In any event, and leaving aside the question of whether the J, B and S really refer to Jugoslavia, Belgrade and Sarajevo (or to other towns in Slovenia), years later the Pöchs eventually make it to Rome. The Pöch diary states, “On the first day of December, we had to go to R to receive a letter and a passport that enabled us to leave Europe.” Pöch is not specific as to the year, but it must have been December 1, 1950 for he will receive passport number 2624/51 in Rome, dated September 28, 1951.113
As he had the address of the Draganovic safe house in Genoa in his notebook, we can surmise that the Pöchs then made the trip from Rome to Genoa sometime after September 28, 1951 and boarded a ship bound for Argentina. Genoa was an important link not only in the ratlines but also for a wide variety of refugees and displaced persons seeking a better life in the New World. The underground network of Nazi supporters, however, usually managed to mix Nazi escapees among the regular refugees on the ships and to provide them with the all-important entry visas for Argentina, without which they would have not been able to disembark in Buenos Aires.
Pöch had the name of Kruger in his notebook, as well as the information that he was going to Argentina, so the author tentatively assumes that Vianord, the Nazi front organization booked his passage. They would have disembarked in Argentina sometime in late 1951 or early 1952, depending on how quickly they were able to get a berth.
But something went wrong in Argentina.
It is impossible to know at this remove what prompted Pöch to leave Argentina where there were so many other Nazis—famous Nazis, wanted war criminals—leading relatively peaceful lives there and in other countries
in South America. Why did the Pöchs feel they could not stay anywhere on the continent?
Why did they choose the absolute furthest destination available to them?
Why was Argentina not safe enough?
Along with the brief account of the escape from Austria and—via Yugoslavia?—to Rome and then to Genoa and Argentina, there is almost nothing else that can tell us where the Pöch couple was located between the years 1951 and 1954 when they finally arrived in Indonesia. However, there are indications that they were in contact with a far-flung network of fellow travelers. The diary was also an address book (and one that is being withheld from publication by its current owner) containing—according to Dr Sosro—the names and addresses of hundreds of “foreigners” living in countries around the world. Some of those countries include Pakistan, Argentina, Italy, South Africa…and Tibet.
Tibet, of course, attracted the attention of a generation of Europeans (and especially Germans and Scandinavians) in the first half of the twentieth century. The SS mounted an expedition to Tibet in 1938, as recounted in the author’s Unholy Alliance. Photographs and videotapes of this expedition have been made available recently by the Bundesarchiv and can be found online. Heinrich Harrer—author of Seven Years in Tibet, which became a film starring Brad Pitt—was an SS officer who fled a British POW camp at the outset of the war and found himself across the border in the Forbidden Kingdom, befriending the young Dalai Lama. Tibet was a siren song for the German archaeologists working for the SS- Deutsches Ahnenerbe, the “Ancestral Heritage Research Foundation” of the SS, which accommodated many crank academics and mystics in the employ of Heinrich Himmler. Wolfram Sievers—the chief of the SS-Ahnenerbe— would be executed at Nuremberg; some of the “academics” under his command were involved in heinous experimentation on living prisoners in the concentration camps, including at least one anthropologist—Bruno Beger—who was a member of the SS-Tibet Expedition and who later was involved in the selection of human skulls from camp prisoners for a museum of anthropology. Beger himself was arrested and imprisoned for a short time, but managed to live out his days peacefully in Germany, dying
only two years ago as this is being written. He considered himself a friend of Tibet—and of the Dalai Lama—until the end of his days.
In fact, there was a direct connection between the SS-Ahnenerbe and the German Archaeological Institute which has only recently come to light,114 a connection that leads us back to the Pöch diary and its enigmatic reference to the Institute’s address as part of the “escape organization.”
Thus we have to ask ourselves, in light of all the foregoing information, how did the Ratline work? What was it? What were its components?
And whom did it serve?
Most importantly…could the Ratline have managed to save the most wanted war criminal of the twentieth century?
ABOVE: Adolf Hitler. Please note the jawline and ear shape. Comparison with those of Pöch are suggestive. (See last page of this photo-insert.)
BELOW: Hitler and Eva Braun at the Berghof with Hitler’s dog, Blondi. According to the Trevor-Roper report, all three died at the Berlin bunker in April, 1945.
ABOVE LEFT: Otto Skorzeny, who would organize the Ratline in Spain with the help of Spanish dictator Federico Franco.
ABOVE RIGHT: Hans Ulrich Rudel, another key figure in the Ratline. Together with Skorzeny, he would remain in charge of Nazi financial support for escaping war criminals.
BELOW: This photo shows Skorzeny standing to the right of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whom he has just rescued.
