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Walter Buch was a Nazi German jurist and war criminal
Walter Buch (born 24 October 1883 in Bruchsal; died 12 November 1949 in Ammersee) was a Nazi German jurist and war criminal.
Born to a Senate President at the Baden High Court, Buch became a soldier in the First World War as a career officer. In 1918, he was released from the army as a major and then busied himself in the Baden Veterans' League.
By 1922, he had already become a member of the NSDAP and in August 1923 in Nuremberg, leader of the SA in Franconia. In mid 1923, after Hermann Ehrhardt on the one side and Ernst Röhm and Adolf Hitler on the other had fallen out with each other, the Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler ("Adolf Hitler Raiding Patrol") was formed out of 12 SA members.
The Stosstrupp was run by two former members of the Stabswache ("Staff Watch") who had also once belonged to the Brigade Ehrhardt. The first leader was Julius Schreck, who founded the SS's forerunner organization, to which Buch also belonged. He thus found himself tied into the later SS and over time became an Honorary Leader of the SS ("Ehrenführer der SS ") with the rank of Obergruppenführer (under a new rank system brought in 1938, this became Stab Reichsführer SS).
After the so-called Beerhall Putsch failed on 9 November 1923, most SA leaders fled the country. Buch came back to Munich as early as 13 November, sent by Hermann Göring - who had fled to Innsbruck - to ensure that the shaken Party troops' cohesion would not weaken. He also built up ties with the now outlawed SA groups, which could now only operate under cover.
Buch maintained regular contact between Hitler, who was sitting in prison now in Landsberg am Lech, and the illegal Party leadership in Austria. In the time that followed, when the NSDAP was banned, Göring's earlier fears began to come true as the party broke up. After Hitler's reëstablishment of the Party after his release from Landsberg, the Inquiry and Mediation Board (Untersuchungs- und Schlichtungs-Ausschuss or USCHLA), whose chairman Buch became in 1927, was also set up. The secret Party commission was also feared among the Party's followers because it behaved rather like a Party secret police force.
The USCHLA's headquarters were at the Braunes Haus ("Brown House") in Munich and internally it was even likened to the Cheka. Buch did not confine himself merely to rulings in internal Party disputes, but also had Party members monitored or put under pressure if they strayed from the Party line. The Board could render judgments freely within the country and without, against which there was no appeal, except by Hitler.
On 2 September 1929, then SS member and later Hitler's secretary, Martin Bormann wed Walter Buch's daughter Gerda (born 23 October 1909 in Konstanz). Buch and Hitler were witnesses.
In the time that followed, until the Nazis seized power, Buch continually strengthened his status. In 1934, he described the importance of Party tribunals thus:
By way of thanks for having given Röhm's murder the outward appearance of legality, Buch was made the supreme Party magistrate and an SS Gruppenführer on 9 November 1934.
In 1936 it was claimed in an anonymous letter that Buch was married to a half-Jew. In the course of a Gestapo investigation it came to light that the letter had been written by Wilhelm Kube, whom Buch had investigated owing to concerns over his private life and his leadership style in the Kurmark Gau. Buch saw to it that Kube was removed from all his posts. Only on Hitler's orders was he allowed to remain a Gauleiter, albeit without his own Gau.
Buch was also responsible for the "legalization" of Party members' excesses during the so-called Kristallnacht (9 November 1938). He declared after his investigation that the "small Party comrades" who were responsible for more than a hundred Jews' deaths had only been following orders.
However, he found no need to question those who had given these orders, such was his deep-seated Anti-Semitism, and he publicly brought the law for Jews into question. In his opinion, Jews were literally "not humans".
After the war, Buch was seized and sentenced to five years in a labour camp. In July 1949, in the course of yet another wave of Denazification, he was classified as a "Hauptschuldiger" ("main guilty one"), meaning that he was considered to be among those who were "guiltiest" of war crimes. On 12 November, he ended his own life by slitting his wrists and throwing himself into the Ammersee.
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