FOUR MONTHS AFTER MARTIN BORMANN WENT to ground in SchIeswig-Holstein, the international authorities seeking to try Nazi leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity decided (in August 1945) that the site of these military and civilian tribunals was to be Nuremberg. It was the first time in the history of modern warfare that those who gave the orders and were responsible for the particular aspect of genocide were to be brought before an international court of justice. Up until then it had generally been the middle and lower echelon officers and soldiers who had been made to suffer as retribution for aggression and atrocities, but now those at or near the top of the hierarchy stood before the bar. In Germany, by October 1945,21 defendants bad been brought to Nuremberg prison to await their trials. The twenty-second individual, Martin Bormann, was to be tried in absentia; the twenty-third, Robert Ley, Reichsleiter of the labor front which had also operated the forced-labor camps, a political opponent of Bormann for many years, committed suicide before the trials began.
The first Nuremberg trial dragged on for ten months before sentences were handed down. Ten Nazi leaders were sentenced to death, and went to the gallows in the small gymnasium of the prison. Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was first to die; he was followed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, and Arthur Seyss- Inquart. Only two escaped, Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering and Party Minister Martin Bormann. Goering had gulped down a cyanide capsule smuggled to him in his cell, leaving a farewell message that death in this manner was preferable to the indignity of hanging. Certainly there was little dignity in the somber setting where ten former national leaders were put to death. The executions were accomplished with precision; the American sergeant who presided over this macabre event said, "Hot damn, 110 minutes, right on time!"
But if one hardened sergeant was insensitive, there were those all over the Western world who spoke out against the trials and continue to do so today. Prominent among the doubters was Telford Taylor, U.S. chief counsel at Nuremberg. Ten days before the executions of the German leaders, the late Senator Robert A. Taft had condemned the trials and sentences. He strongly suggested that involuntary exile might have been wiser, more in keeping with professed American values. He had said that the trials, whose rules of law were formulated and enacted on the spot and then made retroactive, "violate the fundamental principle of American law that a man cannot be tried under ex post facto statute. . . . Nuremberg was a blot on American Constitutional history, and a serious departure from our Anglo-Saxon heritage of fair and equal treatment, a heritage which had rightly made this country respected throughout the world. . . . About this whole judgment there is a spirit of vengeance, and vengeance is seldom justice. The hanging of men convicted will be a blot on the American record which we shall long regret."
Taft further stated, "In these trials, we have accepted the Russian idea of the purpose of the trials--government policy and not justice-with little relation to Anglo-Saxon heritage. By clothing policy in the forms of legal procedure, we may discredit the whole idea of justice in Europe for years to come."
The Nuremberg Trials were man's first fumbling attempts to outlaw war, and their legality was obscure, their morality confused. The Allies knew that they too had been guilty of war crimes. Dresden, for example, was consumed by flames caused by Allied firebombing, a city open and undefended. Several hundred thousand civilians perished, more than those who died from the American atomic bombs later to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The attack on Dresden was needless, ordered personally by Winston Churchill over the objections of his air marshal, who had demanded a written order from the Prime Minister before reluctantly giving a directive for the bombing. Churchill, the object of suspicion and abuse from Stalin throughout the war, felt that such an act would pay dividends in his later dealings with the Soviet leader. But when aerial photographs of Dresden's flaming destruction were sent by Churchill and reached Moscow, they were merely tossed aside with a shrug by Stalin. The Russians too had their concentration camps, Jewish pogroms, and slave labor and pursued wars of aggression against Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, not to mention the other countries they had sucked up into the communist bloc. Inside Mother Russia itself, Stalin had sent uncounted Bolsheviks to the death cellars of Lubyanka prison and the concentration camps. Throughout World War II, the executions quietly went on; after the war they continued -for instance, the anti-Semitic drive in Leningrad and the extermination of the Jewish antifascist committee.
In all theatres of war unspeakable brutalities had occurred, from the 300,000 who died at Japanese hands in Nanking in 1937 to the unforgivable treatment of Allied soldiers in Japanese prison camps. It was Russian troops who massacred 45,000 Polish prisoners of war in Katyn forest, dumping the bodies into a mass grave. The reason? From these officers and soldiers would have come the opposition to communist rule in Poland in the years to come. Also, in the years to come, the United States was to be diminished with the aggressions in Vietnam and such atrocities as Son My and My Lai.
