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The schoolchildren were present at a commemorative ceremony held at the Eden on December 17, 1940, the first anniversary of the scuttling of the Admiral Graf Spee. Most of the supposedly "interned" crew marched in full uniform and paraded the n.a.z.i flag under the eyes of dozens of Argentine dignitaries and senior members of the military. The parade ended on the hotel's esplanade, where the n.a.z.i Party marching song, the "Horst-Wessel-Lied," was sung, and there were impa.s.sioned pro-German speeches. However, despite the protection of the Argentine police and armed German sailors who were billeted nearby, the n.a.z.i presence in La Falda did not go completely unchallenged. When the Eichhorns decided to raise money by showing n.a.z.i propaganda films to a large audience, members of an anti-n.a.z.i, pro-Allies group called Accion Argentina punctured the tires of the parked cars of the film attendees. Among the attackers was Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of Ernesto "Che" Guevara-the Argentine Marxist leader and Fidel Castro's chief lieutenant of the Cuban Revolution.
AN FBI MEMO dated September 17, 1945, from the American emba.s.sy in London, outlining details of Hitler's relationship with the Eichhorns-filed four months after the "suicide."
A NOVEMBER 13, 1945 FBI report sent to the American emba.s.sy in Buenos Aires, recapping the September FBI report detailing the Eichhorns' relationship with Hitler.
THE EICHORNS CONTINUED TO ORGANIZE COLLECTIONS for the n.a.z.i cause, and as late as 1944 they were still transferring tens of thousands of Swiss francs to the Buenos Aires account of Joseph Goebbels. However, in March 1945, under intense pressure from the United States, Argentina finally declared war on the Axis powers-the last of the Latin American nations to do so. After this declaration, the Hotel Eden was seized as "property of the enemy" and-now surrounded by barbed wire and guards to keep people in rather than out-used for eleven months to intern the j.a.panese emba.s.sy staff and their families. Shortly after the j.a.panese were repatriated, anti-n.a.z.is in La Falda broke in, pulled down the eagle from the facade of the hotel, and destroyed anything with the swastika on it.
In May 1945, Ida Eichorn told her closest circle that her "cousin" Adolf Hitler was "traveling." The Eichhorns, shutting themselves away in their chalet a short distance from the hotel, created a network of distribution centers that sent thousands of clothing and food parcels to a devastated Germany. They also helped the network for n.a.z.is who fled to Argentina, and Adolf Eichmann would often visit La Falda with his family. One of his sons, Horst Eichmann-who led Argentina's Frente Nacional Socialista Argentino (FNSA) n.a.z.i party in the 1960s-married Elvira Pummer, the daughter of one of the Hotel Eden's gardeners.
The Eichhorns maintained close contact with the Gran Hotel Viena on the sh.o.r.es of Mar Chiquita; they owned a property just 150 yards from the hotel. They would have met Hitler and Eva there while he was convalescing in 1946. (Whatever the n.a.z.is' long-term plans were for the Gran Hotel Viena, they never came to much. After the Hitlers' second visit in early 1948, the property was virtually abandoned. In March of that year the head of security, Col. Krueger, was found "poisoned" in a room off the hotel garage-the same fate that befell Ludwig Freude four years later.) CATALINA GOMERO WAS FIFTEEN YEARS OLD when she went to live with the Eichhorns in 1945. She suffered from asthma and came from a poor family who believed she would have a better life at the Hotel Eden than they could offer her. Although a servant, Catalina was treated by the Eichhorns almost as a daughter. She said that Hitler arrived at their house in La Falda one night in 1949 and stayed for three days; she recognized him right away. "The driver must have brought him. He was put up on the third floor. We were told to take his breakfast upstairs and ... knock at the door and leave the tray on the floor. He ate very well, the trays were always empty. Most of the meals were German." He had shaved his moustache off. There were usually people in the house all day, but for those three days, the third floor was private. "Mrs. Ida told me, 'Whatever you saw, pretend you didn't.' One of the drivers and I used to joke, 'I saw nothing and you saw nothing.' It was as if it had never happened. It was kept very, very secret." Hitler left his clothes, including green canvas trousers and a black collared shirt, outside the room, and Catalina would clean and iron them. She took him three breakfasts, three lunches, and three complete teas. On the fourth day she was told he had left.
Eight days after the "important visitor" left La Falda, Mrs. Eichhorn told Catalina to pack a picnic lunch. With the chauffeur driving the Mercedes-Benz and Walter Eichhorn seated next to him, the four drove to the Eichhorns' house on Pan de Azucar Mountain. This brick-and-timber construction had a large radio antenna and was part of the network of n.a.z.i safe houses across the country. Hitler stayed for fifteen days at what the family called "El Castillo," but after that Catalina never saw him again. However, she remembered taking telephone calls from him at the Eichhorn home through operators in La Rioja and Mendoza; she recognized his voice. The calls continued until 1962.
John Walsh, an FBI agent stationed in Buenos Aires at this time, admitted the difficulties he and his operatives encountered in doing any undercover work in Argentina. Of the Hotel Eden and the Eichhorns, Walsh said, "We personally did not do surveillance work there. We would have sources that were outside the emba.s.sy that would do that. You just can't walk in and say, you know, that you are looking for something." Walsh said that he and his colleagues came under surveillance by the local police. A number of times when he was out with other agents they would see people who were obviously following and watching them.
