U.S. President) Eisenhower of the possibility.158
Stalin suggested that Hitler had either wound up in Spain or in Argentina, or possibly had gone to Argentina from Spain. As we have seen, so many Nazis were using that particular escape route as to make Stalin’s theory entirely plausible on its face. That Stalin would have known about— or suspected—the Ratline established by Carlos Fuldner in Spain, or had somehow divined that the Nazis would make use of their U-boat facilities, the Etappendienst, for this purpose indicates that at least Soviet intelligence was onto the Nazi escape plans.
Stalin also suggested that the Allies had Hitler in their possession and that they were waiting to use him to rally Germany against the Soviet Union. Again, as we have seen, the Allies most assuredly did have
numerous Nazis on their payroll or kept “on ice” in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America so as to make that theory equally plausible. The fact that the American FBI, the CIC, the OSS and eventually the CIA would all take these rumors and scenarios seriously indicates that no one was especially secure in the Trevor-Roper fiction.159 Of course, there was no corpus delecti and that contributed to everyone’s unease about the fate of Hitler. This is especially so due to the inescapable fact that the entire Goebbels family was found with relative ease in the craters outside the Berlin bunker. Why, then, did the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun escape discovery?
A review of declassified FBI files on Hitler’s escape reveal some extremely detailed reports of Führer sightings in Latin America, from Colombia to Argentina. Some are rather convincing, while others seem fanciful. We should remember that sightings of Elvis Presley are also plentiful, and that people report the oddest things to the authorities…and to the tabloid press. However, a look at some of these sightings will prove educational, particularly as American intelligence agents as well as the mainstream media at the time took some of them seriously.
The rumor that Hitler had not died in the bunker began with a remark made by Stalin on May 26, 1945 in a meeting with Averell Harriman, Russian language interpreter Charles Bohlen and U.S. presidential advisor Harry Hopkins at the Kremlin. During this meeting, Stalin stated that he believed Hitler was still alive and had escaped Berlin entirely and was living “somewhere in the West.” The official CIA version of this story160 claims that it was the beginning of a Soviet disinformation campaign, but the CIA has no proof of this.
At the Potsdam Conference—attended by Churchill, Stalin and Truman on July 18, 1945—Stalin once again made the statement that Hitler was still alive and probably in Spain or Argentina. This insistence by Stalin on Hitler’s fate was being made at the same time that SMERSH was busy burying and digging up what they believed was Hitler’s corpse no less than four times, and during which Soviet intelligence had numerous Nazis in custody whom they were subjecting to merciless torture and “enhanced interrogation” techniques to determine Hitler’s whereabouts.
As part of the FBI file on Hitler, there are numerous newspaper clippings (most sadly undated and without further publication data) which demonstrate the depth of public skepticism concerning reports of Hitler’s
death in the bunker. They often contain interesting information on matters tangential to Hitler’s fate and are worth considering here.
One such article, entitled “Hitler Mystery Deepens as Other Nazi Leaders Make Pleas to Live” by John F. Sembower dates from a time before the Nuremberg trials had begun in November, 1945. It contains the prophetic sentence:
…the chances are that for years to come there will be persons all over the world who will report that they saw him alive after the fall of Berlin, that he got away and lived out his natural life.
Concerning the burning of Hitler’s body, Sembower goes on to write:
Many of the world’s greatest criminologists are on the hunt. They doubt the story of Hitler’s chauffeur who contends that he burned the bodies of Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun, with a can of gasoline in a shallow trench outside the chancellery.…Ninety-two charred and broken bodies were removed from a mass grave near Hitler’s bunker…They were subjected to much worse destruction than burning with gasoline, yet the remains were sufficiently identifiable to convince experts that none were those of Hitler and Eva Braun.
Speculating as to how Hitler may have escaped, Sembower quotes an un-named “Japanese navy staff officer” who:
…told details of a plan to evacuate Hitler and Eva Braun to Japan after the fall of Germany, and that a large Japanese submarine embarked on the enterprise.
Nothing further was heard of the submarine, according to the Jap. [sic] At the same time, some of the huge German U-boats are still unaccounted for.
