Werner Best
Dr. Werner Best was a German Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

, police chief, SS-Obergruppenführer and Nazi Party leader from Darmstadt
Darmstadt is a city in the Bundesland of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine Main Area.The sandy soils in the Darmstadt area, ill-suited for agriculture in times before industrial fertilisation, prevented any larger settlement from developing, until the city became the seat...

, Hesse
Grand Duchy of Hesse
The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine , or, between 1806 and 1816, Grand Duchy of Hesse —as it was also known after 1816—was a member state of the German Confederation from 1806, when the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to a Grand Duchy, until 1918, when all the German...

. He studied law and in 1927 obtained his doctorate degree at Heidelberg. Best served as civilian administrator of France and Denmark while Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 occupied those countries during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


The Nazi state and World War II

Best joined the NSDAP with member number 341,338. He went on to join the SS with membership number, 23,377. Prior to September 1939, as an SS-Brigadeführer
SS-Brigadeführer was an SS rank that was used in Nazi Germany between the years of 1932 and 1945. Brigadeführer was also an SA rank....

, Best while head of Department 1 of the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 oversaw organization, administration, and legal affairs. He was a deputy of Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

. In September 1939 the security and police agencies of Nazi Germany were consolidated into Reich Main Security Office
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...

 (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...

), headed by Heydrich. Best was made head of Amt I (Department I) of the RSHA: Personnel. That department dealt with the legal and personnel issues/matters of the SS and security police. Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 relied on Best to develop and explain legally the activities against enemies of the state and in relation to the Nazi Jewish policy. In 1939 Best became one of the directors of Heydrich's foundation, the Stiftung Nordhav
Stiftung Nordhav
Reinhard Heydrich founded the Stiftung Nordhav in 1939 to obtain real estate for the SS.-Founding and Purpose:The name Nordhav came from an old German term for the North Sea. Heydrich established the Stiftung Nordhav on 30 July 1939. The State Secretary Wilhelm Stuckart recognized the foundation 3...


According to one source Werner Best lost a power struggle in 1939, and had to leave Berlin, thereafter. In 1940, with the military grade of War Administration Chief (Kriegsverwaltungschef), Best was appointed chief of the Section "Administration" (Abteilung Verwaltung) of the Administration Staff (Verwaltungsstab, Dr Schmid) under then (Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich or MBF) "Military Commander in France", general Otto von Stülpnagel
Otto von Stülpnagel
Otto von Stülpnagel was the German military commander of France during the Second World War. Born 16 June 1878 in Berlin, Otto von Stülpnagel pursued a military career in keeping with his family’s long tradition of military service...

) in occupied France; a position Best kept until 1942.

In his efforts as the RSHA emissary in France, Best's unit drew up radical plans for a total reorganization of Western Europe based on racial principles: he sought to unite Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 and French territory north of the Loire river into the Reich, turn Wallonia and Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 into German protectorates, merge Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 with the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

, create a decentralized British federation and break the Spanish State
Spanish State
Francoist Spain refers to a period of Spanish history between 1936 and 1975 when Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco....

 into independent entities of Galicia, Basque Country
Basque Country
The Basque Country may refer to one of three areas inhabited by the Basque people:*The Basque Country , an autonomous community of Spain *The Basque Country , the approximate cultural area of...

 and Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...


In November 1942 after the Telegram Crisis
Telegram Crisis
The Telegram Crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Denmark and Germany in October–November 1942 during the German occupation of Denmark....

, Best was appointed the Third Reich's Plenipotentiary (Reichsbevollmächtigter) in Denmark. He was accredited to King Christian X
Christian X of Denmark
Christian X was King of Denmark from 1912 to 1947 and the only King of Iceland between 1918 and 1944....

, who, unlike most Heads of state under Nazi German occupation
German–occupied Europe
German–occupied Europe or Nazi Empire refers to the countries of Europe which were occupied by the military forces of Nazi Germany at various times between 1938 and 1945....

, remained in power, along with the Danish Parliament, cabinet (a coalition of national unity) and courts.

In this role, Best supervised civilian affairs in occupied Denmark
Occupation of Denmark
Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark began with Operation Weserübung on 9 April 1940, and lasted until German forces withdrew at the end of World War II following their surrender to the Allies on 5 May 1945. Contrary to the situation in other countries under German occupation, most Danish...

. He kept his position until the end of the war in May 1945, even after the German military commander
Hermann von Hanneken (soldier)
Hermann Konstantin Albert Julius von Hanneken was a German General of the Infantry who was supreme commander of the German forces in Denmark from 29 September 1942 to January 1945.-Early career:...

 had assumed direct control over the administration of Denmark on 29 August 1943.

Best hoped to maintain good relations between Germany and Denmark in order to make Denmark an example of what life in Nazi Europe could be. As a result conditions were better in Denmark, by comparison with conditions in other areas occupied by Germany. Best was unenthusiastic about taking punitive measures against Jews until after the fall of the Danish government.

Administration by the Permanent Secretaries

The director of the ministry of foreign affairs Nils Svenningsen in January 1944 suggested establishment of a Danish camp in order to avoid deportations to Germany.
Best accepted this suggestion, but on condition that this camp was built close to the German border. Frøslev Prison Camp
Frøslev Prison Camp
Frøslev Camp was an internment camp in German-occupied Denmark during World War II.In order to avoid deportation of Danes to German concentration camps, Danish authorities suggested, in January 1944, that an internment camp be created in Denmark...

  was set up in August 1944.

Due to the Danish cabinet's decision on 9 April 1940 to accept cooperation with German authorities, the Danish police consequently cooperated with the German occupation forces. This arrangement remained in effect even after the resignation of the Danish government on 29 September 1943. On 12 May 1944, Best demanded that the Danish police should take over the task of protecting 57 specific enterprises sabotaged by the Danish resistance movement
Danish resistance movement
The Danish resistance movement was an underground insurgency movement to resist the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. Due to the unusually lenient terms given to Danish people by the Nazi occupation authority, the movement was slower to develop effective tactics on a wide scale...

, which was growing in strength. Should the Danish civil service not accept this, the Danish police force would be reduced to 3,000 men. The head of the Danish administration, Nils Svenningsen, was inclined to accept this demand, but the organizations of the Danish police were opposed to the idea. The German request was ultimately turned down, and this was reported to Best on 6 June 1944. This reduced the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

's already limited trust in the Danish police even further, and on 19 September 1944, the German army began arresting members of the Danish police forces. 1,960 policemen were arrested and deported
Deportation of the Danish police
During World War II, the Danish government choose to cooperate with the Nazi occupation force. Even though this applied to the Danish police as well, many were reluctant to cooperate...

 to German KZ and prisoner of war camps.

During deliberations about capitulation on 3 May 1945, Best fought to avoid a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy in Denmark.

After the war

In 1948, Best was sentenced to death by a Danish court, but his sentence was reduced to 12 years in prison, and he was released in 1951. Best was fined by a Berlin de-Nazification court in 1958 for his actions during the war and was later charged in 1972 when further war crimes allegations arose. He was found medically unfit to stand trial and was released.

After that, Best was part of a network that helped old SS comrades. He died in Mülheim
Mülheim an der Ruhr, also called "City on the River", is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. It is located in the Ruhr Area between Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and Ratingen...

, North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

, in 1989.


  • WorldStatesmen - Denmark
  • Westermann Verlag, Großer Atlass zur Weltgeschichte (in German)
  • "Gads leksikon om dansk besættelsestid 1940-1945." Published 2002.
  • Lumsden, Robin (2001). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine - SS, Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7110-2905-9.
  • McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923-1945, Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-906626-49-5.
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