DESPITE HIS DIRECT PROTECTION by the "Organization" and the more indirect but essential collaboration of the Peron government, the fact that Hitler moved around during the late 1940s and early 1950s rather than remaining buried at the Center made sightings almost inevitable. In time, Catalina Gomero would not be the only person willing to tell stories of meeting the former Fuhrer in Argentina after the war.
Jorge Batinic, a bank manager from the city of Comodoro Rivadavia in the southern Patagonian province of Chubut, vividly remembered the story told to him by his Spanish-born mother, Mafalda Batinic. In summer 1940, she had been in France working for the International Red Cross, and on several occasions she had seen Hitler at close quarters when he was visiting wounded Wehrmacht soldiers. In later years she would often say, "Once seen, the face of Hitler was never forgotten." After the war Mafalda moved to Argentina, and by the beginning of 1951 she was working as a nurse in the Arustiza y Varando private hospital.
One day, a German rancher was brought in for treatment for a gunshot wound, and a few days later three other Germans arrived to visit the patient. It was noticeable that two of them treated the third one as "the boss." Mafalda had to choke back an involuntary cry of amazement when she recognized him as. .h.i.tler. He had no moustache and was somewhat graying, but she had no doubt that it was him. Shocked, Mrs. Batinic told the owners of the clinic, Drs. Arustiza and Varando; they watched him and were surprised, but did nothing. Apart from greeting the patient, Hitler hardly said a word. When the three Germans left, Mrs. Batinic asked the patient the ident.i.ty of his important visitor. Realizing that she had already recognized the Fuhrer, the injured rancher told his nurse, "Look, it's. .h.i.tler, but don't say anything. You know they're looking for him, it's better not to say anything."
KEY SIGHTINGS OF Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in Argentina post-World War II.
THE GERMAN n.a.z.iS WERE NOT THE ONLY FASCISTS to escape to Argentina after the war. One of their most bloodthirsty allies had been Ante Paveli, the leader of the Ustae regime in the short-lived puppet state established by the Germans in Croatia. Styling himself the Poglavnik (equivalent to Fuhrer), Paveli had been responsible for the murders of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children of Serbian, Jewish, and other origins in the ethnic jigsaw puzzle of wartime Yugoslavia; even some members of the Gestapo had thought Ustae methods "b.e.s.t.i.a.l." Croatia was historically a Roman Catholic region, and contacts in the Vatican enabled Paveli and his whole cabinet, followed later by his wife, Mara, and their children, to travel along the ratlines to Argentina. The Peron government issued 34,000 visas to Croats in the years after the war. Indirectly, Paveli's escape from justice led to some of the clearest eyewitness testimony to Hitler's presence in Argentina in 195354.
A carpenter named Hernan Ancin met the Hitlers on several occasions in the 1950s, while he was working for Paveli as a carpenter in the Argentine coastal city of Mar del Plata. The Croatian former dictator had a property development business there. Paveli was known as "Don Lorenzo," but one of his bodyguards said he had been president of Croatia. (Unsurprisingly, Hernan Ancin had never heard of him before-Paveli was living under an a.s.sumed name and heavily protected, but he was not well known in Argentina for his crimes.) Ancin worked for Paveli's company from the middle of 1953 to September or October 1954. In the southern summer of 1953, the Hitlers were regular visitors to the building site where Ancin was working. On the first occasion when the carpenter saw the two former dictators together, Hitler arrived with his wife and three bodyguards.
Hitler was clearly not well; he could barely walk unaided, and his bodyguards practically carried him. These meetings were held in private, but both leaders' security men were constantly present. Ancin said Hitler seemed dependent on his bodyguards, who set his schedule. He and Paveli would converse until one of the guards said words to the effect of "that's enough," and then they would leave.
Like most other people who gave descriptions of Hitler after the war, Ancin said that while the Fuhrer's appearance had changed, he was "basically the same. He had white, short hair, cut military style. No moustache." One particular moment stuck out in Ancin's memory. "When Hitler [arrived] he raised the closed fist of his right hand with his arm extended. Paveli went to him and put his hand on Hitler's fist, enclosing it. Afterward, they smiled, and Paveli shook hands with Hitler. This was always the greeting."
Ancin saw Hitler with Paveli on five or six occasions. Paveli's Argentine mistress (a woman from Cordoba named Maria Rosa Gel) practically never intervened in their conversations, simply serving the coffee. Hitler's wife also kept silent; Eva had not aged well, and she was unable to lose the weight she had gained when her second daughter was born late in 1945. Ancin said: Hitler's wife was a little heavy. She seemed to be just over forty years old. She was large, well-fed you could say. She wore work clothes, very cheap, beige, just like his. She was a woman who gave you the feeling that she had suffered a great deal, or at least that she was suffering from something, because it was reflected in her face. She always seemed worried, and almost never smiled.
From Ancin's testimony it seems that the conversation was carried out for the most part in Spanish. "Hitler's wife, I don't remember-I a.s.sume she spoke a bit of Spanish, because she always said 'thank you for the coffee.' ... Hitler spoke Spanish with difficulty, and had a strong German accent." At one of these meetings, Paveli introduced Hernan Ancin to Hitler as the carpenter who was working on the building, and invited him to join them for coffee. Hitler smiled at Ancin and made a gesture of greeting with his head, but did not offer his hand or speak. Ancin was "totally convinced" that the man was. .h.i.tler.
