Werner Best

Karl Rudolf Werner Best ( Darmstadt , October of July of 1903 – Mülheim , 23 of June of 1989 ) was a Doctor in law , military of the SS with the rank of Obergruppenführer , chief of staff of the Reich Main Security Office (Office AMT I), deputy director of the Gestapo and a politician of the NSDAP .

As the “theoretician, organizer and chief of staff” of the Gestapo 1, he played an important role in his establishment and in the creation of the Reich Central Security Office. It is also due to him the conception and initial formation of the so-called Einsatzgruppen . 2 He is known for being the planner of a failed coup of the Nazi Party in 1931. He later was the deputy of Reinhard Heydrich in the direction of the SD from 1934 to 1940 and participated as a senior officer in the administration of Vichy France ( Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich ) between 1940 and 1942. In 1943 he was appointed Plenipotentiary of the Reich ( Reichsbevollmächtigter ) for occupied Denmark until the end of World War II .

Werner Best, an ideologue of the Third Reich obsessed with the purity of the race, found in some isolated, “polluted” European villages the dream of forming a territorial organization of Europe based on ethnic groups: Bretons, Walloons, Scots, , Basques, whose culture and language of unknown origin attracted the Nazi hierarchy.

The idea struck the director Herbert Brieger, who moved to the Basque Country between 1940 and 1941, with the intention of filming an ethnological documentary. The film, called Im lande der Basken, remained missing for 50 years.

Documentarists Javier Barajas and Alfonso Andrés, with the idea of ​​chronicling the spy stories on the Franco-Basque frontier during World War II, came across the story of Brieger’s film and made it the backbone of A swastika on the Bidasoa, a documentary, co-produced by TVE, which arrives in theaters on November 22.

“We knew of stories of spies, of collaborators, of all this transference of the border, but when deepening on the subject we realized that there was a series of stories absolutely unknown”, explains Alfonso Andrés. The 12 minutes of Im lande der Basken surprised them by their quality. “I was shocked how well done it is for its time, it is very well studied,” says Javier Barajas. “To make a documentary of those you have to locate, make a story, script it … The ball game, for example, has very good performance.


Werner Best was born in 1903 in Darmstadt , his father was a postal officer. His family moved in 1912 to Dortmund and then to Mainz. His father died in France in early 1914 during the beginning of World War I.

Between 1923 and 1924 Best was an angry young Völkisch during the French occupation of the Ruhr region and was arrested several times. As a result of these arrests his desire to study Law was born . Best studied Law between 1925 and 1929 in the universities of Freiburg and Heidelberg , obtaining the degree of doctor in Jurisprudence in 1930.

Nazi jurist

In 1931, he joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and joined the party’s legal department. There he had the opportunity to meet Roland Freisler , Hans Frank and Kurt Rothenburger . That same year was named Gerichtsassessor or legal adviser of Gau de Hesse . Best along with other noted jurists secretly unite to form a series of draconian criminal legal decrees in a farm called Boxheimer Hof . These bases were directed like legal statutes of emergency in the case that Hitler took the power after winning To the German Communists.

Before Hitler’s rise to power, Best had an incident upon discovering such documents that were clearly conspiracy against the Weimar Republic , Best had to give up the Gau de Hesse. The incident was known as the Boxheimer Incident .

Adviser of the Gestapo

In 1933, Best joined the SA and, subsequently, the SS , being named Obersturmbannführer . Its first activity was to give a form and legal personality to the future Gestapo . Best joined the legal staff of department IV of the Gestapo and worked jointly with its first director Heinrich Müller being appointed Chief of Staff of the department of Section IVB4 .

In 1935 Best was promoted to Standartenführer and attended a speech by Himmler about the role that the future police would exercise in Germany under a ministerial-level office. Best became part of the Reich Central Security Office as a criminal law adviser for the Gestapo and in 1939, he was promoted to Brigadeführer . In 1936, Reinhard Heydrich assumed the position of Chief of the Security Police of the Reich and of the Gestapo and Müller was appointed head of Section IVB4 of the Gestapo. 3

That same year he was promoted to Obergruppenführer and became Head of Section L Staff under the direct supervision of Reinhard Heydrich . It is in this scenario where the competitive personality of Best was revealed when trying to rival with the intelligence and cunning of Heydrich. The clash of personalities of similar characteristics was inevitable and Best lost his fight for power against Himmler.

