SS Officers - Postwar Activity and ODESSA

Postwar Activity and ODESSA

According to Simon Wiesenthal, toward the end of World War II, a group of former SS officers went to Argentina and set up a Nazi fugitive network code-named ODESSA, (an acronym for Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, "Organization of the former SS members"), with ties in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, operating out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. ODESSA allegedly helped Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke, and many other war criminals find postwar refuge in Latin America.

It is estimated that out of roughly 70,000 members of the SS involved in crimes in German concentration camps, only about 1,650 to 1,700 were tried after the war.

However, SS members who escaped judicial punishment were often subject to summary execution, torture and beatings at the hands of freed prisoners, displaced persons or Allied soldiers. Waffen SS soldiers were executed by U.S. soldiers during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, and SS officer Oskar Dirlewanger was beaten and tortured to death at the end of the war. In addition at least some members of the U.S Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) delivered captured SS camp guards to displaced persons camps with the intention of them being extrajudicially executed.

Argentinian citizen and water company worker Ricardo Klement was discovered to be Adolf Eichmann in the 1950s, by former Jewish Dachau worker Lothar Hermann, whose daughter, Sylvia, became romantically involved with Klaus Klement (born Klaus Eichmann in 1936 in Berlin). He was captured by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960, and tried in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961, where he explicitly declared that he had abdicated his conscience in order to follow the Führerprinzip (the "leader principle", or superior orders).

Josef Mengele, disguised as a member of the regular German infantry, was captured and released by the Allies, oblivious of who he was. He was able to go and work in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1949 and to Altos, Paraguay, in 1959 where he was discovered by Nazi hunters. From the late 1960s on, he exercised his medical practice in Embu, a small city near São Paulo, Brazil, under the identity of Wolfgang Gerhard, where in 1979, he suffered a stroke while swimming and drowned.

The British writer Gitta Sereny (born in 1921 in Hungary), who conducted interviews with SS men, considers the story about ODESSA untrue and attributes the escape of notorious SS members to postwar chaos, an individual bishop in the Vatican, and the Vatican's inability to investigate the stories of those people who came requesting help.

The Argentine author and journalist Uki Goñi's book, The Real Odessa, claims that such a network in fact existed, and in Argentina was largely run by Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón, a Nazi sympathiser who had been impressed by Benito Mussolini's reign in Italy during a military tour of duty in that country which also took him to Nazi Germany. More recently researched (2002) than Sereny's interviews, counterclaimants point out that it is at a far greater chronological remove—multiple decades, not simply a year or two—from the actual point(s) in time he asserts such events occurred, a remove material enough that it could call into question the veracity of a number of his claims.

In the modern age, several neo-Nazi groups claim to be successor organizations to the SS. There is no single group, however, that is recognized as a continuation of the SS, and most such present-day organizations are loosely organized with separate agendas.

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