He also saw Hitler elsewhere in Mar del Plata, at an old colonial-style house behind the San Martin Park. He saw Hitler's car enter, and the guards at the door; he was not sure if Hitler lived there or was simply visiting (the house was in fact a Lahusen property). While in the city Hitler always traveled by car, but on one occasion the carpenter saw him near the sh.o.r.e; he had gotten out of the car and was sitting on a bench contemplating the sea. Ancin thought Hitler had problems with his circulation and could not walk far; he dragged his feet, and Eva held his arm when he walked. In contrast to Paveli, whom the retired carpenter remembered as rude and hard-eyed, Ancin recalled Hitler as having "light eyes, a friendly gaze-[he was] quiet and very polite."
Both Hitler and Paveli disappeared from Mar del Plata in August or September 1954.
HITLER'S DETERIORATING HEALTH, and the fading of any fanatical dream of expanding a "Fourth Reich in the South" that had never really existed, led to a steady running down of activity at the Center during the early 1950s. Naturally, as time pa.s.sed and reality sank in, many of the formerly committed n.a.z.is became preoccupied with their new lives and jobs, and the appeal of working for a defeated leader and ideology simply dissipated. Even SS Gen. Ludolf von Alvensleben, who had become a firm friend of Juan Peron during their skiing trips together at San Carlos de Bariloche, resigned from his post as "governor" of the valley community in October 1952. He took up a post in Buenos Aires as President Peron's "Head of the Department for Fishing, Hunting and Yachting for Area R10111," and Peron also granted him a new ident.i.ty in the name of Carlos Luecke.
Prominent among the few still keeping the flame alive was a man who was not a wanted war criminal, but a famous combat airman. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the Stuka dive-bomber and tank-buster ace who had lost a leg when he was shot down late in the war, was n.a.z.i Germany's most decorated pilot. Even so, he had moved to Argentina in 1948 and become a confidant of both Hitler and President Peron. Still nurturing dreams of a sort of "Fascist Internationale," Rudel was in touch with Sir Oswald Mosley, prewar leader of the British Union of Fascists, and with the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Mosley and Rudel met in Buenos Aires in 1950, and in Britain two years later Mosley published Rudel's wartime memoir, Stuka Pilot, under the imprint of Euphorion Books-a company that he had set up with his aristocratic wife, nee Diana Mitford. The book included fulsome praise for the principles of National Socialism; one must suspect that the legless British fighter ace Douglas Bader, who contributed a foreword, was manipulated into doing so on the pretext that this was simply the flying memoir of a one-legged airman. Rudel was an unrepentant n.a.z.i whose only regret was that Germany had lost the war. During his time in Argentina he met regularly with Heinrich "Gestapo" Muller, whom he used as a reference and contact point, and would have also met with Hitler. In 1953, Rudel returned to West Germany, where he made a failed attempt to launch the belligerently named Deutsche Reichspartei.
IF ANCIN HAD THOUGHT EVA HITLER LOOKED SAD, it was hardly surprising. She had been a high-spirited, shallow-minded young woman who loved lively company and parties, and her life on the sprawling, isolated estate at Inalco was not what she had hoped for. Her formerly beloved "Mr. Wolf," once so impressive at the center of his fawning court, was now constantly ill or busy in mundane meetings, and the shine had quickly worn off a remote rural life spent caring for two young children. It is widely doc.u.mented that despite the demonic energy and conviction that Hitler could display, both publicly and within his close circle, when his emotions were engaged, he was a fundamentally lazy man, easily distracted from practical work by resentments and abstract preoccupations. Without even the illusion of controlling great events, or a circle of toadies to play up to his pretensions, he must have been wretched company indeed for a woman who could feel her youth fading. Since her "death" in the Fuhrerbunker, n.o.body had been looking for a young mother with two children, so Eva's relocation under another false ident.i.ty would not present any great difficulty. Probably in 1954, after their return from the dismal holiday at the Lahusen-owned house in Mar del Plata (during which Hitler's meetings with Paveli had been observed by Hernan Ancin), Eva finally left Inalco and Hitler. She and her daughters moved to Neuquen, a quiet but growing town about 230 miles northeast of San Carlos de Bariloche. The "Organization" would, as always, continue to look after them.
MARTIN BORMANN STAYED OUT OF POLITICS. His interest now lay purely in protecting and multiplying the Organization's funds. His trips to the valley became less and less frequent, as he distanced himself and his network from the ailing Hitler. He spent much of his time in Buenos Aires; his front was a company that manufactured refrigerators, behind which he extended his financial dealings across the world. His regular meetings with President Peron were detailed by Jorge Silvio Adeodato Colotto, the head of Peron's personal police bodyguard from 1951 until the coup against him in September 1955. Now eighty-seven, well over six feet tall, dressed smartly, and carrying a pocket Derringer pistol, Colotto remains an impressive figure, lucid and happy to talk to us about his time as the head of the former Argentine president's personal security detail.
Colotto explained that while he was with Peron he wrote down every interesting episode about the president, including many one-liners, on small pieces of paper-and he had stored them all in a can! From this unusual archive of 6,200 papers, which Colotto had itemized and translated into an as-yet unpublished English-language book, came his recollection of a key encounter.
