Incriminating Documents

PRETORIA/BERLIN | | suedafrika

PRETORIA/BERLIN (Own report) - Federal German authorities provided the apartheid regime of South Africa incriminating documents for a political trial against Nelson Mandela and others. This has become known through research of Bonn's South Africa policy. According to this information, West German authorities provided documents originating in the proceedings to ban the KPD to a South African diplomat and offered the support of Germany's domestic intelligence service. This was to help prepare a trial aimed at neutralizing the political resistance to the racist regime in Pretoria. Nelson Mandela, who died last week, and is now being praised by Berlin, was also affected. On the one hand, Bonn's objective was to help apartheid to remain in power, because it was considered a reliable pro-western partner, and on the other, to maintain special West German influence, which has also provided German companies lucrative business. In fact, German companies remained among the apartheid regime's most loyal supporters - to the end. During Mandela's incarceration, companies in West Germany supplied South Africa's military and police with helicopters to carry out surveillance of protests. They were equipped with devices to identify activists, many of whom were from Mandela's political entourage.

A Hitler Fan

German support for South Africa's racists extends long before the beginning of the apartheid regime. It became particularly effective beginning in 1933. "German-South African relations" had "developed during the 'Third Reich' advantageously," according to research of the German South Africa policy. Back then "under the protection of the South African Justice and Defense Minister Oswald Pirow, whose forefathers were German and who, himself, was a Hitler fan," not only "the bilateral trade" flourished, but it triggered "a brisk exchange" with "Afrikaans students and professors." "Afrikaans anti-Semites" attempted to "assess the applicability" of Nazi anti-Semitic laws "on South Africa's Jewish population." German South Africa "experts" had, for their part, considered "Premier Hertzog's strict policy of racial segregation to be a genuine South African attempt to solve the race problem of the country."[1] Many agreed in circles of German trade to Africa. They were seeing "a surging colored flood tide rising ever higher" in South Africa. To "protect western culture," the "close cooperation of the white peoples" was essential, according, for example, to the periodical of the Africa Association.[2]

German-Afrikaans Special Relationship

According to the study mentioned above, the "German-Afrikaans Special Relationship" which had developed since the 1930s, again became "noticeable" since the revival of the West German - South African relations through the establishment of the West German General Consulate in Cape Town in January 1951. The 1948 electoral victory of the South African regime, which consolidated apartheid "provided the best prerequisites" for this revival. Not least among the reasons, is the fact that during the first phase of the apartheid regime, leading South African politicians had either "received some of their academic training in Germany, or from German missionaries." Bonn and Pretoria were engaged in negotiations for a cultural agreement, already in 1955, "which from the point of view of Germany, should, above all, benefit South Africa's large German minority." However, Bonn found itself forced to postpone finalization of the treaty for a couple of years - until the end of 1962 [3] - "because of the international isolation of South Africa due to its apartheid policy."

No Criticism

At times, due to the growing political moral pressures, certain tactical concessions placed limits on Bonn's basic willingness to cooperate with the apartheid regime. For example the West German government refused to allow South Africa's Foreign Minister to visit, during his planned European tour in the immediate aftermath of the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960. At the same time trade was booming. In 1957, the Federal Republic of Germany rose to become the third most important supplier of South Africa and thereby that regime's most important economic supporter. According to foreign ministry records from May 31, 1961, referring to measures, such as the de facto disinvitation of the South African Foreign Minister in the Spring of 1960, any declaration on the part of Bonn, that could be interpreted as showing understanding for "South Africa's standpoint on race, could do considerable harm to our image in the colored world and, above all, be exploited at our expense by Pankow and the Soviets." Nevertheless the fact remains: "we intend, also in the future, with consideration for the good relations and the large German minority in South Africa, to avoid expressing public criticism of South Africa's domestic relations."[4]

