RATLINE

Soviet Spies Nazi Priests and the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler

PETER LEVENDA

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RATLINE

Soviet Spies Nazi Priests and the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler

PETER LEVENDA

While searching through the jungles of Java in 2008, gathering material for his book Tantric Temples: Eros and Magic in Java, the author came upon evidence of a Nazi escape route that led from Europe to Argentina, Tibet, and eventually Indonesia. The rumors were persistent; the evidence suggestive. Tantra is about magic and power. So was the Third Reich. Was it possible that the world’s greatest symbol of evil had actually escaped Berlin in 1945? In time, more information came to light. In December of 2009, it was revealed that the skull the Russians claimed was Hitler’s— salvaged from the bunker in 1945—was not that of Hitler at all. The news made headlines around the world. Then in 2010, files from the Office of Special Investigations of the Justice Department were declassified, revealing a history of American intelligence providing cover for Nazi war criminals.

RATLINE

All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself— that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent

lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

—OSS Psychological Report on Adolf Hitler

An exhibition has opened in Russia showing visitors part of a skull which officials claim was Adolf Hitler’s. The fragment, with a bullet hole through it, has been kept in a secret vault for decades…

The authenticity of the claim has been questioned since Moscow first announced it had the fragment in 1993.

Hitler biographer, Werner Maser, said the fragment was fake. However, director of the exhibition Aliya Borkovets insisted that “no doubts remain” about its origin.

—BBC News 26 April 2000

Deep in the Lubyanka, headquarters of Russia’s secret police, a fragment of Hitler’s jaw is preserved as a trophy of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. A fragment of skull with a bullet hole lies in the State Archive.

So when American academics claimed that DNA tests showed the skull to be that of a woman, they challenged a long-cherished tale of the hunt for Hitler’s remains.

— The Times, 9 December 2009

RATLINE

Soviet Spies Nazi Priests, and

the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler

Peter Levenda

IBIS PRESS

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Published in 2012 by Ibis Press A division of Nicolas-Hays, Inc.

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Distributed to the trade by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC 65 Parker St. • Ste. 7

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Copyright © 2012 by Peter Levenda

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ISBN 978-0-89254-170-6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Levenda, Peter.

Ratline : Soviet spies, Nazi priests, and the disappearance of Adolf Hitler / Peter Levenda.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-89254-170-6 (alk. paper)

1. Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945—Exile. 2. War criminals—Germany—History—20th century. 3. Fugitives from justice—Germany—History—20th century. 4. Nazis—Middle East—History. 5. Nazis—South America—History. I. Title.

DD247.H5L395 2012

940.53’145–dc23 2012005055

Book design and production by Studio 31

www.studio31.com

Printed in the United States of America

Contents

Introduction
Chapter One: The Official Story
Chapter Two: Wandering Ghosts
Chapter Three: The Monastery Route
Chapter Four: The Land of Living Dangerously
Chapter Five: The German Doctor
Chapter Six: The Ratline
Chapter Seven: God is Great
Chapter Eight: Flight
Chapter Nine: The Mystery Deepens
Chapter Ten: The Disappearance of Adolf Hitler
Appendix 1: SS ranks and their American equivalents
Appendix 2: Ratline Organization: Names, Groups, Countries
Appendix 3: Hitler’s DNA
Acknowledgements
Bibliography

 

Introduction

For when the truth is with us in one place, it is buried in another.

—Norman Mailer1

September, 2011

he sun was going down over the field of tombs. I picked my way gingerly over the stone slabs that were set down in an almost haphazard fashion, threatening to twist an ankle with every step. Leading the way was a plainclothes security guard. Around me a small crowd was gathering: young, dangerous-looking men with

T

curious expressions. I was the only foreigner in the cemetery, probably the only foreigner for miles.

But I was not the only foreigner they had ever seen. Recently, visitors had been coming from Europe and the Middle East to pay their respects in this nondescript plot in an obscure graveyard on the far side of the world.

Thirty-two years ago, I had been on a similar expedition and had nearly disappeared in the torture cells of a Nazi estate in the Andes mountains. I had been alone that time, trusting to luck and my instincts to survive what was certainly a foolish mission to uncover one of the links of the Ratline in Pinochet’s Chile. This time, after a bone-rattling eight hour drive through small towns, tea plantations, and remote forests, I achieved my objective just as the muezzin began calling the faithful to prayer.

I hoped that was a good sign.

I was there with a professor of anthropology from Indonesia’s largest university. She served as interpreter and camera operator, a task far beneath her but one that she shouldered without complaint. She would provide my cover story to the guards, that I was a relative from abroad seeking the grave of his uncle. But the guards knew exactly whom I was seeking. The name on the tombstone had become famous, but the “real” identity of the corpse was more famous still.

As I finally reached the tomb, a stone box surrounded by a neat wrought-iron fence and gate, one of the guards leaned down over it and reverently whispered the name of the cemetery’s most notorious inhabitant:

“Hitler.”

How I came to be there, and why I began to take this outrageous story seriously, is the theme of this book. I’d been researching Nazism for decades, with a particular emphasis on Nazi mystical ideas as well as on the escape routes used by Nazi war criminals to escape justice, the “rat lines.” I have appeared numerous times on television documentaries concerning the strange beliefs that fueled the Nazi Party. I’ve been asked to speak on this subject to groups in Asia, Europe and North America, and have been interviewed for radio and podcast more times than I can remember. But in all of those years of describing and trying to explain the motives of Nazi war criminals I had never seriously entertained the theory that Hitler had escaped Berlin at the end of the war. While I like to think I have an open mind, the idea of “Hitler in Argentina” was just too paranoid—and just too wrong—to be believed. After all, there was ample evidence to prove that Hitler committed suicide in the Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945. I had written about it. I knew the facts of the case. There was nothing to question.