Colotto was present on one occasion in the spring of 1953 at Peron's house on Teodoro Garcia Street in Belgrano, an exclusive suburb of Buenos Aires. This was the house that the n.a.z.i "amba.s.sador" Ludwig Freude had given to Evita as a wedding present in 1945. The twice-widowed president, who now used it for private meetings and romantic liaisons, would arrive wearing a hat and gla.s.ses as a disguise. (Another frequent visitor was the shipping magnate Alberto Dodero. He had fallen out with Peron in 1949 when the president nationalized his shipping interests at a fraction of their true value, but the rift did not last long.) On this occasion, Colotto was on duty at the house when Peron told him, "Bormann is coming at 8:00 p.m. Be careful-he is German, not Argentine, and they are punctual." At 8:00 sharp, Colotto was waiting at the door when Bormann arrived in a taxi. They shook hands, and the bodyguard showed him through to the president's living room. Colotto remembers the Reichsleiter as "all German." Bormann had grown a moustache and was wearing a jacket and tie. He spoke very little Spanish, but could make himself understood. Peron was in his office, and the bodyguard went to tell him his guest had arrived. When they met in the living room they greeted each other with a tight hug, like old friends; then they went to the office, where they stayed until 10:00 p.m. As the house was used mainly for clandestine meetings, Colotto said security was minimal. "There were two agents outside during the day when Peron was not there. But when Peron was there, the agents were dismissed. I was the only guard in the house when Peron was there." Peron's butler Romano and cook Fransisca were also in the house; the president was going to invite Bormann to stay for dinner, but the visitor said he had other commitments. When the two of them came out of the office, Peron told Colotto to "walk with Mr. Bormann" to Cabildo, an avenue three hundreds yards from the house, to get him a taxi. When Colotto returned, President Peron said, "Bormann gave me an undeserved present." He did not say what it was, but Colotto guessed that it could have only been something small and valuable.
Colotto saw Bormann at the house on a second occasion during the weeks that followed, and the German's presence in the capital became part of his working life. Bormann kept a suite at the luxurious Plaza Hotel, facing the Plaza San Martin at the end of Calle Florida, the world-famous shopping avenue in Buenos Aires. Colotto would go to the Plaza Hotel every month to pay Bormann's expenses and accommodation with money that Peron gave him in a brown envelope. Bormann's mistress, a German-Brazilian named Alicia Magnus, stayed there with him. Located across the plaza from the hotel are the impressive buildings of the Circulo Militar (a military club founded in 1881) and the Argentine Foreign Ministry, in an area that is also close to the banking district. Colotto thought Bormann held regular business meetings at the Circulo Militar.
ANOTHER WOMAN IN BUENOS AIRES who was convinced she knew Martin Bormann well was Araceli Mendez, who had arrived in Argentina from Spain in 1947 when she was twenty-four. She met him in 1952 at a cafe in Buenos Aires; when he needed someone to write letters and doc.u.ments in good Spanish, she introduced him to her brother. Araceli said that the relationship deepened; they became good friends, and she went to work for him. He told her that he was a senior n.a.z.i and that the Curia (the Vatican papal court) had helped him to reach Argentina-he had been very specific about this phrasing. He also said that he had been in the hospital and had work done to alter his hairline.
Bormann apparently had four or five different pa.s.sports; Araceli knew him as Ricardo Bauer, but he would also use the name Daniel Teofilo Guillermo Deprez, from Belgium. Under that name he was the owner of a factory that produced "Apis" refrigerators, on Ministro Brin Street in La.n.u.s, Buenos Aires. Araceli Mendez ended up doing bookkeeping work for him in an office at Pasaje Barolo, and she claimed that he then began to woo her (his greed for s.e.x seems to have been as great as his personal financial avarice). She witnessed many of his financial dealings; he once received a bank transfer for US $400,000 from Europe. He told her that he had shares in a factory in Belgium and another in Holland and that this transfer and many others were part of his profits. Bormann had also brought many precious stones from Europe, including one diamond that he sold in Buenos Aires for US $120,000.
THE RELEASED FBI FILES on sightings of Hitler in South America, spa.r.s.e as they are, are relatively extensive when compared to the mere dribble of information that has come out of the Central Intelligence Agency, but one report from the agency's Los Angeles office does stand out. This allegedly placed the Fuhrer in Colombia in January 1955. While ultimately unconvincing, it is unusual in that it contains a very poor quality photostat of a photograph, alleged by the CIA informant's contact (a former SS man named as Phillip Citroen) to show Hitler, using the ident.i.ty of one Adolf Schuttelmayer (on the written report, shown on page 282, it is spelled "Schrittelmayor"). In the photo "Hitler"-who at this date would have been sixty-five-still has dark hair and the cla.s.sic moustache, and it is thus at odds with other, apparently better-founded testimonies. The picture is marked "Colombia, Tunga, America del Sur, 1954." There is a town of Tunja in central Colombia, but it has no known n.a.z.i affiliations; indeed, after World War II it became home to many Jewish refugees from Europe.
The "secret" CIA report bears a disclaimer that neither the unnamed informant nor the Los Angeles station is "in a position to give an intelligent evaluation of the information and it is being forwarded as of possible interest." Even so, the fact that the CIA's Los Angeles office thought it worthwhile to do so is significant. Neither the FBI nor the CIA seems to have been convinced by the declaration, made with absolute confidence nearly ten years earlier by the British historian and former intelligence officer Hugh Trevor-Roper, that Hitler had died in the bunker-an a.s.sertion made despite a complete lack of forensic evidence.
A CIA DOc.u.mENT from 1955, detailing a report that Hitler was in Colombia.
