The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Argentina
Uki Goñi

South American Connection

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"In those days Argentina was a kind of paradise to us," reminisced Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke in 1991, thinking back to the warm welcome he and some of his comrades found when they fled postwar Europe for the country ruled by Juan Domingo Perón.

Priebke, Adolf Eichmann, and Josef Mengele were only the most notorious of a rogue’s gallery of several hundred European fascists who made their way to Buenos Aires in the late 1940s and 1950s. The story was immortalized in the best-selling novel The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth’s dark fantasy of a conspiratorial order seeking to launch a Fourth Reich through the mythical ODESSA (Organization der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen or Organization of former SS members).

This image of Argentina as a sanctuary for villains escaping justice became so widely understood in popular culture, even the Blue Meanies thought of going there after their downfall in the Beatles’ cult cartoon "Yellow Submarine."If the flight of Nazi fugitives down the ratlines to Argentina is well known and has already been the subject of a number of investigations, never before have the mechanisms of the escape routes been laid out in such detail as in this painstaking study by Argentine journalist Uki Goñi.

Goñi conducted some two hundred interviews and undertook six years of relentless digging in archives in the United States, Europe, and frequently uncooperative ministries in Argentina. His findings are a catalog of cynical malfeasance and cover-up by highly-placed officials in the Argentine government and the Catholic Church, as well as actors from other countries. Goñi’s principal contribution is his in-depth look at the Argentine side of an organized smuggling operation that had its genesis in German-Argentine cooperation during the war and eventually involved Allied intelligence services, the Vatican, and top Argentine officials in network stretching from Sweden to Italy.

Among the key players in Goñi’s account are two Argentines of German descent: former SS Captain Carlos Fuldner, who ran "rescue" efforts from bases in Madrid, Genoa, and Berne; and Rodolfo Freude, head of Perón’s Information Bureau, who coordinated the work of intelligence and immigration officials from his office in the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s White House. Many of the Argentines involved, as well as a multinational cast of Vichy French, Belgian Rexists, Croatian Ustashi, and cardinals from several countries, seem to have been motivated by the vision of an international brotherhood of Catholic anti-Communists.

Nazi Expert:
I Have Proof Hitler Died In 1960s
By Terrence Aym

The biggest revelation is an authenticated secret German document which lists Hitler as one of the passengers evacuated by plane from Austria to Barcelona on April 26, 1945.

Although official history contends Hitler committed suicide with his newlywed wife, Eva Braun, on April, 30 1945 and their corpses were burned by others in the Berlin bunker, Abel Basti claims proof the story is a fabrication.

According to Basti’s meticulous research, the leader of the Third Reich spent his last years as an art dealer and had facial plastic surgery to change his appearance.

Those are just two of the astounding revelations that respected Argentine journalist and historian Abel Basti documents in his book, Hitler’s Exile.

While the book was a runaway bestseller across South America, it’s been suppressed in the United States and the Russian Federation. Those two countries still maintain that Germany’s Führer committed suicide during the last days of World War Two.

The claim that Hitler and some high-ranking Schutzstaffel (SS) officers escaped Germany and fled to South America is not new.

Nil Nikandrov observes (Strategic Culture Foundation,
“All the Leaders of the Third Reich Fled to Latin America“):

In his well-documented, The Hitler Survival Myth (1981), Donald McKale identifies the earliest source of the myth of Hitler’s escape to the southern hemisphere as the unexpected surrender of a German submarine in early July 1945 at Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Several Buenos Aires newspapers, in defiance of Argentine Navy statements, said that rubber boats had been seen landing from it, and other submarines spotted in the area.

On July 16, 1945, the Chicago Times carried a sensational article on the Hitlers having slipped off to Argentina.

The Hitler-in-Argentina tale first surfaced in a book
back in 1947

Ladislao Zsabó, a Hungarian advertiser, witnessed the arrival of the U-530 and saw its crew disembarking. He had heard that the destination was the German Antarctica and, mistakenly, made a supposition that Hitler had escaped to Antarctica, and published the book Hitler está Vivo (Hitler is Alive), where he speaks about the possible location of Hitler, in Queen’s Maud properties, opposite the Weddel Sea, that was then renamed Neuschwabenland, when the area was explored in 1938/39 by the German expedition [led] by Captain Ritschter.

Zsabó made the wrong assumption.

Had he read the book by Professor Hugo Fernandez Artucio published in 1940, "Nazis en el Uruguay", (Nazis in Uruguay) he would had discovered that there actually was a plan referring to German Antarctica, but this was nothing but the term they used for the Patagonia and that this information had been made public in New York in 1939.

Basti doggedly digs deeper

When there’s so much smoke there’s usually a fire. Basti tracked down that fire during seven years of sometimes grueling investigations.


 Brick from wall
of Nazi complex
in Patagonia

  "Eagle’s Nest”
stonework on wall
of German complex,


He personally visited German compounds surrounded by security and stern-faced guards, interviewed surviving witnesses in villages near the strongholds, and even obtained authenticated photographs of Hitler and Braun during their exile years.

Basti wrote that A. Hitler, E. Braun, and the Führer’s closest aides flew from the burning Berlin to Spain…and then crossed the Atlantic Ocean by three submarines and reached Argentina.

In July-August, 1945 Hitler and his clique landed in the Rio Negro province near the Caleta de los Loros village and moved on further into Argentine.

Allegedly, the same secret route prepared by SS chief Himmler’s staff was later used by Bormann, Mengele, and Eichmann.

Basti detailed the journey of A. Hitler and E. Braun across Argentina assisted by local Nazi sympathizers and described the couple’s family life during which—despite the hardships of hiding—they even had children.

Stonewalling Soviets

The Soviets weren’t helpful on the matter of the German leader’s death.

The Soviets continued to be difficult. They refused to allow Westerners into Berlin even after the surrender of Dönitz’s government and the last armies in the field on May 7-9. On May 10, they announced the existence of the burned bodies in the Chancellory courtyard, but only allowed that one might be Hitler. The same report went on to say that his body might never be found.

“On June 6, a spokesman for the Soviet army in Berlin announced unequivocally that Hitler had committed suicide and that his body had been identified. Three days later, Marshall Zhukov, the head of the Soviet army gave a press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinski looking over his shoulder. ‘We did not identify the body of Hitler,’ he said. ‘I can say nothing definite about his fate. He could have flown away from Berlin at the very last moment.' [Nil Nikandrov]

Interview with Basti

In an interview on Deadline – Live, an Argentine news program, journalist Santiago Romero interviewed Abel Basti about Hitler’s escape, life in Patagonia, and the events that followed World War Two. ["Hitler huyó a la Patagonia en un submarino que zarpó desde Vigo" Edited.]Romero:
What is your opinion on Hitler’s escape?

Hitler escaped via air from Austria to Barcelona. The last stage of his escape was in a submarine, from Vigo, heading straight to the coast of Patagonia. Finally, Hitler and Eva Braun, in a car with a chauffeur and bodyguard—a motorcade of at least three cars—drove to Bariloche (Argentina).

He took refuge in a place called San Ramon, about 15 miles east of that town. It is a property of about 250,000 acres with a lake-front view of Lake Nahuel Huapi, which had been German property since the early twentieth century, when it belonged to a German firm by the name of Schamburg-Lippe.

On what basis do you claim that Hitler was in Spain after leaving his Berlin bunker?

I was able to confirm the presence of Hitler in Spain thanks to a—now elderly—Jesuit priest, whose family members were friends of the Nazi leader. And I have witnesses that allude to meetings he had with his entourage at the place where they stayed in Cantabria.

In addition, a document of the British secret services reveals that in those days, a Nazi submarine convoy left Spain, and after stopping in the Canary Islands, it continued its journey to the south of Argentina.

Hitler and Eva Braun traveled onboard one of these submarines, which later arrived in Patagonia between July and August of 1945, under the de facto President Edelmiro Farrell and later Juan Domingo Peron, then his Minister of War. There is also another important document mentioning that the FBI was looking for Hitler in Spain after World War II.

From where did he leave to Patagonia?

All the evidence points to the Galician coast, which was a significant base of supplies for Nazi submarines during the Battle of the Atlantic, to the extent that Churchill considered the possibility of invading it—an action that was scrapped when they built the code-breaking “Enigma” machine and managed to decipher Nazi submarine fleet messages and the course of submarine warfare was reversed.

There is the possibility that he left from Vigo or Ferrol, but it is almost certain that he did from Vigo, according to Britain’s MI6.

What was Hitler’s life in Argentina like?

Hitler lived as a fugitive with his wife and his bodyguard. His first years were in Patagonia, and then he lived in the more northern provinces [of Argentina].

In the early years, he held meetings in different parts of Argentina, and with other Nazis in Paraguay, as well as with sympathizers from foreign countries.

He shaved his head and mustache, so he was not easily recognizable. He lived away from large urban areas, although he had a few meetings in Buenos Aires. He died in the sixties in Argentina.

I’m currently investigating where he was buried and how he lived his last days.

Did you have access to documents from the former Soviet Union?

Until his death in 1953, Stalin always believed that Hitler had escaped. In 1945, Stalin told the Allies this same information. There are three different shorthand writings in which Stalin mentioned that the German leader had fled.

In Argentina, I have interviewed people who had seen and met with Hitler. In the Russian archives, there is abundant documentation that shows that Hitler had escaped.

How did your book impact the official story of Hitler’s death?

Despite the recent investigations that proved that Hitler’s remains at the Kremlin in Russia did not belong to him, most Russians have always rejected the theory that he escaped. The same applies to the nations involved in the war.

The U.S. has just reclassified [under national security auspices] for 20 [more] years all official material related to this story, and when that deadline is met, it will probably be reclassified.

The British reclassified all related documentation for 60 more years. The researchers cannot access that information.

Did Hitler Survive
the War in Argentina?


In his 2008 book, The Rise of the Fourth Reich: The Secret Societies That Threaten to Take Over America, Jim Marrs argues that some surviving members of Germany's Third Reich, along with sympathizers in the United States and elsewhere, given safe haven by organizations such as ODESSA and Die Spinne, have been working behind the scenes since the end of World War II to enact at least some of the principles of Nazism (e.g. militarism, fascism, conquest, widespread spying on citizens, use of corporations and propaganda to control national interests and ideas) into culture, government, and business worldwide, but primarily in the United States. He cites the influence of Nazis brought into the United States at the end of World War II, such as Nazi scientists brought in under Operation Paperclip to help advance aerospace in the US, and the acquisition and creation of conglomerates by Nazis and their sympathizers after the war, in both Europe and the United States.

David "Dave" Emory (born in 1949) is an American talk radio host, born in New York City, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A self-described "anti-fascist," Emory has since the 1980s produced, written and hosted several radio programs: The Guns of November, Miscellaneous Archive Shows, One Step Beyond and Anti-Fascist Archives (formerly Radio Free America). During the 2000s, Emory's For the Record series has aired every Monday on KKUP in San Jose, Tuesday on WFMU in Jersey City, the early a.m. hours Thursday on KPFK in Los Angeles, Thursdays and Fridays on KFJC in Los Altos Hills, California, and Fridays on WCBN in Ann Arbor. Descriptions and summaries of For The Record programs are archived and maintained by Audio archives are maintained by WFMU.

Programs consist of two 30-minute monologues or telephone interviews on one or more topics, including Fascism, Corporatism, genocide, the Cold War, Fifth column movements, and international banking scandals. Recurring topics also include the Kennedy assassination and its alleged relations to the FBI, George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, German-controlled industry and banking, the Muslim Brotherhood, 9/11, the Bush family and its business connections to the Osama Bin Laden family and the Third Reich (through Senator Prescott Bush), the P-2 Lodge, disinformation, mind control and cults. Interview guests include writer Kevin Coogan, Nazi-hunter and author John Loftus, author Sterling Seagrave, freelance journalist and 2004 presidential candidate John Buchanan, and investigative journalists Lucy Komisar and Robert Parry.

Emory frequently propounds the existence of an "Underground Reich" as a central feature of his broader theses. An entity which maintains the long-term interests of German-based multinational conglomerates, it includes heavy industry, chemicals, communications, as well as international shipping, banking and financial interests. Emory contends that the many units which make up the "Underground Reich," having survived World War II, persist and flourish as major components of the current global capital elite.

Documentary uncovers Nazi gold trail to Argentina
By Hilary Burke

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - A new documentary thick with tales of spies and secretive submarine landings traces how Nazis smuggled gold and cash from Europe to Argentina, a notorious safe haven for war criminals after World War Two.

 "Nazi Gold in Argentina," directed by Argentine filmmaker Rolo Pereyra, aims to break new ground by revealing how Swiss banks, Roman Catholic bishops and Argentine politicians helped to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars in Third Reich treasures. The flight of many Nazis, including notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele and Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann, from war-torn Europe to South America has been extensively documented. But the trail of a fortune in gold and cash has been much less explored.

The documentary, partly financed by HBO, re-enacts stories of Nazi submarines loaded with gold landing in Argentina's far-flung Patagonia, the mysterious deaths of Nazi conspirators, and spy-novel machinations based on 10 years of research. It received a standing ovation at Sao Paulo's International Film Festival last month, and director Pereyra suspects the audience enjoyed the film's dramatic flair.

The documentary will be screened at film festivals in Belgium, Spain and Cuba through December.

"My idea was to give it a bit of that spy story rhythm ... with spies spying on spies ... People appreciate that," Pereyra said.

The film includes vignettes on such figures as Hermann Dörge, a powerful German banker who worked at Argentina's Central Bank in the 1940s and died in a suspicious suicide after destroying proof of the Nazi wealth transfers, according to Argentine central bank archives and Allied intelligence.

The film -- based on the book "Odessa al Sur" by Argentine writer Jorge Camarasa -- connects the dots between Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany and Argentina to show how Nazis and their wealth were smuggled to the New World. Hundreds of Nazis flocked to Argentina after the war, drawn by the open-door policy of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron, a pragmatic politician with fascist sympathies. But Nazi ties to the political and economic elite outlasted Peron, Pereyra said. "What surprised us is that the trail of this smuggled money leads to the heirs of many families, even up to the 1980s and 90s," Pereyra said. "These people are linked to the Argentine oligarchy and the economically powerful."

