And then, they dropped the bombshell, and this book is the result. A little background:
In 1979, I went on a hazardous trip to Pinochet’s Chile to investigate a mysterious German colony in the Andes mountains. It was a country under martial law and military dictatorship. Six years previously the democratically-elected president of Chile—Salvador Allende Gossens— was overthrown in a military coup with assistance from the Nixon administration. As a Socialist, Salvador Allende was not an “acceptable”2 government leader where Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were concerned, and they lent covert support to the generals comprising the coup leadership in the days and months leading up to the event. In the ensuing battle for Chile, Salvador Allende was slain and his supporters were rounded up throughout the country, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Among them was an American citizen, Charles Horman, who was murdered by security forces at the National Stadium in Santiago shortly thereafter. His case became the basis for the Costa-Gavras film, Missing.
The coup took place on September 11, 1973.
What was not generally known or understood at the time was the extent to which Nazi and neo-Nazi organizations were involved in the military coup and in the events preceding it as well as the torture of political prisoners that took place in succeeding months and days. In fact, the assassination of former Chilean ambassador to the United States—Orlando Letelier—and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt in Washington, DC in 1976 by agents of the Chilean secret police was organized and directed by an American neo-Nazi, Michael Vernon Townley. Some of this was covered in my book, Unholy Alliance, which first was published in 1994 and which uses my visit to Chile as the introduction to a study of Nazi ideology.
Attempts to publish my account of the visit to Chile met with stiff resistance in 1979 and the years that followed. There was a general disbelief among Americans that Nazis were living openly in Chile. When I spoke of the mysterious Colonia Dignidad—a Nazi enclave high in the Andes to the
south of Santiago where I was briefly detained on that trip—the response was “They are probably unpleasant people, maybe even Germans, but they are not Nazis.” This was even the reaction from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose founder expressed doubt that the Colony had anything to do with Nazis or the escape routes war criminals had been using for years.3 Although I had seen the Colony with my own eyes and been interrogated by the Colony’s founder—Paul Schäfer, replete with military uniform, fatigue cap and Sam Browne belt—my story was ignored or treated with lofty disinterest. Even though the Colony had clearly arranged for the military roadblocks that stopped my bus on the return from the Colony to Santiago, to ensure that I was still aboard, and thus proved the close cooperation that existed between the Colony and the government of Chile, my story was considered fictional. The mainstream media— which included respected historians and even organizations that were supposed to specialize in this information (such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center)—had decided that they would not take seriously the story of a Nazi estate in the Andes, with electronic gates, bodyguards, and a sinister clinic that “disappeared” men, women and children. A month after I returned to the States, in fact, the columnist Jack Anderson published an article about the Colony where it was revealed that it had operated as a torture and interrogation center for the Pinochet regime and that it had been investigated by the CIA and Amnesty International. Anderson’s column appeared in the mainstream media, but Jack Anderson himself had been on Nixon’s famous “enemies list” and even had been targeted for assassination by White House “Plumbers”—E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy—a plot that fell through when the Watergate scandal took center stage.4
Yet, there was still no interest in the only existing eye-witness account
of the Colony by an American citizen who lived to tell the tale.
A few years later, another American citizen—Boris Weisfeiler—went hiking in the Andes mountains. He was discovered by Chilean security forces, arrested and taken miles away to the lethal embrace of the Colony. No one knows why.
He was never seen again.
And still, no one wanted to pursue this story.
I bring these stories up to provide a context and to establish a baseline for the information that follows. My personal experience in investigating the escape route taken by Nazi war criminals—the Ratline— is representative of many others who have dared to pursue this story. Serious investigators have been ridiculed or sidelined. We have been told that we misinterpreted what we saw, or that we didn’t see what we saw. We were told that we were dupes, victims of disinformation and were being paranoid, hysterical, or just simply nuts. The fact that there was political pressure brought to bear on this story—with regard to Colonia Dignidad—and in the post-Watergate era no less—should have been enough to encourage an editor somewhere to run with it.
