Did Hitler live to old age here in Argentina?
Standing amid the sunflowers beside his log chalet in the Argentine mountains Jorge Priebke happily reminisces about the Third Reich’s most evil men.
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 600 miles 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.
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 such as Adolf Eichmann who lived in Bariloche for years in the open.
Sepia-tinted photographs from the Thirties show locals gathered around a picture of the Führer and proudly flying the Swastika.
There was Josef Schwammberger, commander of three Nazi labour camps and in charge of the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Przemysl, Poland.
The membership list from the late Forties of mountaineering association Club Andino Bariloche, set up in 1931 by Otto Meiling, a former member of the Hitler Youth, 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.
“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.
In Argentine Haven for Fugitive Nazis, April Means Chocolate Eggs and Hitler Parties
As a little boy Hans Schulz, the blue-eyed son of a Hitler Youth member, would walk uphill half a block each afternoon from the German school to his white stucco house in the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche, steps from an icy lake hugged by Andean peaks. Inside he’d often find his dad—the president of the town’s 'German Argentinian Cultural Association'—sitting with his vice president and close friend, an austere, well-respected Delicatessen owner named Erich Priebke.
Priebke, who was also director of the town’s German school, the 'Colegio Aleman', would bring his wife over, and they’d all dance in the living room. At Halloween, he appeared dressed up as a pirate. Eventually, Priebke—who arrived in Argentina after World War II—ousted Schulz’s father, a native of the town, as president of the German association. “He entered Bariloche,” Schulz remembers, “and climbed, climbed, climbed.”
Last October, Priebke died in Rome, where he spent his final years under house arrest serving a life sentence for his role in carrying out the massacre of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves in 1944, when he was a captain in the Nazi SS. But from 1946, when he was smuggled to Argentina, until 1994, when the TV journalist Sam Donaldson confronted him on a Bariloche street, Priebke lived a comfortable, if fabricated, life in this Bavarian-styled city at the bottom of the world.
Priebke’s interview with Donaldson and subsequent extradition to Italy to face trial for war crimes drew the world’s attention to the fact that Bariloche, founded more than a century ago by a Chilean of German ancestry, had become a quiet haven for fugitive Nazis. Priebke was outed by his former comrade Reinhard Kopps, a Nazi espionage agent who lived in the town under the name Juan Maler. Josef Mengele reportedly turned up there, briefly, after fleeing Buenos Aires following the Mossad capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960; an entire cottage industry sprang up around the legend that Hitler himself faked his suicide and took up residence at a compound outside the town.
Today, 20 years after Priebke’s arrest, Bariloche is still struggling to come to terms with its Nazi legacy. Some, including members of the alpine town’s small Jewish community, say they are happy to simply forget and let the past die with the Nazis who lived there; others are determined to leverage the link to draw tourists. Yet others, like Schulz, insist it’s past time for their remote German colony to come to terms with the Third Reich and the Holocaust in the same way Germany itself has. “Bariloche has stayed in the past,” said Schulz, now a balding schoolteacher with a stately demeanor. “Priebke died, but the ghosts are still here.”
I spent Easter morning watching men in white chef shirts and hard hats drive pick-axes into a three-story chocolate egg. Bariloche is famous for its German chocolate, and the annual celebration, next to a stone bell tower in the Plaza San Martin, has made the "Guinness Book of World Records". This year there were thousands of people crowded in the square: sweet tooth-crazed kids with bunny ears leaping fiercely for pieces of chocolate tossed to the crowd; giddy women scaling security gates to photograph the stenciled monstrosity; the city’s mayor and other local officials smiling benignly on the chaos.