The first Nuremberg trial should have been labeled for what it was: an-eye-for-an-eye vengeance for the crime of racial extermination. If it had been so labeled, the spirit behind Nuremberg would have been understandable, not conflicting with the issues of legality and justice so troubling to many leaders of jurisprudence in the United States and Europe. The four Nazis most directly responsible for the decision to invoke racial genocide were Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and Heydrich, and all had died before the ten other officials took their final walk to the gallows. During the ten months of trial, the 21 defendants who sat in the dock at Nuremberg being tried for their part in wars of aggression were no more unprepossessing than their Allied counterparts might have been had they lost the war and found themselves awaiting trial and sentencing. Leadership on both sides was represented by educated academics, administrators, and military notables who saw to it that the war kept moving along. Still, Nuremberg was a landmark, and if it did not halt the proliferation of wars it reinforced the international principle that there are standards of human behavior all nations should adhere to.
As the first trial was concluded, with sentences pronounced and carried out on the 21 defendants, the twenty-second was stirring in his bolthole. Martin Bormann had been moved from Schleswig-Holstein to a safe house in Denmark by his security chief, Heinrich Mueller. The party minister had been tried in absentia at Nuremberg; while found not guilty on charges of crimes against peace, for he had not been one of the early plotters of war, he had been found guilty as charged of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bormann believed he was not guilty on any of the counts; but he also knew that disappearing was the only course, else he too would have been hanged until dead in the gymnasium of Nuremberg prison.
Martin Bormann became the object of history's greatest manhunt. At least one thousand Allied intelligence officers, representing Great Britain, the United States, France, and Russia, were on his trail, together with an uncounted number of informers who coveted the reward offered for information leading to his capture. But Heinrich Mueller had strung an invisible, impenetrable defense between Bormann and those who sought him. Select units of the Gestapo continued to function, unofficially, and those who now reported directly to Mueller, under suspicion of surviving Berlin and therefore also a subject of search, were among the best secret police agents of the SS. Out of uniform, they continued to draw pay and expenses from their paymaster, representing Mueller, from SS funds held in a numbered account in a Swiss bank. As the search for Bormann went from hot to cold to hot, Mueller continued to move the Party Minister around, back and forth between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, but staying clear of major cities such as Hamburg. Mueller had a network of loyal informers, SS men who had returned to their peacetime positions on German police forces at both local and national levels. The movement of 'enemy forces," as they described Allied agents, served Bormann and Mueller as an early warning system.
Bormann took all these precautions in stride, comfortable in. the knowledge that his security was in the hands of top professionals, and concentrated on his immediate tasks at hand, much as he had during the final days in the Fuehrerbunker. Wherever positioned, he turned his hiding place into a party headquarters, and was in command of everything save security. Telephones were too dangerous, but he had couriers to bear documents to Sweden, where a Bormann commercial headquarters was maintained in Malmo to handle the & of a complex and growing postwar business empire. From Malmo high-frequency radio could transmit in 30-second bursts enough coded information to listening posts in Switzerland, Spain, or Argentina to form a continuous line of instructions.
Meanwhile, General Mueller was taking steps to establish escape routes for officers and soldiers of the SS who wanted to leave Germany to start a new life in South America. Some were listed by the Nuremberg authorities as war criminals; most were not. But they had in common the desire to begin again-far away. Mueller talked over his plans with Bormann. The first route considered was referred to as Organization der ehemaligen SS-Angehorigen-Organization of former SS members-and thus became known as ODESSA. Mueller estimated the annual cost of this operation, and Bormann, ever the banker, suggested that ODESSA be set up as a corporation and funded accordingly. The prime purpose of corporation was to move SS men out of Germany to South America, or to the Middle East if they preferred it that way. To amortize the heavy cost, Bormann suggested the corporation also assume functions that would make ODESSA self-liquidating, at a profit.
As ODESSA would not operate as an escape route for much more than five years, Bormann suggested that the SS administrators picked to coordinate and supervise the route also keep their eyes peeled for quick-money opportunities, with a view to returning the initial investment and having ODESSA operating in the black. Bormann suggested that surplus arms was a likely field of opportunity, and as usual he was right. One British scrap dealer had become a millionaire in one year buying up old tanks, trucks, and assorted guns; selling some as scrap, reconditioning others for sale on the arms black market of those days. The British government began selling its surpluses openly. Other munitions dealers blossomed into prosperity and respectability as they bid low for high-cost items.
