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On one side of the argument we have this:
By Guy Walters World Last updated: December 1st, 2010 in The Telegraph
A great movie, perhaps, but not great history
I see that today’s papers are full of accounts of Gudrun Burwitz, the daughter of Heinrich Himmler, and her organisation Stille Hilfe (Silent Help), that is reputed to help Nazis on the run. Predictably, the reports mention how Stille Hilfe co-operates with the ‘Odessa’, the clandestine Nazi escape network. I’m not qualified to discuss the activities of Stille Hilfe, but I do know a thing or two about the ‘Odessa’, and I believe the organisation is more the product of fantasy than reality. I apologise that this is a longish post, but it’s a subject close to my professional heart, and nothing gets my goat more than when people talk knowledgeably about ‘Odessa’.
The most obvious problem with Odessa is the name. If you were organising a super secret escape network for SS men, would you really label yourself with an acronym that stood for ‘Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen’ – the Organisation of Former SS Members? No, I thought not.
The truth about the Nazi escape organizations, beneath the mushroom clouds of smoke, is that they were similar to an old-boy network, or perhaps even the loose web of terrorist cells and groups that are today placed under the name of al-Qaeda. After the war, there were countless organizations that assisted escaping Nazis, and some of these groups had names – such as ‘Konsul’, ‘Scharnhorst’, ‘Sechsgestirn’, ‘Leibwache’, ‘Lustige Brüder’ – and some did not. Instead of one big fire under the smoke, there were instead many small ones, the combination of their multiple and toxic emissions suggestive of a single large inferno. Assistance would also be provided on an ad hoc basis, sometimes by an individual or a handful of individuals rather than by a coordinated group. [more]
On the other side of the argument we have this:
As early as 1947, Simon Wiesenthal began to identify escape routes used by Nazis to escape from Germany. The main route he discovered was from the small Bavarian town of Memmingen to Innsbruck, Austria. From there, it was possible to cross into Italy over the Brenner pass. Wiesenthal later learned the Nazis referred to this as the “B-B” route, from Bremen in Germany to the Italian port of Bari. He also knew that the fugitives had little or no difficulty obtaining false papers and seemed to have enough money available in their new home to establish comfortable new lives. Wiesenthal concluded a secret organization with substantial resources had to be involved in helping fugitive Nazis. The seeds of that project were planted before World War II ended.
By 1944 it was clear that the fortunes of war had turned against Nazi Germany. Many Germans began to anticipate defeat and to plan for that eventuality. On August 10, 1944, a secret meeting of top German industrialists and bankers was held at the Maison Rouge hotel in Strasbourg to devise a means of insuring a secure future for Nazis. Among those attending were coal tycoon Emil Kirdorf, Georg von Schnitzler of IG Farben, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, steel magnate, Fritz Thyssen, and banker Kurt von Schroeder.
The Nazis recognized that Germany’s assets would fall into the hands of the rapidly approaching enemy if they were not transferred and hidden. The nation’s wealth, much of it acquired through the plunder of the nations it invaded and the people the Nazis murdered, had to be transferred so they would be out of judicial reach, but accessible to fund a future movement to resurrect the party and build a new Reich. Leading Nazi officials also feared retribution from the Allies and, rather than face likely punishment for their war crimes, they decided to seek safe havens outside Germany, and beyond the reach of justice. According to the protocol from the meeting: [more]