UNDER THE PROTECTION OF PRESIDENT PERoN, Argentina had become a haven for German, French, Belgian, and Croatian fascists. They would meet Peron in his official residence, the Casa Rosada, facing the square at the eastern end of the Plaza de Mayo. Rodolfo Freude, son of Ludwig and friend of Evita's brother Juan Duarte, managed the secret network of former n.a.z.is' contacts with the regime. He had risen to become Peron's chief of presidential intelligence and had an office in the Casa Rosada.
Juan Peron was reelected president in June 1952 by a margin of over 30 percent (this was the first time that Argentine women had been able to vote). A month later, on July 26, 1952, his charismatic wife Evita died of cancer at the young age of thirty-three. By the time of her death she had spent much of the stolen money that she, in her turn, had stolen from Bormann, mostly to finance philanthropic work for the Argentine poor-her descamisados (literally, "shirtless"). The country went into mourning. Crowds kept vigil throughout the night in front of the presidential palace and later in front of the Ministry of Labor, where she was taken to lie in state. Carrying candles, people knelt in prayer in the wet streets, and women cried openly. On July 27, the whole country came to a standstill.
"Little Eva" had been Juan Peron's lucky charm and his main hold on public affection. By 1955, much of the money the couple had taken had run out, and without her by his side his luck ran out with it. His economic reforms had divided the country, and a number of terrorist attacks and consequent reprisals were moving Argentine politics rapidly in the direction of yet another revolution. Ironically, the last straw was not some new oppressive measure, but Peron's liberalizing plan to legalize divorce and prost.i.tution. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, whose support for the president had been dwindling, now began to call him "The Tyrant."
A serious blow to Peron's popularity with those who worshipped the memory of Evita was a scandal, aired in the gossip pages of the press, concerning the fifty-nine-year-old president's relationship with a thirteen-year-old girl named Nelly Rivas. He misjudged the public mood when he replied to reporters' questioning about his girlfriend's age, "So what? I'm not superst.i.tious." But his sense of humor soon failed him, and in response to what he perceived as the church's support for the opposition he expelled two Catholic priests from the country. Pope Pius XII retaliated by excommunicating Juan Peron on June 15, 1955.
The following day, navy jet fighters flown by rebel officers bombed a pro-Peron rally in the Plaza de Mayo opposite the Casa Rosada, reportedly killing no fewer than 364 people. Maddened Peronist crowds went on a rampage, burning the Metropolitan Cathedral and ten other churches in Buenos Aires. Exactly three months later, on September 16, 1955, a Catholic group from the army and navy led by Generals Eduardo Lonardi and Pedro Aramburu, and Adm. Isaac Rojas, launched a coup from Argentina's second city of Cordoba. It took them only three days to seize power.
Peron-who had himself come to power through the military coup of 1943-had never been blind to the danger of revolution. On Martin Bormann's advice he had built his very own "Fuhrerbunker." On the ground floor of the Alas building at Avenida Leandro N. Alem in San Nicolas, Buenos Aires, a secret pa.s.sage led to an underground vault lined with rosewood. A bedroom there had silk pajamas, an emergency supply of oxygen, and a walk-in wall safe. At the back of the safe was a plaster wall, concealing a long underground pa.s.sage leading to a secret exit in the docks of Puerto Madero. It is not known if Peron used the bunker to escape through the cordon of troops closing in on him. It is known that he made it to Puerto Madero. Waiting there for Peron was a gunboat sent by Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Without bothering to collect his teenage lover, the once-and-future president fled the country.
THE "REVOLUCIoN LIBERTADORA" sent shockwaves through the n.a.z.i community in Argentina. Bormann issued instructions to close the operations in the Estancia Inalco valley and arranged for Hitler to move to a smaller house where he could live in complete obscurity. Now accompanied only by his two closest aides-his personal physician, Dr. Otto Lehmann, and the former Admiral Graf Spee petty officer Heinrich Bethe-Hitler moved to a property called La Clara, even deeper within the Patagonian countryside. Bormann was the only one within the Organization who knew its location, and he told everyone else that this was necessary for the Fuhrer's security. Once again, he completely controlled access to Hitler. The frail, rapidly aging Hitler was now nothing more than a distracting problem for the international businessman Martin Bormann-a problem that time would solve, as the Fuhrer faded away into an exile within an exile.
GHOSTS IN THE SHADOWS.
LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT HITLER'S PERSONAL PHYSICIAN, Dr. Otto Lehmann. "Lehmann" may or may not have been his true name. From what can be gleaned from the little doc.u.mentation that exists, he had been a n.a.z.i Party member from the early years, but had not held a senior military position in the Reich. During the last years of the war he had apparently been involved in a review of the Wehrmacht medical corps. He said he had been captured by the Allies immediately after the war, but after an arrest warrant was issued for him by the Soviets, he managed to escape. He arrived at Estancia Inalco in 1947, via the Vatican-controlled escape route, and was immediately appointed as the medical officer for "Adolf Hitler's Valley." A man of few words, Lehmann avoided political discussions at the Center, preferring to spend his leisure time reading and writing.
