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View Full Version : ODESSA - a fake or fact?



David Guyatt
01-21-2011, 02:00 PM
I am a recent convert to Philip Kerr's truly enjoyable Bernie Gunther novels. Kerr has, imo, a rather keen insight to pre and post WWII nazi Germany and many of the things he says are very clearly factually accurate.

In his novel "The One From the Other" his fictional character Fritz Gebauer, a former SS Obersturmbannfuhrer who was the Commandment of the Lemberg-Janowska death cap, says this:


The ODESSA and the Comradeship are two very different things. The ODESSA is largely an American-run organization, not German. At the bottom level, yes, it uses a lot of the same people who work for the Comradeship, but at the top it's CIA."

Which prompts me to ask if this is true?

Opinions seems divided.

[quote]The truth behind The Odessa File and Nazis on the run

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.
However, the records do show that there was something called ‘Odessa’. Far from being the globalized tentacled monster of popular imagination, it appeared to start as little more than a watchword, and would become a term loosely ascribed to the group that took fugitives from Germany and Austria down to Rome and Genoa, and from there to Spain and Argentina. One of the earliest recorded mentions of ‘Odessa’ is in a US Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) memo dated 3 July 1946, in which an underground organization at an SS internment camp in Auerbach was identified. It was not called ‘Odessa’, but the word was employed as a codeword in order to gain ‘special food privileges and special food consideration’ from the Red Cross in Augsburg.
The term also had currency further afield, in towns such as Kempten, Rosenheim, Mannheim and Berchtesgaden, where it was applied to small cells of unrepentant SS members in order to provide them with a feeling of solidarity. As these groups lacked any form of organization and leadership, the CIC was not overly troubled.
However, in November, the Czechs informed the Americans that they had caught wind of an organisation called ‘ODESSA’ that was operating in the British Zone of Occupation, and that it had held its first meeting in Hamburg in September. The following January, the CIC sent an agent into the internment camp at Dachau, who reported that there was an escape organization operating there under the name of ‘ODESSA’ and organised by SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny, who was himself a prisoner.
‘This is being done with the help of the Polish guards,’ the agent reported, ‘[who] are helping the men that receive orders from Skorzeny to escape.’ The informant disclosed that the organization was ‘worldwide’ and that it provided Portuguese papers for those who wished to travel to Argentina. For those who decided to stay in Germany, the group would provide employment and documentation. However, neither the Americans nor the British were able to verify any of the informant’s claims. ‘Key personalities have been closely watched,’ the CIC reported, ‘but none of their activities have extended beyond the establishment of contact with former SS personnel in their locale.’ The CIC also felt that Skorzeny’s name was simply being used for ‘backing and prestige’.
The idea that Otto Skorzeny masterminded some secret society is fanciful, not least because nearly every move he made was monitored by the Americans, and in all likelihood, several other nations. Skorzeny was also, to be frank, neither intelligent nor discreet enough to manage a clandestine escape network.
Throughout the mid-1940s, the Allied intelligence services would receive a few more reports about ‘Odessa’, but they suggested that the organization was little more than a catch-all term used by former Nazis who wished to continue the fight. Furthermore, the nature of the Odessa seemed to change depending on who was being interrogated. In December 1947, the CIC in Donauwörth questioned a former SS officer called Robert Markworth who had been arrested for attempted bribery. Markworth claimed that he was on a secret mission for the Odessa, the role of which was to infiltrate the Russian military government and had nothing to do with escaping.
Earlier that year, the Americans had been told by an informant that the way to contact the organization was simply to mingle with the crowds around a selection of mainline railway stations until ‘one was accosted by someone with the word ODESSA’. The informant, whom the Americans did not know and who had simply volunteered his information, tried his luck in Hanover, where he met a ‘Herbert Ringel’, who claimed that the aim of the Odessa was ‘the planning of an eventual revolution’. Information throughout the group was spread by a network of contacts, none of whom knew the name of the next person in the chain. The method of identification was the presence of ‘three small spots in the shape of a triangle at the base of the thumb and forefinger of the right hand’. ‘Ringel’ also showed the informant his Odessa Ausweis, which featured the supposed Odessa symbol on its cover: two crossed arrows laid over the letters ‘ODSSA’. The Americans graded the informant as ‘F3’, which indicated that his unreliability could not be judged, and that his information was possibly true.
In fact, what he had reported was highly likely to have been disinformation, and an amateur attempt at that. The notion that the Odessa would issue its members with identity documents was absurd, and the presence of the three spots equally so. It also seems implausible that a member of the Odessa would offer such secrets to a stranger at Hanover railway station.
The same year, yet another organization calling itself ‘ODESSA’ was discovered in Rosenheim by the CIC, although it seemed to consist of little more than a dozen men, some of whom had previously been imprisoned for theft and possession of arms. The CIC reported that it had penetrated the group, and it noted how the word ‘Odessa’ was used as a kind of code. The leader of the group, Hans Schuchert, was described as a ‘fanatical SS soldier who always greets his friends with “Heil Odessa”.’ At a dance at the Gasthaus Plestkeller in Ziegelberg just outside Rosenheim, Schuchert requested a number for SS members. ‘Now comes a dance for Odessa,’ he said. ‘That means for the SS.’ Although some of the guests were shocked, nobody – including some policemen present – registered any complaint.
One person who became interested in ‘Odessa’ was Simon Wiesenthal. On 3 April 1952, Wiesenthal wrote a long letter to the German journalist Ottmar Katz concerning Nazi gold and how such treasure was supposedly used to finance Nazi escape routes. In the letter, a poor copy of which is housed at the National Archives in Washington, DC, Wiesenthal tells Katz about various secret Nazi societies, such as Scharnhorst, Sechsgestirn, Edelweiss, Spinne and PAX. Wiesenthal also writes about ‘Odessa’, which, he informs Katz, is an escape organization that transported fugitives to Bishop Hudal in Rome, and from where they headed to Madrid and South America.
Wiesenthal’s source for his intelligence on the Odessa was one Wilhelm Hoettl, a former SD man who had been running highly dubious networks for the Americans until they had sacked him in September 1949. The intelligence he gathered had been evaluated as poor, and the CIC regarded Hoettl as dishonest. There was also an ongoing suspicion that he would peddle intelligence to the highest bidder, no matter on what side of the Iron Curtain the money came from.
There can also be little doubt that much of what Wiesenthal told Katz in his letter was yet more bunkum fed to him by Hoettl. It is instructive that the letter to Katz should end up in Hoettl’s file at the US National Archives. As a result, it is extremely difficult to trust anything that the gullible Wiesenthal would later present to the world concerning ‘Odessa’ and how the Nazis escaped.
Even Nazis such as Reinhold Kops, who wrote a set of candid memoirs in 1987, denied the existence of the ‘so-called Odessa organization’. Alfred Jarschel, whose fanciful Fleeing Nuremberg is full of the most outrageous stories about Nazi escapes – including the ‘flight’ of Martin Bormann – was withering about the ‘Odessa’ story, and saw it as little more than a line Wiesenthal would peddle to journalists.
Furthermore, Erich Priebke, the former Gestapo captain imprisoned in Rome, told me that Odessa is a myth. “I always say that Odessa is the invention of an Englishman,’ he said, referring to Frederick Forsyth. “I would have been lucky if somebody had helped me, but there was no Odessa.” Priebke cited the lack of financial assistance he received as evidence that the group did not exist.
Frederick Forsyth first heard of the story from an article in the Sunday Times written by Antony Terry in July 1967, in which the function of Odessa was described, and how its greatest coup had been the rescue of – who else? – Martin Bormann. Terry’s source for the story was none other than Simon Wiesenthal. Had Terry’s editor known that the ultimate source of much of the piece was a duplicitous former SD man called Wilhelm Hoettl, then he might have put the article on the spike.
Or probably not. After all, Odessa, as Frederick Forsyth knows, is a great story.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/guywalters/100066178/the-truth-behind-the-odessa-file-and-nazis-on-the-run/

