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Sunday, April 28, 2013

German actor who played TV sleuth Derrick was member of feared SS unit during WWII

Reports that the late German actor Horst Tappert, best known for his longtime role as dapper TV sleuth Stefan Derrick, served in a feared Nazi SS unit prompted at least one European broadcaster to announce Saturday that it would drop the show's reruns from its schedule. Dutch TV station MAX pulled reruns of the show, which was produced from 1974 to 1998, after daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published documents Friday showing the actor had been in the SS during World War II. "Derrick" was one of the most widely syndicated German TV shows, broadcast in over 100 countries including China, Australia, France and Norway. "We are not going to honour an actor like this who has lied about his past," Dutch public broadcaster NOS quoted MAX chairman Jan Slagter as saying. Tappert had spoken of his wartime service as a medic in an interview 10 years before his death in 2008. But he didn't mention that his unit was part of the elite SS Armored Infantry Regiment 1, nicknamed the "Skulls" after the emblem they wore. The SS is known to have committed atrocities during World War II but it was unclear from the newly discovered documents whether Tappert was directly involved. Peter Grune, a spokesman for German public broadcaster ZDF that co-produced the show's 281 episodes, said nobody at the station had known of Tappert's SS past. "Stories like these come up now and again," he said. "For us it's not an urgent matter because he's dead." The hidden history of prominent Germans' involvement in the war has become a subject of public debate again in recent years, after being largely ignored for decades. In 2006, German Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass admitted in an autobiography that he had been a member of the SS in the final months of the war. The revelation hurt Grass' image as one of the 'moral consciences' in post-war Germany. Earlier this year ZDF broadcast a three-part drama about the war, accompanied by a publicity campaign that urged Germans to seek out survivors of the Nazi period and ask them about the role they played at the time.

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