of the offences for which these people were convicted, is it desirable that they should have been accorded these privileges?

I am not sure that, in fact, they were accorded any privileges. One of the reasons these persons were used in this work was that they were the most suitable persons for it.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that any leniency shown to these brutes, who were convicted for the most vicious crimes, may be regarded by the followers of neo-Nazism as something in their favour? Will he please take every possible precaution not to encourage the rise of that nefarious movement by any action of this sort?

On a point of order. I should like an answer to my supplementary question, if possible. It is a very important question.

I also had some difficulty in understanding what was the precise point of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. There is no intention by this practice to give any special benefits to this class of prisoner. In these matters, the prison authorities are governed by the German penal regulations, under which there is no discrimination between particular types of prisoner.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that even if it is not a privilege to the individual himself, the fact that he is allowed to go outside the prison gates when other prisoners could be used for that purpose will, in itself, indicate to the neo-Nazis that we do not regard the crimes which they have committed with the same fierceness as we did before?

I do not agree that that inference arises. In fact, no such person will be permitted to work, or is now permitted to work, outside the main part of the prison without a guard.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why labour to help in the house of the commandant of Werl War Criminals Prison is not recruited from among the 1,100 Allied and German common criminals also housed in the same prison instead of from among the 139 war criminals convicted of crimes against the Allies.

Female prisoners are employed as domestic help in the official houses attached to Werl Prison in accordance with the normal German penal practice. There has been no question of war criminals only being employed in the Governor's house to the exclusion of other criminals: no distinction is made between different classes of prisoners where work is concerned. At the present moment, however, there are eight women held in Werl Prison as war criminals and only two other women criminals. As one of those was convicted on a charge of murder and the other of espionage it was not thought suitable that they should be employed on work of this nature.

In this case, as there were already eight female prisoners in this prison, would it not have been much better to have accorded equality of treatment to them, and not appear, however unintentionally, to seem to give preferential treatment to female war criminals?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds 11 German war criminals were released from Werl Prison in Western Germany on 26th February, 1952.

But is the Minister of State aware that one of them is a Nazi general—Kurt Gallenkamp—who was convicted of having been responsible for the execution of several British prisoners and one American prisoner? Does he think, in view of the reply he gave me a fortnight ago today that none of the people released had committed war crimes of the first order, that his answer today corresponds with the facts of the situation?

This group of 11 men has been released in pursuance of a practice, which will cover all such prisoners, of allowing a third remission of sentence for good conduct, and of allowing for the time spent in pre-trial custody to be counted towards the sentence.