But none did.
None, that is, until 1994 when John Douglas at Avon decided to publish Unholy Alliance. The book went in and out of print quickly. It became something of a cult classic, with second-hand copies of the rack-sized $6.99 paperback going for more than sixty dollars on auction sites until it was re- released by Continuum in 2002, this time with a foreword by Norman Mailer.
By then, Pinochet was gone from power in Chile and in 1996 there was a raid on the Colony by Chilean security forces who came to arrest Paul Schäfer on child abuse charges. That raid—and further raids that took place over a period of several years—revealed a cache of buried weapons and secret documents. Schäfer was not to be found, however, for he had fled across the border to Argentina where he was eventually located (in 2005), arrested and brought back to Chile to face imprisonment for 27 counts of child abuse. He would die in prison on April 24, 2010.
Revelations concerning the human rights abuses, torture, kidnapping, and child abuse that came out of the government raids—as well as eyewitness testimony over several decades—proved the basic elements of the story I had tried to tell back in 1979. Interviews with Colony residents further revealed that Colonia Dignidad had been used as a safe house for Nazi war criminals on the run. Its location near the Chilean-Argentine border in the Andes made it an ideal location to run to, or run from (as Schäfer proved in his own escape). While my research was considered inconvenient by the mass media at the time—and is still ignored in South Florida, where the anti-Castro (and pro-Pinochet) Cuban element is strong, politically and
culturally—the facts as I stated them in Unholy Alliance were nevertheless demonstrably true.
Other researchers were not so lucky.
Paul Manning’s masterful work on the complex Nazi program for expatriating their ill-gotten gains—Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile—was picked up by renegade publisher Lyle Stuart after every other publisher turned it down. Manning was a colleague of iconic newsman Edward R. Murrow at CBS Radio and served during World War Two in both the European and Asian theaters of operation, and reported live on the surrenders of both the Nazis and the Japanese. As a newsman and journalist, his credentials were above reproach and his methods impeccable, and in fact he became a speechwriter for Nelson Rockefeller after the War. For his research on the Bormann material, he even had the written support of former CIA Chief Allen Dulles…at least, until he got too close.
Whether or not Bormann survived the war to live in Latin America is immaterial to the documents and evidence Manning gathered for his book on the number-two man in Hitler’s Germany showing financial arrangements and wire transfers between German and Argentine banks to fund the underground Nazi network of safe houses and ratlines after the War. His thesis—that Bormann survived the war—was roundly criticized by the very people who were his colleagues and they used that to discredit his entire investigation, an investigation with explosive material and solid evidence to back it up. Lyle Stuart paid for his participation in the project by having his legs broke—it is said—during the very week he published Manning’s work.5 Manning’s son, Gerald, was subsequently murdered in what Manning’s family believed was an act of retribution by Nazi agents.
Ladislas Farago, the widely respected historian of the Second World War and author of such books as Patton and The Game of the Foxes, risked his credibility towards the end of his life by publishing Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich. Detailing a lengthy investigation in South America on the hunt for Bormann, including dangerous meetings with unpleasant men, Aftermath is full of documentation not only on the search for the Nazi Reichsleiter but also on the culpability of the Roman Catholic Church in providing escape routes for Nazi war criminals, of whom Bormann was only one among very many. It was, in fact, Aftermath that alerted me to the existence of Colonia Dignidad and inspired me to take the trip to Chile to see it with my own eyes.
Farago, however, was savagely attacked and continues to be attacked even now, thirty years after his death, because of Aftermath. Academics and professional historians—siding with the view that Bormann died in Berlin in May of 1945—ridicule his research, his interviews, and his documentation insisting that he was the dupe of unscrupulous individuals who created a kind of “cottage industry” in Bormann sightings. In fact, there was no irrefutable evidence of Bormann’s demise until DNA testing on a skull fragment in 1998, a full eighteen years after Farago’s death, and even then, that evidence has been questioned due to the presence of red clay in the skull: a substance that does not exist in the Berlin soil where the skull was found (thus suggesting that Bormann had died elsewhere and was buried in Berlin, only to be “discovered” a little while later).