…That there may have been considerable submarine traffic between Germany and Japan was indicated by the interception last July of a Nazi U-boat Japan-bound with a $5,000,000 cache of mercury and other valuables sorely needed by the Japs for a last-ditch stand.161
Thus, we have all the elements here that we have been researching since the book began. We have rumors of Hitler’s disappearance and survival elsewhere in the world; the lack of credibility afforded stories of the cremation of Hitler’s body; and the connection with U-boat traffic to Japan. In fact, Sembower also mentions the rumor “…to the effect that the Russians have Bormann in secret custody, and that they know the manner of Hitler’s death, perhaps even possessing his corpse.” 162
Thus, John Sembower presents in mid-1945 the entire range of the theories as to Hitler’s disappearance that have persisted—as he predicted— to this day. He even goes on to state that the US Army is “carefully checking the approximately three thousand Germans gathered in the remote mountain district of Ashinoyou [sic], whose tall peaks resemble those of Hitler’s beloved Bavaria.” Ashinoyu is in Japan, south of Tokyo and to the west of Yokohama, and if this story is true then the U.S. military was still looking for Hitler months after April 30, 1945 and, in fact, after August 28, 1945, which is the day the American occupation began. There was thus an impression that Hitler could have escaped—not to Argentina—but as far away as Japan. This was considered credible enough to enlist U.S. Army intelligence personnel in occupied Japan on a search through the local German population.
If this was credible then how much more so is Hitler’s possible escape to an even more likely and much safer Asian locale?
Item: October 27, 1945. Otto Abetz, the Third Reich’s ambassador to the Vichy government of Occupied France, told an interviewer for the French newspaper, France-Soir, that Adolf Hitler “is certainly not dead.”
Item: October 17, 1955. Ten years after the above article appeared. A CIA report163 marked “Secret” and not declassified until after the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, begins:
With reference to the information submitted by Station [CIA/LA] concerning the alleged report that Adolf HITLER is still alive, the files of the [CIA/LA] contain similar information received from the same source, who resides in [redacted].
The memorandum goes on to give information received from a February, 1954 memo detailing a conversation between a CIA agent and one Phillip Citroen (a co-owner of the Maracaibo Times newspaper of Venezuela) that he met someone who resembled Hitler in Tunja, Colombia (a region known to be heavily populated by former Nazis, according to the source). What is interesting in the present context is the fact, noted in the CIA report, that Phillip Citroen “is reported to be employed with a Dutch steamship company.” He and his brother Francois Citroen went into partnership with one Alexander van Dobben “the Dutch Consul in Maracaibo” to establish the Maracaibo Times. Parts of this file are still classified to this day, marked “Access Restricted” with no explanation given.
Another report—dated fifteen days earlier—gives additional information concerning Phillip Citroen. Evidently, Citroen was a “former German SS trooper” who claimed to an unidentified friend that Hitler was still alive and that he, Citroen, visited him about once a month in Tunja, Colombia while Citroen was employed by the Royal Dutch Shipping Company. Citroen went on to tell his friend that Hitler had left Colombia “around January 1955” for Argentina.
More strikingly, a photograph was attached to this file showing Citroen sitting next to a man who very closely resembles Hitler. The legend on the back of the photo states “Adolf Schüttelmayer, Columbia, Tunja, America del Sur 1954”. It is to be noted immediately that there is a misspelling of the word “Colombia” which may be due to a foreigner’s error, but if Citroen was traveling regularly between Colombia and Venezuela it is unlikely that he would have made this simple mistake. The handwriting, however, is unmistakably that of a European or someone trained in European penmanship.
The cover page to this report—signed off by a number of unidentified CIA employees—bears a handwritten notation on the lower right hand corner: “Have fun.”
To which someone added the note: “May not be so funny.”
An SS-man with Dutch connections in South America. A CIA report that is still redacted and pages of which are still restricted. A report to the CIA dated February, 1954 (which we still have not seen) on Hitler’s presence in Colombia. His subsequent disappearance from that country at
the same time that Georg Anton Pöch arrives in Jakarta, Indonesia, the former Dutch colony.
No, indeed. This “may not be so funny” at all.
On November 4, 1955, CIA employee J.C. King wrote:
…it is felt that enormous efforts could be expended on this matter with remote possibilities of establishing anything concrete. Therefore, we suggest that this matter be dropped.164
And so it was.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, continued following up Hitler sightings for decades after the CIA seemed to have lost interest. The Bureau was nominally in charge of espionage and intelligence matters in Latin America, at least until the creation of the CIA in 1947 when a turf war began between Hoover and CIA over who would control intelligence gathering in the western hemisphere. As we know, the CIA eventually won, but that did not stop Hoover or the FBI from keeping files on Hitler sightings in South America and elsewhere for decades longer.
One of the earliest sightings was reported to Hoover on November 13, 1945 and reflects an OSS report that was dated a month earlier and which wound up on Hoover’s desk. The FBI report is in the form of a letter to a member of the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina (whose name is still redacted, even after 65 years) and is entitled “Hitler Hideout in Argentina.” The information it contains is solid where the pro-Nazi sentiments of a certain area of Argentina are concerned, and is very revealing of the type of environment that the Nazis could expect to find there.
