ODESSA Formation 1946 Type Network Purpose/focus To prevent the prosecution of SS officers for war crimes. Region served International Official languages German Affiliations Stille Hilfe
The ODESSA, from the German Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning “Organization of Former SS Members,” is believed to have been an international Nazi network set up toward the end of World War II by a group of SS officers. The purpose of the ODESSA was to establish and facilitate secret escape routes, later known as ratlines, to allow SS members to avoid their capture and prosecution for war crimes. Most of those fleeing out of Germany and Austria were helped to South America and the Middle East.
Several books by those involved in the War Crimes Commission (including T.H. Tetens and Joseph Wechsberg) have verified the organization's existence and provided details of its operations. Wechsberg studied Simon Wiesenthal's memoirs on the ODESSA and verified them with his own experiences in the book The Murderers Among Us.
In the realm of fiction, the Frederick Forsyth best-selling 1972 thriller The Odessa File brought the organization to popular attention. (The novel was turned into a film starring Jon Voight.) In the novel, Forsyth's ODESSA smuggled war criminals to Latin America, but also attempted to protect those SS members who remained behind in Germany, and plotted to influence political decisions in West Germany.
According to Simon Wiesenthal, the ODESSA was set up in 1946 to aid fugitive Nazis. Interviews by the ZDF German TV station with former SS men suggest instead that the ODESSA was never the single world-wide secret organization that Wiesenthal described, but several organizations, both overt and covert, that helped ex-SS men. The truth may have been obscured by antagonism between the Wiesenthal organization and German military intelligence.
Long before the ZDF TV network, historian Gitta Sereny wrote in her 1974 book Into That Darkness, based on interviews with the former commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, Franz Stangl (see References following), that the ODESSA had never existed. She wrote: "The prosecutors at the Ludwigsburg Central Authority for the Investigation into Nazi Crimes, who know precisely how the postwar lives of certain individuals now living in South America have been financed, have searched all their thousands of documents from beginning to end, but say they are totally unable to authenticate (the) 'Odessa.' Not that this matters greatly: there certainly were various kinds of Nazi aid organizations after the war — it would have been astonishing if there hadn't been."
This view is supported by Guy Walters in his book Hunting Evil, where he also points out that networks were used, but there was not such a thing as a setup network covering Europe and South America, with an alleged war treasure. For Walters, the reports received by the allied intelligence services during the mid-1940s suggest that the appellation "ODESSA" was "little more than a catch-all term use by former Nazis who wished to continue the fight."
However, while Nazi concentration camp supervisors denied the existence of the ODESSA, neither US War Crimes Commission reports nor American OSS officials did. In interviews of outspoken German anti-Nazis by Joseph Wechsberg, former American OSS officer and member of the US War Crimes Commission, it was verified that plans were made for a Fourth Reich before the fall of the Third, and that this was to be implemented by reorganizing in remote Nazi colonies overseas: "The Nazis decided that the time had come to set up a world-wide clandestine escape network." "They used Germans who had been hired to drive U.S. Army trucks on the autobahn between Munich and Salzburg for the 'Stars and Stripes,' the American Army newspaper. The couriers had applied for their jobs under false names, and the Americans in Munich had failed to check them carefully... (the) ODESSA was organized as a thorough, efficient network... Anlaufstellen (ports of call) were set up along the entire Austrian-German border... In Lindau, close to both Austria and Switzerland, (the) ODESSA set up an 'export-import' company with representatives in Cairo and Damascus."
In his interviews with Sereny, Stangl denied any knowledge of a group called the ODESSA. Recent biographies of Adolf Eichmann, who also escaped to South America, and Heinrich Himmler, the alleged founder of the ODESSA, made no reference to such an organization. However, Hannah Arendt, in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, states that "in 1950, [Eichmann] succeeded in establishing contact with ODESSA, a clandestine organization of S.S. Veterans, and in May of that year, he was passed through Austria to Italy, where a Franciscan priest, fully informed of his identity, equipped him with a refugee passport in the name of Richard Klement and sent him on to Buenos Aires." Notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele also escaped to South America.
Sereny attributed the fact that SS members could escape to postwar chaos and the inability of the Roman Catholic Church, the Red Cross, and the American military to verify the claims of people who came to them for help, rather than to the activities of an underground Nazi organisation. She identified a Vatican official, Bishop Aloïs Hudal, not former SS men, as the principal agent in helping Nazis leave Italy for South America.
Argentine writer Uki Goñi, in his 2002 book The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina, suggested that Sereny’s more complex, and less conspiratorial, story was closer to the truth. In 1938, on the verge of World War II, and with Hitler’s policies on Jews in transit, Argentina’s government sanctioned an immigration law restricting access by any individual scorned or forsaken by his country’s government. This law was alleged to have implicitly targeted Jews and other minorities fleeing Germany at the time, and was denounced by Uki Goñi, who admits that his own grandfather had participated in upholding it. Between 1930 and 1949, however, Argentina took in more Jewish refugees per capita than any other nation in the world, with the exception of Israel. Dr. Leonardo Senkman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says that "the reopening of post-war European emigration to Argentina during the first Peron Presidency in 1946 pushed up the net immigration figure to 463,456 persons between 1947 and 1951..." the highest in thirty years. The legislation, though already in disuse for many years, was repealed on 8 June 2005 as a symbolic act. The Jewish Virtual Library writes that while Juan Perón had sympathized with the Axis powers, "Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Since then, more than 45,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel from Argentina."