"Nazi Gold in Argentina" includes interviews in Argentina with Wilfred Von Oven, a former aide to Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Göbbels and the son of Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who was extradited to Italy and jailed for his role in the murder of 335 civilians in Rome in 1944. Camarasa said the importance of the probes is that they unearthed conspiracies and complicities hidden for decades. "Bringing this to light allowed people to confront a quite shameful episode in Argentina," Camarasa said.

Not Vidi Convincing
Her last name was Latin for “I saw,” but was her vision about Hitler anywhere close to the truth? 


This February 1966 National Police Gazette marks the eighteenth time we’ve found Hitler on the venerable publication’s cover, and this is not the last we’ll see of Der Führer on the Gazette—there are three more that will bring his total to twenty-one, and there are others out there.

This time around, the world’s greatest medium Madame Luce Vidi has seen Hitler not crisped to a cinder in Berlin, but alive and kicking in the tropics. The Gazette attempts to quell any doubts about Vidi's divinatory prowess by informing readers that she foresaw “the assassination of President Kennedy and had predicted the time of the tragedy, and had also seen the death of French boxer Marcel Cerdan, the former middleweight champion, in a plane crash.”

After establishing Vidi’s bona fides, Gazette editors tell us their independent research showed that Hitler escaped Germany aboard a submarine on April 10, 1945, and traveled to a base in Norway where he and a female companion boarded a second sub, laden with millions of dollars in treasure, and sailed for Argentina. Hitler eventually fetched up in the vicinity of San Carlos de Bariloche, where Nazis had years earlier purchased 10,000 acres of land. Vidi describes what Hitler looks like in 1966. The story ends by claiming he resides in a tropical fortress, where “the aged despot, his heart brimming with hatred and his mind full of the days when his voice shook the world, lives out his time in misery.”

As we’ve pointed out, anyone who thinks conspiracy theories are a new phenomenon needs to read more history. Americans in particular have always given credence to alternate versions of important events, so next time you see someone on television saying Barack Obama was born in Kenya, just remember it’s nothing new. As it turns out though, the town of San Carlos de Bariloche was exposed as a hideout for at least one Nazi when former SS Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke was found there in 1995. He had been running the local German school. As recently as 2004 claims that Hitler had also lived in the area were aired in an internationally published book, and of course slammed by mainstream historians. But since something like 9,000 former Nazis fled to various parts of South America, we'd be lying if we said we didn't wonder if Hitler couldn't have managed the feat.

Luce Vidi supposedly utilized a crystal ball for her Hitler visions but we should, however, note that her vision did not jibe with the beliefs of those who theorized Hitler living near San Carlos de Bariloche. Vidi saw Hitler living in a tropical place—in the background was a turtle dozing on a sandy beach. San Carlos de Bariloche is nestled in the foothills of the Andes, an area where people go to ski, trek and climb. There isn’t a beach anywhere in sight. 


   Weekly World News
18 September 1990

Goñi has gone to great lengths to document information about individual members of the operation and those it abetted. We learn, for instance, about SS Captain Walter Kutschmann, frequent wartime travel companion of fashion designer Coco Chanel and himself responsible for thousands of killings in Poland, who escaped to Argentina in the plain robes of a Carmelite monk. Goñi found documentary evidence of Kutschmann’s support from the Casa Rosada in a place few people would have thought to look: Kutschmann’s early application for a taxi license, Goñi discovered, was backed by Fernando Imperatrice, a member of Perón’s presidential staff. Kutschmann retained friends in high places almost until the end of his life. During a trial held by the Argentine military regime in the early 1980s, the former SS man went free "when the court lost the case dossier. It was found five years later ... in the judge’s safe" .In an extraordinary tale from the archives, Goñi describes spending five months posing as a genealogist to look unobtrusively for crucial evidence in the records of the Argentine Immigration Office. From 1920 to 1970, the government routinely opened immigration files for every applicant for a landing permit, whether job seeker, refugee, or war criminal. Goñi eventually worked through "a couple of city blocks of shelves stacked with tightly packed cards," indexing the files to find ones he wished to order. He discovered entries corresponding to files for Eichmann, Priebke, Mengele, and other lesser-known fascists. But when he broke his cover and tried to order the relevant files, the archivists turned nasty and sullen, and terminated their cooperation. One of them then met him furtively in a park across the street to confess that in 1996, Peronists, fearing exposure, had carted most of the key documents down to the riverbank and burned them.  But not all of them were burned.

By entering the data from the index cards alone into a computer spreadsheet, Goñi found that the files for Erich Priebke and Josef Mengele were numbered consecutively, even though they arrived in Argentina seven months apart. At the time of their applications, the Immigration Office was opening new files at a rate of over five hundred per day. Thus a single person must have applied on behalf of both war criminals at once or processed them together, prima facie evidence of an organized effort on behalf of Nazi fugitives.


Goñi made other important finds. He draws effectively on the revealing unpublished diary of a Belgian fascist involved in the smuggling network in Buenos Aires, Pierre Daye, whose papers were repatriated after his death and thus escaped the Argentine bonfires. Historian Beatriz Gurevich, a member of CEANA (Comisión de Esclarecimientode Actividades Nazis en la Argentina), the Argentine government commission investigating Nazi links, who resigned in the late 1990s because the commission did not dig deep enough, shared her files with Goñi. He also worked in Chile, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States. In the end he was able to identify nearly three hundred war criminals who entered Argentina beginning in August 1946. (The entire staff of CEANA came up with only 180).This research, presented in such detail that at times the narrative of events gears down into a register of names and places, is itself a great achievement. Goñi’s interpretations of causality, however, are more porous.


At the center of the image of Argentina as a fascist paradise, and looming in the background throughout the story told here, is the highly disputed figure of Perón himself. Did he, as Goñi argues, turn his country into an asylum for the blood-spattered losers of the Second World War out of ideological sympathy for European fascism? Or were other motives more important? Goñi takes a clear stand: if Perón was not himself a Nazi, he liked Nazis, cooperated with them before, during, and after the war, and sought to save them from the "victor’s justice" he saw at work at the Nuremberg tribunal because it offended his soldier’s sense of honor. "It was Peron’s intention to rescue as many Nazis as possible from the war crimes trials in Europe," Goñi writes.To show the antecedents for the program, he spends several chapters outlining how Argentina steadily made it more difficult for Jewish refugees to enter the country in the late 1930s and 1940s,especially when the Immigration Office was headed by Santiago Peralta, a virulent and prolific writer of anti-Semitic tracts appointed by the military government in 1943 and kept on by Peron until June 1947.


Historians will no doubt contest whether anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi sentiment among Argentine officials, including Perón himself, can bear the explanatory weight Goñi assigns them in accounting for the causes of this sordid episode. A comparative frame of reference would also be useful. Countries all over the world were closing their doors to Jewish refugees in the Nazi era, an appalling practice that did not in itself automatically indicate a preference for fascist immigration. Despite the many obstacles created, in percentage terms, Argentina actually admitted more Jews (between 30,000 and 50,000 during Hitler’s rule) than did any country in the Western Hemisphere except Bolivia. (The United States ranked first in total numbers but third relative to population).

Perón’s hostility to the Nuremberg trials should be placed in an Argentine context, where protestors sometimes chanted "Nuremberg! Nuremberg!" to call for the prosecution of the military officers (including him) who ran the country during the war, giving him a self-interested motive for opposing the trials. Perón cannot simply be labeled a Nazi since he readily made alliances with Communists and Jews, maintaining an ideologically flexible, populist approach as he tried to co-opt workers’ movements by meeting many of their demands. Indeed, within the Argentine military and the right wing in general there was far more admiration for Italian and Spanish fascism than for the German variety, which was considered too anti-Catholic.


After the war, Perón did not just go looking for war criminals in Europe; he especially sought skilled labor and advanced technology for his crash industrialization program. As Goñi notes, an Argentine agency based in Rome and implicated in smuggling fascists actually "had orders to organize the immigration of 4 million Europeans, at the rate of 30,000 a month, to boost the economic and social revolution Perón envisaged for his country". It was an ambitious plan, partly realized in at least one respect: Argentina produced its own jet fighter in 1947 with the help of imported Nazi engineers. This aspect seems worthy of more careful analysis. Argentina was hardly the only country to take advantage of the decommissioned human resources of the Third Reich. The United States is famously indebted to rocketry expert Wernher von Braun, who literally got NASA off the ground thanks to his experience building Hitler’s V-2rockets using slave labor in the underground factories at Peenemünde. Von Braun arrived via Operation Paperclip, a once-secret program that eventually brought 765 German scientists, engineers, and technicians into the United States; between half and three-quarters were former Nazi Party members or SS men, and more than a few of them were guilty of war crimes.


The Soviet Union carried off German technicians and laborers in large numbers after the war, and the intelligence agencies of both superpowers recruited well-informed Nazis into their ranks. Perhaps the most notorious was Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon," who worked for and was sheltered by the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps after the war. The CIC also protected Otto von Bolschwing, a senior aide to Adolf Eichmann. France likewise enlisted ex-Waffen SS in the Foreign Legion to fight against national liberation movements in its colonies. Few historians would assert that the United States, the Soviet Union, and France welcomed Nazis out of ideological affinity with the Third Reich; moral blindness, perhaps, or cynical realism may have been at work, but there is no mistaking the instrumentalist thinking behind a salvage operation intended to locate Nazis with unusual skills for national programs in intelligence, advanced technology and counterinsurgency. Was what was good for the goose also good for the gander? Even if his sympathies lay more openly with European fascists, could Perón have been motivated in part by some of the same cold-blooded calculations going through the minds of Truman, Stalin and De Gaulle?


Goñi would answer with a resounding "no.” Although he acknowledges the utility of some of the newcomers to Perón’s modernization effort, we also read of a number of arrivals who may have been good at mass murder, but had so few useful skills it was hard for their Argentine sponsors to find them employment. (Mass murder itself was in any case not yet in demand. Perón’s defenders like to point out that, whatever the Nazi influence in his government, Argentina’s concentration camps were created not under his rule, but by the generals who overthrew his second government in 1976 and killed some thirty thousand people.) Ultimately Goñi understands the whole episode as part of a tragic continuity not only in Peronism’s sins of the past and present, but in an unbroken chain of Argentine history from collaboration with the Third Reich to the disappearances carried out by the military junta of the 1970s, the corruption of the civilian governments that followed, and the bloody bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. All of this went for the most part unquestioned, Goñi writes with sadness; Argentina’s chief crimes remain unsolved and draped in the silence of a society grown too accustomed to looking away.


Historians will continue to differ over how to explain the Perón era and Argentina’s Nazi connections, and this study leaves unresolved key questions of interpretation, especially about how to classify the cipher at the head of the Argentine government from 1946 to1955. But the debate over these issues, and our knowledge of the inside of the Argentine Odessa network, has been greatly enriched by Goñi’s findings.



Frederick Forsyth, The Odessa File (New York: Viking, 1972;

Carlota Jackisch, Elnazismo y los refugiados alemanes en la Argentina(Buenos Aires: Editorial de Belgrano, 1989);
Holger Meding, Flucht vor Nürnberg? (Köln:Böhlau, 1992);
Beatriz Gurevich and PaulWarzawski, Proyecto testimonio (Buenos Aires:Planeta, 1998);

John Loftus and Mark Aarons, Unholy Trinity (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998);

Jackisch, El nazismo y los refugiadosalemanes;

Haim Avni, "Peru y Bolivia--dosnaciones andinas--y los refugiados judios durantela era nazi," in El Genocidio ante la Historia y laNaturaleza Humana, ed. Beatriz Gurevich and Carlos Escudé (Buenos Aires: Grupo EditorLatinoamericano, 1994);
Christopher Simpson, Blowback:The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and Its Disastrous Effect on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy (New York: Weidenfeld &Nicholson, 1988);
Linda Hunt, Secret Agenda: the United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945-1990 (New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1991).


Max Paul Friedman. "Review of Uki Goñi, The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina", H-German, H-Net Reviews, April, 2004.URL:
Copyright © 2004 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of thi swork for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online

from The Real Odessa

Uki Goñi on the hidden Nazi past of Argentina, 'a country that time and time again has failed miserably the test of looking at itself in the mirror.'

Ever since the end of World War Two, the existence of a shadowy organization dedicated to the rescue of Nazi war criminals has been the subject of countless media articles, documentaries, novels and movies. Some of these claim that leading members of the Third Reich escaped justice by crossing the Atlantic in submarines. Indeed in Argentina, where I live, there are many eyewitness accounts of nervous men in Nazi uniforms disembarking from rubber dinghies on the coast of Patagonia at the end of the war. Large crates packed with Nazi gold and secret archives of Hitler's Reich were reportedly collected at night from windy beaches and driven across the continent to secluded havens in the Andes mountains. According to these mostly fantastical accounts, Hitler lived out his final days in southern Argentina, where he still lies buried; his deputy Martin Bormann settled nearby as a rich landowner, first in Chile, then in Bolivia and lastly in Argentina.

Yet none of these far-fetched accounts has gripped the collective imagination as strongly as one novel, The Odessa File, by the best-selling British author Frederick Forsyth. The book portrays a group of former SS men linked in a secret organization named Odessa (Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen), whose aim is not only to rescue their comrades from postwar justice but also to establish a Fourth Reich capable of fulfilling Hitler's unrealized dreams. Thanks to extensive research and his own experience as a Reuters correspondent in the early 1960s, Forsyth wrote a novel that was not only believable but also contained many elements of truth. Ever since its publication 30 years ago, the existence of a 'real Odessa’ has been hotly contended by journalists, though frequently denied by serious scholars.


