Many in Karl Jäger's hometown of Waldkirch would rather forget that the notorious Nazi criminal lived there at all - after all, Jäger has been dead for decades. But one historian is trying to combat their silence.
Authorities in Heidelberg issued Jäger a passport in 1953
When Wolfram Wette peers out of the panorama window in his living room, he can see over the trees and brush toward a valley and a town known as Waldkirch. The village seems to lie at Wette's feet, but in this case, appearances are deceiving.
The historian and professor has lived near Waldkirch for four decades. There, he has a reputation as a troublemaker who has been trying for years to bring the residents of this small town closer to an unpleasant truth.
Wette has published a biography of a man who also comes from this idyllic village in southwestern Germany, but whom its residents would rather forget: the Nazi criminal Karl Jäger.
A model youth
Born in 1888, Jäger was the son of a music teacher from Waldkirch. He played the piano and the violin, later becoming an instrument builder himself. He married into a family of organ makers, took part in the First World War and, in 1923, became a member of the Nazi Party.
A sophisticate and musician, Jäger would go on to become a mass murderer of Lithuanian Jews.
"He was a man from the middle class, a respected personality in Waldkirch, who was considered exemplary, brilliant, correct and cultivated. Some Waldkirch women still gush to this day about how handsome he was," said Wette. "On Sundays, he would march through town with a 100-member group of SS troops."
Meticulous balance sheet
Historian Wolfram Wette's work has attracted an angry response from locals
Waldkirch in the Black Forest is home to around 20,000 residents
In Waldkirch, people behaved no differently than elsewhere in the young republic; they weren't eager to dwell on the past.
"The fact that Jäger existed at all was silenced and repressed here after 1945," said Wolfram Wette. Fear and defensiveness loomed large. No one, including relatives, local politicians and residents, wanted to be reminded of Jäger.
"There were angry protests when I published about that in 1989. The majority of the local population - including city council representatives - wanted me to keep the topic quiet. Even officials in the Catholic church agreed," said Wette.
For 20 years, the author continued to collect all available information, and his biography on Karl Jäger was published in German earlier this year. According to Wette, the echo in Waldkirch has been as troubling as ever.
Wette's biography of Karl Jäger was published in April
Author: Cornelia Rabitz / gsw
Editor: Kate Bowen