RIGHT: Admiral Karl Doenitz, former submarine commander during World War One who helped establish the Etappendienst network in Spain, and who later became Hitler’s appointed successor as leader of the Reich.
BELOW: Admiral Doenitz inspecting a U-Boat and crew in June of 1941. U- Boats would become essential elements of the Asian Ratline.
BOTTOM: The arrest record of Admiral Doenitz. He spent ten years in Spandau Prison for war crimes and was later released, to die peacefully in 1980 of a heart attack.
ABOVE: Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death of Auschwitz. Escaped to Brazil.
BELOW: Adolf Eichmann, Architect of the Final Solution. Escaped to Argentina.
ABOVE: Martin Bormann, Hitler’s second in command. Believed to have escaped to Paraguay.
BELOW: Franz Stangl, Commandant of Treblinka. Escaped to Argentina.
ABOVE: Emir Al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and pro-Nazi agitator, with Adolf Hitler in Berlin.
BELOW: Al Husseini inspecting the troops of the Muslim SS-Handschar Division, composed of Bosnian Muslim troops.
ABOVE: Heinrich Himmler with Franco in Spain.
BELOW: The Condor Legion, Nazi troops in Spain to support Franco.
ABOVE LEFT: Monsignor Krunoslav Draganovic, the Catholic priest who set up the Austrian-Italian segment of the Ratline and who later worked for American intelligence, including the CIA.
ABOVE RIGHT: Nuntius Pacelli with his pro-Nazi assistant, Father Robert Leiber. Leiber was Bishop Hudal’s direct connection with the Pope.
BELOW: The famous photograph of the signing of the Concordat between the Vatican and Germany. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, is shown seated at the head of the table.
TOP LEFT: Georg Anton Pöch on the occasion of his marriage to Sulaesih.
TOP RIGHT: Pöch and Sulaesih along with unidentified Indonesians.
ABOVE: The gravesite in Surabaya of Georg Anton Pöch.
RIGHT: Walter Hewel, “Surabaya Wally,” Hitler’s close friend and confidant from the days of the Beer Hall Putsch.
- Ir. KGPH. Soeryo Goeritno, Hitler Mati di Indonesia, Jakarta: Titik Media, 2010, p. 98. The translations from the original Bahasa Indonesia are my own.
- Hitler Mati di Indonesia, p. 67
- As an example, my grandfather—who was Slovak—entered the United States at Ellis Island in the first decade of the twentieth century, but his citizenship was listed as “Austrian.”
- For this and for most of the description of Pöch in Indonesia, I rely upon recently published accounts such as Hitler Mati in Indonesia and Solomon Group’s Melacak Garis Keturunan Hitler di Indonesia (“Tracing the Lineage of Hitler in Indonesia”), Yogyakarta: Pustaka Solomon, 2011, as well as other sources where noted, as well as interviews with surviving witnesses.
- Rede van den Rijkscommissaris Rijksminister Dr. Seyss-Inquart geheouden op Woensdag 12 Maart 1941 in het Concertgebouw te Amsterdam voor het Arbeitsbereich der NSDAP in de Nederlanden (n.p., n.d.)
- Martin Legassick and Ciraj Rassool, Skeletons in the Cupboard: South African museums and the trade in human remains, 1907—1917, Cape Town (South Africa):South African Museum, 2000.
- Ciraj Rassool, “Human Remains, the Disciplines of the Dead and the South African Memorial Complex,” a talk given at Museum Africa, Johannesburg, 8—9 July, 2011 at the Politics of Heritage Conference sponsored by the University of Michigan.
- From the “Foreign Letters” section of the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 4, 1934, p.356—357.
- Brigitte Füchs, “Hella Pöch,” in Keintzel and Korotin (ed.s), Wissenschaftterinnen in und aus Österreich: Leben-Werk-Wirken, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2002, p. 587—589
- See Brigitte Füchs, “Rasse”, “Volk,” Geschlecht: Anthropologische Diskurse in Oesterreich 1850—1960, Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2003, p. 291—292
- Most Indonesians have only one name; the use of a first name and a surname is not common. Thus, the doctor’s name is often given as Sosrohusodo rather than Sosro Husodo, but common usage allows both versions.
- Ir. KGPH. Soeryo Goeritno, Hitler Mati di Indonesia, Jakarta: Titik Media, 2010, p. 76—78. As mentioned, most of this account of Pöch in Indonesia is taken from this source, unless otherwise indicated.
- Uki Goñi, The Real Odessa, p. 273—274 107 Uki Goñi, p. 56—58
- It is possible that Macorr is a garbled form of Maribor, a POW camp in northern Slovenia/southern Austria.