Again, the bulk of Farago’s work on the Nazi escape routes was ignored and especially his revelations concerning Catholic Church complicity in those escapes. Like Manning, he lost his credibility and his prestige for suggesting that Martin Bormann had escaped to Argentina after the War. Like Manning, Farago had based his conclusions on government documents and personal interviews—sometimes in perilous circumstances.
I knew all of this that sultry tropical night as I sat and listened to my friends talk about the rumor that Hitler had escaped to Indonesia. One of them had a copy of one of the news articles and she pointed me to a description of the old foreigner’s documents, left behind in the care of a local woman he married after his first wife left him…or mysteriously disappeared.
I am always interested in documents, and put down my satay, wiped my fingers on a thin paper napkin, and picked up the article. I started to scan it when one word jumped out at me and dropped the proverbial bomb in the middle of my dinner.
That one word was Draganovic.
The man alleged to have been Hitler died in January, 1970. Thus the diaries and other documents he left behind had to have been written some time before. In 1970 Draganovic was not a household name. He was known to very few people in the world, basically only Nazi hunters and intelligence agents. To come across that name in those documents could only mean that whoever it was who had died in 1970 was someone whose escape from
Europe had been orchestrated by the same man who helped so many others flee justice: Krunoslav Draganovic.
Monsignor Krunoslav Draganovic.
Draganovic was a Croatian priest of the Catholic Church, and a devoted Nazi. His segment of the Ratline was known as the “monastery route” because it used Vatican credentials, Red Cross passports, and monasteries and churches as safe houses along the escape routes. It was a Ratline used by many of the most infamous Nazi war criminals including members of the dreaded SS.
That meant that whoever it was who died in Indonesia in 1970 was a Nazi and a war criminal. No one else would have been able to use the monastery route. No one else would have needed it. And among the papers left behind by this mysterious European was a passport number as well as an itinerary of the route he used to escape Europe and wind up in Indonesia. As I sat and studied what little information there was available to me on this man, I began to feel that strange sensation that accompanies the beginning of a new quest. It is part excitement at the prospect of a chase, mixed with anxiety over the knowledge that one could be wasting years of
one’s life in a fruitless search for data over forty years old.
One thing was for certain, though. A Nazi had escaped justice and wound up in Indonesia, of all the places on earth. Most Nazis were perfectly happy with South America or the Middle East. There was virtually no evidence at all that any Nazis made it as far as Southeast Asia, on the other side of the world. (At least, that is what I thought at the time.) Yet, here it was. Definitive proof that someone did.
Why did this man travel so far from his fellow Nazis? Why did he pick as remote an island as he could find in Indonesia, rather than stay more comfortably in one of the larger cities on one of the larger islands? Jakarta, say, or even Bali? Why settle in a country that was in the midst of political turmoil?
I resisted, of course, the idea that this was Hitler. Like everyone else of my generation, I grew up with the firm conviction that Hitler had died like everyone had said he had died: in the bunker, on April 30, 1945.
Then, in December of 2009, a real shock came in the form of a report that Nick Bellantoni—the State Archaeologist of Connecticut—had managed to examine a piece of what the Russians claimed was Hitler’s skull. And the conclusion of that examination?
The skull was that of a woman. And it was not Eva Braun. The Russians did not have Hitler’s skull.
In fact, suddenly there was no forensic evidence that Hitler died in the bunker.
Indeed, there was no evidence that Hitler had died at all.
Those of us who are familiar with police procedurals and television crime dramas like Law and Order and CSI know the importance of DNA evidence. When there is no DNA evidence—or, as in this case, no body at all—a crime is very hard to prove. When your only eyewitnesses are Nazis and Soviet spies, then you had better look for another case…or another line of work. And when the case is more than sixty-five years old and most of your witnesses are dead…well, you don’t have a case anymore.