The Quiet Death of a Nazi

Two brothers helped him after he was released: Eberhard Müller, a theologian and head of the Evangelical Academy, and his brother Bernhard, a member of the state parliament for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and later the party's liaison to the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Most of all, however, Bernhard Müller was the general agent of the Lechler group of companies.

"I prayed that God would send you to me." These were the words with which he was received by the head of the company at the time, says Sandberger. Hired as a legal advisor in 1958, he single-mindedly worked his way up to become the "right hand man and highly respected member" of management, as Walter H. Lechler, the current managing director, says today.

According to Lechler, the SS veteran apparently expanded his "knowledge of tax law considerably" during his imprisonment at Landsberg. However, as Lechler claims, Sandberger provided no details about his experiences during the war, and nothing was known about ongoing cases against him.

Based on the documents available in archives, this is hard to imagine. On the one hand, Sandberger had a few circumstances in his favor. Starting in 1966, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, a Württemberg native and a member of the Nazi Party after 1933, served as Germany's chancellor in Bonn. And Hans Filbinger, a retired Nazi naval judge, was governor of Baden-Württemberg. On the other hand, courts in southwestern Germany were not idle, as Sandberger would realize.

'Finally Terminated'

The tight-lipped legal advisor at Lechler was called to testify in a further "Einsatzgruppen trial" at Ulm in 1958, and, after 1960, before the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg. Finally, the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office initiated investigation proceedings against him in May 1970. The proceedings revolved around the "shooting of Jews, communists and paratroopers in Estonia," the execution of an officer who had fired at a portrait of Hitler while intoxicated, and the murder of "1,400-1,500 Jews in Kalevi-Liiva" in the fall of 1942.

Soon, under the eyes of the prosecution, the health of the previously vigorous SS veteran deteriorated. Sandberger's attorney wrote in a letter to prosecutors that his client's abnormally high blood pressure, his near-blindness and the constant risk of a stroke had to be taken into account. The attorney, Fritz Steinacker, a former bomber pilot, is still considered an éminence grise in relevant right-wing circles. He defended the former concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele and the camp pharmacist at Auschwitz, Victor Capesius. He also represents the interests of Aribert Heim, known as "Dr. Death," a Nazi war criminal who may be still at large, despite recent reports of his death.

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