Sandberger opens his eyes again and says, in a squeaky voice and with a strong Swabian accent: "What I remember is completely irrelevant."
Historians say that Sandberger's death represents the closing of the last door into the shadowy realm of the SS state. In his standard work Die Generation des Unbedingten (An Uncompromising Generation), historian Michael Wildt describes Sandberger, a brilliant lawyer, as a poster child of the elite, academically trained type of perpetrator who, acting on orders from the Reich Security Head Office, organized systematic mass murder in the east -- as the spearheads of genocide. "They weren't the little wheels in an anonymous machinery of extermination. Instead, they were the ones who designed the concepts and built and operated the machines that made the murder of millions of people possible."
Sandberger was the last living member of the leadership of the special commandos in Himmler's murdering system. He used to appear, whether in Tallinn or Verona, as a demigod in the field-gray uniform of the SS. A total of 5,643 executions were carried out under his command on Estonian soil during the first year alone of the Nazi occupation. At the height of the power bestowed upon him by Hitler, all it took was Sandberger's signature to order the execution, behind the Eastern Front, of what he called "a subject of absolutely no value to the ethnic community."
In the Christian retirement home in Stuttgart, however, Sandberger expects compassion. He pays dearly for acts of charity: A two-and-a-half-room apartment in the home costs him a base rent of €2,519 ($3,375) a month. Nursing care costs extra. For residents who are still sufficiently lively, the facility offers a sauna, physical therapy, shopping sprees and three-course meals, including delicious food from the "Land of Swabian Pockets."
Sandberger has meals brought to his room. The physical therapist also visits, at about three in the afternoon. Otherwise he reads with a magnifying glass or, once a week, allows himself the luxury of a reader. The woman usually reads him uplifting passages from the Bible.
Sandberger, who left the church shortly after Hitler came into power, returned to his roots after the war -- to the "hardcore milieu of Württembergian respectability, in the Protestant-Pietist functional elite," says historian Michael Ruck. The genealogy that SS candidate Sandberger once included in his Nazi ethnic file as his "evidence of great Aryan roots" is filled with the names of pastors and public officials. His transformation from the son of a well-heeled upper middle class family to a leading henchman of the Holocaust happened quickly.
Unfortunately Sandberger, in his first and only interview, has "very few memories" of those years. But his memory suddenly improves when he is asked about periods before and after the war. Born in Berlin in 1911, where his father, a plant manager at I.G. Farben, had been transferred? "Correct, Charlottenburg, Suarezstrasse," says Sandberger. The family later moved to Frankfurt and eventually returned to Württemberg in southwestern Germany, where his parents were from. After finishing high school "with honors," Sandberger studied law at the University of Tübingen.