Meanwhile, just outside of town, a more exclusive all-night celebration was winding down. April 20 wasn’t just Easter—it was Adolf Hitler’s birthday, his 125th, in fact. The journalist Abel Basti, who has written a controversial book claiming that Hitler escaped to Bariloche and lived here for decades, told me the birthday parties used to be held at a hotel downtown but have moved to obscure estates in the years since Priebke’s arrest. Basti, who has also written tour guides to Bariloche’s Nazi sights, said he had a spy at this year’s party but laughed when I asked if he could get me in. "It’s too dangerous," Basti told me when I suggested tagging along. He had been cracking jokes and chuckling through our interview at a German Biergarten, but suddenly he shifted tones. "I’m not sure he’s going to talk to you," Basti told me. The "spy," he said, was supposed to be helping him find the last picture of Hitler alive in Latin America, proof that has so far remained elusive. "This is serious territory," Basti went on. "I laugh to be able to deal with this all the time. Otherwise I’d write and I’d write and then I’d commit suicide".
A few days later, Basti agreed to give me a phone number for his alleged spy, a stocky telephone-company worker in a baseball hat who told me he wasn’t Basti’s spy at all. "I’m writing my own guide," the man, Pedro Filipuzzi, told me. And that wasn’t all. "I’m thinking of starting a tourist company out of this," he went on, excitedly. "Abel was smart because he made the first tourist guide to Nazis in the world, but I’m making the first one for Buenos Aires".
The Bariloche Hitler party, he explained, was closely linked to a Buenos Aires Nazi. The night before, he told me, he’d called the host club pretending to be a guest and asked, "Is Adolf’s party still on?" They told him yes, he insisted—but he hadn’t been able to get past security. "I counted 48 cars just outside the gate, and there were many, many more inside," Filipuzzi told me, his eyes wide and his voice amplifying. "In Buenos Aires," he went on, "there’s a restaurant that has a Hitler toast, but here’s the grand party".
"I thought you were looking for the last photo of Hitler alive, to help out Abel?" I asked. "Well, of course I’m looking for it, too," Filipuzzi replied. "But on my own. Everybody’s looking for it".
A few hours before I met Filipuzzi, a taxi driver had claimed he could drive me to a "Nazi commune" four hours away for a few thousand pesos, or a few hundred dollars. I’d told him I was interested, but then he showed up red-eyed to my hostel door and said he’d actually need to drive me to another German town three hours away to find someone there who could help us access the supposed Nazi Mecca—and wanted payment up front. "This is the only chance," he said, angry, when I told him I would pass on the offer. He stormed off.
Bariloche is a sizable city, but most of its Nazi attractions are within a few-block radius, including Priebke’s 'Colegio Aleman', also known as 'Primo Capraro', and other German cultural institutions. Along with its thriving ski and chocolate industries, it attracts hippies and intellectuals; yet, as with tourist towns everywhere in the world, there are always people like Filipuzzi or my taxi driver looking to expand the trade. Even the city’s official tourist office, located in the Plaza San Martin, will provide information from Basti’s tour guide to Nazi landmarks if visitors ask for it.
One place rarely visited by tourists is the home of Jorge Priebke, son of Erich, a quiet cabin with a flower garden patrolled by a pack of ferocious Dobermans. The house, across from a lush pine-filled park and two blocks from the 'Colegio Aleman', is sealed off by two metal gates. I opened the first and called out for Jorge at the second, where I met the dogs barking and pouncing at my legs. A mousey gray-haired woman with glasses asked what I wanted; when I said I was a journalist, she yelled that he’d gone out of town and added that he’d had a heart attack. Jorge Priebke has given a handful of interviews, but now that his father’s dead, the woman—his wife—told me, he wanted to be left alone. "He’s done," she said. But then she kept talking about her late father-in-law. "It’s really not fair, they all said he was such a bad man, like it was all his fault," she whined through the metal gate. "And after he died they were all like ‘poor man.’ But you know how they are".
"Who? The world? The town?" I asked.
"The Jews," she replied. "They’re always like that. But Señor Priebke did a lot for this town". Then she shooed me off her property, telling me she had guests inside awaiting food. "All right, ciao ciao," she said, by way of goodbye.