In the last ten years, however, the steady declassification of secret documents in the United States and Europe has made it possible to test those fictionalized tales of Hitler's survival, and Forsyth's more plausible novel, against the hard stone of historical fact. The picture that emerges is not necessarily one of an ageing Führer doddering peacefully in the Andean foothills attended by faithful Nazi servants. It does not even include an organization actually named Odessa, but it is sinister nonetheless, and weighted in favour of an actual organized escape network. The documents reveal that the 'real' Odessa was much more than a tight organization with only nostalgic Nazis for members. It consisted instead of layered rings of non-Nazi factions: Vatican institutions, Allied intelligence agencies and secret Argentine organizations. It also overlapped at strategic points with French-speaking war criminals, with Croatian Fascists and even with the SS men of the fictional Odessa, all in order to smuggle Hitler's evil minions to safety.

But in Argentina the Odessa trail was growing faint, and was in danger of being erased altogether. This trail led back to the presidential office of General Juan Perón; it could therefore conceivably tar the figure of his beloved wife Evita, who remains an icon of almost saintly devotion to her compatriots even today. In the wake of the tardy revelations regarding Switzerland's role as a haven for Nazi gold, it came as no surprise when Argentina attempted to blur the facts. In a blaze of publicity in 1992, the Perónist government of then-president Carlos Menem announced the opening of Argentina's Nazi files' to researchers. The international press descended upon Buenos Aires, anxious to discover the truth behind the old rumours of Perón's secret dalliance with Hitler. But no such revelation was at hand.


Instead, reporters and researchers found a batch of dog-eared 'intelligence' dossiers containing mostly faded press clippings but precious little new information. The file on Bormann, who never really survived the fall of Berlin, included a press article claiming that he had been transported to Argentina via submarine. Conspicuously absent was the file on Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's 'Final Solution' and the most notorious Nazi criminal to have actually arrived in Argentina (under the auspices of both the Catholic Church and Perón's Nazi-smuggling team). The dossiers proved hugely disappointing to journalists, while the scholars inwardly cheered: the lack of evidence seemed to corroborate the growing consensus in academia that no Odessa had ever existed, and that the Nazis had arranged their escapes individually, finding their separate ways to Argentina without any organized assistance.


It was against this backdrop, unconvinced by the all-too-convenient lack of evidence, that in 1996 I began to dig for clues to Argentina's Nazi past. I guessed, correctly as it later turned out, that there was a wealth of material out there just waiting to be uncovered. If a 'real Odessa' had ever existed, I was determined to find traces of it.


For dubious 'lack of space' Argentina it incinerated all the files
about the influx of Nazis into the country in 2008

In Buenos Aires, much of the vital documentation had reportedly been destroyed back in 1955, during the last days of Perón's government, and again in 1996, when the burning of confidential immigration dossiers containing the landing papers of Nazi criminals seems to have been ordered. But tantalizing leads in other Argentine files that had miraculously survived these purges led me first to Belgium, where vital information on what I discovered to be Perón's long-denied Odessa-like organization had happily remained out of the reach of Argentina's document cleansers. Hundreds of pages of government documents were sent to me from Switzerland, detailing the co-operation of anti-Semitic Swiss officials in Perón's Nazi escape operation. In London, patient digging in British postwar papers finally paid off when these documents revealed direct Papal complicity in the protection of war criminals. Documents I requested from the United States under the Freedom of Information Act proved how Perón's top Nazi smuggler had actually been a secret agent of the SS, sent out of Berlin in l945 on a mission slated to start after the end of the war. Declassified CIA documents also explained how gold looted from the Serb and Jewish victims of Croatia’s Nazi puppet regime had found its way to Argentina in the early 1950s.


Incredibly, it sometimes proved easier to gain access to faraway archives in the US and Europe than to those at home. The progress I made in Argentina was maddeningly slow, hampered by the unresponsiveness of government officials and by the refusal of surviving participants in the Nazi rescue operation to be interviewed. One thing was clear, however: the cover-up had been so complete that only separate parts of the jigsaw puzzle survived in each country. I was forced to assemble and compare the varying information available in Brussels, Berne, London, Maryland and Buenos Aires. This was a gargantuan task that involved obtaining copies of thousands of pages of documents and indexing them all, while working simultaneously in four languages (French, German, English and Spanish) before the whole could be understood. And even that proved insufficient, for the assembled documentation left glaring gaps in the investigation which had to be filled in with some 200 personal interviews. It took six years of dedicated work. But finally, for the first time, the disparate pieces of the Nazi rescue puzzle slid into place, revealing the whole gruesome tableau.


I didn't know it when I started, but parts of that puzzle had been almost literally on my front doorstep all along. Looking out of my apartment window, for years I had unknowingly been seeing the grandson of Fritz Thyssen, the German industrial magnate who bankrolled Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s, take a stroll along the sidewalk. Four doors down, by the Swiss ambassador's residence, is the chalet once inhabited by SS Captain Carlos Fuldner, the Himmler agent who coordinated the main Nazi escape route and shielded Eichmann, among others. It sounds like Berlin, Munich or Vienna, but no, it is the sleepy Embassy Row of Buenos Aires. The street remains oblivious to its sinister past. I myself had been unaware of its notorious inhabitant when I cycled past Fuldner's house as a kid in the 1960s. What a missed chance for an interview!


The luxurious town houses and elegant curved streets of the Palermo Chico neighbourhood disprove the assumption that Hitler's helpers were somehow condemned to a life of squalor during their long postwar Argentine 'exile'. Most of them boasted select addresses in a city that rightly prided itself on being the Paris of South America'. Some, like Fritz Thyssen, who died in Buenos Aires in 1951, regretted aiding Nazism. The magnate had a falling out with the Führer and spent much of the latter part of the war in German concentration camps. Others, such as Fuldner, remained loyal to the cause long after Hitler's demise.


From my window, across the avenue, I can almost see the attractive red-brick townhouse where Thilo Martens lived not so long ago. He was a German millionaire who smuggled into Argentina the state-ofthe-art radio sets used by Hitler's agents to communicate with Berlin. After the war Martens reportedly arranged money transfers for some of the more notorious Nazis who escaped to Buenos Aires with Fuldner's help. But his Nazi past did not spare the ageing collaborator from abduction by the generals of Argentina's genocidal 1976/83 dictatorship, who pocketed a substantial part of his fortune.


A few blocks further along, in a comfortable modern apartment building, lived another SS captain circa 1943, Siegfried Becker. He was arguably Himmler's most cunning and successful agent in the western hemisphere. During the war he plotted the overthrow of the Allied-leaning government of neighbouring Bolivia with Perón. Afterwards he apparently helped channel Nazi funds to Argentina.


Finally, slightly up the hill from Becker lived the man who breathed life into the Nazi escape route, Colonel Perón himself. The Argentine strongman shared his bed there with a 14-year-old girl now remembered only by the pet name Perón gave her, 'Piranha'. In 1944, Evita arrived on the scene and threw the teenager out.


None of this was on my mind in mid-1996 when the Sunday Times of London called for a story. It had been a slow week in the rest of the world and the paper's editors needed some colourful copy for their international section. I offered up the usual Argentine fare political scandals, new twists in the Falklands dispute, ageing generals from the 1970s and 1980s trudging through the courts on renewed charges of old human rights violations. The British voice coming down the line was not impressed. 'Well, and then there's the Bormann passport in Patagonia,' I offered, hoping the editor would decide there was nothing worth taking from my neck of the woods.


How wrong I was. That weekend the Sunday Times ran a big piece entitled 'Bormann File Reopened by Passport Find'. In it I reported that a Uruguayan passport had turned up in southern Chile made out in the name of Ricardo Bauer, one of the aliases allegedly used by Hitler's deputy during his flight to South America. It proved a shaky start for the investigation that resulted in this book, for two years later a DNA test conducted on a skull found in Berlin established that Bormann had died fleeing Hitler's bunker during the last days of the war. Nonetheless, tackling the Bormann mystery made one thing obvious to me no well-documented research was available on the Argentine side of the postwar Nazi escape route.


I had reasons of my own to start digging. For too long I had been aware of silence as a noisy presence in Argentina, a country that time and again has failed miserably the test of looking at itself in the mirror. Each Argentine carries around a fabricated version of the country's history, tailored to their own personal comfort. There is one version for the die-hard Perónist, another for the Catholic nationalist; one for the victim of the 1976/83 massacres, another for those who walked blindly through the horror. As I write this, in mid-2002, the country is going through another of its perennial crises, this time an economic collapse of unprecedented proportions. The current storm has plunged over half the population of an until recently fairly affluent middle-class country below the poverty line. Silence played its hand here as well, the collapse driven by tens of billions of dollars in ill-gotten assets funneled out of the country by a hopelessly corrupt political class and its attendant financiers, with barely a single person ever convicted for corruption by Argentina's easily bought judges. But of all these silences, there is none so deafening as that surrounding Perón, the Catholic Church and the Nazis they helped to escape from justice. If this particular section of the wall could be cracked, I thought, then Argentines might feel encouraged to chip away at other parts of the edifice


When I was born in 1953 in Washington, DC, where my father served at the Argentine embassy, the wife of Perón's vice-president suggested that since I had come into the world on 17 October the anniversary of the popular uprising in 1945 that catapulted Perón to the presidency I should be named Juan Domingo, in homage to El Líder. I was spared that particular ignominy, even though suggestions from Perón's presidential palace, the Casa Rosada, carried not a little weight back then. The awareness of that small jolt at the start switched me on to permanent alert mode during the strange years that followed.


In 1955, Perón was ousted by a group of fanatically Catholic rightwing generals who gave cabinet posts to former collaborators of Himmler's espionage service. These generals were succeeded in turn by a series of oppressive military regimes that, apart from brief interludes, kept a firm boot against the Argentine throat until Perón’s triumphal return to power in 1973. No better than Perón himself, these regimes forbade even the mention of Perón's or Evita's name in the press. Shockingly, Argentina's journalists obeyed the ban.


I grew up in the US, far from the centre of events that make up this tale, spending part of my childhood years in an old mansion called Downcrest that my parents had rented at the end of wooded Crest Lane in McLean, Virginia. The house, built in castle style with mock battlements, still overlooks the Potomac river today. Back in the late 1950s, one of its frequent visitors was Senator Eugene McCarthy, who, together with his wife and children, had become close friends of our family. The McCarthys and my parents, hailing from extreme ends of the same continent, had some life points in common: both couples had married in 1945 and both had four children. Although I was small, I can remember eavesdropping intently on the long conversations that my father the South American diplomat and McCarthy the Democrat Congressman had on the open veranda of Downcrest above the Potomac. I like to think that some wisdom filtered through despite my scant years. Afterwards, the lives of our two families took different directions, as my father proceeded to new diplomatic postings and McCarthy embarked on his failed but heroic bid for the US presidency in 1968, running a campaign against the Vietnam War that raised fundamental military, political and moral questions concerning America’s role in the world.


That same eventful l968, after spending brief years in Argentina and Mexico, I was transplanted to Dublin, where my father headed the Argentine embassy. That was the year Ché Guevara was murdered in Bolivia. Each morning as I left the embassy residence in chauffeur-driven comfort for classes at St Conleth's College, I would see the scrawl of graffiti on our sidewalk: 'Guevara Lives', in white letters, painted during the night by Irish revolutionary sympathizers. Just as inexorably, each day the embassy staff would scrub the offending letters away. Driving over the reiterated scrawl, I shrank ever); time a little deeper into the red leather upholstery of our old Jaguar.


Erasing the evidence was a method that I grievously mistrusted even then. During the research for this book, some Argentine diplomats argued off the record that the country could best shake off its Nazi stigma by 'proving' once and for all that there had been no wartime collaboration by Perón and no organized assistance for fleeing Nazis; I disagreed. There was no shame in admitting old Nazi connections. It would be shameful only to be caught tampering with the evidence. Let the scrawl remain.


Between 1972 and 1975, I moved back and forth between Ireland and Argentina, unable to decide where I wanted to stay. While making the slow transition to Argentina, where: I finally settled, I spent a lot of time walking around Buenos Aires, trying to adapt to a society that I barely knew. My arrival coincided with Perón's return after l8 years of exile in Spain. The country was spiralling into mindless violence, driven by armed confrontation between youthful Perónist terrorists who wanted to ride piggyback on Perón's return to power and the right-wing death squads that he used to shake the pesky youths off his ancient back.


During these long walks I came across a disturbing sign of the times that I should perhaps have heeded better. On the broad Nueve de Julia Avenue that divides Buenos Aires in half—'the widest avenue in the world',—according to some Argentines stands a giant white obelisk that is the city’s most conspicuous landmark. In 1974, the landmark lost its virginity in the strangest of ways. A revolving billboard was suspended around the Obelisco, snugly encircling the huge white phallus. Round and round the ring turned, inscribed with an Orwellian message in bold blue letters on a plain white background" 'Silence Is Health'.


I was stunned. With every turn, the ring reaffirmed its doctrine, schooling Argentines in the total silence they would practise in the years to follow. Anywhere else, people would have mocked loudly, but in Argentina nobody laughed at all. My attempts to discuss the ring with friends invariably foundered met with blank stares. The ring's message, I soon learned, was self-fulfilling. A line had been drawn. Today, over a quarter of a century later, I still receive blank stares when I bring it up in conversation.


After Perón's death and following the overthrow of his vice-president wife 'Isabelita' in 1976, a new military dictatorship set up Nazi-style death camps across Argentina. The generals were intent on defending what they considered to be the country's 'Western and electric torture prods and Christian' lifestyle. Their instruments were mass killings. Instead of gassing their victims, the generals slit their stomachs open and threw them alive from planes into the freezing South Atlantic. That way they sank faster.


Under the military the silence became asphyxiating and present everywhere, all the time. Only the Buenos Aires Herald, a small English-language newspaper read by Argentina's mostly conservative British community, dared report on the bloodbath. I gravitated to its offices in the port of Buenos Aires, first as a cub reporter, then as editor of national news.