Nothing, that is, until the year 2008, fully sixty-three years after the end of World War II.

I had been threatened by Nazis and neo-Nazis in Latin America, as well as by Klansmen and neo-Nazis in the United States. In most cases, the threats were empty, but in Chile in 1979 the threat was very real and immediate. They were torturing and killing people at Colonia Dignidad, and I could very easily have been one of them. I had lived with the constant presence of Nazism in its various forms for decades. So how could I have missed what was possibly the biggest story concerning the Third Reich for the last sixty-plus years?

The answer lies in the psychological force that history has over us all. When a historian writes something down, it becomes the truth. We do not realize that this “truth” is only one of several—perhaps many—possible narratives. A selection process takes place when one writes history. One leaves out certain, awkward or unpalatable facts in favor of others that advance one’s thesis and thereby a kind of consensus reality is created. It’s a fictional world like any other but— like the so-called “reality” shows on television—it seems genuine and unscripted. We rarely get the opportunity to go behind the scenes, talk to the producers and directors of our shared reality system, in order to satisfy ourselves that what we see and hear is “real”.

We have to take “real” on faith.

July, 2008

Faith.

The cry of the muezzin floated over the hot and humid tropical air, carrying with it a memory of ancient Arabia and old conquests by fire and sword. Mecca. Baghdad. Granada. Palm trees bent calmly under the weight of time and torpor, providing a shade that was more suggestion than reality. Men in sarongs and flip-flops were walking slowly in the direction of the mosque, smiling gently and murmuring comments or prayers. In the distance, as always, the volcano with its ever-present plume commanded the landscape like a giant waving a flag.

Along the side streets, food vendors were setting up in anticipation of the end of the day of fasting. Charcoal grills were lit, and colorful bunches of exotic fruit—hairy rambutans and foul-smelling durians, weird-looking snakefruit with its coarse and scaly purple shell and green starfruit with their almost translucent skin—were piled on rickety wooden tables next to packages of instant noodles and pink and yellow shrimp-flavored chips. The sun was setting, and the talk among the students sitting on the mats of the lesehan—a kind of impromptu restaurant set out on the sidewalk, without chairs, where people sat on the ground and waited for their food to arrive— turned to the topic of the day. In this case, Adolf Hitler.

The year was 2008. I had been visiting the Universitas Gadjah Mada— the ubiquitous UGM—in the city of Yogyakarta for the second time in two years. My friends there were mostly anthropology students and teachers, and they knew of my interest in the Nazi Party largely through my book on the subject, Unholy Alliance and through a talk I gave at UGM the previous year. As we feasted on tempe, ayam kampung, and kancong belacan, they told me of a news story making the rounds of a man who was buried in Surabaya. A white man. A foreigner.

The story had originally come out in the 1980s, in a local magazine article written by an Indonesian doctor. The doctor claimed to have met this foreigner—Georg Anton Pöch—in the 1960s when Pöch was running a clinic on the faraway island of Sumbawa. He lived there with his wife— another white foreigner—and the doctor was suspicious of them. They did not seem to have any real medical knowledge, yet they were running a clinic on this remote island, far to the east of Bali, on the other side of Lombok.

The night grew around us, the comfortable darkness adding to the sense of conviviality as the smell of grilled satay became overwhelming. The most ancient dish in the world, it is simply meat—lamb, beef or chicken— grilled on wooden sticks over an open flame, but it commands respect everywhere in Southeast Asia. As we ordered a few dozen sticks of satay and the necessary accompaniment—a spicy peanut sauce for dipping—the story became more complex and I listened politely, prepared to dismiss the speculation as fantastic.

For the whole point of this story was that the mysterious foreigner was none other than the icon of twentieth century evil: Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer himself!

The whole idea was preposterous, of course. Everyone knew that Hitler had committed suicide in the Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945. I wrote about it myself in Unholy Alliance, and noted the significance of the date for April 30 is the German pagan holiday of Walpurgisnacht, made famous in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Stories about Hitler having escaped were legion, but they were largely the stuff of half-baked conspiracy theories and the pulp novels that cater to them. No responsible historian would take such an allegation seriously.

But Hitler had become big business lately, in Indonesia as in the rest of the world. His autobiography and political manifesto —Mein Kampf—was available in Indonesian translation as were The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and Henry Ford’s The International Jew. The founder of Jemaah Islamiyyah (or JI, the terrorist group linked with Al-Qaeda and responsible for the Bali Bombings of October 12, 2002) told me to my face that there was an international conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons to rule the world. It was 2007, and I was sitting in his pesantren in the nearby city of Solo where I was part of a group called Psychologists for Peace. Our local contact had finagled an interview with one of the most dangerous men in Indonesia as part of our itinerary, and it was an opportunity I could not pass up. I sat and listened to this ageing terrorist in the white turban in 2007 use the same words, phrases and slogans of 1930s Germany and wondered if I had somehow wandered into a time warp. How could there be antisemitism in a country that had virtually no Jews? How could they fear Freemasonry in a country that had no Masonic lodges?

So Hitler was on the minds of many people. I understood that. As I slid a chunk of grilled lamb off its flimsy wooden stick I listened with half my attention to the story of an old European man named Pöch and how they had confused him with the dead Nazi of sixty years ago.