Hers was far from the only defense of Erich Priebke I fell upon in Bariloche. "It was unjust," said Luis Schlik, the manager of a bar where I sat down to eat and write, when he learned what I was working on. A native of northern Argentina, Schlik is of Austrian descent and moved to Bariloche 12 years ago, long after Priebke had been removed to Rome. Yet his opinions were firm: "He followed orders. What about a pilot with his plane that threw bombs over a city and killed civilians? Why isn’t he an assassin? They received an order. It’s the same with Priebke".
At the Casa Raul bookstore, where I bought a copy of Basti’s Nazi guide, the owner, Nelly Garcia, leaped to defend her children’s former leader at the 'Colegio Aleman', calling him "this poor guy". When I asked if the school had the Holocaust in its history curriculum, she said no. "There are worse massacres that don’t get taught," she said, "like Russians killing Gypsies. Why do we have to study the Holocaust?"
One of the most prominent Jewish leaders in Bariloche is Carlos Suez, whose DVD store is a block away from Erich Priebke’s old house and across the street from Reinhard Kops’. When I visited him, he shrugged off questions about his town’s Nazis. "In every place in the world you’ll find anti-Semitism," he told me. At this point, he insisted, most local residents don’t know who Priebke is any more and don’t care. "He doesn’t have importance," Suez said. "I see Nazism here as something overcome".
But that laissez-faire attitude isn’t good enough for Schulz, the history teacher, who believes that even if other townspeople have moved on, he still has a responsibility to atone for his own complicity in allowing men with a direct role in the Holocaust live out their days undisturbed by justice. "In Bariloche there was never a public debate about Nazis," Schulz told me when we met for tea at the famed German chocolate shop Rapa Nui in downtown Bariloche. "It’s like having an assassin in your house and never talking about it. You get sick". For him, the town’s Hitler industry is necessarily evil. "It’s a way to rescue Hitler, to say they didn’t kill him," he said. "I lived with negators of the Holocaust. I came from the inside. It’s a very personal thing".
Schulz sifted through piles of old photos at our café table, including one of his dad with the mayor of Bariloche and a young, grinning Priebke. Schulz shows this picture when he gives the lecture "Argentina and the Nazis," in a new discussion series by an American tour company that passes through Patagonia. "I kept talking to Priebke when he was in jail in Italy, we’d send letters back and forth. I wanted to learn why all this happened," Schulz told me. "He died still saying that the gas chambers didn’t exist … claiming he never had any problems with the Jews in Berlin".
That revisionism still finds an easy home in Bariloche, a festering infection inside the lake’s aqua waves and mountains that bleed like powder into the clouds. The city is so far from Europe that, even in today’s hyper connected world, it can create its own version of the past, even as it tries to model itself after European cities. Carlos Echeverria, a Bariloche native who produced a documentary about Priebke called "Pact of Silence", says the Nazis were honored for their German roots, in a region that often favored Europeans over native people. "There are people who continue remembering that era with nostalgia," Echeverria told me of Bariloche’s Nazi zenith. Despite the film, released in 2006, Schulz insisted the dangerous silence still continued and that the "Nazi mentality" continued in forms of anti-Semitism and minimizing the Holocaust.
Now 58, Schulz found himself galvanized by Priebke’s arrest. "I saw him as a good neighbor," he told me, using a phrase—"buen vecino"—I heard over and and over again by those who wanted to excuse Priebke’s Nazi crimes. He started by joining the board of directors of the 'Colegio Aleman', which is known as one of the best schools in Bariloche. The school, an arm of the 'German Argentinian Cultural Association', officially taught a state-mandated curriculum and was open to students of all backgrounds. But Schulz said when he joined the board, it was known that the contracts of teachers who taught much about the Holocaust were generally not renewed. His hope that he could change the institution from the inside was quickly dashed: In 2008, after Schulz attended an observance of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence held by the town’s small Jewish community, his fellow board members called him. "They asked me, ‘What were you doing there? Were you representing us?’ I told them I just went on my own, and they said they didn’t support that," Schulz recalled. That year the directors didn’t invite him back to the board.