Daily the mothers of the victims would come in to report their tragedies. Men in green uniforms had broken into their homes in the middle of the night and taken their children from their beds to an unknown destination. They were never to be seen again. The abductors returned to steal their TV sets and refrigerators; sometimes they even unbolted the doors and loaded those on their trucks too.


I asked the mothers why they didn't report their stories to the big Spanish-language dailies. Why bother coming to a tiny newspaper published in a foreign language? 'Don't be naive,' the mothers almost laughed. 'We went and they wouldn't even let us in the door.' Just as Argentina's journalists had erased Perón's name from their vocabulary, now they erased part of a generation.


Attempts to repeat outside the Herald what I had heard from these mothers came up against a brick wall, much in the way my previous attempts to discuss the ring around the obelisk had. Even friends, members of my generation who picked up guitars and sang Blowin' in the Wind' at the parties I went to, gave me the empty stare.


If I forgot the 'disappearances', life could hardly have been more glorious. The military obtained huge international loans and opened up imports, and for the upper layer of the population the economy boomed. Colour television finally arrived; the streets were suddenly full of new BMWs; flights to Europe and Miami were packed with Argentines, their pockets bulging with dollars. Rod Stewart came to Buenos Aires for the 1978 World Cup. After the matches he is said to have joined the dancers in the basement of Experiment, a trendy disco where I began spending much of my time outside the Herald in a haze of gin and tonics while the killing was at its bloodiest.


Hell managed to intrude even through the deafening disco beat pounding out of Experiment's loudspeakers. My then-girlfriend confided in a whisper that her aunt had been kidnapped by the dictatorship. She was placing great trust in me for she had been warned by her family not to tell anyone. I begged her to impress upon them that the only hope of saving her aunt's life lay in going to the international press immediately, before the military concluded their dirty work. The family stuck to their policy of silence until it was too late. Multiply that by thousands.


My scariest memories of those years are not of the middle-aged generals who ordered the killings but of the deep abyss that separated even the more enlightened members of my own generation from the rest of humanity. Some generals became obsessed with the Jewish question' during 1976/83, particularly the powerful chief of the Buenos Aires police, General Ramón Camps, who hoped to stage a trial against the country's most prominent Jews in order to prove the existence of what he imagined was a Zionist plot against 'Western and Christian' Argentina. To this end, he abducted Jacobo Timerman, editor and owner of the influential daily La Opinión. After confiscating his newspaper and torturing him for months, the 'doves' among the. military finally caved in to international pressure, stripped Timerman of his Argentine citizenship and threw him out of the country.


Enraged at being deprived of his prey, Camps called a press conference at the exclusive Alvear Hotel during which he played the tapes of Timerman's interrogation.


The purpose of the exercise was to prove that Timerman was 'a Zionist' who sought Argentina's destruction.


'Do you admit you are a Jew?' Camps could be heard snarling on the first tape.


'Well . . . yes,' came back Timerman's frightened whisper.


Then you are a Zionist' hollered Camps.


'Well ... I don't know, maybe,' said Timerman.


Camps ordered the tape stopped and beamed triumphantly at the gathered reporters: "See, he admits he is a Zionist'.


The general's raving in the luxurious hotel in front of a gathering of foreign correspondents wasn't half as frightening as the composure of his civilian assistant, a finely educated young man who was the 'best friend' in Argentina of British writer Bruce Chatwin, someone Chatwin considered possessed of 'a culture and sensibility that has died out in Europe'. The assistant also happened to be a close friend of mine. He gave me Chatwin's address when I travelled to London in 1980.


This young writer had a hard time making ends meet and had been set up with Camps by his father. The scene was unreal: here was an otherwise enlightened intellectual (together we used to pore over scholarly editions of T. S. Eliot's poetry) pressing the play button for the forced interrogation of Argentina's main Jewish journalist by a wildly anti-Semitic general.


I hung around after the press conference and nodded to my friend, inviting him for a cup of coffee at the hotel. He was smiling, thrilled that so many correspondents had turned up, completely oblivious to the dark significance of the role he had just played.


'You have to give up this job,' I said bluntly.


'What? Why?


Look, one day there's going to be a Nuremberg here and your name is going to be associated with this crazy general.'


‘No! He's a friend of my father's. Do you think so I really don't,' he said, stirring his coffee with a silver spoon. It proved impossible to press the point any further. Our friendship faded years later when I tried to bring up the memory of that bizarre press conference, the wall of silence intact even after all those years.


Argentines still lack a definitive understanding of the general moral blindness that allowed the 1976/83 dictatorship to carry out its gruesome exterminations. Almost equally, the country remains at a loss to comprehend how, even in 2002, the most egalitarian society in Latin America has lurched suddenly into a chaos of apocalyptic proportions, undone by widespread corruption and with the spectre of mass hunger haunting a land historically known as the 'breadbasket' and Beef capital' of the world. It could take many more years before such an understanding is possible. Meanwhile, clues as to how chat of past horror of mass extermination and this present one of rampant corruption were generated may be found in Argentina's (still-denied) closure of its borders to the Jews at the beginning of the Holocaust and the warm welcome it extended to the Nazis afterwards.



The Girls From Argentina: Daughters of Adolf Hitler Who Escaped From Berlin On April 27th 1945 Thanks to Franco in Spain
By Bill Warner
March 18, 2012

An investigator claims the Nazi leader fled to Barcelona instead of committing suicide in Berlin bunker. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler spent a month in Spain before fleeing Europe for South America, according to an Argentine investigator. Abel Basti claims to have found an FBI document, which states Hitler did not commit suicide in his Berlin bunker. Instead, he flew to Spain with lover Eva Braun and 13 high-ranking Nazi officials.

Nazi sympathisers in San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina; Bariloche made headlines in the international press in 1995 when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals such as the former SS Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke. Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years.

In his 2004 book Bariloche Nazi-Guía Turística, Argentine author Abel Basti claims that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun and their children lived in the surroundings of Bariloche for many years after World War II. A book published by British authors Gerrard Williams and Simon Dunstan in 2011 proposed that Hitler and Eva Braun hid at Hacienda San Ramon, six miles east of Bariloche, until the early 1960s.

867 pages of files copied from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and archived on CD-ROM covering matters investigated in the United States by the bureau related to Adolf Hitler. Files contain approximately 350 narrative pages. Files document the FBI’s treatment of a wide variety of “alive” sightings of Hitler after the war. The bureau maintained files relating to sightings in Argentina. Also FBI lab reports on authenticating Hitler’s marriage certificate, will, and other political documents.

U-boat U-977 arrived at Port of Mar Del Plata of Argentina on August 17, 1945, Hitler was to be on board. What if Adolf Hitler was able to fly out of Berlin on April 27th 1945, after his phony suicide plot, with lover Eva Braun and their two children, girls.

“They took off from Berlin and landed in Barcelona on April 27, 1945, via Linz in Austria,” claims Basti, who is investigating post-World War II Nazi activity in his native Argentina. The FBI paperwork claims the Nazi leader and his party travelled in a Junkers 290 aircraft, which had the serial number 0163. In the summer of 1945, Allied forces discovered this plane in the Travemünde airbase, close to the German city of Hamburg.

Using its flight documentation, the military traced the aeroplane’s movements to Spain. In 1947, the US army searched for the Führer, but the Nazi leader had long gone. “Hitler used Spain as a ‘trampoline.’ He spent a month in the country before escaping to South America by submarine. “By the time, US soldiers started their search for him, Hitler was in Argentina,” Basti claims. Germany was an close ally of General Franco, the right-wing dictator who ruled Spain following his victory in the Civil War in 1939 until his death in 1975. The Germans supplied Franco’s rebellion in the first days of the Civil War with supplies, such as ammunition, weapons and military intelligence.

The German Air Force – the Luftwaffe – is claimed to be behind the bombing of the Basque town, Guernica, in 1937. Basti, who will soon publish Destino Patagonia. Cómo Escapó Hitler – his third book on Nazi movement in Argentina, believes the accepted suicide of Hitler was “a ruse,” so that the leader of the Third Reich could escape the advancing Allied soldiers.

The Germans left the body of Hitler’s double in the Bunker. The Nazis also left unknown corpses, which had in their pockets the paperwork of the hierarchy that escaped with the Führer. This deceived everyone into thinking they had all killed themselves. Basti believes that Hitler, Braun and the 13 officers arrived in Argentina, “between July and August 1945. He then moved between the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and La Rioja.” The 51-year-old journalist claims Hitler died in the South American country in 1960. Aribert Heim – the Austrian doctor know as the Butcher of Mauthausen for his vicious experiments on prisoners in Nazi concentration camps – also spent time in Spain before fleeing to Chile.

Thanks to a Spanish neo-Nazi network reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth’s partly-fictitious Odessa organisation, Otto Ernst Remer was living in a rented villa, thought to be paid for by Spanish neo-Nazis, overlooking the Mediterranean. He was new here in 1994 but there are thought to be around 40 senior Nazi officers living prosperously in Spain, mostly along the Costa del Sol, around Barcelona, or on the Balearic Islands (same place Mohamed Atta and other Al-Qaeda members met in 2000).

While hundreds went on to Latin America after the war, partly the theme of Forsyth’s The Odessa File, those who stayed here have been protected by an Odessa-like group called the Spanish Circle of Friends of Europe, known by its Spanish acronym, Cedade. The group is registered as a cultural association and is the hub of the European neo-Nazi movement’s propaganda network, printing neo-Nazi books, magazines and leaflets openly in Barcelona.

‘This man should be extradited. I feel like I’m living under Franco again, in a country that remains a paradise for Nazi refugees,’ said Violeta Friedman, a 82-year-old Jew living in Madrid who survived Auschwitz but saw her parents, grandmother, brothers and sisters and other relatives gassed there. ‘The trouble is that the Spanish judicial system remains riddled with old Franquistas (Franco supporters).’

It was largely as a result of Mrs Friedman’s efforts that the Spanish parliament made the Auschwitz Lie illegal. Mrs Friedman won a long court battle against another former Nazi, Belgian SS General Leon Degrelle, several years ago after he, too, denied the Holocaust in a Spanish magazine interview. Degrelle spent the post-war years in Spain, protected first by Franco, then by the neo-Nazi network and died in Malaga this year, aged 87. Although he is theoretically under house arrest, there are no policemen outside Otto Remer’s villa in Marbella and he has been seen, in a wheelchair pushed by friends, in the city centre. He does, not, however, receive a welcome from Johanna van Dalen, the Dutch owner of the villa next to his. Her Jewish husband died in Auschwitz in 1943.

The high court of Spain ruled against appeals made by the German government to extradite Remer, claiming that he had not committed any crime under Spanish law. He remained a wanted man in Germany until his death on October 4, 1997 in Marbella at 85.

Russian Marshal Zhukov alleged June 1945 that a large U-boat left Hamburg at the end April 1945 with a woman aboard: Argentine sources report a large U-boat unloading on Necochea beach July 28, 1945 had a female aboard.

Did Hitler live to old age here in Argentina?
The Sun investigates mountain haven for Nazi war criminals

Exclusive From Oliver Harvey, in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
March 4, 2012

Standing amid the sunflowers beside his log chalet in the Argentine mountains Jorge Priebke happily reminisces about the Third Reich’s most evil men.

Pointing to the next street, the old man revealed in a heavy German accent: "
That’s the Hotel Campana where Dr Mengele stayed for a time. Eichmann passed through here too. I worked with him for a year at the Mercedes Benz factory up in Buenos Aires but never met him here in Bariloche. He was very quiet".

The men so casually dropped into conversation by Priebke are Auschwitz concentration camp’s grotesque “Angel of Death” Dr Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann, coldly efficient architect of the Holocaust.

Grey-haired Priebke’s Heidi-style cabin shrouded by the snow-tipped Andes is in the Bavarian-style ski resort of San Carlos de Bariloche, some 600miles south of Argentine capital Buenos Aires. Built by German immigrants in the late 19th Century, today Bariloche’s fondue restaurants and lonely mountain trails are a haven for backpackers and hikers from all over the globe.

Yet in the years after the Second World War this charming mountain getaway gained infamy as a haven for fleeing Nazi war criminals.

Sensational claims have recently re-surfaced that Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler escaped his fate in his Berlin bunker and lived out his old age here in the wilds of Patagonia.

The controversial book Grey Wolf, The Escape Of Adolf Hitler, by British authors Gerrard Williams and Simon Dunstan, published in October, describes how Hitler and wife Eva Braun even had two daughters who were still alive around a decade ago.

They insist Hitler and Braun escaped the bunker in a secret tunnel and were replaced by doubles who committed suicide.

And they claim it was the burned bodies of these doubles that were discovered by the avenging Red Army.

In what the authors call “the greatest sleight of hand in history” Hitler and Braun then escaped to Argentina in a submarine before setting up home in a remote hideaway close to Bariloche.

Here, so the theory goes, the tormented Führer spent his time plotting the emergence of a Fourth Reich before dying at 73 in 1962, his remains cremated and scattered.

“Hitler here in Bariloche?” Jorge, 71, a pizza restaurant handyman, mused. “It’s possible. But I never heard anything about Hitler being here when I was growing up. Papa never spoke about him or the war".

The man Jorge calls “Papa” is as likely as anyone to have known if the Führer lived out his dotage in South America. For Papa is Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke, Captain in the Waffen SS. He would certainly have recognised Hitler, even with his appearance altered.

Jorge said: "Papa was a language expert and translated for Hitler three times when he met Mussolini".

Still alive aged 98 and, says Jorge, in good health, Priebke senior was extradited from Argentina to Italy in 1995 to stand trial for his role in the massacre of 335 civilians in Nazi-occupied Rome.

The SS man was convicted three years later, after admitting shooting two people and helping round up the victims.

Now under house arrest in the Italian capital, he insists he was following Hitler’s direct orders.

Priebke, who today proudly displays a photograph of himself wearing an SS death’s head cap badge on his own website, had escaped to fascist-sympathising Argentina from the ashes of the Third Reich using the escape routes dubbed “ratlines”.