Otto Lehmann's supposed memoir detailing his life as. .h.i.tler's physician was preserved by the Admiral Graf Spee sailor Heinrich Bethe, with whom Lehmann shared the care of the sick and aging Hitler. Bethe is believed to have handed over the "Lehmann papers" to Capt. Manuel Monasterio, who befriended Bethe in the late 1970s (the captain said the papers were unfortunately lost during many house moves over a long life). Monasterio's 1987 book, Hitler murio en la Argentina, incorporates both the Lehmann papers and Bethe's recollections, which he shared with Monasterio (see Chapter 18) The Lehmann papers, as recounted in the Monasterio book, are not a straightforward narrative; they are full of references to mysticism, the occult, and the radical thinkers behind the growth of National Socialism in Germany in the 1920s. Lehmann appears to have known many of these figures well. His strange ramblings, which make Hitler out to be some sort of medium for occult powers determined to destroy the earth, come across simply as an absurd apologia for the all-too-human evil of the Holocaust. (At one stage Lehmann even suggested that there was some sort of "magical battle" between Hitler and occultists in Great Britain who managed to save the country from invasion in 1940.) Hitler murio en la Argentina also relates Lehmann's observations of Hitler's decline; Lehmann laid much blame at the door of Dr. Theodor Morrell, the society "pox doctor" (a pract.i.tioner who treats s.e.xually transmitted diseases) who had been introduced to the Fuhrer by the photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and his a.s.sistant Eva Braun in 1936. Lehmann accused Morrell of "the dangerous administration of drugs and other substances of dubious effect." He gave his fellow medical man some credit for apparently resolving some of Hitler's gastric problems, but said that the treatments had left Hitler's already delicate nervous system "chronically affected" and that Morrell had "severely poisoned tissue that could not easily recover." Lehmann also accused Morrell of having administered "hallucinogenic substances" to increase his control over his patient.
IN MONASTERIO'S BOOK, Lehmann's notes on Hitler's condition grow more detailed after the move to La Clara in 1955. Adolf Hitler had turned sixty-six, and his health, which had improved when he first arrived in Argentina, now began to decline. Numerous medical historians have theorized that Parkinson's disease had affected Hitler since perhaps the 1930s; after 1950 his symptoms worsened, and he now spent a large part of his time resting or brooding. Politics were becoming less and less important. Bormann, whom he still trusted, had told him that the fall of Peron threatened great danger to the Organization, but, due to his growing depression, the aging dictator was no longer in a condition or a position to do anything about it. Deprived of contact with the outside world and no longer at the head of any sort of effective network, he was left in solitary retirement.
The captain writes that, according to Dr. Lehmann, Hitler's days were mundane. Normally he would appear on the scene a little before noon. After greeting Lehmann and Bethe, he would take a walk with his dog-the second in the line of Blondis. For the rest of the day he alternated between resting, chatting with his two companions, or taking more walks. After dinner he maintained rambling "work" meetings with Bethe, which often kept the sailor up until three or four in the morning. Lehmann said that Hitler's spirits would sometimes "bloom again," but only briefly. His nervous system had been damaged permanently, and as the years dragged by, "melancholy" became his most common state.
The three men talked a lot. Lehmann described the little group as "strange," "banished," and removed from all external events. From his notes, the doctor's feelings about Hitler seem to have been complex. He expressed the normal concern of any doctor for his patient, but at other times he reviled Hitler as a "monstrous dictator who has now lost his mask and his uniform." He was also dismissive about Heinrich Bethe, "a man who appears to have died years ago." His own plight prompted Lehmann to outbursts of self-pity-he was "an old, forgotten doctor who has found himself, in the final stage of his life, in circ.u.mstances that inevitably are just too much for him."
ON HIS SIXTY-SEVENTH BIRTHDAY, April 20, 1956, Hitler was expecting to receive four important guests (Lehmann did not mention who they were). Hitler had been informed that he would be given a thorough briefing on the n.a.z.i Party's situation-but in any event, no one arrived. It was then, for the first time, that Hitler began to suspect that Bormann had finally betrayed him. In September of that year he had to take to his bed due to a heart complaint. Dr. Lehmann forbade him to indulge in any kind of worry, and he abandoned thoughts of politics for good.
Lehmann recalled that at the start of November 1956, Bormann, who had been visiting Chile, arrived at La Clara. At first, he was received coolly by Hitler. They talked for more than three hours, and at the end of the meeting Hitler once again appeared optimistic; his old deputy had a.s.sured him that the Organization was once more moving ahead solidly. Bormann stayed for two days, and on the morning of his departure he took Bethe aside. After thanking the sailor for his invaluable services to the cause, he begged him not to worry Hitler with questions of any sort, and to try to make him live as quietly as possible. Bormann said that the day would arrive when Hitler would speak to the world once again, but for now the most important thing was his health.
Hitler's optimism did not last; he was beset many times by the idea of suicide, from which he was dissuaded by Lehmann and Bethe-by now his closest companions. Unlike eyewitnesses in the bunker, who suggested that up until April 28, 1945, Hitler was tired but otherwise in complete control, Lehmann believed that Hitler had thought of suicide before: "An identical suicidal mania attacked him in the bunker in 1945, but at that stage Bormann still considered Hitler key to his post-war plans, and prevented what would have meant a severe setback for the ambitions of organized n.a.z.ism to become reality." However, we must recall that Lehmann had not been in the bunker himself.
IN THIS WEIRD LIMBO IN WHICH HE WAS TRAPPED with two such ill-a.s.sorted companions, Hitler also had some surprising confessions to make. He told Bethe of a love affair he had had with a "true representative of the Aryan race," the athlete Tilly Fleischer. This n.a.z.i Olympian had won gold for her javelin-throwing at the infamous Munich games of 1936, and Joseph Goebbels had introduced her to the Fuhrer. Immediately smitten, Hitler installed her in a country house on the outskirts of Berlin. The romantic interlude lasted eight months, but when Hitler found out that Tilly was expecting a baby, he asked his friend Dr. Fritz Heuser to marry her. Heuser obliged, and when Tilly was five months pregnant he was amply compensated for his "patriotic" a.s.sistance by being appointed chief supervisor of the medical service throughout the Frankfurt area. When the Third Reich collapsed in 1945, Dr. Heuser obtained a divorce, packed his bags, and left Germany. Hitler had only once seen the child, who was named Gisela.