- Graz was in the British Zone of Occupation at the time.
- Office of Special Investigations (OSI), In the Matter of Josef Mengele: A Report to the Attorney General of the United States, October 1992: Washington DC, p. 64
- The letter has no file number that the author can find, but can be located in the FBI’s declassified file on Hitler beginning on page 157 of the first volume.
- Probably L’Unita, a popular Communist paper of the time.
- The passport number is also problematic, for the ICRC passports were not numbered in this fashion.
- See, for instance, Klaus Junker, “Research under dictatorship: the German Archaeological Institute 1929—1945” in Antiquities, June, 1998.
A U.S. State Department Report on Nazi gold (the Eizenstat Report) of 2 June 1998…contains a chapter entitled “Ustasha Gold.” It was that gold that made the “Rat Lines” possible, that is the escape routes for Ustasha and Nazi criminals at the end of the Second World War…115
he movement of men out of Europe was not the only commodity transported courtesy of the monastery route. The elaborate Vatican- OSS escape mechanism cost money. Papers had to be forged, fugitives moved across borders, housed and fed, officials paid off, overseas ocean travel arranged. While the Nazi priests like
Draganovic, Saric and Hudal were true believers, committed to the cause, the rest of the operation required the services of hundreds of support personnel in more than a dozen countries116 whose loyalty was measured in dollars and pounds rather than slogans.
Often, these funds were in the form of gold bars, various international currencies, diamonds, and artwork—paintings, manuscripts, rare books, furniture, and sculpture—stolen from museums and private collections all over Europe. A considerable amount of these resources was stored at various churches and monasteries along the escape route. Some of them were even stored at the cathedral of Archbishop Stepinac, as well as in churches and monasteries in Italy, Austria, Germany and Spain.
Some of these funds went to fill the coffers of Perón in Argentina. While the Argentine president was pro-Nazi in sentiment, he was not above taking as much as he could from the Nazi loot to help finance the Ratline on his end. It was up to Draganovic (and SS officer Carlos Fuldner) to ensure that the money flowed as easily to Buenos Aires as did the war criminals themselves.
Again, none of this is speculation. Documents declassified since the mid-1980s (the time of the Klaus Barbie revelations, the hunt for Josef Mengele, and the famous “Hitler Diaries” hoax) show in some detail how this operation worked. In fact, it was the Barbie episode that more than
anything else brought the monastery route—and the complicity of US intelligence—to world attention.
Barbie had been chief of the Gestapo in the French city of Lyon, where he was known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for his cruelty in the interrogation and execution of Jews and French partisans (resistance fighters). Draganovic arranged his escape and, indeed, Draganovic himself, signed his forged International Red Cross papers—in the false name of “Klaus Altmann.” But before Barbie left Europe for South America and his eventual sanctuary in Bolivia, he worked for the CIC as an intelligence agent. In fact, American intelligence admitted that Barbie is the only Nazi war criminal whose escape it aided. Although intelligence agents insist that they had nothing to do with him after he arrived in South America, the documents tell a different story. Barbie was so well protected in Bolivia that he eventually became head of that country’s secret service, at the same time that he was running arms117 throughout Latin America and financing assassination squads, in concert with Nazi forger and convicted murderer Freddy Schwend (see below). Indeed, more than anything else the Barbie case demonstrates that the need to pursue Nazi war criminals transcends motives of revenge and justice for the unspeakable atrocities of the Second World War: rather, it is clearly a very real and pragmatic need to isolate these unprincipled actors from the stage of global politics. One historian has even suggested that Klaus Barbie had a role in the creation of the Joe McCarthy phenomenon in the United States in the 1950s: that secret American intelligence reports were leaked by Barbie to the anti-Communist Senator and firebrand.118
The above-mentioned Eizenstat Report prepared by the Under Secretary
of Commerce, Stuart E. Eizenstat and released in May, 1997 seemed to exonerate the CIA from charges of actively aiding or abetting the escape of Nazi war criminals, but it was an exercise in semantics and as such it was blasted by various members of the US government as well as by historians and journalists who had lived with the material for decades. A General Accounting Office investigation on Nazis and their collaborators working with Allied intelligence admitted that the difficulties inherent in conducting this type of investigation at CIA made their conclusions rather open-ended. According to the GAO Report, while the investigators were “not denied access to any documents requested…intelligence agencies often assign projects innocuous names which do not reflect the projects’ purposes and,
therefore, we cannot assure that we requested all relevant projects’ files…. we cannot be completely sure that we have obtained all relevant information or that we have identified all Nazis and Axis collaborators assisted by US agencies to immigrate to the United States.”119