Schulz decided to take his two children, then 10 and 13, out of the school, and dove into working on a memoir about his family, his childhood in Bariloche, and the discrimination he saw embedded in the town’s culture. Most of the book, "Mandato Paterno" [Paternal Mandate]—focuses on Schulz’s father, who was born in Argentina of German descent and had been sent as a teenager to a six-month Nazi training camp in Germany to become a “Hitler Youth” just before the war. "When I published my book, the 'Colegio Aleman' board asked why I didn’t present it to them, since they were German," Schulz told me. "But to me the 'Colegio Aleman' is not the Germany that exists now. I said 'I’m German too and I don’t think like you'.
School administrators never responded to my requests for interviews, and when I visited the campus—a four-story beige building with a green shingle roof—staff who greeted me insisted they had nothing to tell me about Bariloche’s Nazi culture. At least one graduate, a 26-year-old named Pablo Roig, said he remembered being shown a video documentary about Priebke and the Ardeatine Caves massacre a few years after Priebke’s arrest. Afterward the students asked the teachers what should happen to Priebke, whose case was still being appealed at the time. "She said he was older, and that people can change, and he seemed to have repented," Roig told me, when we met in Buenos Aires.
Merlin Maler, Reinhard Kopps’ grandson, is a scruffy blond Bohemian who makes his living as a snowboard instructor. As a kid, he idolized his grandfather, who went by Juan Maler, the older man a devoted geologist who taught his grandson about rocks and often took him on fishing trips. As a teenager, he once sold Kops’ Nazi medals for money to buy a skateboard; the neighbor who paid him drew a Swastika shape in the air so the boy would know what to look for as he rifled through his granddad’s cabinet.
"I was so stupid, I didn’t know what the sign meant," Maler, now 28, told me. He lives in a plant-stuffed roof loft in his grandfather’s old house, a lavender cottage just uphill from the 'Colegio Aleman' and Priebke’s Deli. "My friend explained to me that the symbol was bad, so I didn’t sell anything else because my skateboard suddenly felt unclean," he went on. "But the neighbor kept coming back to ask for more".
The day Kopps outed Priebke, Maler’s liberal classmates greeted him with applause at school, he remembers, but many in the German community shunned the boy for his relative’s defection. "I asked my family when I was a child, 'Why don’t we speak about it?' Maler recalled as we sat at his handmade wooden table. "My grandmother said it was too painful, and that they were taken advantage of. I always saw my grandmother as a victim of the Nazis". The family legend, he explained, was that his grandfather fled to Argentina because he turned against the Nazis at the end of the war.
But Kopps is infamous for writing anti-Semitic books and helping start a neo-Nazi community in Chile once he moved to Argentina. "He never taught me that." Maler insisted. "I’m a lover of nature, and [my grandfather] made me that. And human beings are a part of nature, so I love them all".
How Wall St. Bailed Out the Nazis
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
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.
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".
"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"]:
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 2 May 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 29 April 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  and Guatemala  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 29 January 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
The Peróns: Argentina’s Populist Power Couple
Understandably, the mainstream media have chosen to ignore the first results of the much-ballyhooed “CEANA” investigations into Argentina’s alleged Nazi past. CEANA is the Argentine “Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina” [Comisión Para el Esclarecimiento de las Actividades del Nazismo en la Argentina].
On 11 November 1999, CEANA, an official board of inquiry, issued preliminary findings after a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation. Established by Argentine Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella in 1997 to determine the truth about the extent of Nazi infiltration and stolen gold hoards allegedly brought to Argentina by German submarines during the closing days of the war, CEANA was staffed by a team of international scholars, chosen for a belief in their integrity, who, to further ensure their findings would be accepted by the world, were monitored by Jewish academic and media shepherds. The CEANA commission was granted full access to the state archives of the nations of Argentina, the United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and Portugal.
