Helmut Knochen

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Helmut Knochen
Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Alber-096-10, Helmut Knochen.jpg
Helmut Knochen
Born14 March 1910 (1910-03-14)
DiedApril 4, 2003(2003-04-04) (aged 93)
OccupationNazi official
Conviction(s)War crimes
Criminal penaltySentenced to death by hanging, commuted to life in prison, released 1958.

Helmut Knochen (March 14, 1910 – April 4, 2003) was the senior commander of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and Sicherheitsdienst in Paris during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Magdeburg, Germany. Before joining the Nazi Party in 1932, he worked as a teacher and editor.

Nazi career[edit]

In 1936, he joined the SS and became involved in the SD administration. In 1940, he was appointed the senior commander of security in Paris. In 1942, the jurisdiction under his control stretched from northern France to Belgium. He was promoted to the rank of Standartenführer in the same year. Knochen was involved in the deportation of French Jews to concentration camps and was responsible for the execution of thousands of Frenchmen. He was responsible for the arrest and torture of SOE agents.[1]

During the plot to assassinate Hitler of July 20, 1944, together with the top security man in Paris, SS General Carl Oberg, he was arrested by Army troops under the command of Paris military governor, General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel. He was released after the coup collapsed. Following the liberation of Paris, Knochen was transferred to the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler and he was degraded to the rank of SS Grenadier.

Post-war trials, sentences, and reprieve[edit]

In March 1947, a British Military Court sentenced Knochen to death for the murder of a number of British parachute troops on or around 9 August 1944. However, on 16 September 1948, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and further commuted in February 1950 to 21 years imprisonment. He was extradited to France in 1954 and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. After he obtained a presidential pardon in 1958, Knochen was released on November 28, 1962 by President Charles de Gaulle, simultaneously with his former chief Carl Oberg. Back in Germany he retired to Baden-Baden and died a free man in 2003. Knochen himself appeared in the documentary film L'oeil de Vichy, (The Eyes of Vichy), directed by Claude Chabrol.[2]

Cultural portrayal[edit]

Helmut Knochen is a character in Jonathan Littell's novel Les Bienveillantes, where he has a meeting with the main character Maximilian Aue.



  • Alex Kershaw (4 August 2015). Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris. Crown/Archetype. ISBN 978-0-8041-4004-1.
  • Jeremy Josephs (1 May 2012). Swastika Over Paris. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4088-3448-0.
  • (in German) Brunner, Bernhard, Der Frankreich-Komplex. Die nationalsozialistischen Verbrechen in Frankreich und die Justiz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Wallstein, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-89244-693-8
  • (in German) Klee, Ernst, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 320.
  • (in French) Moisel, Claudia, La France et les criminels de guerre allemands. Politique et pratique de la poursuite pénale après la deuxième guerre mondiale, Éd. Norbert, 2004, ISBN 3-89244-749-7.
  • (in French) Magazine Historia, N° 337, décembre 1974 par Philippe Aziz.
  • (in French) Magazine Historia, Hors Série N° 20, 1971, Les SS. 1 - L'ordre noir.
  • (in French) Magazine Historia, Hors Série N° 26, 1972, par Serge Klarsfeld.
  • (in French) Magazine Historia, Hors Série N° 27, 1972, La Gestapo en France. 2.
  • L'oeil de Vichy, (The Eyes of Vichy), documentary film directed by Claude Chabrol, L'oeil de Vichy on IMDb
  • (in French) Delarue, Jacques, SS et Gestapo s'imposent à la Wehrmacht, in Le Journal de la France de l'occupation à la libération, les années 40, Historia-Tallandier, n° 47, p. 1289-1290.

External links[edit]