Personally, I fundamentally am always suspicious of the Daily Bellylaugh. If one read the obituary they wrote of SS spy Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, you would've thought he was a much misunderstood, badly-done-to, kindly old prince.

But not so. The obit was riddled with purposeful confusion and deflections.

On the other side of the divide is this:


Postwar Arab links to the ODESSA network
Seán Mac Mathúna

Historical Society of Jews From Egypt


Gamal Abdal Nasser (1918-1970): The author Goodrick-Clarke says Nasser was "well disposed" towards the Nazis

Most people assumes that when Nazi's fled Europe after the war most of them went to Latin America, where the ruling elite's - such as the Peron's in Argentina - had always been sympathetic to Nazi ideology. Many did, but a sizable number of others find work in Egypt, notably under the regime of Gamal Abdal Nasser (1918-1970), an Egyptian army officer and political leader, who was the first president of the republic of Egypt (1956-70). In 1952 he led the coup that deposed King Farouk (another Nazi sympathizer), and later became premier (1954), and president (1956). Hitler had enjoyed quite a following among the nationalist youth of Egypt during the war, after Nassiri Nasser, the brother of Gamal had published an Arab edition of Mein Kampf in 1939, describing its author as the "strongest man of Europe".

The Nazi-Arab connection started by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, continued after the war according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke writing in Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan myth, and Neo-Nazism (New York University Press, New York, USA, 1998). The Middle East had emerged as a haven for Nazis fleeing Europe in the 1950s, which had its roots in the anti-British and pro-Nazi attitudes of Vichy Syria, Rashid Ali in Iraq, King Farouk of Egypt and the Mufti of Jerusalem.