But none were to achieve the profitability of ODESSA, whose agents ranged throughout Europe and even behind the Iron Curtain. They bought and sold surplus American arms to Arab buyers seeking to strengthen the military capabilities of Egypt and other Middle Eastern Arab nations. Palestine was to be partitioned into a Jewish homeland, and they intended to destroy it at birth. But now Jewish buyers, funded from America and elsewhere, entered the marketplace. They were barred from purchasing guns and American surplus P-51 Mustang fighter planes by President Truman, and their only recourse for survival was to trade on the European black market, which, unknown to them, was coming rapidly under the control of ODESSA agents. However, the Jewish agency's buyers might have purchased from the devil himself if it meant survival of the small, defenseless nation, just come into being on May 14, 1947. The first purchase they made was in Czechoslovakia: 4,300 rifles, 200 medium machine guns with ammunition. Also acquired were ten surplus Messerschmitt-109 fighter planes for $44,000 each, which included some spare parts, cannon, machine guns, bombs, and assorted ammunition. ODESSA agents handled this transaction in Prague, with the tacit permission of Moscow, which was to sponsor Israel as a homeland for Jews in the United Nations. Russia wanted British influence dissipated in the Middle East, and one way to do this was to get their foot in the door of the new Israel. Hence their sub rosa cooperation in Prague. The German agents wanted only to serve as 'honest brokers" in an international arms deal.
With the German fighter plane deal consummated, it was up to the Jewish buyers to get the planes to their new homeland. Messerschmitts have a range of only 400 miles, so flying them down to Palestine was out of the question. They might have refueled in Yugoslavia and Greece, but the British were being sticky about transport of unauthorized arms, and closed down this possibility. As a result, a former German airbase near the Sudetenland town of Zatac (formerly Saaz) became for a few weeks a Jewish airfield. Here two C-54 cargo planes flown by American contract pilots touched down, and Czech mechanics dismantled the fighter planes and stowed them into the big cargo aircraft, which thereupon took off for an airfield close by Tel Aviv. The operation was repeated many times over, until all ten fighters had been transported to Israel. The success of the airlift convinced David Ben-Gurion, who was to become the first prime minister of Israel, that the option taken on 15 more planes should be exercised.
But money was short, and the ODESSA representatives had to be paid immediately, else the delicate negotiations hanging fire behind this Iron Curtain country would disintegrate. The Moscow representatives were becoming edgy, the Czechs who were fronting the negotiations were wondering when Russia might change its mind and wreak retribution on them, and the fellows from Germany felt that if there was undue delay the deal would collapse and they would go down with it. An appeal for quick money was made by the Jewish buyers to Teddy Kollek, in New York, the operational chief of the Jewish groups in the United States. (Kollek, incidentally, was much later to become mayor of Jerusalem-in 1965.) He went to Manhasset on Long Island and met with William Levitt, the famed builder of many suburban Levittowns. "We need money," Kollek said. "I can't tell you what it's for because it's top secret. But if you lend us the money, the Provisional Government of the State of Israel will give you a note and pay you back in a year."
"So," Levitt recalls, "I said O.K., and I gave him the million dollars."
At their hotel in Zatac, renamed the Hotel Stalingrad, the air crews waited for news. It arrived, and during the ensuing days of feverish activity on the airstrip, the 15 Messerschmitt-109s were flown out of Zatac under the code "Operation Balak," or 'Son of Bird," a Hebrew historical reference. Egyptian forces in brigade strength advanced on Tel Aviv in 1947, but were halted 25 miles from the new capital by the sudden appearance of Messerschmitt fighter planes that strafed and bombed their columns, and by artillery fire from 65-mm mountain guns bought from Nazi stockpiles and shipped clandestinely from Marseilles. The danger of a quick Egyptian victory had been cut short; the new State of Israel would survive.
