Werner Best (10 July 1903 – 23 June 1989) was a German Nazi, jurist, police chief, SS-Obergruppenführer and Nazi Party leader from Darmstadt, Hesse. He studied law and in 1927 obtained his doctorate degree at Heidelberg. Best served as civilian administrator of France and Denmark while Nazi Germany occupied those countries during World War II.
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, Best while head of Department 1 of the Gestapo oversaw organization, administration, and legal affairs. He was a deputy to Reinhard Heydrich. In September 1939 the security and police agencies of Nazi Germany were consolidated into Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA), 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 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.
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) 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, Flanders and French territory north of the Loire river into the Reich, turn Wallonia and Brittany into German protectorates, merge Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, create a decentralized British federation and break the Spanish State into independent entities of Galicia, Basque Country and Catalonia.
In November 1942 after the Telegram Crisis, Best was appointed the Third Reich's Plenipotentiary (Reichsbevollmächtigter) in Denmark. He was accredited to King Christian X, who, unlike most Heads of state under Nazi German occupation, 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. He kept his position until the end of the war in May 1945, even after the German military commander 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.
He was orginally sentence to death by the Danish goverment, he was giving 12 years in jail. He was released early and was tried by German courts for war crimes in the 1970's but he was too ill to stand trial.
Werner Best passed away on June 23rd, 1989.