Thus, Egypt became like Argentina, a safe-haven for Nazi's fleeing justice and retribution from the Allies in Europe. Goodrick-Clarke states that King Farouk had been "impressed" by his garage mechanics recruited from Afrika Korps POWs, and:

"Wondered what he might achieve with officers from elite units of the Gestapo and SS who had fought so hard against the hated British" (p174).
Thus, a number of "nazi experts" who had escaped the Allied dragnet were hired by the King as military, financial and technical advisers. Although King Farouk was ousted in a military coup in January 1952, the Generals of the Egyptian armed forces were themselves "great admirers" of the Nazi's and "availed themselves of further large-scale imports of ex-Nazi expertise". They were to be helped by the former Luftwaffe ace Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the ex-SS commando Otto Skorzeny (1908-1975) and Eugen Dollman in recruiting "large numbers" of former Nazi fugitives from Argentina for key posts in the new republican regime in Egypt.

It is Skorzeny who is generally credited with setting up the famous escape network to help Nazi war criminals escape Europe after the war, known as the ODESSA network. Thousands of Nazi war criminals benefited from his escape network (helped by the Vatican) and fled to Arab countries and Latin America between 1949 and 1952. The ODESSA network also had close links with the CIA - Skorzeny himself worked with the new West German intelligence service set up under CIA auspices by the former wartime German intelligence chief, Reinhard Gehlen. In fact, it was the leading CIA officer Allen Dulles who invited this SS war criminal to help reorganize the security forces of the new Egyptian Republic.

Apparently, Skorzeny was approached by Mossad while living in Spain, in 1963, and agreed to provide information on Germans working in Egypt - especially rocket scientists. Mossad sent men who were said to have posed as 'NATO officials'. One possible explanation for the Nazi's co-operation may be that the CIA's James Jesus Angleton was responsible for links to other Western agencies, and had good relations with Israel and Mossad. Apparently, the CIA chief Allen Dulles asked Gehlen to inject some "life and expertise" into the Egyptian secret service:

"Some former SS and Gestapo officers had been supplied, with a first batch of about 100 being enlisted by Otto Skorzeny in 1953" (Ian Black and Benny Morris, Israel's Secret Wars, p161)
The first victims may have been Egyptian Jews and Communists, tortured by Gestapo experts. But the Nazi network spread through the Arab world (for instance Alois Brunner in Damascus), and later probably played a part in the pogroms and massacres against the Left in Iraq following the CIA (and Nasser) - backed coup there in 1963.

As early as January 1952, the ODESSA network was in contact with "influential" Egyptian army officers and the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who had lived in Egypt since the fall of Nazi Germany. According to the Israeli intelligence agency MOSSAD and French intelligence files, numerous former SS officers held key positions in the secret service and political police in Egypt. These included:

Joachim Däumling, former Gestapo chief in Düsseldorf, and later engaged in SS operations in Croatia. He was employed to set up the Egyptian secret service along the lines of the SS Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Himmler's Reich Security Main Office); he was helped by the former Gestapo chief of Warsaw who organised the security police.
SS General Oskar Dirlewanger, chief of the infamous SS penal brigade;
SS Major Eugen Eichberger, battalion-commander in the Dirlewanger brigade;
SS Colonel Leopold Gleim, chief of the Gestapo department for Jewish affairs in Poland;
SS Lieutenant Colonel Bernhard Bender, Gestapo official in Poland the USSR, whose knowledge of Yiddish enabled him to penetrate Jewish underground organisations;
SS General Heinrich Selimann, Gestapo chief in Ulm;
SS Major Schmalstich, Gestapo liaison officer to French collaborationists and organizer of Jewish transports from Paris to Auschwitz;
SS Major Seipal, Gestapo official in Paris;
SS General Alois Moser, a war criminal who was involved in the extermination of the Soviet Jews in the Ukraine;
SS officer Johannes von Leers (1902-1963), who had been responsible for anti-Semitic campaigns at Goebbels' propaganda ministry;
SS officer, Alois Brunner, who had held senior position in Adolph Eichmann's "Jewish Department", and is now believed to be living under the protection of the Syrian secret police in Damascus;
SS Major Walter Bollman, Nazi espionage chief in Britain before the war, and also involved in crimes against humanity and genocide against the Jews of the Ukraine;
SS official Louis Heiden, who was transferred to the Egyptian press office during the war;
Franz Bartel, and "old fighter" in the early days of the NSDAP in Germany, and Gestapo officer;
Walter Birgal, an SS officer from Leipzig;
Erich Bunz, a former SA major and expert in the "Jewish Question";
Albert Thielemann, a regional SS chief in Bohemia;
SS Captain Wilhelm Böckler, a war criminal who had precipitated in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto;
Wehrmacht General Wilhelm Fahrmbacher, who took over the central planning staff in Cairo . . . .
Added to this were a number of former Nazi officials and sixty military experts, mostly former Waffen-SS men, who assisted in the training of the Egyptian army. Several of them were also linked in 1958 with the then Algerian government-in-exile. At least 200 German and Austrian scientists and other personnel were deployed in the new aircraft and missile centre at Helwan, where new staff physician was Dr. Hanns Eisele, SS Captain and medical torturer in the death camp at Buchenwald. Goodrick-Clarke says that President Gamal Abdel Nasser was "well disposed" towards the Nazis, all the more because they wished to take part in the destruction of Israel. The presence of so many Nazi's in Egypt under the Nasser regime was exposed in the world press in October 1962, and precipitated a crisis in the Israeli government (who had ordered MOSSAD to make try and kill several of the Nazi's), and embarrassment in West Germany, over the exposure of postwar Nazi collaboration with the Nasser regime.

