Historical News and Comment

Dr. Karl Otto Braun: A Memorial Tribute

Mark Weber

Dr. Karl Otto Braun — German diplomat, businessman and Revisionist historian — passed away in Munich on 21 August 1988, shortly before his 78th birthday. He is also remembered as an uncommonly decent and honorable man. He is survived by his wife, Elisabeth, and two daughters. The eldest, Monica, gave birth to his first grandchild, a girl, in late 1987.

Dr. Braun was born on 31 August 1910 in Wolnzach, Bavaria, the son of a physician. Young Karl Otto received his secondary education at the prestigious Wilhelmsgymnasium in Munich and the humanistic Gymnasium in Coburg.

He studied English, history, geography and international law at the universities of Munich, London and Berlin, including study under the great historian Dr. Karl Alexander von Müller in Munich. Braun's special areas of emphasis were Manchuria, the League of Nations and the works of Shakespeare. After receiving his Dr. phil. (Ph.D.) in 1935, he studied Japanese at the University of Berlin's center for oriental languages. (He also spoke English, Italian, Spanish and French.)

He received a year of training for the diplomatic service at the German Foreign Office in Berlin, and then, from 1938 to November 1940, he served in Japan as a cultural attache with the German embassy in Tokyo and as an economic affairs Vice Consul with the German Consulate General in Osaka. From 1941 until the end of the Second World War he was with the East Asia section of the Political Department of the German Foreign Office in Berlin. During the final two years of the war, he headed the section. During that terrible period, he also lost his brother, Major Wilhelm Braun, who was killed in action in Poland in July 1944.

In the aftermath of the war, all former German officials with university degrees were subject to “automatic arrest” under the provision of the notorious U.S. occupation directives SCS 1067, regardless of whether or not they had been members of the Naffonal Socialist Party. Dr. Braun was accordingly seized by American occupation forces in 1945 and interned at the Dachau concentration camp, which was then run by U.S. authorities. He escaped in the fall of 1946, in part to avoid being forced to testify against his former colleagues. (A common American practice at the time was to coerce former German officials into testifying against their former colleagues by threatening to turn them over to the Soviets.)

After the escape, he fled with his wife and infant daughter to South Tyrol, the ethnically German region of northern Italy, where he worked for two years as a journalist. He then moved to Argentina where he worked in Buenos Aires for the German steel industry as an independent merchant, 1948-1954. He returned to Germany where he was employed by major steel corporations until his retirement in 1975.

Dr. Braun devoted the final years of his life to historical research and writing, with a special emphasis on American foreign policy toward Germany and Japan under Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

As a conscientious scholar, Dr. Braun combined a devotion to truth and justice with careful attention to accuracy and detail. His firm belief in the ultimate triumph of historical truth, was reflected in a Latin phrase he often quoted: “Veritas magna est et praevalebit.”

Dr. Braun's work on behalf of historical justice for Germany was rooted in an abiding devotion to the heritage and culture of his people. His search for historical truth was also motivated by a heartfelt concern for world peace and international harmony.

Although he served as an important official in a government which was at war with the United States. Dr. Braun had a genuine regard for America's welfare and long-term interests. He was very troubled, for example, by the threat posed by Zionist power and influence to America's national integrity and basic values.

Like so many others of the postwar generation, I learned a great deal from anecdotes of his diplomatic career. For example, he described Hitler's historic speech to the Reichstag on the afternoon of 11 December 1941, four days after Pearl Harbor. Sitting next to Rudolf von Ribbentrop, the son of the Reich Foreign Minister, he watched as Hitler recounted the reasons for the outbreak of war and the decision to strike against the Soviet Union, reviewed the dramatic course of the war thus far, and then explained why Germany was joining with Japan in war against the United States.

Dr. Braun told about his meeting in Berlin with the legendary Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose, and his role in arranging Bose's dramatic submarine voyage from Europe to Asia.

Although he played no role in Germany's wartime Jewish policy, Dr Braun told what he knew about the so-called “final solution” policy, based on his conversations with Dr. Georg Leibbrandt, a friend who has represented the Reich East Ministry at the Wannsee conference of January 1942, where the “final solution” policy was coordinated. The two men had known each other since 1934. After the war, Leibbrandt emphatically told Braun in private that the “final solution” had been a policy, not of extermination, but rather of deportation to the occupied eastern territories. (This assessment is also abundantly confirmed by other evidence, including detailed German records found after the war.)

During the final decade of his life, Dr. Braun authored numerous historical essays and reviews, which appeared in a variety of West German publication, as well as a book, Pearl Harbor in neuer Sicht ("A new view of Pearl Harbor"), which was published by the respected publishing firms of Ullstein and Herbig.

Dr. Braun also translated a number of essays from English into German. For example, he translated and skillfully condensed an important essay by Tyler Kent, along with my introduction, from The Journal of Historical Review (Summer 1983) for publication in the German monthly Nation Europa, February 1984. In the same issue of Nation Europa was his translation of a presentation by Leon Degrelle from The Journal of Historical Review (Fall 1982). He also translated former U.S. Congressman Hamilton Fish's book FDR: The Other Side of the Coin, for which he also provided a foreword and footnotes for the German edition published in 1982.

Dr. Braun remained productive until the end. Even during his final days in the Munich hospital where he died, he worked on a translation of an American book about Franklin Roosevelt and Wall Street, a task which his youngest daughter has pledged to complete.

Dr. Braun was a good friend and supporter of the Institute for Historical Review. His first contribution to The Journal of Historical Review (Winter 1984) was a essay on the legacy of the policies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt on Europe. He was a guest speaker at two IHR conferences. His first presentation was an informative and partially autobiographical address, “Reflections on German and American Foreign Policy, 1933-1945,” to the February 1985 conference, which appeared in the Spring 1985 issue of The Journal of Historical Review.

His younger daughter, Sabine, accompanied him to the October 1987 IHR Conference, where he spoke about Richard Sorge, the Soviet master spy who obtained tremendously important secrets for the Kremlin from the German embassy in Tokyo while working as the Japan correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper. Braun knew Sorge during his posting in Tokyo.

In spite of a serious physical disability, Dr. Braun was also an active outdoorsman and mountain climber who scaled several of Europe's highest peaks.

Both in person and in his correspondence, Karl Otto Braun was invariably kind, tactful and encouraging. He patiently and selflessly encouraged many others during the final decade of his life, and it gave him great pleasure to know younger men and women who would carry on the work that was so dear to his heart. He will be remembered with admiration and affection.

Dr. Braun's character and spirit were manifest in his address to the 1985 IHR conference. Each Revisionist historian, he said, must

… weigh his words carefully, must maintain a sense of balance and, about all, must stick to the facts. Revisionism has a emission. It is to find facts. Historical fact-finding has a purifying effect because it embodies the struggle for truth … Nations should promote a regard for history, thereby strengthening their memory and power.

The dawn of another Renaissance is approaching! Believe me: Moral values have a more enduring life than shrewd tactics! If we stoop to the level of Marxist lies and self-deception, as Franldin Roosevelt did, we fall into the hands of our more cunning enemies; whereas if we keep ourselves on a morally elevated plane, we will emerge victorious. When all is said and done, our blue shining planet, our universe, is in the hands of God …


Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 504-507.