Admittedly, Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal and other priests were found to have aided several wanted individuals in their time of need, just as they helped Jews earlier, when they were threatened. Some gold and valuables belonging to dubious individuals may have been transferred from Europe to Argentina, the land of silver, but certainly not large quantities. Concerning gold transfers, CEANA reports unequivocally that "Nazi gold never entered the country physically . . . and that any complicity of Argentina Central Bank in transactions related to Nazi gold was, in any case, very marginal". Further, no official records involving the Perón administration on the matter of gold transfers or looted art have been revealed.
Quite naturally, many Germans, who saw no future in Germany in 1945, chose to emigrate to Argentina. Moreover, Argentina, as a Catholic country, has a long tradition, shared with other Latin countries, of permitting its churches to grant sanctuary to individuals in need and of granting defeated military personnel the privilege of seeking safety in exile.
The continued animosity of the Anglo-American Establishment directed against the persons of Juan Domingo Perón and his wife, Eva Duarte de Perón [known as "Evita"], which borders on the pathological, deserves special attention. This enduring animus would be incomprehensible without understanding the history of British imperialism in Argentina and the sociopolitical revolutions of the first half of the 20th century.
The underlying cause of the continuing UK/U.S. hostility toward Argentina stems from the Peróns’ success in freeing the country, albeit temporarily, from its traditional economic dependence on foreign markets and capital, initially British but later American. British and U.S. companies eventually held a virtual monopoly over the Argentine meat-packing, railroad, electric power, pharmaceutical and other industries. In 1933, the controversial Roca-Runciman Treaty seemed to seal the special Argentine-British relationship. It would also have kept Argentina in a quasi-colonial status as agricultural supplier to Britain.
Several unforeseen events upset this special relationship. First, the onset of World War II cut Argentina off from its traditional markets and investment sources and forced the country to become more self-sufficient by developing its own industrial and financial base. With modernization and industrialization, the labor unions grew ever more powerful. The long-reigning Argentine oligarchy, with which the British had always dealt, began to lose its privileged position. The very word "autarky" [i.e., national self-sufficiency] is, of course, anathema to international moneylenders.
In 1943 a military coup overthrew the corrupt Castillo government. A young, charismatic colonel, Juan Perón, assumed control of the Ministry of Labor and Welfare of the economically foundering nation. With the indispensable assistance of a fellow colonel, Domingo Alfredo Mercante, who assumed control of the vital Buenos Aires province, Perón’s organizational and leadership qualities won him the support of the working class that be came his main political base.
The bulk of the population in Argentina is of Italian and Spanish extraction. It was quite natural in the Great Depression of the 1930s, when American and British capitalism was on the rocks, which the military and the common people in Argentina turned to Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany as models. Moreover, like Italy, Argentina was a Catholic country with mores and a spirit quite different from those of "Perfidious Albion".
As Perón’s power increased [he became vice president and minister of war in 1940], the oligarchs and others whose status was now being threatened staged a coup in early October 1945 that ousted Perón from the government. However, the insurgents miscalculated badly, and within a few days Perón’s followers were able to regroup and fight back. Under the leadership of the labor leaders in Buenos Aires and Perón’s loyal friend, Col. Mercante, whom Evita was later to call "the heart of Perón," massive street demonstrations were staged.
With World War II concluded and Britain an economic basket case, Perón pushed ahead with his domestic industrialization program, including nationalizing foreign-owned businesses. Joining and reinforcing Perón in this major restructuring of the Argentine economy was Evita, whom he married. A woman fiercely dedicated to her husband and his program, Evita proved a tremendous asset to Perón, who, by 1946, had become president of Argentina. Contrary to American public opinion, Juan Perón’s power did not derive from Evita, but Evita’s from Juan’s.
Perón himself was referred to as the leader and standard bearer of the descamisados [“the shirtless ones,” i.e., the workers]. Perón’s political doctrine was justicialismo ["social justice"] and "the Third Position," which was opposed to the oligarchs, the communists and the imperialists. Evita Perón, who had a successful career in radio, movies and theater before her marriage to Perón, soon won the affection of the Argentine people. Evita was an extremely effective public speaker, arguing emotionally and dramatically on behalf of Perón’s policies.