Not surprisingly, the few remaining Egyptian Jews fled. From population of 75,000 Jews in 1948, by 1974 only 350 remained. In 1956, 4000 Jews were expelled, after being forced to renounce all property rights and financial claims. In 1957, all Egyptian Jews not in "continuous residence" since 1900 were deprived of citizenship. In 1960, many synagogues were closed down, along with Jewish orphanages, schools, hospitals and old peoples homes; and in 1967, all Jews in official positions were dismissed, with many more tortured and expelled, according to Martin Gilbert, author of The Routledge Atlas of Jewish History (Routledge, London, 1995).

(my bolding)

So, is the Bellylaugh essay simply another attempt by them to misdirect history and protect their intelligence community friends?

David Guyatt
01-21-2011, 02:10 PM
Btw, I didn't mean to imply in the foregoing that SS Sturmbannfuhrer did not exist in reality. He did and was a beast, was tried for his crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment - a far too lenient punishment.

Axis History (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:XGMYJ4GzzMsJ:forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php%3Ft%3D5437+ss+obersturmbannfuhrer+Fr itz+Gebauer&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk):


S.S. Haupsturmfuehrer Gebauer instituted at the Yanovska Camp a savage system of extermination. After his appointment to another post this system was “perfected” by camp commandants S.S. Obersturmfuehrer Gustav Wilhaus and S.S. Haupsturmfuehrer Franz Warzok.

“With my own eyes” (a former inmate of the camp told the Commission) “I saw S.S. Haupsturmfuehrer Fritz Gebauer strangle women and children. I saw them place men to freeze in barrels of water, in the depth of winter. The barrels were filled with water, and then the victims were tied hand and foot and put into the water. The doomed people remained in the barrels until they froze to death.”

Other delightful specimens at the Yanovska camp had sport in different ways:


S.S. Haupsturmfuehrer Franz Warzok, for instance, liked to hang war prisoners to poles by the feet, and leave them in this position until they died. Obersturmbannfuehrer Rokita personally ripped open war-prisoners’ stomachs. The Chief of the Investigation Department of the Yanovska Camp, Heine, used to perforate the bodies of war prisoners with a spike or iron rod; he used to pull out the finger-nails of women prisoners with pliers, then undress his victims, hang them by the hair and set them swinging. Then he would shoot at the “moving target”.

The Commandant of the Yanovska Camp, Obersturmfuehrer Wilhaus, partly for sport, and partly to amuse his wife and daughter, used regularly to fire a tommy-gun from the balcony of camp office at war prisoners occupied in the workshops. Then he would pass his tommy-gun to his wife, who also shot at them. On one occasion, to please his nine-year –old daughter, Wilhaus made someone toss two four-year-old children into the air, while he fired at them. His daughter applauded and cried: “Papa, do it again, papa, do it again!” He did so.

In this camp war prisoners were exterminated without any pretext, often for a bet. The witness Kirschner informed the Investigation Committee that Wepke, a Gestapo Kommissar, boasted to other camp executioners that he would cut a boy into two parts with one blow of a hatchet. They did not believe him, so he caught a ten-year-old boy in the street, forced him to his knees, made him put his palms together and hide his face in them, made a trial stroke, adjusted the boy’s head and with a single blow of the hatchet slashed him in two. The Hitlerites congratulated Wepke warmly, and shook him by the hand.

[….]

The Germans conducted their tortures, beatings and shootings to the accompaniment of music. For this purpose they organised a special orchestra of prisoners. They forced Professor Stricks and the well-known conductor Mund to lead this orchestra. They told composers to write a special tune, which they called “The Death Tango”. Not long before the camp was liquidated the Germans shot all the members of the orchestra.