Of particular importance in examining the postwar activities of high-ranking Nazis was Paul Manning's book Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile, which detailed Bormann's rise to power through the Nazi Party and as Hitler's Chief of Staff. During the war, Manning himself was a correspondent for the fledgling CBS News, along with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite in London, and his reporting and subsequent researches presented Bormann's cunning and skill in the organization and planning for the flight of Nazi-controlled capital from Europe during the last years of the war--notwithstanding the strong possibility of Bormann's death in Berlin on May 1, 1945, especially in light of DNA identification of skeletal remains unearthed near the Lehrter Bahnhof as Bormann's.
According to Manning, "eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes set up by (the) ODESSA and the Deutsche Hilfsverein..." (page 181). The ODESSA itself was incidental, says Manning, with the continuing existence of the Bormann Organization a much larger and more menacing fact. None of this had yet been convincingly proven.
- ^ Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness (Pimlico 1974), 274
- ^ Guy Walters, Hunting Evil p.215,Bantam Books, Transworld Publishers, London 2010
- ^ Wechsberg, The Murderers Among Us (New York, 1967), p. 80
- ^ a b Wechsberg, The Murderers, p. 82
- ^ Hannah Arendt (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking.
- ^ David Cesarini, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (Vintage 2004); Peter Padfield: Himmler: Reichsfuhrer SS (Macmillan 1990)
- ^ Daniel Blinder, "El peronismo y los judíos", La Voz y La Opinión
- ^ Weiner, Rebecca. "Argentina: Post World War II.". The Virtual Jewish History Tour. Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Argentina.html#WW2.
- "A la caza del ultimo Nazi". El Mundo. October 30, 2005. http://www.elmundo.es/suplementos/cronica/2005/524/1130623202.html.
- Goñi, Uki (2002): The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón’s Argentina. New York; London: Granta Books. ISBN 1-86207-581-6 (hardcover); ISBN 1-86207-552-2 (paperback, 2003)
- Infield, Glenn (1981) Secrets of the SS. New York: Stein and Day, ISBN 0-8128-2790-2
- Lee, Martin A. (1997): The Beast Reawakens. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-51959-6
- Manning, Paul (1980) Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile. Lyle Stuart, Inc., ISBN 0-8184-0309-8, also available online
- Sereny, Gitta (1974): Into That Darkness. From Mercy Killings to Mass Murder. Republished (1983) as Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. New York: Vintage. ISBN 0-394-71035-5
- Wechsberg, Joseph (1967): The Murderers Among Us. New York: McGraw Hill. LCN 67-13204
- Information on ODESSA — From the Jewish Virtual Library
- ODESSA and Nazis in Latin America — From The Straight Dope syndicated column’s website
- ZDF.de (2002). “Mythos Odessa: Wahrheit oder Legende?” (German) (“The Myth of ODESSA: Truth or Legend?”)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Odessa — (Одеса) … Deutsch Wikipedia
ODESSA — ODESSA, capital of Odessa district, Ukraine. In the 19th century it became the industrial and commercial center for southern Russia. In 1865 a university was founded. Odessa was an important center of the Russian revolutionary movement. Under the … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Odessa — Odessa, MO U.S. city in Missouri Population (2000): 4818 Housing Units (2000): 2011 Land area (2000): 3.487023 sq. miles (9.031348 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000134 sq. miles (0.000348 sq. km) Total area (2000): 3.487157 sq. miles (9.031696 sq … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Odessa — Odessa, Kreisstadt im russ. Gouv. Cherson, wichtigster Hafen und Handelsplatz des Schwarzen Meeres und überhaupt Rußlands, liegt 40 km nördlich von der Mündung des Dnjestrlimans und ist Ausgangspunkt der Linie O. Shmerinka Kiew der russischen… … Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon
ODESSA — Fondée en 1795, Odessa eut son heure de gloire dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle: n’était elle pas en 1897 la première des villes ukrainiennes et la troisième de l’Empire? Victime ensuite de l’avènement dans le pays d’une économie de type… … Encyclopédie Universelle
ODESSA — en España. Unos indicios Aunque no pueda ser un referente práctico en España, debido a la condición de isla con sus inconvenientes pero con sus ventajas, cabe la posibilidad aún no probada de que antiguos agentes alemanes al servicio de la Abwehr … Enciclopedia Universal
Odessa, DE — U.S. town in Delaware Population (2000): 286 Housing Units (2000): 127 Land area (2000): 0.438233 sq. miles (1.135019 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.013576 sq. miles (0.035162 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.451809 sq. miles (1.170181 sq. km) FIPS… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Odessa, FL — U.S. Census Designated Place in Florida Population (2000): 3173 Housing Units (2000): 1272 Land area (2000): 5.298058 sq. miles (13.721906 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.335075 sq. miles (0.867841 sq. km) Total area (2000): 5.633133 sq. miles… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Odessa, MN — U.S. city in Minnesota Population (2000): 113 Housing Units (2000): 66 Land area (2000): 0.756241 sq. miles (1.958656 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.756241 sq. miles (1.958656 sq. km) FIPS… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Odessa, MO — U.S. city in Missouri Population (2000): 4818 Housing Units (2000): 2011 Land area (2000): 3.487023 sq. miles (9.031348 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000134 sq. miles (0.000348 sq. km) Total area (2000): 3.487157 sq. miles (9.031696 sq. km) FIPS… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Odessa, NY — U.S. village in New York Population (2000): 617 Housing Units (2000): 261 Land area (2000): 1.211827 sq. miles (3.138618 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.211827 sq. miles (3.138618 sq. km) FIPS… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places