Between 1939 and 1940, when Section IVB4 of the RSHA became involved in the Polish Jewish genocide , Best was removed from the RSHA and sent to Poland as supervisor of that section along with a Waffen SS regiment .

Plenipotentiary of the Reich

In August 1940, he was appointed Judicial Assistant to the German military government of the Occupied France, Best served until August 1942. 4

In late August 1942, Best received his appointment as Reich Commissioner with full powers to the government of occupied Denmark accredited to the King Christian X . Best maintained very good relations with the Danish government and obtained the cooperation of the Danish police in the (quite soft) persecution and imprisonment of Danish Jews in the concentration camp of Freslov created in 1944.

Himmler pressed through Joachim von Ribbentrop for the Danish government to identify the Jewish community and the Star of David badge , to which King Christian responded to Ribbentrop that he would be the first to place the discriminatory emblem. Best was pressured to proceed against the Jewish community, to which Best responded that he would dismiss all Jews (the number did not exceed 31 officials).

Of the 7,000 Danish Jews identified by the Gestapo, only 477 could be imprisoned under the direct intervention of Ernst Kaltenbrunner , the rest of the Jewish population was warned by shipowners who sabotaged their ships and went on strike, failing to repair German ships; So many Danish Jews fled to Sweden under different means or sheltered under the civilian population that was not vehemently anti-Semitic. 5 Only 202 Danish Jews were boarded on the Watherland steamer for the Auschwitz extermination camp. Finally died by the Final Solution , 70 Danish Jews, all of advanced age.

In September 1943, the Danish government to further hamper Hitler’s plans and under Allied pressure, resigned in favor of a government in exile and Germany placed a German military government represented by Wehrmacht general Hermann von Hanneken . This military man had to pass the Martial Law and ordered members of the Wehrmacht to play the role of order and security police ordering the arrest of Danish police and judges in prison camps specially built for this purpose. Some 1,960 police officers were taken to the KZ camps. Von Hanneken and Best soon distanced themselves and Best maintained his position in civil affairs ever since showing a cleverly ambiguous conduct regarding Germany’s oppressive directives. Best convinced Hitler’s government that Von Hanneken was a corrupt military man and was dismissed and demoted in January 1945 by being replaced by Georg Lindemann .

In April 1945, Best was ordered to apply the scorched-earth policy to Denmark, instruction which he refused while remaining on Danish territory. 6

Judgment and final life

Werner Best was arrested on 21 May 1945 and held in a prison in Denmark pending a trial by the same Danes. He was transferred as a witness to the Nuremberg trials and then was tried in 1946 by a Danish court convicting him in the first instance of a death sentence; But a review of the trial that highlighted his conduct as a rebellious Nazi to Hitler’s government led him to seek pardon from the Danish government, who sentenced him to 12 years in prison for his responsibility as Reich Commissioner in Denmark; Nevertheless he was released in 1951 and expelled to West Germany (FRG). In 1972, Poland requested the extradition of Best to respond for its actions in Polish territory in 1940; But the German government did not approve delivery for health reasons. Meanwhile, Best joined a former aid group of SS members. 7

Werner Best died at age 86 in Mülheim, Westphalia in 1989.


  1. Back to top↑ Dams , Carsten; Stolle , Michael (2008). Die Gestapo. Herrschaft und Terror im Dritten Reich . Munich: Beck. P. 51.
  2. Back to top↑ Herbert , Ulrich (1996). Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft. 1903-1989 (3rd edition). Bonn: Dietz. Pp. 234 ff.
  3. Back to top↑ Werner Best Bio
  4. Back to top↑ SS- Werner Best- Biography
  5. Back to top↑ Nazi Occupation in Denmark-Werner Best
  6. Back to top↑ Gads leksikon om dansk besættelsestid 1940-1945 (2002); p. 41
  7. Back to top↑ Richard J. Evans (2008); The Third Reich at War , p. 749