Friendly face of evil

He was the friendly face of Nazi evil: Albert Gemmeker, commander of Camp Westerbork. He was known as a correct commander, who insisted on not knowing what was happening to the Jews in camps like Auschwitz. He got away with a mild punishment, but was later investigated by the judiciary in Germany for a long time. Journalist and writer Ad van Liempt has written a biography about Gemmeker and makes a number of critical comments about the German post-war research.

In 1951, after his imprisonment in the Netherlands, the former camp commander Gemmeker returned to his hometown of Düsseldorf a free man. In Germany, Gemmeker lived in freedom for another 31 years. However, in 1959 the German judiciary started an investigation – that would take seventeen years – into his complicity in the mass murder of 80,000 Jews who were deported to the extermination camps under his rule. Gemmeker has always maintained that he did not know the fate that awaited them.

He has spent years in fear for a new trial. “His fear has been our greatest comfort,” said one of Gemmeker’s daughters. In 1976 he was finally dismissed from prosecution.