Bethe, who revered Hitler as a G.o.d and had dedicated his life to the n.a.z.i cause, was shocked by this revelation. He remembered another story that had appeared in October 1946. The wife of Hitler's former secretary of state, Otto Meissner, astonished the world with a claim that Magda Goebbels had had a son by Hitler in 1935, the result of a pa.s.sionate affair while both were vacationing on the Baltic Sea in the summer of 1934. Frau Meissner claimed that Magda herself had told her that Hitler was Helmut Goebbels's true father. Magda killed Hitler's son in the bunker along with her five daughters before she and her husband committed suicide.
HITLER TRIED TO REVISIT HIS OLD Pa.s.sION for painting, but Parkinson's disease made holding a brush almost impossible. The doctor described him as in a state of near collapse, complaining of "sharp neuralgic pains in his face" caused by a botched operation to remove the splinters driven into it by Stauffenberg's bomb. Hitler also suffered from migraines that became stronger and more prolonged with time. According to Monasterio, Lehmann, who had an old-fashioned turn of phrase, admitted, "Oh G.o.d, help me! At times I have felt a strange pleasure in the face of the terrible sufferings of this man. It has seemed to me that all the incalculable blood spilt clamors from the arteries of the Earth for vengeance on Hitler's person."
The years between 1957 and 1961 pa.s.sed with dreary monotony while Lehmann detailed a steady decline in Hitler's physical and mental state. One night, just before dawn in late January 1962, he and Bethe heard "horrifying moans" and went to Hitler's bedroom. He was sitting on the edge of his bed in "a deplorable state of nervous depression." Scattered on the bed next to him were photos of the aftermath of the war. Lehmann claimed that one of them showed "a group of ma.s.sacred Jewish children." Hitler was crying rhythmically, rocking back and forth on the edge of his bed, and did not even notice their presence.
Nowhere in Lehmann's memoirs was there any suggestion that Hitler either did not know of the Holocaust or had not been central to its planning. The doctor's diary made many references to Hitler's complete and total hatred of the Jewish race-a point of view, incidentally, that Dr. Lehmann shared, although he wrapped it up in esoteric pseudo-intellectual language.
As January 1962 progressed, Hitler's mental and physical condition deteriorated more rapidly, and his face became partially paralyzed. He spent hours sitting watching the horizon of lake and mountain, like "a person possessed." Lehmann felt that there was nothing to do but wait, until "the ghosts of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Treblinka and so many others end up dragging him from this life. It won't be long now." For several nights. .h.i.tler suffered hallucinations of "mutilated faces, fields blanketed with cadavers rising up to accuse him with trembling gestures." He could hardly sleep; despite the efforts of both Lehmann and Bethe, he refused to eat, and he spent his time "between sobs remembering the days of his infancy."
On February 12, 1962, at midday, the seventy-two-year-old Hitler collapsed as his two caregivers were helping him to the bathroom. Three hours later he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. After spending a restless night, the dictator slipped into a coma. On February 13, 1962, at 3:00 p.m., Dr. Lehmann verified that all signs of life were absent.
WITH HITLER'S DEATH, Otto Lehmann and Heinrich Bethe were no longer useful to the Organization; they had become nothing more than mouths to be silenced. Knowing this, Lehmann warned Bethe to escape. Taking with him Lehmann's papers and some other minor doc.u.ments, Bethe managed to elude Muller and Bormann's network of killers and spies. Having changed his name to Juan Paulovsky, he died on the outskirts of the small Patagonian coastal town of Caleta Olivia in 1977. It seems that Dr. Lehmann was not so lucky; he disappeared shortly after Hitler's death, probably murdered on Bormann's orders. It was the final act in the life and death of Adolf Hitler in Argentina.
Bormann's and Muller's trail ran out later. In 1971, the Boston Globe of Monday July 26 quoted Zwy Aldouby, a former Israeli Intelligence officer and co-author of a 1960 book on Adolf Eichmann ent.i.tled Minister of Death, as saying that Martin Bormann lived on a ranch in Paraguay. The author Ladislas Farago said he had seen Bormann personally-seemingly senile and having lost the will to live-in a remote part of Bolivia the same year. With Juan Domingo's Peron's return to power on June 20, 1973, Farago said Bormann moved back to Argentina and lived in a house north of the affluent San Isidro district in Buenos Aires. The Reichsleiter was still there when Farago wrote his book in June 1974.
Paul Manning wrote that Bormann, born in 1900, was still alive in 1980 in Argentina, as was Heinrich "Gestapo" Mueller who had been born in the same year as his boss. There are no reliable reports of the ultimate end of either of these senior n.a.z.is.
IN HIS MEMOIRS, ALBERT SPEER recalled a conversation he had with Adolf Hitler in November 1936 concerning the Thousand-Year Reich. Hitler was standing before the ma.s.sive picture window of his Berghof retreat and staring at his beloved Bavarian Alpine mountainscape, a landscape eerily similar to the view from his Patagonian home at Inalco. Hitler stated, "There are two possibilities for me. To win through with all my plans or to fail. If I win, I shall be one of the greatest men in history. If I fail, I shall be condemned, despised, and d.a.m.ned." To this day, the world condemns, despises, and d.a.m.ns Adolf Hitler and his utterly evil regime.