Support from Bonn

Bonn continued its support of Pretoria on a working level - for example, during the trial of 156 members of the opposition for high treason in late 1956, which the Apartheid authorities used to weaken the growing resistance. Nelson Mandela was one of the defendants. According to the above mentioned study, "the prosecution sought Bonn's assistance in this important trial," and received it without delay. West German authorities passed on to the South African Chargé d'Affaires - with insufficient examination - "several documents (warrants, indictments and verdicts) of the proceedings to ban the KPD." The West German Attorney General's Office also indicated that the Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution could meet the "South African request concerning documents about the KPD's 'front organizations'." The author of the analysis suspects, these documents had been "asked for during a phase of the trial, where the prosecution was about to run out of arguments against the defendants." In any case, the prosecution evidently was of the opinion that "the study of the KPD trial (...) also provided valuable insights," the West German trial observer in Pretoria, Harald Bielfeld, reported to Bonn in October 1958. Bielfeld had already previously been active in South Africa - as a diplomat of the German Reich.[5]

The Most Important Direct Financier

Over the years, West Germany's relations to South Africa have remained close - even while other countries had begun to take a distance to the Apartheid regime. For example, when more than 100 US enterprises withdrew from South Africa in mid 1987, German companies expanded their trade and investments. West Germany also approved export credit guarantees for German deliveries, as the publicist Birgit Morgenrath, co-author of a book on West German business relations with South Africa [6] recalled years ago. West German companies contributed also to "South Africa becoming a nuclear power," wrote Morgenrath: These companies - particularly Siemens - are accused of having supplied South Africa with the separation nozzle process developed in West Germany for uranium enrichment for nuclear bombs." And West German banks made extensive loans to the Apartheid regime. As Morgenrath wrote, the Federal Republic of Germany had finally become the "world's most important direct financier of Apartheid."[7]

Unimogs with Rocket Launchers

West German business with South Africa included arms deliveries - even after the 1977 official proclamation of the UN arms embargo. While Nelson Mandela and countless other resistance fighters were being held in prison by the Apartheid regime, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group delivered a complete ammunition plant to that country. Rheinmetall pretended to supply a - non-existent - company in Paraguay. After arriving in South America, the components "were reloaded onto a ship bound for Durban, South Africa under the surveillance of Rheinmetall managers," the Journalist Gottfried Wellmer explained in his research.[8] Wellmer documented numerous other arms deals, including the delivery of at least 2,500 Daimler Unimogs for the South African Army (from 1978 on i.e. during the proclaimed UN embargo). These Unimogs could also be armed with "multiple rocket launchers." Messerschmidt-Bölkow-Blohm supplied "the South African police - illegally - with five helicopters" Wellmer writes, destined to "carry out surveillance of mass demonstrations" of South African anti-Apartheid opponents "and to identify leading activists."

Courage and Strength

Despite his decades long imprisonment by the Apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela found the "courage and Strength" to "lead his country into democracy without violence," according to President Joachim Gauck.[9] But of course Gauck doesn't mention the Federal Republic of Germany's support of Apartheid which helped the regime to keep Mandela in prison while waiting 27 years, with "strength and courage," for his release.

[1] Albrecht Hagemann: Bonn und die Apartheid in Südafrika, in: Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Jahrgang 43 (1995), 679-706
[2] zitiert nach: Heiko Möhle (Hg.): Branntwein, Bibeln und Bananen. Der deutsche Kolonialismus in Afrika - eine Spurensuche, 4. Auflage, Hamburg 2011
[3], [4], [5] Albrecht Hagemann: Bonn und die Apartheid in Südafrika, in: Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Jahrgang 43 (1995), 679-706
[6] Birgit Morgenrath, Gottfried Wellmer: Deutsches Kapital am Kap. Kollaboration mit dem Apartheidregime, Hamburg 2003. S. also Deutsches Kapital am Kap
[7] Birgit Morgenrath: Apartheid unter gutem Stern - Deutsche Konzerne wegen Menschenrechtsverletzungen angeklagt;
[8] Gottfried Wellmer: Anmerkungen zur Sammelklage von Apartheidsopfern in den USA, o.O., o.J.
[9] Merkel: "Mandelas Erbe bleibt eine Inspiration"; 06.12.2013