Evita almost single-handedly took over all welfare in Argentina, opening hospitals, schools, housing projects, orphanages, libraries, homes for the elderly, shelters for the indigent and social security programs—all under the auspices of her Social Aid Foundation. In doing so, she in effect re placed charity with a government aid program. Equally important and long lasting were her support of women’s rights and her championship of the law that gave Argentine women the right to vote.
To have accomplished so much in Argentinian society at tests to Evita’s unusual appeal and tact. In her speeches she al ways presented herself modestly as Perón’s “bridge to the people,” never ceasing to defer to and praise her husband, El Presidente. For his part Perón could only be most thankful for his wife’s loyalty and support. Evita’s activities further incurred the wrath of the oligarchs, especially the wealthy Ladies of Beneficence, who had traditionally managed charitable operations in Argentina.
Juan and Evita were a perfect team: he, the strong, macho military leader fighting against communism and imperialism for an independent Argentina; she, childless, frail in appearance, in failing health, the wife and main supporter of her revered husband.
Perón’s fortunes began to decline following his wife’s death. Europe recovered from World War II, and its industries were again working overtime—supplying South American countries. The United States was now not only helping the British reestablish their pre-Perón privileges but also intervening in Argentine affairs. [The total diplomatic and logistical support the U.S. government gave Britain during the Falkland Islands War in 1982 demonstrated clearly the commonality of U.S-UK policy vis-a-vis Argentina, whose claims to the islands are at least as valid as Britain’s].
Perón’s hopes to establish home industries eventually foundered. Economic distress was soon followed by political action against Perónism.
In 1955 Perón was ousted in a military coup. The new regime, backed by the oligarchy and other enemies of the Peróns, undertook to dismantle as many of Evita’s innovations and institutions [shelters, schools, hospitals] as it could, especially those bearing her name. Even her body was disinterred and transported out of the country. Perón himself went into exile in Spain.
To discredit Perónism, a campaign of calumny and slander concerning the private lives and character of both Juan and Evita was started, and it continues to this day. He was accused of living with teenage girls and of being a Nazi sympathizer. Evita was maliciously denounced as a common prostitute who stole money from the Eva Duarte Foundation. But the campaign of hate and vilification against the Peróns failed completely in Argentina and most of the Latin world, though the allegations continue to titillate British and American scandalmongers.
Juan Perón was returned to power in 1974, and Evita’s body was finally laid to rest in her native land. The Perónist Party continues to exist, but, without an effective leader, it has become very fragmented. While Evita never quite became "Santa Evita," she is nonetheless fondly remembered by many in present-day Argentina.
After the war many immigrants from Europe arrived in Argentina seeking to start new lives, as they did in the United States. For historical, ethnic and religious reasons the Argentine government chose not to seek out, pursue, arrest or indict "suspect" Germans who arrived as immigrants after World War II. Was this so terrible? For their own reasons, the United States, Britain and France have themselves elected not to seek out, pursue, arrest, indict or deport Russians, Ukrainians or Jews who were involved in communist crimes, not even those associated with the infamous Gulag system, even though communist crimes lasted over a much longer period, involved millions more victims and were of much more recent origin.
During the war the United States was an active belligerent, allied with the Soviet Union, while Argentina, remained neutral as long as possible with obvious sympathies for the Italian and German people. Not until 27 March 1945, under great pressure from the United States, did Argentina finally declare war against Germany. None other than Juan Domingo Perón, then minister of war, signed the declaration of war. Moreover, most Argentine exports of raw materials during World War II went to the United States and Britain, not to Germany and Italy.
The international CEANA commission has proved extremely useful in demystifying and dispelling many misconceptions about the extent of Nazi influence in Argentina. The selection of honest, independent and unbiased researchers, with the participation of open-minded Jews, combined with the cooperation of involved states, seems the perfect vehicle for resolving lingering doubts about other controversial events of World War II. It is to be hoped that a similar international commission is established to define—once and for all—the exact parameters of Jewish losses in the holocaust.