But would Martin Bormann survive if he left his modest sanctuary in northwest Germany? The administrators of ODESSA, aside from their role as short-term munitions merchants that they were later to segue into other commercial activities, were confident that they could get Party Minister Bormann right across Germany to Munich and over the Alps to Genoa. They had already moved several thousand SS men by this underground railroad, and thus far everything had gone according to schedule. "Safe houses” had been established along the route, and the trawlers always arrived and departed on time. By the time the first Nuremberg trial had ended in early 1946, Bormann was ready for progress. General Mueller had him conveyed to another safe house near Domstedt. Griesheim- Domstedt was and still is the publishing center for the U.S. Army's Stars & Stripes newspaper for Europe. The late editions go to press at midnight, and shortly thereai3er trucks, operated exclusively by the Stars & Stripes command, line up for their bundles of newspapers that must be distributed by morning to all U.S. Army bases. In 1946 it was a simple matter for Mueller to arrange for Bormann to be a casual passenger aboard such a truck, which halted briefly as it turned out of the publishing plant and picked him up. Accelerating, it turned onto the Autobahn, then drove straight to Munich. Just before reaching U.S. Army headquarters, the German driver slowed to a stop and Bormann jumped out, disappearing into the downtown area of the city. He reached a safe house, where his brother Albert had been waiting; they remained there quietly, awaiting further instructions.
Bormann left Munich with an SS companion and guide, by automobile provided by a German mayor who was able to get rationed gasoline. In the pastoral uplands of Bavaria they parked the car at a previously agreed-on point, so the mayor could fetch it and drive it back. Bormann had been advised that it was best to travel on foot beyond this point in order to avoid interception and interrogation by U.S. CIC patrols. So the pair took to the countryside on foot and headed toward the Austrian Tirol. Their appearance was quite commonplace; few gave them more than a glance. The spring before millions of refugees and displaced persons had swarmed across Germany, prisoners of all nationalities making their way home, more than a million German families from the East fleeing before the Red Army into western Germany. The Wehrmacht had disintegrated into long columns of prisoners walking toward prisoner-of-war camps. Mass chaos had characterized 1945, but now in the winter and spring of 1946 some order appeared; however, plodding men and women, Red Cross vehicles, and fast-driving U.S. Army trucks were familiar sights in the area beyond Munich. The two men made their way up mountain roads and across valleys, and no attention was paid to them by the civilians trying to farm their patches or cut firewood in the forests.
Bormann and his companion crossed the Inn River, and were guided by local SS mountaineers to the Alpine village of Nauders, where the Austrian, Swiss, and Italian frontiers meet. The two rested in a safe house for several days, then set out on the next stage of the journey, which took them through Val di Adige and down to the green forestlands that line Lake Gardia. Here they halted for rest in the monastery overlooking the lake, feeling relatively safe. After a time they pushed on to a Franciscan monastery in Genoa, where arrangements to receive them had been made by Heinrich Mueller.
New identification papers were handed to Bormann, together with the welcome news that in a matter of days he would be sailing to Spain. When he left the Franciscan monastery in Genoa and boarded a small Mediterranean steamer, his first stop was the port of Tarragona, to the south of Barcelona. It was night when the small vessel put into port, debarked the passenger, and steamed from the harbor. Bormann was met by two of Mueller's SS men, who promptly drove the party minister along the coast to Vendrell, where they picked up the auto route and headed inland. It was the purest scenic beauty that Bormann saw as they drove swiftly, with no stops other than to refill the gas tank from jerry cans they carried. They risked no appearance in a public place. Somewhat across the neck of Spain they turned off at Todela, and continued over good secondary roads until the mountainous area of Logrono was reached. They passed Najera, then finally reached their destination, the Dominican monastery of San Domingo, which stands in the Province of Galicia, once called home by General Franco. Preparations had been made for an indefinite stay.
Bormann thanked his SS comrades, and they stood erect and saluted as in the past; then they departed.
The route to freedom taken by Bormann was not exactly that of other SS escapees. His clandestine departure from Germany had been calculated according to his special needs by Mueller, with SS men in civilian clothes positioned all along the way. They were the advance lookouts, sworn to the protection of their Party Minister, the duly appointed successor to Adolf Hitler. At no time in his trek between Munich and Genoa was Bormann out of sight of the finest riflemen the Waffen SS had developed in six years of war. They manned the safe houses, they skied the ridges overlooking the valleys to be traversed by Bormann, and they were chopping wood or hiking deep in the pine forests as the two trudged on toward safety. The paths followed by other SS members on the ODESSA route always led toward the Austrian Tirol; the precise route into Italy depended on the time of year and the pattern of search being conducted by Allied patrols at any particular time. Once in Genoa, the flow of former SS comrades was directed toward the harbor, where they would board boats of various descriptions. When a captain had a full consignment, he would lift anchor on his chartered boat and head for the Straits of Gibraltar. Once through the British bastion he changed course and steamed slowly along the Portuguese coast, rounding the northwest part of the Iberian peninsula at Cape Ortegal, at last dropping anchor in the beautiful harbor of San Sebastian, where his cargo of SS emigrants would file ashore. It was a short voyage, which was repeated by many vessels many, many times, for the flow of SS men was seemingly unending.