October 13, 2013 Toronto Star
Alison Smale The New York Times
With files from The Associated Press

Former SS captain, 100, unrepentant to the end

Erich Priebke, a former SS captain who was sentenced to life in prison for helping to organize the execution of 335 men and boys at the Ardeatine Caves in Italy in 1944, died Friday under house arrest in Rome. He was 100 and the oldest surviving convicted Nazi war criminal.

He “died of old age,” said his lawyer, Paolo Giachini.

Priebke was at the centre of one of the most contentious Nazi war crimes prosecutions of the 1990s, which began after an American television crew tracked him down in Argentina at a resort city in the foothills of the Andes.

Priebke fled to South America soon after the Second World War and had been living under his real name, owning a butcher shop and travelling to Europe — and even Italy — with a German passport.

He was extradited to Italy in 1995 and ordered to stand trial before an Italian military tribunal the next year. The proceedings, described at the time as possibly the last Nazi war crimes trial in Europe, centred on the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves, south of Rome, on March 24, 1944. The men and boys were rounded up and killed in reprisal for an attack in which Italian partisans killed 33 members of a Nazi security force.

Herbert Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome, ordered the deaths of 10 Italians for every dead policeman. Seventy-five of the 335 victims were Jewish. By many accounts, the captives were led into the caves with their hands tied behind their backs, forced to kneel — many over the bodies of those already killed — and shot in the neck.

Priebke said he was responsible for exceeding the quota by five. “It went wrong,” he was quoted as saying in an article published in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung a week before his death.

On March 23, 1944 Italian Communist-led Partisans attacked a company of German police from South Tyrol in order to provoke retaliatory actions on the part of the Germans, cowardly murdered, blown up by a bomb planted in via Rasella.

33 German policemen died immediately; ultimately the total number of deaths was 42 Germans and 10 Italians, including an 11-year-old child. [52 in all]   Another hundred were wounded by the same bomb, a large number of them permanently blinded. Priebke was especially disturbed on learning that an eleven-year-old Italian boy had also been killed, his body cut in two by the blast.

Through Kesselring, Hitler gave orders to Priebke's superior Herbert Kappler, commander of security services in Rome, that 10 Italians must be shot for every murdered German, as allowed by international law to deal with unlawful insurrection. This order was carried out in the Ardeatine Caves on March 24,1944. Five persons too many were shot by mistake so that a total of 335 Italians were shot in retaliation for the 42 Germans killed. [But 42x10 is 420, so it was not 5 too many] For Erich Priebke and his comrades, carrying out these shootings was a horrible experience. They would have preferred to not carry out these retaliatory measures. However this was an order from Adolf Hitler, the commander-in-chief of the German Army, and no member of the German military could refuse such an order.

As the war ended, he was imprisoned by the British but eventually fled to a German-speaking area in the north of Italy, where he reunited with his wife and two sons, according to the article. The family fled by way of Genoa to Argentina.

The prosecution in Italy was a protracted affair. The military tribunal that tried Priebke in 1996 ended up ordering him freed. While finding him guilty of involvement in the massacre, the court acquitted him of acting with premeditation and cruelty. Only a conviction on those counts would have sent him to prison because of a 30-year statute of limitations on murder charges.

His release caused an international outcry, and he was rearrested after an appellate court ordered another trial by military tribunal.

In July 1997, the second military court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, but reduced that term to five years, saying there had been mitigating factors, including Priebke’s assertion that he had acted under orders.

Prosecutors appealed, and in March 1998 Priebke was sentenced to life, a verdict that was upheld by Italy’s highest appellate court.

Because of his age, Priebke was put under house arrest, though he was later allowed small freedoms such as going to church and doing personal shopping — concessions that outraged Rome’s Jewish community.

Priebke is survived by his two sons and several grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.

To the end of his life, Priebke expressed no remorse for his actions.

In his final interview, conducted in July, he denied that Nazis gassed Jews during the Holocaust, and accused the West of fabricating the crimes to minimize the Allies’ own abuses during the war.

The mountains around Bariloche — so like the Bavarian Alps beloved by the Nazi hierarchy — were a home-from-home for a Nazi on the run in the late Forties.

The secluded little town had long had Nazi sympathisers in its midst.

Sepia-tinted photographs from the Thirties show locals gathered around a picture of the Führer and proudly flying the Swastika.

The ratlines turned the ski resort into something of a mini Reich.

There was Josef Schwammberger, commander of three Nazi labour camps and in charge of the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Przemysl, Poland.

Josef Schwammberger, 92, Nazi Labor Camp Commander, Dies

Berlin, Dec. 3 (AP) - Josef Schwammberger, a former Nazi labor camp commander who was known for his sadism and who hid for 40 years in Argentina before being captured and returned to Germany for trial, died Thursday night in a prison hospital in Hohenasperg, outside Stuttgart. He was 92.

His death was announced Friday by the Stuttgart prosecutor's office.

Mr. Schwammberger, a native of Austria, was convicted in 1992 in Stuttgart of 7 counts of murder and 32 counts of being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

He was originally charged with murdering or helping to murder 3,377 people, including more than 40 by his own hand. But in the final days of the 11-month trial, prosecutors reduced the number of charges, because of lack of evidence, to 34 inmates killed by Mr. Schwammberger and at least 275 who died as a result of his orders.

Most were Jewish inmates of three German forced labor camps in occupied Poland during World War II: Przemysl, Rozwadow and Mielec.

Mr. Schwammberger admitted having been an SS lieutenant in command of the three camps between 1942 and 1944, but denied the charges.

Witnesses traveled from as far away as Israel, Canada and the United States for the trial, telling the court how he had set his German shepherd dog Prinz on camp inmates and how he had killed a man for stealing bread for his hungry child.

He was arrested in Innsbruck, Austria, in the French occupation zone after the war on July 19, 1945, but escaped in January 1948 and within months was able to enter Argentina, where he lived under his own name and obtained citizenship.

West German authorities sought his extradition beginning in 1973, and Argentine officials tracked him down on November 13, 1987. After two years of fighting extradition, he was returned to Germany in May 1990 for trial.

Also there was Nazi diplomat Horst Wagner, a man with the blood of at least 350,000 Jews on his hands, who used the ratlines to reach Bariloche in the Fifties.

Horst Wagner (May 17, 1906 - March 13, 1977) was a German diplomat in the Third Reich.  He was known primarily as a leader of the "Jewish Affairs" Group Unit "Inland II" in the Foreign Office, as well as liaison between the Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler .  In these roles, Wagner was responsible for the deportation of Jews and war crimes.  He escaped prosecution by fleeing to South America at first and later by systematic delaying of criminal proceedings pending against him.

The membership list of mountaineering association Club Andino Bariloche from the late Forties include Hans Ulrich Rudel, former hero of the Luftwaffe and a close confidant of Hitler, and Frederich Lantschner, the former Nazi governor of the Tyrol.

Perverted Angel of Death Mengele — who conducted vile medical experiments on children at the Auschwitz death camp — is said to have taken his driving test here twice in the Forties after an initial failure.

In Bariloche’s Bavarian-style wood and stone square of municipal buildings, Ernesto Martinez takes photos of passing tourists with his pet St Bernard dog Amancay at 60 pesos a time.

The grandfather of eight, 75, said: “Of course we knew we had former Nazis here. I used to go to the delicatessen Erich Priebke ran and got on well with him. He worked hard and lived quietly".

So could Bariloche’s holidaymakers be walking among descendants of the Führer?

“Hitler in Patagonia?” Ernesto smiles. "It’s completely ridiculous".

But local historian Abel Basti, who has written a guidebook telling tourists where to find homes of the former Third Reich men, is convinced Bariloche provided a bolthole for Hitler.

He has written a series of books on the subject. At his home in Bariloche Basti, 56, shows me documents, declassified files and witness testimonies that he believes are evidence of the Führer’s presence in South America.

He insisted a witness he spoke to had received a menacing phone call warning, saying: "The Gestapo are still active so keep quiet".  Basti added: "I don’t think the old Gestapo secret police still exist but there are Right-wing groups who identify with their ideals".

What about hard scientific evidence? As yet Basti has produced no DNA samples from possible Hitler or Braun grave sites and no living Argentine relative.

At his suggestion Sun photographer Scott Hornby and I visited an isolated, Bavarian-style rambling mansion on the banks of the slate-grey Nahuel Huapi lake, which he claims was, for a time, Hitler and Braun’s hideaway.

Hidden by thick woodland, Inalco, 53 miles north of Bariloche, near the village of Villa la Angostura, is certainly eerie enough. Approaching the guest houses and barns of the complex down a rutted mud track we were stopped by a bolted gate with a sign warning “private property”. Chilean dad-of-one Esteban Beroisa, 61, who has lived in the outbuildings for three years, invited us in to take pictures. We stared through the windows of one of the guest houses. Esteban said: "You won’t see any Swastikas in there. I don’t know if Hitler lived here. But I get two or three people every day coming to ask about him". He said the complex was for sale and warned we needed permission to go to the main house.

Last night TV journalist Gerrard, 52, said a docu-drama on Grey Wolf will be released this year and Hollywood had shown interest in a movie. The author said: "A deal was done between US intelligence, big business and the Nazis to let Hitler and Braun get out of the Bunker and disappear. The evidence is compelling".

Experts have been quick to debunk the notion that Hitler plotted a rebirth of his Master Race fantasies in Patagonia.

Sergio Widder, 43, Latin America director of Nazi hunters the Simon Wiesenthal Center, last night insisted: "Argentina was the main haven for Nazi war criminals. Men like Mengele and Eichmann were protected by the Argentine state. But there is no serious evidence Hitler survived the war, let alone came to Argentina. These stories should be for novels, not history".

Author and historian Guy Walters — who wrote Hunting Evil on the escape of Nazi war criminals — last year labelled the Hitler in Bariloche theory as the “Worst sort of junk history”.

Eye witnesses testify to Hitler dying in the bunker. In 2009 I interviewed Rochus Misch, Hitler’s personal bodyguard, who was in the fortification with the Führer as the Russians closed in.

He told me that on April 30, 1945, Hitler left his final followers and entered a private room with Braun. Misch said they waited around 45 minutes “for the shot”. Rochus said: |I saw Hitler slumped by the table. I did not see any blood on his head. And I saw Eva lying next to him on the sofa, with her knees drawn up. Hitler was taken outside to be burnt. It was over".

Back in Bariloche, Jorge Priebke says local Nazis would toast Hitler’s birthday at a local inn well into the 1960s. He said: "They would drink themselves under the table. I think patriots still celebrate his birthday in other parts of the country, but not here".

A large Swastika — with a line drawn through its centre — has been spray-painted on a wall not far from the Priebke family home. The message is clear: No Nazis.

Local mum-of-three Catherine Connon, 54, insisted: “Bariloche is not swarming with Nazis. It’s a modern holiday resort now. Those times are long gone".

, from the German Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning “Organization of Former SS Members,” is believed to have been an international Nazi network set up towards the end of World War II by a group of SS officers. The purpose of the ODESSA was to establish and facilitate secret escape routes, later known as ratlines, to allow SS members to avoid their capture and prosecution for war crimes. Most of those fleeing out of Germany and Austria were helped to South America and the Middle East.

Several books by those involved in the War Crimes Commission (including T.H. Tetens and Joseph Wechsberg) have verified the organization's existence and provided details of its operations. Wechsberg studied Simon Wiesenthal's memoirs on the ODESSA and verified them with his own experiences in the book The Murderers Among Us.

In a note, people claiming to represent the ODESSA claimed responsibility for a 9 July 1979 car bombing in France, which was aimed at anti-Nazi activists Serge and Beate Klarsfeld.

In the realm of fiction, the Frederick Forsyth best-selling 1972 thriller The Odessa File brought the organization to popular attention. (The novel was turned into a film starring Jon Voight.) In the novel, Forsyth's ODESSA smuggled war criminals to Latin America, but also attempted to protect those SS members who remained behind in Germany, and plotted to influence political decisions in West Germany.

According to Simon Wiesenthal, the ODESSA was set up in 1946 to aid fugitive Nazis. Interviews by the ZDF German TV station with former SS men suggest instead that the ODESSA was never the single world-wide secret organization that Wiesenthal described, but several organizations, both overt and covert, that helped ex-SS men. The truth may have been obscured by antagonism between the Wiesenthal organization and German military intelligence.

Long before the ZDF TV network, historian Gitta Sereny wrote in her 1974 book Into That Darkness, based on interviews with the former commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, Franz Stangl, that the ODESSA had never existed. She wrote:

The prosecutors at the Ludwigsburg Central Authority for the Investigation into Nazi Crimes, who know precisely how the postwar lives of certain individuals now living in South America have been financed, have searched all their thousands of documents from beginning to end, but say they are totally unable to authenticate (the) 'Odessa.' Not that this matters greatly: there certainly were various kinds of Nazi aid organizations after the war — it would have been astonishing if there hadn't been.

This view is supported by historian Guy Walters in his book "Hunting Evil", where he also points out that networks were used, but there was not such a thing as a setup network covering Europe and South America, with an alleged war treasure. For Walters, the reports received by the allied intelligence services during the mid-1940s suggest that the appellation "ODESSA" was "little more than a catch-all term use by former Nazis who wished to continue the fight."

However, while Nazi concentration camp supervisors denied the existence of the ODESSA, neither US War Crimes Commission reports nor American OSS officials did. In interviews of outspoken German anti-Nazis by Joseph Wechsberg, former American OSS officer and member of the US War Crimes Commission, it was verified that plans were made for a Fourth Reich before the fall of the Third, and that this was to be implemented by reorganizing in remote Nazi colonies overseas:

The Nazis decided that the time had come to set up a world-wide clandestine escape network.

They used Germans who had been hired to drive U.S. Army trucks on the Autobahn between Munich and Salzburg for the 'Stars and Stripes,' the American Army newspaper. The couriers had applied for their jobs under false names, and the Americans in Munich had failed to check them carefully... (the) ODESSA was organized as a thorough, efficient network... Anlaufstellen (ports of call) were set up along the entire Austrian-German border... In Lindau, close to both Austria and Switzerland, (the) ODESSA set up an 'export-import' company with representatives in Cairo and Damascus.

