Germany / Story

“Aachen Scandal”: Aachen Town Hall




​​The official conduct of Aachen's first city administration under Franz Oppenhoff encountered criticism within the US army early on. The situation was so controversial that reports were soon published in the USA about the political conditions after the Nazi dictatorship - "The Aachen Scandal".

​​After long, heavy fighting, the city of Aachen was occupied in October 1944. Just ten days later, the US military authorities installed a new city government with German civilians at its head. The large city, which by then had only about 10,000 inhabitants, was ruled by Mayor Franz Oppenhoff, who was assisted by nine other Mayors. However, they all belonged to bourgeois circles with strong Catholic beliefs. Workers, on the other hand, were not represented at the top of the city - this applied even to representatives of the Catholic labour movement.

The military government initially had no problem with this composition, as the proposal for Oppenhoff's appointment had come from the Bishop of Aachen. Since the American authorities saw the Catholic Church in particular as the bearer of resistance against the Nazis, they had great confidence in the new city leadership. This was especially because it could only work under American supervision anyway and, above all it was important for the occupying power to ensure an orderly everyday life behind the front.

However, it did not take long before fundamental criticism of the work of the newly appointed Aachen city government arose. Above all, the Department of Psychological Warfare of the 9th Army of the US Armed Forces took offence at the circumstances. Saul K. Padover, a history professor who had emigrated from Austria to the USA as a child in the 1920s, was particularly bothered by the lack of diversity in Aachen's city leadership. It did not reflect Padover's understanding of democracy, as it did not reflect the whole composition of the population. He saw it instead as a clique of upper-class notables, most of whom had been active in political Catholicism before the Nazi era. A democratic spirit, which the PWD wanted to establish in Germany, was not evident in the city's leadership.

Therefore, numerous American newspapers reported on the "Aachen Scandal". According to the reports, readers in the USA must have thought that under a disinterested occupying power, a group of anti-democratic forces was trying to prevent the occupied city of Aachen from becoming democratic. It was only after these newspaper reports that the military authorities removed numerous former Nazi bigwigs from the administration. However, they left Oppenhoff in the position of Mayor, until his assassination by a Werewolf-Kommando from the leftover Nazi Germany on 25 March 1945.

Markt, 52062 Aachen