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Karl Fiehler (August 31, 1895 in Braunschweig - December 8, 1969 in Diessen/Ammersee) was a German politician of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and Lord Mayor of Munich from 1933 until 1945.
Party career until the "Machtergreifung" (English: "Nazi takeover") Karl Fiehler attended a secondary modern school in Munich and began a merchant apprenticeship, which he continued in Schleswig-Holstein in 1914. Fiehler took part in World War I and was decorated with the "Eisernes Kreuz" (see "Iron Cross"), second class ("EK II"). In 1919 he entered the local government of the City of Munich as an administration trainee and passed successfully the exam for the administrative and clerical grade in 1922. Already in 1920 he joined the Nazi-Party with the membership number 37. In 1923 the convinced National Socialist Karl Fiehler became a member of the "Stosstrupp Hitler" (English: "Raiding Patrol Hitler"), that had been established to protect the Nazi-Führer from encroachments of the party-owned "Sturmabteilung" (English: "Stormtroops"), and from which the "Schutzstaffel" (English: "Protective Squadron") emerged in 1925. On November 8 and 9, 1923 he participated actively in the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" (German: "Hitlerputsch"). Thereupon Fiehler was sentenced to 15 months of confinement in Landsberg fortress (German term: "Festungshaft").
From 1924 until 1933 he was honorary alderman and in 1929 he outlined the principles of Nazi local politics in his 80-sided booklet "National Socialist Municipal Policy" (German: "Nationalsozialistische Gemeindepolitik"), printed by the Munich publishing house "Franz-Eher-Verlag", which was the central party publisher of the NSDAP. During the 1930s he published several times on local politics in Germany from a National Socialist point of view.
Fiehler, who - as a Nazi of the first hour - was not only allowed to denominate himself proudly "Alter Kämpfer" (English: "Old Combatant"), which meant members before the Nazi takeover on January 30, 1933, but he belonged to the "Alte Garde" (English: "Old Guard") above all (with membership numbers under 100.000), climbed the party career ladder rapidly. From 1927 until 1930 he was "Ortsgruppenleiter" (English: "Local Chapter Leader") of the Nazi Party in Munich and from 1935 till the end of the "Third Reich" in 1945 he held the rank of a "Reichsleiter" of the NSDAP (English: "Reich Leader"), at first as a secretary (German: "Schriftführer") and afterwards as the "Head of the Main Office for Local Politics" (German: "Leiter des Hauptamtes für Kommunalpolitik"). He belonged to the top-level management circle of the Nazi Party that way and to the twenty most intimate co-workers of Adolf Hitler in the NSDAP-organization. Also within the SS Karl Fiehler (membership-number 91724) moved up quickly: On July 31, 1933 he became "Standartenführer" (English: "SS Colonel"), on December 24, 1933 "Oberführer" (English: "SS Brigadier") and finally on January 27, 1934 "SS-Gruppenführer" (English: "SS Lieutenant General") with the exact rank designation "Ehrenführer Oberabschnitt Süd" (English: "Leader of Honour for the Upper Sector South"). On January 30, 1942 he was promoted to "SS-Obergruppenführer" (English: "SS General") and was assigned immediately to the "Stab Reichsführer SS (RFSS)" (English: "Staff of the SS Field Marshal") Heinrich Himmler until November 9, 1944.
Munich under the "Hakenkreuz": Fiehler as Lord Mayor
On March 9, 1933 the SA occupied the Munich town hall and unfurled the swastika flag. Even though the then First Mayor Karl Scharnagl, belonging to the conservative Bavarian People's Party (BVP), defied the new rulers for eleven days on the top of the old city administration, on March 20, 1933 he "had to yield to force" eventually. On this day Adolf Wagner, Nazi Home Secretary of the Free State of Bavaria and "Gauleiter" of Munich and Upper Bavaria, appointed Karl Fiehler Provisional First Mayor. On May 20, 1933 Fiehler got the title "Oberbürgermeister" (English: "Lord Mayor"), that didn't exist in Munich by that time.
All parties and organizations opposing the political "Gleichschaltung" (English: "enforced conformity") had been forbidden as a result of the National Socialist takeover, in Munich as well as throughout Germany. The "Book burning" (German: "Bücherverbrennung") on the "Königsplatz" Square in front of the "Staatliche Antikensammlung" (English: "Antiquity Collection") on May 10, 1933, the persecution of "non-folkish" (German: "nicht-völkisch") writers, artists and scientists caused an exodus of Munich's intellectual elite. Thomas Mann and his family didn't return from a journey abroad. On March 22, 1933 the Provisional Chief Constable of Munich, Heinrich Himmler, inaugurated the Dachau concentration camp.
In 1933 the "German Association of Cities" (German: "Deutscher Städtetag") was forced to merge with other municipal umbrella organizations to form the "Deutscher Gemeindetag" (English: "German Local Authorities Association"). Karl Fiehler, the influential Lord Mayor of Munich, was appointed chairman of this unity organization. The administrative office was situated on Alsenstrasse in Berlin district "Tiergarten". On August 2, 1935 occurred a memorable conversation between Adolf Hitler and Karl Fiehler in the course of which Munich got a strange new epithet: "Hauptstadt der Bewegung" (English: "Capital of the Movement"). This "title" should remind the Germans of the NSDAP origins in Bavaria's metropolis.