In his interviews with Sereny, Stangl denied any knowledge of a group called the ODESSA.

Recent biographies of Adolf Eichmann, who also escaped to South America, and Heinrich Himmler, the alleged founder of the ODESSA, made no reference to such an organization. However, Hannah Arendt, in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, states that "in 1950, [Eichmann] succeeded in establishing contact with ODESSA, a clandestine organization of S.S. Veterans, and in May of that year, he was passed through Austria to Italy, where a Franciscan priest, fully informed of his identity, equipped him with a refugee passport in the name of Richard Klement and sent him on to Buenos Aires." Notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele also escaped to South America.

Sereny attributed the fact that SS members could escape to postwar chaos and the inability of the Roman Catholic Church, the Red Cross, and the American military to verify the claims of people who came to them for help, rather than to the activities of an underground Nazi organisation. She identified a Vatican official, Bishop Aloïs Hudal, not former SS men, as the principal agent in helping Nazis leave Italy for South America.

Argentine writer Uki Goñi, in his 2002 book The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina, suggested that Sereny’s more complex, and less conspiratorial, story was closer to the truth. In 1938, on the verge of World War II, and with Hitler’s policies on Jews in transit, Argentina’s government sanctioned an immigration law restricting access by any individual scorned or forsaken by his country’s government. This law was alleged to have implicitly targeted Jews and other minorities fleeing Germany at the time, and was denounced by Uki Goñi, who admits that his own grandfather had participated in upholding it. Between 1930 and 1949, however, Argentina took in more Jewish refugees per capita than any other nation in the world, with the exception of Israel. Dr. Leonardo Senkman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says that "the reopening of post-war European emigration to Argentina during the first Peron Presidency in 1946 pushed up the net immigration figure to 463,456 persons between 1947 and 1951..." the highest in thirty years. The legislation, though already in disuse for many years, was repealed on 8 June 2005 as a symbolic act. The Jewish Virtual Library writes that while Juan Perón had sympathized with the Axis powers, "Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Since then, more than 45,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel from Argentina."

Of particular importance in examining the postwar activities of high-ranking Nazis was Paul Manning's book Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile, which detailed Bormann's rise to power through the Nazi Party and as Hitler's Chief of Staff. During the war, Manning himself was a correspondent for the fledgling CBS News, along with Edward R. Murrow in London, and his reporting and subsequent researches presented Bormann's cunning and skill in the organization and planning for the flight of Nazi-controlled capital from Europe during the last years of the war--notwithstanding the strong possibility of Bormann's death in Berlin on May 1, 1945, especially in light of DNA identification of skeletal remains unearthed near the Lehrter Bahnhof as Bormann's.

According to Manning, "eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes set up by (the) ODESSA and the Deutsche Hilfsverein...". The ODESSA itself was incidental, says Manning, with the continuing existence of the Bormann Organization a much larger and more menacing fact. None of this had yet been convincingly proven.


Hannah Arendt (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking.
David Cesarini, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (Vintage 2004);
Peter Padfield: Himmler: Reichsführer SS (Macmillan 1990)
Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness (Pimlico 1974), 274
Guy Walters, Hunting Evil, Bantam Books, Transworld Publishers, London 2010
Joseph Wechsberg, The Murderers Among Us, New York, 1967

Ratlines were a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II. These escape routes mainly led toward havens in South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Bolivia. Other destinations included the United States, Great Britain, Canada and the Middle East. There were two primary routes: the first went from Germany to Spain, then Argentina; the second from Germany to Rome to Genoa, then South America; the two routes "developed independently" but eventually came together to collaborate.

One ratline, made famous by the Frederick Forsyth thriller The Odessa File, was run by the ODESSA (Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen; "Organization of Former SS-Members") network organized by Otto Skorzeny.

Early Spanish ratlines

The origins of the first ratlines are connected to various developments in Vatican-Argentine relations before and during World War II. As early as 1942, Monsignor Luigi Maglione contacted Ambassador Llobet, inquiring as to the "willingness of the government of the Argentine Republic to apply its immigration law generously, in order to encourage at the opportune moment European Catholic immigrants to seek the necessary land and capital in our country". Afterwards, a German priest, Anton Weber, the head of the Rome-based Society of Saint Raphael, traveled to Portugal, continuing to Argentina, to lay the groundwork for future Catholic immigration, this was to be a route which fascist exiles would exploit - without the knowledge of the Catholic Church. According to historian Michael Phayer, "this was the innocent origin of what would become the Vatican ratline".

Spain, not Rome, was the "first center of ratline activity that facilitated the escape of Nazi fascists", although the exodus itself was planned within the Vatican. Charles Lescat, a French member of Action Française (an organization suppressed by Pius XI and rehabilitated by Pius XII), and Pierre Daye, a Belgian with contacts in the Spanish government, were among the primary organizers. Lescat and Daye were the first able to flee Europe, with the help of Argentine cardinal Antonio Caggiano.

By 1946, there were probably hundreds of war criminals in Spain, and thousands of former Nazis and fascists.

According to US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, Vatican cooperation in turning over asylum-seekers was "negligible". According to Phayer, Pius XII "preferred to see fascist war criminals on board ships sailing to the New World rather than seeing them rotting in POW camps in zonal Germany". Unlike the Vatican emigration operation in Italy, centered on Vatican City, the ratlines of Spain, although "fostered by the Vatican" were relatively independent of the hierarchy of the Vatican Emigration Bureau.

The Roman ratlines

Early efforts—Bishop Hudal

Bishop Alois Hudal was rector of the Pontificio Istituto Teutonico Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, a seminary for Austrian and German priests, and "Spiritual Director of the German People resident in Italy". After the end of the war in Italy, Hudal became active in ministering to German-speaking prisoners of war and internees then held in camps throughout Italy. In December 1944 the Vatican Secretariat of State received permission to appoint a representative to "visit the German-speaking civil internees in Italy", a job assigned to Hudal.

Hudal used this position to aid the escape of wanted Nazi war criminals, including Franz Stangl, commanding officer of Treblinka, Gustav Wagner, commanding officer of Sobibor, Alois Brunner, responsible for the Drancy internment camp near Paris and in charge of deportations in Slovakia to German concentration camps, and Adolf Eichmann— a fact about which he was later unashamedly open. Some of these wanted men were being held in internment camps: generally without identity papers, they would be enrolled in camp registers under false names. Other Nazis were in hiding in Italy, and sought Hudal out as his role in assisting escapes became known on the Nazi grapevine.

In his memoirs Hudal said of his actions "I thank God that He [allowed me] to visit and comfort many victims in their prisons and concentration camps and to help them escape with false identity papers." He explained that in his eyes:

The Allies' War against Germany was not a crusade, but the rivalry of economic complexes for whose victory they had been fighting. This so-called business ... used catchwords like democracy, race, religious liberty and Christianity as a bait for the masses. All these experiences were the reason why I felt duty bound after 1945 to devote my whole charitable work mainly to former National Socialists and Fascists, especially to so-called 'war criminals'.

According to Mark Aarons and John Loftus in their book Unholy Trinity, Hudal was the first Catholic priest to dedicate himself to establishing escape routes. Aarons and Loftus claim that Hudal provided the objects of his charity with money to help them escape, and more importantly with false papers including identity documents issued by the Vatican Refugee Organisation (Commissione Pontificia d'Assistenza).

These Vatican papers were not full passports, and not in themselves enough to gain passage overseas. They were, rather, the first stop in a paper trail—they could be used to obtain a displaced person passport from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which in turn could be used to apply for visas. In theory the ICRC would perform background checks on passport applicants, but in practice the word of a priest or particularly a bishop would be good enough. According to statements collected by Gitta Sereny from a senior official of the Rome branch of the ICRC, Hudal could also use his position as a bishop to request papers from the ICRC "made out according to his specifications". Sereny's sources also revealed an active illicit trade in stolen and forged ICRC papers in Rome at this time.

According to declassified US intelligence reports, Hudal was not the only priest helping Nazi escapees at this time. In the "La Vista report" declassified in 1984, Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) operative Vincent La Vista told how he had easily arranged for two bogus Hungarian refugees to get false ICRC documents with the help of a letter from a Father Joseph Gallov. Gallov, who ran a Vatican-sponsored charity for Hungarian refugees, asked no questions and wrote a letter to his "personal contact in the International Red Cross, who then issued the passports".

The San Girolamo ratline

According to Aarons and Loftus, Hudal's private operation was small scale compared to what came later. The major Roman ratline was operated by a small, but influential network of Croatian priests, members of the Franciscan order, led by Father Krunoslav Draganović. Draganović organized a highly sophisticated chain with headquarters at the San Girolamo degli Illirici Seminary College in Rome, but with links from Austria to the final embarcation point in the port of Genoa. The ratline initially focused on aiding members of the Croatian Ustashe movement, most notably the Croat wartime dictator Ante Pavelić.

Priests active in the chain included: Fr. Vilim Cecelja, former Deputy Military Vicar to the Ustashe, based in Austria where many Ustashe and Nazi refugees remained in hiding; Fr. Dragutin Kamber, based at San Girolamo; Fr. Dominik Mandić, an official Vatican representative at San Girolamo and also "General Economist" or treasurer of the Franciscan order - who used this position to put the Franciscan press at the ratline's disposal; and Monsignor Karlo Petranović, based in Genoa. Vilim would make contact with those hiding in Austria and help them across the border to Italy; Kamber, Mandić and Draganović would find them lodgings, often in the monastery itself, while they arranged documentation; finally Draganović would phone Petranović in Genoa with the number of required berths on ships leaving for South America.

The operation of the Draganović ratline was an open secret among the intelligence and diplomatic communities in Rome. As early as August 1945, Allied commanders in Rome were asking questions about the use of San Girolamo as a "haven" for Ustashe. A year later, a US State Department report of 12 July 1946 lists nine war criminals, including Albanians and Montenegrins as well as Croats, plus others "not actually sheltered in the COLLEGIUM ILLIRICUM [i.e., San Girolamo degli Illirici] but who otherwise enjoy Church support and protection." The British envoy to the Holy See, Francis Osborne, asked Domenico Tardini, a high-ranking Vatican official, for a permission that would have allowed British military police to raid ex-territorial Vatican Institutions in Rome. Tardini declined and denied that the church sheltered war criminals.

In February 1947 CIC Special Agent Robert Clayton Mudd reported ten members of Pavelić's Ustasha cabinet living either in San Girolamo or in the Vatican itself. Mudd had infiltrated an agent into the monastery and confirmed that it was "honeycombed with cells of Ustashe operatives" guarded by "armed youths". Mudd also reported:

It was further established that these Croats travel back and forth from the Vatican several times a week in a car with a chauffeur whose license plate bears the two initials CD, "Corpo Diplomatico". It issues forth from the Vatican and discharges its passengers inside the Monastery of San Geronimo. Subject to diplomatic immunity it is impossible to stop the car and discover who are its passengers.

Mudd's conclusion was the following:

Draganovic's sponsorship of these Croat Ustashes definitely links him up with the plan of the Vatican to shield these ex-Ustasha nationalists until such time as they are able to procure for them the proper documents to enable them to go to South America. The Vatican, undoubtedly banking on the strong anti-Communist feelings of these men, is endeavoring to infiltrate them into South America in any way possible to counteract the spread of Red doctrine. It has been reliably reported, for example that Dr. Vrancic has already gone to South America and that Ante Pavelic and General Kren are scheduled for an early departure to South America through Spain. All these operations are said to have been negotiated by Draganović because of his influence in the Vatican.

The existence of Draganović's ratline has been confirmed by a Vatican historian, Fr. Robert Graham:

I've no doubt that Draganović was extremely active in syphoning off his Croatian Ustashe friends." However, Graham insisted that Draganović was not officially sanctioned in this by his superiors: "Just because he's a priest doesn't mean he represents the Vatican. It was his own operation.

On four occasions the Vatican intervened on behalf of interned Ustasha prisoners. The Secretariat of State asked the U.K. and U.S. government to release Croatian POWs from British internment camps in Italy. The presence of some pro-Utashe clergy at this time is not surprising, but the Vatican itself condemned war crimes committed by the Utashe, as well as the Communists.

US intelligence involvement

If at first US intelligence officers had been mere observers of the Draganović ratline, this changed in the summer of 1947. A now declassified US Army intelligence report from 1950 sets out in detail the history of the people smuggling operation in the three years to follow. According to the report, from this point on US forces themselves had begun to use Draganović's established network to evacuate its own "visitors". As the report put it, these were "visitors who had been in the custody of the 430th CIC and completely processed in accordance with current directives and requirements, and whose continued residence in Austria constituted a security threat as well as a source of possible embarrassment to the Commanding General of USFA, since the Soviet Command had become aware that their presence in US Zone of Austria and in some instances had requested the return of these persons to Soviet custody".

These were suspected war criminals from areas occupied by the Red Army which the US was obliged to hand over for trial to the Soviets. The US reputedly was reluctant to do so, partly due to a belief that fair trial could hardly be expected in the USSR, and at the same time, their desire to make use of Nazi scientists and other resources. The deal with Draganović involved getting the visitors to Rome:

Dragonovich [sic] handled all phases of the operation after the defectees arrived in Rome, such as the procurement of IRO Italian and South American documents, visas, stamps, arrangements for disposition, land or sea, and notification of resettlement committees in foreign lands". [20] United States intelligence used these methods in order to get important Nazi scientists and military strategists, to the extent they had not already been claimed by the Soviet Union, to their own centres of military science in the US. Many Nazi scientists were employed by the US, retrieved in Operation Paperclip.

The Argentine Connection

In Nuremberg at that time something was taking place that I personally considered a disgrace and an unfortunate lesson for the future of humanity. I became certain that the Argentine people also considered the Nuremberg process a disgrace, unworthy of the victors, who behaved as if they hadn't been victorious. Now we realize that they [the Allies] deserved to lose the war.