It concerns a Mrs. Eichorn who at the time ran a spa in the town of La Falda, Argentina. Eichorn claimed that she heavily supported— financially
—the Nazi Party and in particular the propaganda efforts of Goebbels. She further claimed that she had made the necessary preparations to host the Führer should he be so kind as to come to Argentina. She claimed that when she and her family used to visit Germany, that they stayed with Hitler.165
At first glance, this may appear to be the ravings of a dotty old lady in some remote South American village. However, news reports of the time
reported that La Falda, Argentina in particular was a major center of pro- Nazi sentiment and pro-Nazi activity before, during and after the war. According to an article by the respected journalist Johannes Steel,166 and included in the FBI dossier on Hitler, the Argentine chief of the German Labor Front “is now believed to be in Calamuchita in Cordoba province. This town and La Falda are considered important centers of clandestine Nazi cells.”
He goes on to write that “[German Labor Front chief] Schroeder is reported to have arrived in Argentina with full instructions to prepare hiding places for other Nazis in that country. The vast territories of Entre Rios, Chaco and Misiones are said to be ideal for harboring sought-for Nazis and to be, actually, the headquarters of clandestine Nazi organizations.” He writes that one of the financiers of this operation is none other than Admiral Karl Dönitz, along with Nazi Finance Minister Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk and the notorious Robert Ley, head of the German Labor Front and Schroeder’s boss, who committed suicide rather than face the Nuremberg tribunals.
More recent research has revealed that the “spa” mentioned in the FBI/OSS report was in reality a famous hotel and resort that had been visited—among others—by Albert Einstein in 1925. Known as the Eden Hotel, it had been in operation since 1897 and was bought by Walter and Ida Eichorn in 1912. The Eichorns were members of the Nazi Party and did, in fact, raise considerable funds for the Party over the years. According to one source, the amount raised was in excess of thirty million Reichsmarks in 1944. There is documentation to prove that Hitler was personally acquainted with the Eichorn couple, including letters to and from the Führer praising their devotion to the Party. Indeed, Hitler himself received the Eichorns at the Reichs Chancellery on May 15, 1935, at which time it is believed that the couple offered their resort to the Führer as a sanctuary whenever he needed it. This offer of a refuge to the leader of the Third Reich is what finally appeared in the OSS report mentioned above and gave Hoover enough cause for concern that he forwarded the information to an embassy official in Buenos Aires.
The town of La Falda grew up around the famous resort, which was decorated in a European style and surrounded by Bavarian-style chalets that catered to a growing German population and which had a room especially reserved for Hitler. The hotel had its own movie theater, a dining room that
could seat 250, and a radio tower for communicating directly with Germany.
There is a persistent rumor that Hitler himself visited the Eden Hotel after the war and there are two photographs at the hotel that seem to show a blurred image of the Führer. Former employees of the hotel insist that they saw and in some cases served Hitler there after the war. The rumors were so persistent that Ernesto Guevara Lynch— the father of Che Guevara—used to spy on the Eichorns during the war. As if to prove these rumors had some foundation, more than one thousand Germans in the area around La Falda filed for Argentine citizenship in the final months of the war: that is, before April 1945.
After the war, the Japanese ambassador would be interned at the Eden Hotel for months, along with his entire diplomatic corps. Ownership of the hotel was murky at the time, since it had been appropriated by the Argentine government as “enemy property” once Argentina formally and rather cynically declared war on Germany in the weeks before the end of the war. One does not know what happened to the Eichorns, but the legacy of their spa and resort lingered. Adolf Eichmann was known to have visited La Falda and its famous hotel during his exile; his son Adolfo would marry the daughter of a former gardener of the hotel, a man named Pummer. In addition, Erich Müller—a former sailor with the famous German battleship Graf Spee that was scuttled in the waters off Montevideo, Uruguay after the Battle of River Plate in December,1939—married a former maid of the Eden Hotel.167 Thus, it can be shown that this hotel, situated 450 miles northwest of Buenos Aires in an area surrounded by hills and lakes, was a major nerve center for the Nazis for decades spanning the pre-war, war and post-war years. We are thus presented with a well-documented scenario: trustworthy and fanatic Nazis in Argentina managing a large resort in a remote area of the country which was made available to Adolf Hitler should he need to escape. It was an area populated heavily by Germans who were pro-Nazi, and was frequented by Nazis—including Adolf Eichmann—for decades. It was run by Nazis who had come to the attention of not only the OSS but also of the FBI. Put that together with the well-reported appearance of Nazi U-boats along Argentina’s coast in the months after the war’s end, and you have a scenario that is not only possible but also probable. Hitler knew he had a bolthole already prepared for him in pro- Nazi Argentina, a country accessible by U-boat and which had a large