Yet, as the failed and faded Fuhrer died in Argentina, tormented, demented, and betrayed, seventeen years after fleeing from the bunker in which the world believed he had committed suicide, the words that he and Joseph Goebbels had made famous had come true: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." The world believes that Hitler died in Berlin.
Winston Churchill, Hitler's British nemesis, once famously said, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." But his archenemy had foreseen that possibility, and before Churchill wrote his history, Adolf Hitler, one of the most evil men in civilized history, pre-empted him by saying, "The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."
At the end of World War II the victors were never asked. We are asking them now.
To all the authorities and individuals in Argentina who gave their indispensable support in the realization of this project, we extend our heartfelt thanks. Their conviction that the truth should finally be told-now that Argentina has become a mature democracy-allowed us to unravel this extraordinary story.
May we also take this opportunity to thank the following people: Maria Eugenia Faveret, a translator par excellence and an organizer without peer: muchas gracias, amiga; historian and U-boat expert Innes McCartney for his extensive researches at The National Archives, Kew, London, and elsewhere; Nahuel Coca, Argentine researcher and journalist extraordinaire, for all his help in Buenos Aires; aviation and Luftwaffe expert Tony Holmes; Philip Brace and the staff of the Ministry of Defence main library for obtaining a host of obscure and esoteric books and doc.u.ments from a variety of sources; the staff of The National Archives in Kew for their unfailing a.s.sistance; Carolina Varasavsky for all her invaluable support; Capt. Manuel Monasterio for his courage in publishing Dr. Otto Lehmann's and Heinrich Bethe's stories at his own expense even when his life was threatened; Jorge Elbaum of the Delegacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas for opening the organization's files and for its offers of security; noted Argentine television host Adrian Korol and his delightful life partner Silvina Shina for their help, introductions, and some of the best steaks we have ever eaten; and casting director, acting coach, and great friend Mariana "La China" Shina for everything.
Our thanks to the team at Greene Media, who had the vision to embrace this extraordinary story. At Sterling Publishing we would like to thank Marcus Leaver, president; Jason Prince, publisher; Michael Fragnito, editorial director; Elizabeth Mihaltse, art director, trade covers; and Blanca Oliviery, publicist. We would also like to acknowledge the packaging team at Buoy Point Media: Lary Rosenblatt, Fabia Wargin, and Laurie Lieb; and Amy King, for the striking cover design.
And finally, but not least, thanks to our brilliant editor at Sterling, Barbara Berger, who checked and re-checked our findings and made the whole thing readable.
-SIMON DUNSTAN AND GERRARD WILLIAMS I am grateful to the Argentine cast and crew on the film Grey Wolf-too many to mention individually, but to all, my grat.i.tude for your professionalism and friendship; Robert Stubbs and Ian Hall for all their help; Simon Goldberg, my lawyer in London, for his help and patience; Russell Tenzer for his long friendship, help, and advice; Eduardo Martin Boneo Villegas; Cuini Amelio Ortiz, filmmaker and chronicler of the Eichhorns' activities; James Rainbird, a.s.sistant director, composer, and great friend; and the Norris family for such unfailing friendship and support.
Let me thank, too, my father, ex-Sgt. Maj. Len Williams, and my mother, Mary, who both fought fascism in World War II and who would be disgusted at the truth. To them and all the others who took up arms from around the world, we should all be grateful.
To the memory of three wonderful people who were there at the beginning but did not live to see it happen: Bill Stout, a great cameraman, brother, and companion on more adventures than I care to remember; J.J. Swart, another great cameraman, chef, and friend; and one of the best women in the world, Tina Murdoch. I miss them all.
Above all I wish to acknowledge the extraordinary fort.i.tude of my beautiful wife, Ginny, and my children Nick and Bex. Without their faith and support, none of this could ever have happened. And to Magnus Peterson-my benefactor, supporter, and convivial companion throughout the trials and tribulations of this project-go my thanks, best wishes, and undying friendship.
xix "facilitated the flight of hundreds of erstwhile n.a.z.is": The Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust, Department of Justice, Criminal Division, 2006. See http://doc.u.ments.nytimes.com/confidential-report-provides-new-evidence-of-notorious-n.a.z.i-cases?ref=us#p=1; see also http://www.archives.gov/iwg/decla.s.sified-records/rg-330-defense-secretary/. See also Mark Aarons, Sanctuary: n.a.z.i Fugitives in Australia (Melbourne: William Heinemann Australia, 1989), and Stephen Tyas, "British Intelligence and the n.a.z.i Recruit," History Today 54, 2004, http://www.historytoday.com/stephen-tyas/british-intelligence-and-n.a.z.i-recruit.
xix John Demjanjuk: New York Times, "Demjanjuk Convicted for Role in n.a.z.i Death Camp," May 12, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/world/europe/13n.a.z.i.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Demjanjuk&st=cse.
xxi "Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka": James P. O'Donnell, The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978).
xxii "We found no corpse that could be Hitler's": Marshal Georgi Zhukov, quoted on June 6, 1945, by United Press Berlin, Miami Daily News, "Hitler May Have Fled with Bride Before Fall of Berlin," June 10, 1945, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qE8yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yecFAAAAIBAJ&