General Mueller had a second major escape route, which took some of the pressure off the above described course. ODESSA had the notoriety and the spotlight of sorts, also the status of a commercial self-liquidating corporation, but another version of this underground railway ran across France and over the Pyrenees. It was referred to as Deutsche Hilfsverein-German Relief Organization-and, although it had been set up hurriedly in 1945, it performed an enormously valuable service for the SS men who traversed it. It was not self-liquidating like ODESSA, and the money to run it came directly from SS funds, a source separate from that controlled directly by Bormann, although SS and party money sent to South America had been melded into one solid treasure and the bank accounts that required Bormann's approval at a later date produced friction between Bormann and Mueller, for in times to come distribution of money was a prime matter on the NSDAP agenda in South America.
With the war in Europe at an end, the struggle for Indochina flared up, and the French began recruiting unemployed German soldiers for their armies in the land later to be known as Vietnam. In the chaos of 1945 the only negotiable skill many a German ex-soldier had was training in warfare. The French were in the market for that, and set up recruiting stations in Metz for their Foreign Legion. Former German soldiers flocked to sign up for a stretch of soldiering in French Indochina. The situation was exactly right for General Mueller and his associates. They intermingled their SS veterans with the ordinary Wehrmacht recruits; thus, on every French truck headed south in convoy were many SS men. All had new papers provided by the SS documentation section, and now they also carried French enlistment papers that enabled them to cross France with impunity. The truck convoys would go to Bordeaux or Marseilles, depending on French shipping conditions, the ultimate destination being North Africa, where training would begin. However, once in either of the French port cities, the SS men would skip away from the truck convoys and be guided by French policemen to a new departure point. These were the police who had worked during four years of occupation for Mueller and the Gestapo and they were still loyal, particularly so when the effort expended was minimal and the under-the-table pay was high. If a Foreign Legion truck convoy was destined for Bordeaux, the SS men would be guided over the Pyrenees, and through coastal towns to San Sebastian. If the destination, on the other hand, was Marseilles, they would be placed aboard small fishing boats that would round the Iberian peninsula and land them at San Sebastian, the terminal point for both ODESSA and Deutsche Hilfsverein. Here they waited for the next stage of their movement, which was overland to the small port of Vigo on the northwest coast of Spain, due west of Redondela. It was an emotional sight for SS men awaiting departure to see on the horizon the appearance of the chartered transatlantic freighters that were to bear them to exile in Buenos Aires. Ten thousand SS officers and soldiers passed along this way. But the number of Germans who went to South America, both along these two routes and by less organized means after Martin Bormann had declared his flight capital program in August 1944, totaled 60,000, including scientists and administrators at all levels, as well as the former SS soldiers commanded by General Mueller.
The most unsavory SS officer to take advantage of ODESSA was Adolf Eichmann. It was in 1950 that he made contact with the organization, which saw that he reached Genoa safely; here he received a refugee passport in the name of Ricardo Klement along with a visa for Argentina. The Nuremberg Trials had thoroughly frightened him. He testified later, "My name was mentioned several times there, and I was afraid there might be more thorough investigations which would reveal my identity. I became particularly alarmed after Dieter Wisliceny's testimony, which leveled all kinds of accusations against me." Eichmann had been taken prisoner of war by American soldiers at the beginning of August 1945, giving his name as Waffen SS officer Otto Eichmann. With his true name receiving such prominence at Nuremberg, Eichmann spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Offenbach, senior German officer of the prisoners of war. Eichmann requested authority to escape, and a meeting of officers was called to deliberate this; they approved it. They helped Eichmann by giving him new identification papers in the name of Otto Heninger, and one of the officers handed him a note to his brother in Kulmbach, recommending that he find Eichmann a job in forestry. Eichmann escaped and arrived in Celle early in March 1946, where he stayed, working as a forester for four years. But his name was continually mentioned as the monstrosity of his crimes emerged. An odd sidebar to this bit of sad history is the fact that Heinrich Mueller, who had been recruited into the Gestapo by Reinhard Heydrich from his position as inspector of detectives in Munich, had first been assigned to the Jewish desk in Berlin. Mueller was a professional detective and wanted no part of the Jewish problem. He was working in his modest office in Gestapo headquarters when this self-effacing lieutenant entered who had recently been assigned to the Gestapo and was looking around for something to do. Muder, on the job only three days, immediately told Lieutenant Eichmann that the Jewish desk was his permanent assignment, then left for lunch, relieved, and very pleased with this turn of events.