~Argentine president Juan Perón on the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

In his 2002 book The Real Odessa Argentine researcher Uki Goñi used new access to the country's archives to show that Argentine diplomats and intelligence officers had, on Perón's instructions, vigorously encouraged Nazi and Fascist war criminals to make their home in Argentina. According to Goñi, the Argentines not only collaborated with Draganović's ratline, they set up further ratlines of their own running through Scandinavia, Switzerland and Belgium.

According to Goñi, Argentina's first move into Nazi smuggling was in January 1946, when Argentine bishop Antonio Caggiano, bishop of Rosario and leader of the Argentine chapter of Catholic Action flew with Bishop Agustín Barrére to Rome where Caggiano was due to be anointed Cardinal. While in Rome the Argentine bishops met with French Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, where they passed on a message (recorded in Argentina's diplomatic archives) that "the Government of the Argentine Republic was willing to receive French persons, whose political attitude during the recent war would expose them, should they return to France, to harsh measures and private revenge". Over the spring of 1946 a number of French war criminals, fascists and Vichy officials made it from Italy to Argentina in the same way: they were issued passports by the Rome ICRC office; these were then stamped with Argentine tourist visas (the need for health certificates and return tickets was waived on Caggiano's recommendation). The first documented case of a French war criminal arriving in Buenos Aires was Emile Dewoitine — later sentenced in absentia to 20 years hard labour. He sailed first class on the same ship back with Cardinal Caggiano.

Shortly after this Argentinian Nazi smuggling became institutionalised, according to Goñi, when Perón's new government of February 1946 appointed anthropologist Santiago Peralta as Immigration Commissioner and former Ribbentrop agent Ludwig Freude as his intelligence chief. Goñi argues that these two then set up a "rescue team" of secret service agents and immigration "advisors", many of whom were themselves European war-criminals, with Argentine citizenship and employment.

ODESSA and the Gehlen Org


The Italian and Argentine ratlines have only been confirmed relatively recently, mainly due to research in recently declassified archives. Until the work of Aarons and Loftus, and of Uki Goñi (2002), a common view was that ex-Nazis themselves, organised in secret networks, ran the escape routes alone. The most famous such network is ODESSA (Organisation of former SS members), founded in 1946 according to Simon Wiesenthal, which included SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny and Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks and in Argentina, Rodolfo Freude. Alois Brunner, former commandant of Drancy internment camp near Paris, escaped to Rome, then Syria, by ODESSA. (Brunner is thought to be the highest-ranking Nazi war criminal still alive as of 2007). Persons claiming to represent ODESSA claimed responsibility in a note for the 9 July 1979 car bombing in France aimed at Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. According to Paul Manning (1980), "eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes ODESSA and Deutsche Hilfsverein ..."

Simon Wiesenthal, who advised Frederick Forsyth on the novel/filmscript The Odessa File which brought the name to public attention, also names other Nazi escape organisations such as Spinne ("Spider") and Sechsgestirn ("Constellation of Six"). Wiesenthal describes these immediately after the war as Nazi cells based in areas of Austria where many Nazis had retreated and gone to ground. Wiesenthal claimed that the ODESSA network shepherded escapees to the Catholic ratlines in Rome (although he mentions only Hudal, not Draganović); or through a second route through France and into Francoist Spain;

ODESSA was supported by the Gehlen Org, which employed many former Nazi party members, and was headed by Reinhard Gehlen, a former German Army intelligence officer employed post-war by the CIA. The Gehlen Org became the nucleus of the BND German intelligence agency, directed by Reinhard Gehlen from its 1956 creation until 1968.

Die Stille Hilfe für Kriegsgefangene und Internierte (German for "Silent assistance for prisoners of war and interned persons") abbreviated Stille Hilfe is a relief organization for arrested, condemned and fugitive SS members, similar to the veterans' association, set up by Helene Elizabeth Princess von Isenburg (1900–1974) in 1951. The organization has garnered a reputation for being shrouded in secrecy and thus remains a source of speculation.

Operating covertly from 1946, the organization that later became publicly active as "Stille Hilfe", aided the escape of hunted Nazi fugitives, particularly to South America. Thus Adolf Eichmann, Johann von Leers, Walter Rauff and Josef Mengele could escape to Argentina. In 1949 Catholic Bishop Johannes Neuhäusler (who himself had suffered from the Nazi regime in Dachau concentration camp) and Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Theophil Worm founded "the Christian prisoner assistance". Neuhäusler said he wanted to break the cycle of hatred and revenge by reconciling even with those who sided with his persecutors.

After the main exponents of the later association had already long formed an active network, it was decided a non-profit association should be formed primarily to facilitate a donations campaign. On 7 October 1951 the founders' meeting was held in Munich and on 15 November 1951 the organization was entered in the register of associations in the Upper Bavarian city Wolfratshausen. The first president, Helene Elizabeth, Princess von Isenburg was chosen because of her good contacts in the aristocracy and conservative upper middle-class circles as well as the Catholic Church. Founding members of the committee included church representatives Theophil Worm and Johannes Neuhäusler, as well as high-ranking former functionaries of the Nazi state such as the former SS-Standartenführer and head of department in the Central Reich Security Office (RSHA), Wilhelm Spengler, and SS-Obersturmbannführer Heinrich Malz, who was the personal adviser of Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

Helene Elizabeth, Princess von Isenburg explained its objectives in such a way:

From the start of its efforts‚ the Stille Hilfe sought to take care of, above all, the serious needs of the prisoners of war and those interned completely without rights. Later their welfare service was active for those accused and arrested as a result of the war trials, whether in the prisons of the victors or in German penal institutions.

From the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials, the group sought to influence public opinion to prevent the execution of the death penalty. In press campaigns, personal and open letters and petitions, the war criminals were usually represented as innocent victims–pure command-receivers, irreproachable and often also having a blind faith in the Führer–who would have to suffer bitter injustice by victor's justice.

Because Princess von Isenburg was particularly devoted to the war criminals condemned to death in Landsberg prison, she was affectionately known as "Mother of the Landsbergers" in order to let "Stille Hilfe" be seen primarily as a charitable organization.

The legal assistance for arrested war criminals was first organized by the attorney Rudolf Aschenauer (1913–1983), who also formulated and submitted requests for grace and revisions. The organization paid vacation, dismissal and Christmas benefit to the prisoners and also supported their families. They were not only limited to humanitarian activities but also pursued a past-ideological and revisionist objective.

Princess Isenburg, a strict Catholic, tirelessly pleaded the criminals' cause in conservative circles and with high-ranking church representatives (even up to the Pope). Johannes Neuhäusler (1888–1973) in particular, who not only had suffered detention/imprisonment by the Gestapo, but also had been held by the Nazis in the Dachau concentration camp as a special prisoner, was most effective in public opinion, even among western Allied officials. The motives of the bishops lay probably less in a conscious ideological identification with the war criminals, but rather in the effort regarding reconciliation with the German past and the start of the new post-war society in West Germany. Neuhäusler explained the he wanted to repay "the bad with good". The further connections of Princess Isenburg and Aschenauer led particularly to former SS organizations such as Gauleiterkreis under Werner Naumann, which was already partly formed in Allied prisoner-of-war camps. Princess Isenburg initiated a whole series of organizations as "The working group for the rescue of the Landsberger prisoners", who were essentially financed by the churches.

The churches to a large extent withdrew support with the end of the main Nuremberg Trials and the release of the time-serving Nazi war criminals from Landsberg prison in 1958.

In the following decades Stille Hilfe worked somewhat in secret with revisionist organizations and prominent protagonists of the "Auschwitzlüge" (Auschwitz lie) like Thies Christophersen and Manfred Röder and co-operated with relevant foreign organizations and personalities e.g. (Florentine Rost van Tonningen, Leon Degrelle). By a not insignificant number of inheritances and by regular donations, the organization controls considerable funds. Since Stille Hilfe does not publish end-of-year figures, one can only estimate the influx of capital; however, perhaps donations (not including inheritances) were annually circa €60000 to 80000, at least to the end of the 1990s.

Stille Hilfe supported the condemned in the Düsseldorfer Majdanek trials, the former concentration camp guard Hildegard Lächert ("bloody Brygida") and later Klaus Barbie, Erich Priebke and Josef Schwammberger, who from 1942 to 1944 was commander of German labour camps in occupied Poland, involved in the massacres of Przemyśl and Rozwadów. Whether they were involved in the release of Herbert Kappler from a prison in Rome in 1977 is not clarified. Chairmen after Princess Isenburg (until 1959) were to 1992 the former Bund Deutscher Mädel leaders Gertrude Herr and Adelheid Klug.

They have been led since 1992 by Horst Janzen. The organisation today has approximately 40 members with decreasing numbers. At the same time however contacts were reinforced with "Hilfsorganisation für nationale politische Gefangene und deren Angehörige" (relief organization for national political prisoners) (HNG), so continuity may be secured.

Based until 1976 in Bremen Osterholz, since 1989 in Rotenburg (Wümme), since 1992 in Wuppertal. In 1993/1994 it caused a political debate in the Bundestag over its non-profit status as a revisionistic right-wing extremist association and was submitted to an examination by the fiscal authorities. In the Bundesfinanzhof (Federal Finance Court) it was decided in November 1999 to deny Stille Hilfe non-profit, i.e. charitable, status.

For years they have had a prominent symbol: Gudrun Burwitz, the daughter of Heinrich Himmler. Known to her father as "Püppi", she is an idol to Stille Hilfe and their affiliates. At meetings such as Ulrichsbergtreffen in Austria she appeared at the same time as a star and an authority. Burwitz has campaigned intensively in the last few years for accused Nazis. This particularly showed up in the case of Anton Malloth, who had lived undisturbed for about 40 years in Meran. He was proven guilty for his acts as a supervisor in the Gestapo-prison "Kleine Festung Theresienstadt", which was part of the larger Theresienstadt concentration camp. In 2001 Malloth was convicted by the district court of Munich for murder and attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment after the public prosecutor's office in Munich had taken over the procedure of the public prosecutor's office in Dortmund, which for many years had hijacked the procedure. From 1988 to 2000, Malloth lived in Pullach near Munich. Gudrun Burwitz was instructed by Stille Hilfe to rent a comfortable room for him in a home for the aged, which was built on a lot formerly owned by Rudolf Hess. In common with the secretive nature of the organisation, Burwitz does not give press interviews.

At the end of the 1990s it became public that the social welfare assistance administration (and thus the German taxpayers) had in large part taken over the considerable running costs of the home where Malloth was staying. This, along with the participation of Gudrun Burwitz, resulted in substantial public criticism.

Although firmly rooted in the neo-Nazi fringe, it developed amicable relations with conservative West German politicians, such as CDU Bundestag Parliamentary leader Alfred Dregger, who praised the efforts of Stille Hilfe in 1989.

In 1991, a Stille Hilfe representative attended the graveside ceremony in Kassel of Michael Kühnen, the prominent Neo-Nazi leader who died of HIV-related complications. Stille Hilfe laid a wreath that bore the SS motto "Michael Kühnen - his honor is loyalty."

The organisation has come under criticism for its encouragement and support of neo-Nazis. This has included legal aid for those facing prosecution. It also supports a Protestant old people's home in Pullach, near Munich.

Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Waffen-SS (HIAG) (English: Mutual Help Association of Former Waffen-SS Members) was an organization founded in 1951 by former members of the Waffen-SS.

The main aims of the organisation were to provide assistance to veterans, and campaign for the rehabilitation of their legal status with respect to veterans' pensions. Unlike soldiers of the regular Wehrmacht, pensions had been denied to members of the Waffen-SS as a result of that organisation having been declared criminal in the aftermath of the Second World War.

At its height in the 1960s around 8% of the approximately 250,000 former Waffen-SS members living in West Germany were members of HIAG. During the 1980s, political antagonism towards the organisation grew and it was finally disbanded in 1992.

How Wall St. Bailed Out the Nazis
June 6, 2013 

Exclusive: The amoral calculations of Wall Street insiders guided Washington’s post-World War II decision to give many Nazi war criminals a pass if they’d help in the Cold War against the world’s socialist movements. CIA Director Allen Dulles was just one of the ex-investment-bank lawyers pushing the trade-off, writes Jerry Meldon.

Near the end of World War II, the secret collaboration between U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles and Nazi SS officers enabled many German war criminals to escape prosecution and positioned them to fan the flames of post-war tensions between the former allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.

In that way, the Old Nazis — aided by Dulles and other ex-Wall Street lawyers – prevented a thorough denazification of Germany and put the Third Reich’s stamp on decades of atrocities during the long Cold War, spreading their brutal death-squad techniques to faraway places, especially Latin America

Though the World War II generation has largely passed from the scene and the Cold War ended more than two decades ago, the consequences of Dulles’s actions in those final days of World War II are still reverberating in Germany.

One of the after-shocks was felt in a Munich courtroom just last month, with the opening of the trial of Beate Zschape, a 38-year-old neo-Nazi who is accused as an accessory to two bombings, 15 bank robberies and ten murders between 2000 and 2007 by the terrorist cell, the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU).

Two male fellow gang members reportedly took their own lives to avoid arrest before Ms. Zschape torched their hideout and turned herself in, in November 2011. But the back story is no less disturbing.

Nine of the NSU’s ten murder victims were immigrants, eight of them Turkish, one Greek. All ten were slain execution-style by the same Ceska Browning pistol. Yet it took more than a decade for police forces across Germany and the country’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV), to connect the dots that would link the homicides to Germany’s xenophobic neo-Nazi netherworld.

Troubling Background

But the question is whether the missed connections resulted from incompetence or complicity. Last summer, following reports of the massive shredding of BFV’s files on right-wing extremists, the head of the agency tendered his resignation. Then in November, Der Spiegel reported:

Four parliamentary committees [are] dissecting the work of law enforcement units … four department heads have already resigned. The government’s failures in fighting rightwing terrorists have plunged [the BFV] into the worst crisis since it was … set up in postwar Germany to … stop precisely the kind of extremist thinking that allowed the Nazis to rise to power in the 1930s. The discovery of the NSU and its crimes … has shaken the system to its core. …

The more secrets come to light, the clearer it becomes how extensively intelligence agencies had infiltrated right-wing extremist groups. The trio of neo-Nazis that made up the NSU was surrounded by informants linked with [the BFV].  … One of the big questions … is whether [the BFV] actually strengthened military right-wing groups.

How the BFV worked at cross-purposes – coddling neo-Nazis while supposedly constraining them – is not entirely surprising in light of the circumstances surrounding the BFV’s birth.

West Germany’s first parliamentary elections in 1950 propelled into the chancellorship, Konrad Adenauer – a stalwart of the same party as that of current German chancellor Angela Merkel, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

When Adenauer named Dr. Hans Globke as his Secretary of State, the West German chancellor laid his cards on the table. Globke’s checkered past included wartime service at the helm of the Nazi Interior Ministry’s Office for Jewish Affairs. He drafted the infamous Nuremberg Laws for the Protection of German Blood and wrote the “Commentary” that provided the rationale for genocide.

The Interior Minister who signed the Nuremberg Laws, Dr. Wilhelm Frick, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg and hanged in October 1946. Globke would appear to have been culpable, too, having advanced his career during Nazi rule. His immediate supervisor, Interior Ministry Legal Counsel Bernard Lösner, resigned following Hitler’s decision to proceed with the extermination of European Jewry. When Lösner stepped down, Globke stepped up and left his fingerprints on the Final Solution.

But Globke was not only spared the fate of some colleagues tried at Nuremberg but emerged as an important figure in shaping post-war West Germany. In the 1961 book, The New Germany and the Old Nazis, T.H. Tetens, a German economist who worked for the U.S. War Crimes Commission, noted that Globke controlled every department of West Germany’s government in Bonn and “has done more than anyone else to re-Nazify West Germany.”

Ex-Nazis Everywhere

Der Spiegel revisited the same subject in a March 2012 article headlined “The Role Ex-Nazis Played in Early West Germany.” It reported that two dozen cabinet ministers, a president and a chancellor had belonged to Nazi organizations.

The article reported that historians were poring through voluminous BFV files “to determine how many of the Nazi dictatorship’s helpers hid under the coattails of the domestic intelligence service in the earlier years of the Federal Republic” and whether “the protection of the young, optimistic constitution [had been] in the hands of former National Socialists.”

Berlin historian Michael Wildt told Der Spiegel he was convinced that the postwar police and intelligence services had been riddled with former Nazis. Entire government departments and agencies, he said, “covered up, denied and repressed” their murky history – which evoked the following mea culpa from Der Spiegel’s staff:

It’s a charge that doesn’t just apply to politicians and public servants, at least not in the early years of the republic. Senior members of the media, including at Spiegel, proved to be unwilling or incapable of sounding the alarm. This isn’t surprising, given the number of ex-Nazis who had forced their way into editorial offices.

Author T.H. Tetens noted the irony in Dr. Globke, “[the] former key administrator in the Final Solution, [having] full control over the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.” Had he lived long enough, Tetens might have suggested that the BFV be renamed the Office for the Protection of Neo-Nazis.

Tetens might also feel vindicated by recently released CIA documents describing another branch of German intelligence that Globke’s controlled, the vast spy network run by Adolf Hitler’s former espionage czar, Lt. Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, a.k.a. the “Gehlen Organization,” a.k.a. “The Gehlen Org” or, simply, the “Org.”

Until 1955, when West Germany became a sovereign state, the Gehlen Org operated nominally under the aegis of James Critchfield of the CIA – which paid for the Org’s intelligence product. In reality, Gehlen ran the Org from its creation in 1946 until his retirement in 1968. In 1956, the Org officially became Germany’s foreign intelligence service and was renamed the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Recently, the BND has been declassifying its files to come clean about its postwar origins. Documents released to date by both it and the CIA confirm suspicions that, at least in the Gehlen years, the Org/BND was little more than a U.S.-bankrolled “sheep-dipping” operation for fugitive Nazis.

The U.S. Connection

And this troubling history goes back even further to the days of World War II when the American intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, fell under the control of a group of Wall Street lawyers who saw the world in the moral grays of business deals, measured less by right and wrong than by dollars and cents.

In the introduction to The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA, author Burton Hersh identifies this common denominator: “In 1941 [the year of America’s entry into the war}, an extraordinarily nimble New York antitrust attorney named William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan inveigled Franklin Roosevelt into underwriting the first encompassing intelligence instrumentality, the Office of the Coordinator of Information [OCI].

Donovan’s profession was relevant, and it was no accident that all three [of The Old Boys’] load-bearing protagonists … Bill Donovan, Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner – achieved status in America by way of important Wall Street law partnerships. …

The faction-ridden [OCI] gave way in 1942 to the [OSS]. From then on a civilian-directed, operationally oriented spy service would top the wish list of America’s emerging power elite.

These Wall-Street-lawyers-turned-spymasters brought their moral relativism and their ardor for aggressive capitalism to their World War II decision-making. Thus, they created an opening for Nazi war criminals who – after Germany’s crushing defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943 – saw the writing on the wall regarding the future of the Third Reich and started hedging their bets.

As the war ground on for two more years, thousands of them took steps to evade post-war prosecutions, in part, by arranging protection from British and American officials. Most of those American officials served in U.S. intelligence agencies, either Army intelligence or the civilian-run OSS, the CIA’s forerunner.

OSS spymaster Allen Dulles played into this Nazi game in spring 1945, as Soviet, British and American forces were converging on Berlin. Dulles engaged in negotiations for the separate surrender of German forces in Italy with SS General Karl Wolff.

It apparently didn’t bother Dulles that Wolff, like many of his SS brethren, was a major war criminal. After September 1943, when Italy withdrew from the Axis and made peace with the Allies, Wolff’s troops committed an average of 165 war crimes a day executing his orders to liquidate the Italian resistance and terrorize its supporters.

(In 1964, a German judge sentenced Wolff to 15 years in prison for various war crimes, including ordering the deportation of 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp.)

Pushing the Envelope

Initially, Dulles met with Wolff in defiance of orders from the dying President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The contacts also were behind the back of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, whose army had not only turned the tide of the war at Stalingrad but was still doing the bulk of the fighting. As Hitler’s Third Reich neared the end of its days, six out of every seven German divisions were lined up against the Red Army.

Ultimately, Dulles secured authorization for what was code-named “Operation Sunrise,” but his determination to consummate a deal with Wolff didn’t stop at negotiations. When the Italian resistance set a trap for Gen. Wolff, Dulles saved him in what his OSS colleague (and future Supreme Court Justice) Arthur Goldberg described as treason.

Moreover, when Soviet spies informed Stalin about the Dulles-Wolff assignations – which continued even as the Red Army suffered 300,000 casualties in a three-week period – the ensuing brouhaha played right into Hitler’s own game plan for survival.

Desperate to bolster the morale of his collapsing army, Der Führer seized on the dissension opening in the ranks of the Allies. He gave his generals the following pep talk (as transcribed in Gabriel Kolko’s The Politics of War):

The states which are now our enemies are the greatest opposites which exist on earth: ultra-capitalist states on one side and ultra-Marxist states on the other. … [Their] objectives diverge daily … and anyone … can see how these antitheses are increasing.

If we can deal it [the alliance] a couple of heavy blows, this artificially constructed common front may collapse with a mighty thunderclap at any moment.

Indeed, Wolff’s surrender overtures to Dulles might have been an attempt to both save his own skin and help Hitler drive a wedge into the “artificially constructed common front.”

The overall value of Dulles’s negotiations toward ending the war also was dubious. Less than one week before the general armistice ending the War in Europe, Dulles offered Nazi officers an advantageous deal, letting one million German combatants surrender to British and American forces on May 2, 1945, rather than to the Russians.

By surrendering to the British and Americans, most of these Germans not only avoided harsh treatment from the Russians but high-ranking Nazi officers benefited from the Truman administration’s quick pivot from its war-time alliance with Stalin to the Cold War confrontation with Moscow.

President Harry Truman’s staunchly anti-communist advisers, including Secretary of State James Byrnes, persuaded Truman to default on FDR’s commitment to a thorough postwar denazification of Germany, one in a series of decisions which enabled thousands of war criminals to avoid justice and permitted many to assume key positions in the new West German government.

Steering the Cold War

Yet, the use of Nazis by U.S. intelligence agencies had the additional dangerous effect of letting the Nazis influence how the United States perceived its erstwhile allies in Moscow. Washington formulated much of its early Cold War policies based on information about Moscow’s intentions that originated with Gehlen’s blemished agents.

These infamous Final Solution perpetrators included:

– Willie Krichbaum, reportedly the Gehlen Org’s top recruiter. As the senior Gestapo official for southeastern Europe, Krichbaum managed the deportation of 300,000 Hungarian Jews for extermination.

– Dr. Franz Six, former Dean of the Faculty of the University of Berlin and Adolf Eichmann’s immediate supervisor in the Ideological Combat branch of the SS security apparatus. In 1941, according to a report he wrote (which Christopher Simpson cites in Blowback: The First Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and its Disastrous Effect on our Domestic and Foreign Policy), a Six-led SS commando group murdered 200 people in the Russian city of Smolensk, “among them 38 intellectual Jews.”

Wanted for war crimes, Six joined the Gehlen Org in 1946, but later was betrayed by a former SS officer working undercover for a US/UK dragnet for fugitive Nazis. In 1948, a U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to 20 years for war crimes including murder. After serving four, he was granted clemency by John McCloy, another Wall Street lawyer then serving as U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. Six then rejoined the Org.

– Gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyon,” who escaped via the so-called “rat lines” to South America, where he then worked with right-wing intelligence services and organized neo-Nazi support for violent coups against elected and reformist governments, including the 1980 “cocaine coup” in Bolivia. After decades of spreading Nazi techniques across Latin America, Barbie was arrested and returned to France where he was given a life sentence in 1984 for ordering the deportation of 44 Jewish orphans to the death camp at Auschwitz

– SS Colonel Walter Rauff, who dodged postwar prosecution for developing mobile gas vans and administering their deployment to murder some 250,000 Eastern Europeans, mostly Jewish women and children. The appearance of Rauff’s name on the list is interesting because, as the Milan-based SS intelligence chief for northwestern Italy in 1945, he was Gen. Wolff’s liaison with Allen Dulles.

According to a 1984 Boston Globe Op-Ed by former U.S. Justice Department lawyer John Loftus, Rauff, after playing his part in Operation Sunrise, calmly turned himself in and told agents of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) that he had made surrender “arrangements [with] Mr. Dulles … to avoid further bloodshed in Milan.”

In Loftus’s words, Dulles “promised that none of the [surrender] negotiators would ever be prosecuted as war criminals. When Truman and Stalin discovered what Dulles [had been up to], there were outraged orders to call off Sunrise… [But] Dulles went ahead anyway, with Truman’s reluctant concurrence … [Dulles] kept his bargain … Rauff was released.”

Christopher Simpson confirms in Blowback that “each of the SS officers involved in Operation Sunrise [escaped] serious punishment … despite the fact that each was a major war criminal. A U.S. military tribunal tried [SS intelligence chief] Walter Schellenberg, who had helped trap and exterminate the Jews of France. He was convicted but freed shortly thereafter under a clemency [order] from the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy…

“Wolff was sentenced to ‘time served’ in a [British] denazification proceeding in 1949, then released … without … objection from … U.S. … authorities. Fifteen years later a West German court tried Wolff a second time. He was convicted of administering the murder of 300,000 persons, most of them Jews, and of overseeing SS participation in slave labor programs.”

Fleeing to Latin America

However, when the war ended, neither the Gehlen Org recruitment program nor Wall Street lawyer McCloy’s clemency rulings had begun, leaving tens of thousands of war criminals desperate to relocate in secure foreign outposts. SS Col. Rauff just happened to have the right connections to make that happen.

In Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and Soviet Intelligence, Australian investigative reporter, Mark Aarons, and former Justice Department lawyer Loftus reconstruct how Rauff became the mass murderers’ travel agent of choice.

Shortly after the Wolff/Dulles surrender negotiations were successfully completed on April 29, 1945, Rauff was arrested by unidentified Americans and delivered to an OSS unit led by James Angleton, the future CIA counter-intelligence chief.

From its description by Aarons and Loftus, Angleton’s team appears to have been tracking communists in the Italian underground – which would have been consistent with Washington’s postwar policy of backhanding leftwing resistance leaders, from European partisans to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, irrespective of the magnitude of their contributions to the Allied cause.

Angleton’s team reportedly debriefed Rauff at length, probably about what he had learned when he carried out Wolff’s orders to liquidate the resistance. After Angleton’s team released him, Rauff established contact with his former SS colleague Friederich Schwendt – who was already on the payroll of the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) and, like Rauff himself, was wanted for murder.

Schwendt was also a master counterfeiter. He laundered his product through banks, obtaining legitimate Western currency in return – enough, in fact, that over the next three years, Rauff was able to furnish thousands of fellow war criminals false identities and one-way tickets to South America.

Rauff himself wound up in Chile, where he later reportedly advised Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s ruthless secret police.

As for Allen Dulles, he became director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Under his leadership, the CIA overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) and replaced them with anti-democratic dictatorships. To this day, neither country has fully regained its democratic footing.

After the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy sacked Dulles, but Dulles did not wander far from the centers of power. After JFK’s assassination two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Dulles to serve on the Warren Commission’s investigation of Kennedy’s murder.

Dulles died on Jan. 29, 1969. However, even today, seven decades after Dulles opened the door to U.S. collaboration with Nazi war criminals, his decision continues to infect government actions around the globe.

Jerry Meldon, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is the English translator of The Great Heroin Coup, by Danish journalist Henrik Kruger, and an occasional contributor to