During the 1930s a number of model buildings paradigmatic for the megalomanic Nazi architecture had been erected by Paul Ludwig Troost, the predecessor of Albert Speer as Hitler's "Court Master Builder", in Munich. A radical remodelling of Munich was intended, which Karl Fiehler wanted to illustrate as editor of the pictorial book "München baut auf. Ein Tatsachen- und Bildbericht über den nationalsozialistischen Aufbau in der Hauptstadt der Bewegung" (English: "Munich establishes. A factual and pictorial report about the National Socialist reconstruction in the Capital of the Movement"). By incorporations on a grand scale, particularly in the west ("Pasing" district), the Munich population figure increased considerably from 746.000 (1936) to 889.000 (1943). Nevertheless, major projects like the relocation of the Munich Central Station to "Laim" district didn't get beyond planning stage.
The anti-Semite: persecution of the Jews in Munich
Munich under Karl Fiehler became the vanguard whenever it was about actions against Jews. In spring 1933 the first systematic boycott against Jewish shops was carried on by Fiehler very zealously. Karl Fiehler decreed this racist sanction with anticipatory obedience already for March 30, although the "official" date was actually April, 1. SA- and SS-gangs had terrorised Jewish businessmen since the very beginning of March and had taken them in "Schutzhaft" (English: "protective custody"). Fiehler interdicted - without any legal basis - to conclude municipal contracts with "non-German" companies. SA sentries bedaubed showcases of Jewish shops with inscriptions like "Jew", the Star of David or "On vacation in Dachau!". Shop windows were smashed in and clients were intimidated, being mobbed by SA men who molested, registered and even photographed them. Later on the City of Munich hurried in a quite exceptional manner with the demolition of Jewish houses of God. Minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels initiated the destruction of Munich's main synagogue already in June 1938, just to find out, whether the "Aryan" public would react shocked or indifferently. The apathetic behaviour of the population should encourage the Nazis to new outrages thereafter.
On November 9, 1938 almost the whole Nazi Party elite convened for a social evening invited by Lord Mayor Karl Fiehler in the Great Hall of Munich's "Old Guildhall". A vicious anti-Semite diatribe by Joseph Goebbels was for the attendant SA- and party-leaders the signal for a general hunt on Jews. Numerous men and women were killed, tortured and hurt in this night of pogrom, which had been euphemistically referred to as "Reichskristallnacht" (English: "Night of Broken Glass") in Germany afterwards. Many Jewish institutions, synagogues and shops fell prey to this devastation.
Munich's Municipal Cemeteries Department under Karl Fiehler behaved in an absurd manner strictly anti-Semite. It adamantly refused even deceased Christians of Jewish descent cremation burials. Moreover so called "Jewish Christians" were no longer allowed to be entombed in their own family graves, already existing for generations. The Department referred surviving dependants bureaucratically to the Israelite Community. Amongst other things it was no longer allowed to wear Protestant vestments with a funeral on a Jewish-orthodox graveyard. Johannes Zwanzger, who was appointed head of the "Munich aid office for non-Aryan Christians", formulated a letter of complaint to Lord Mayor Fiehler for the Lutheran regional consistory in December 1938, without any success.
During World War II Genocide followed the disfranchisement of Jews. On November 20, 1941 the first transport of 1.000 Jewish men and women departed from Munich for Riga. It was feigned to the scared people that it would be a matter of "evacuation". The transport was rerouted to Kaunas in Lithuania, because the Riga Ghetto was overcrowded at this time. Just after their arrival the deported had been murdered with a mass shooting by members of the "Einsatzgruppe A" (English: "Mission Squad A") under the command of SS Major General (German: "SS-Brigadeführer") Dr. Walter Stahlecker in Fort IX of Kaunas. Until February 1945 42 transports left Munich altogether in irregular intervals: to exterminations in Kaunas, Piaski, (near Lublin), Auschwitz and in the so called "Ghetto for old and prominent people" Theresienstadt.
Fiehler's End: Munich in ruins
On April 30, 1945 27-year-old Lieutenant Wolfgang F. Robinow and his men approached as the first American soldiers Munich's central square "Marienplatz" in the early afternoon. With the surrender of the townhall the National Socialist dictatorship ended in Munich definitely. Fiehler had already left the guildhall a long time before the occupation of Munich took place without a struggle. On May 4, 1945, four days before the official end of World War II in Europe, the victorious American Forces reinstalled Karl Scharnagl as Lord Mayor of the Bavarian capital.
After the Holocaust Munich's Jewish life was almost extinct. Of 12,000 Munich Jews before the Holocaust, 7,500 could flee from the Nazis just in time. Approximately 3,000 had been deported to concentration camps, almost half of these to Theresienstadt. Only 430 surviving Munich Jews returned to their home town in 1945.
In May 1945 the City of Munich made up the balance with 22,346 prisoners of war, 6,632 bomb war fatalties, ca. 15,000 wounded and about 300,000 homeless persons. By death, evacuation and exodus from the city the population had declined from 824,000 (1939) to 479,000 (1945). 90 percent of Munich's historic Old Town had been destroyed and the whole city by 50 percent.
In January 1949 Karl Fiehler, who was married and had three daughters, was sentenced to two years of labour camp, the confiscation of one-fifth of his property and a twelve-year employment ban after a "Spruchkammerverfahren" (English: "proceedings before denazification tribunals"). But he did not need to serve the sentence because previous three and a half years of detention were credited on the term of imprisonment. Fiehler died on December 8, 1969 in the village of Diessen on the idyllic Lake Ammersee in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.
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