Adolf Eichmann in 1950 did not use the port of Vigo to escape. That means had wound down, and he set sail for Argentina on the Italian ship Giovanna C., arriving in Buenos Aires in the middle of July 1950. Unlike many fleeing Nazis, he reached Argentina with scant funds. He went from job to job, after running a laundry in the Olivas quarter of Buenos Aires that shortly went bankrupt. Through his Nazi connections he obtained a position with the German banking firm of Fuldner y Compania, at 374 Avenida Cordoba in Buenos Aires. This fm had established a subsidiary known as CAPRI-Industrial Planning and Development Company-to develop hydroelectric power in the Tucamin region in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and Eichman was transferred there. From Austria his wife Vera and their three sons joined him in 1952; a fourth son was born in Argentina. A friend of Eichman/Klement who knew his real identity prodded him to shift to Bolivia and work for the state security services in that country. Eichmann is said to have responded, 'When I hear those words 'state security services,' my appetite for killing is whetted all over again." In 1960 he was captured at dusk outside his modest house in the San Fernando district of Buenos Aires by the feared Mossad, and transported on an El Al passenger plane to Tel Aviv, there to stand trial at last for crimes against humanity. After imposition of the death penalty, his remains were cremated, with the ashes scattered over the Mediterranean. He had confided to Israeli interrogators that he assumed his presence in South America had been leaked, that he had been betrayed to distract attention from the pursuit of higher-ups, and it is likely that he was right, for his continuing notoriety in the newspapers of the world was disconcerting to Nazi leadership in South America. They were leading a well-ordered life, and wanted to keep it that way. During the uproar in 1960 and the trial that followed in Tel Aviv, there was considerable friction between the Jewish and German communities in Buenos Aires, but it finally tapered off, with a mutually accepted feeling that it had all been for the best.
But back in early 1947 a German of immense notoriety and importance waited his voyage to freedom. Martin Bormann, in the Dominican monastery of San Domingo, chafed under the constraint. Finally, the ship arrived to take him to South America, and he made his way at night to the harbor of Vigo. A rather sizeable freighter had been loaded with produce and other foodstuffs of Spain and with the most recent contingent of fleeing SS men. The last aboard was Party Minister Bormann, who went directly to the modest suite reserved for him. He watched the hills of Spain recede in the distance, and thought wistfully that this was the last view he might ever have of the European continent. Certainly he would not be returning to this province of Galicia, where many fascists who had fled France and Belgium now resided in exile, such as Leon Degrelle, once the leader of the movement "Rex," who dwelled in a house in the mountains of Asturi, overlooking San Sebastian.
A strange footnote to the true tale of Bormann's stay in the Dominican monastery of San Domingo is the suspect fire that destroyed the archives in 1969. Mueller, ever the supercautious protector, became aware that Israeli agents were backtracking Bormann's escape route. I have been told they wanted to discover what Catholic priests and bishops might have aided Bormann in his escape, intending to use this information to embarrass the Vatican. The only evidence of record that Bormann had been sheltered in this Dominican monastery was the Book of Visitors he had signed the night he arrived. Twenty three years later fire broke out in the very shelves where this book was kept, and all was burned up.
When the large freighter carrying Bormann and a contingent of SS officers and soldiers steamed into the harbor of Buenos Aires in the winter of 1947, the anchor was dropped in the waters of the south quay near Riachuelo, one of the tributaries of the La Plata, named by the conquistadores for what it means, "silver." The ship did not come close to the piers, where enormous cranes and swarming dockworkers unload cargoes, but as dusk fell a small fleet of boats began ferrying the passengers and their belongings to shore. At sea, each SS man had been supplied with new identity cards, courtesy of the skilled engravers of Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen, passports bearing appropriate visas, and written instructions as to where each was to stay once ashore. Some were dispatched to rooming houses and others to obscure hotels, while still others traveled by public transportation to inland cities and towns, or even to adjoining countries. Jobs had been found for all, either in the companies Bormann had established in 1944 and 1945 or in older German corporations that had been doing business in Latin America for a number of years. All those who debarked from the vessel either had with them or were issued a modest sum of cash, sufficient to carry them until the first payday. None of them actually saw Bormann on the ship, save for the captain and several Nazi VIPs who came aboard the night of arrival. Their reception was warm and friendly, and the local NSDAP leaders knew that they were speaking with the official successor to Adolf Hitler, the Party Minister and Reichsleiter whose orders they would obey implicitly in the years ahead.
Martin Bormann entered a country with a political climate favorable to him. Argentina had been under the dictatorial governance of Juan Per6n ever since he and his associates had been victorious in a historic coup on June 4,1943; then, in June 1947, he was voted by an overwhelming majority into power, despite the intense and overt opposition of the United States. He was to be driven from the presidency and from Argentina in September 1955, but in the interim years he did more for the ordinary man, the "shirtless ones," than had any leader in Argentine history. While doing all this good he banked an illicitly derived fortune in Switzerland, estimated by reliable sources as around $500 million, of which around $100 million was thanks to the Bormann organization. He was a charismatic figure, as president and in exile in Madrid, and was returned to power in 1973, a year before his death in 1974. In this country of 22 million, Italy and Spain have contributed the most immigrants, followed by Britain, Poland, France, Russia, and Germany. There are also in Argentina 700,000 Lebanese and 450,000 Jews, but it was the British who achieved economic dominance, at least until Per6n came to power, investing as they did in shipping, banking, insurance, and the railways. British influence declined under Per6n. He expropriated the British-owned railways, paying E150 million, bought out American telephone interests for $100 million, and nationalized the airlines, shipping, and local transportation. As British influence declined, German authority increased. Peron was for Adolf Hitler all the way, believing until the last that the Axis powers would win the war. His private secretary was German, the son of a Nazi, and throughout his time of power he felt most at ease with Germans. Because of his admiration of Hitler, he learned German while a young military attach6 in Italy: his purpose was to be able to read Mein Kampf in the original.
The influx of German industry and investment boosted the Argentine economy, and the new German money flowing into the German-controlled banks in Buenos Aires for safekeeping and profitable investment under the Bormann flight capital program indicated to Peron that a new prosperity lay ahead for his country. The arrival of Martin Bormann in person was an event of significance to him, and in low-key meetings with Hitler's successor both agreed to work for the development of a new, modern Argentina. Peron was obviously fascinated at hearing firsthand all about the last days of Adolf Hitler, and he remarked to a confidant that here was a fellow who could still do much in the years ahead for German prosperity as he promised to do for Argentina. Both realized that the capture of Bormann was a clear and ever present danger, and so Per6n instructed the chief of his secret police to give all possible cooperation to Heinrich Mueller in his task of protecting the party minister, a collaboration that continued for years. It became somewhat frayed around the edges after Peron left for Panama and then exile in Madrid in 1955, but Mueller today still wields power with the Argentinian secret police in all matters concerning Germans and the NSDAP in South America.
On June 16, 1948, President Truman became involved in the hunt for Martin Bormann. Robert H. Jackson, who had once taken a leave from the Supreme Court to serve as U.S. chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, wrote to the president that a quiet search should be made by the FBI for Bormann in South America.
"My suggestion, therefore," he wrote, "is that the FBI be authorized to pursue thoroughly discreet inquiries of a preliminary nature in South America. . . . I have submitted this summary to Mr. Hoover and am authorized to say that it meets with his approval. You may inform him of your wishes directly or through me, as you prefer."
The presidential authorization was given, and John Edgar Hoover assigned the investigation to his most experienced and skillful agent in South America, who proved that he was just that by eventually obtaining copies of the Martin Bormann file that were being held under strict secrecy by Argentina's Minister of the Interior in the Central de Intelligencia. When the file (now in my possession) was received at FBI headquarters, it revealed that the Reichsleiter had indeed been tracked for years. One report covered his wherabouts from 1948 to 1961, in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Chide. The file revealed that he had been banking under his own name from his office in Germany in Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires since 1941; that he held one joint account with the Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, and on August 4,5, and 14,1967, had written checks on demand accounts in First National City Bank (Overseas Division) of New York, The Chase Manhattan Bank, and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., all cleared through Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires.
The surveillance report of Martin Bormann's movements stated the following, in brief: