Klaus Barbie, the gestapo mass killer who bragged to his American intelligence case officer after World War II how he had filled “my mass graves” with French Jews and members of the resistance movement, operated for some three decades beginning shortly after the war under orders of a secret SS underground headed by the Nazi terrorist, Otto Skorzeny.
In piecing together the movements of Barbie since his escape from Europe to Latin America in late 1949 early 1950, this correspondent has learned in detail how Barbie continued to “follow orders” to establish “beach-heads” of fascist “force” and “influence,” according to secret American intelligence documents as well as in-depth interviews with former American intelligence officers and wanted Nazi war criminals and collaborators.
Barbie’s exploits may be gleaned from the post-war records of the U.S. Army Intelligence Security Command in Europe (USAISC) and such Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Detachments as the 66th, Region IV, 970th and the 7970th. Valuable data are also in the files of the FSD’s (Foreign Service Dispatches) 1945-1950, and from the U.S. embassies in Spain, Portugal, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.
As early as 1946, reports on “21 neo-Nazi subversive” groups referring to both Barbie and Skorzeny were circulating widely in American intelligence departments.
Actually, escape, aid and continuing fascist subversion were planned by hard-core Nazi militarists and SS leaders even before the war ended. An elaborate network of SS, gestapo, SD, Luftwaffe and GFPs (Geheime Feld Polizei — Secret Field Police) of the Wehrmacht had been planned for a vast Bruederschaft or Kameradenwerke (Brotherhood).
Their code names included: Danube, Skylark, Lock Gates, Green Devils, HIAG (Mutual Aid Society of the Waffen SS), ODESSA (Organization der Entlassene SS Angehoerige — Organization of Kin of the SS), and Die Spinne (The Spider).
Their first object was to rescue and help to escape SS, SA, gestapo and Einsatzgruppen personnel who were all under the automatic arrest category of the Allies who presumably were intent on tracking down Nazi war criminals.
For example, an OMGUS (Office of Military Government for Germany U.S.) “Secret” memorandum dated February 1, 1947 stated that the “Quadripartite Intelligence Committee” (composed of the French, British, Soviet and American victors) needed information on ODESSA.
The 1947 secret report said, however, that the Allied combined intelligence group had been shown only “restricted” materials on ODESSA and denied “the (higher classified) remainder of the document … on that and other subversive organizations uncovered by U.S. intelligence authorities.”
ODESSA was described as “active in uniting all SS into a nationwide resistance organization” seeking the rescue of imprisoned SS leaders.” Among the names mentioned in this hidden assessment and on subsequent documents were Barbie and Skorzeny, both in the custody of the United States.
The most effective group was Die Spinne. The other organizations faded from the scene by the late 1940s. Die Spinne was operational in getting Nazi war criminals out of Europe until the late 1950’s, and some observers contend that it was operational beyond that date up until today.
BACKGROUND OF SKORZENY
Die Spinne was conceived in the Darmstadt prison for high-ranking SS officers and controlled by the United States. Its creator was Lt. Col (Obersturmbann-fuehrer) Otto “Scarface” Skorzeny (SS #272,375, Nazi Party card #1,083,671), who was in the prison at the time awaiting trial on war crimes charges. The imposing 6’4″ Austrian Nazi — who gained fame as the daring rescuer of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, off a mountain shelf in Italy in 1943 — was Adolf Hitler’s favorite terrorist.
He had carried out innumerable terrorist bombings, kidnappings, hijackings, sabotage and evasion commando do acts as well as selective political assassinations.
Skorzeny led a group of SS killers in a parachute drop behind American lines during the Battle of the Bulge. In violation of all the rules of warfare, Skorzeny’s men, dressed in U.S. uniforms murdered many G.I. Besides causing havoc in the rear lines, Skorzeny intended to murder the American military commander, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.
Skorzeny and Barbie were closely allied in the SS plans for the post-war struggles against “world Jewry” and in behalf of fascism. Barbie, of course, supplemented Skorzeny’s own talents with his expertise in savage torture and elaborate brain-washing, including the use of mind-altering drugs to force confessions. Skorzeny was, amazingly, acquitted of war crimes charges by an American war crimes tribunal held at the Dachau KZ. However, he was returned to prison in Darmstadt to await trial on other wartime related charges against him by the Allies. He escaped from prison in 1948 and subsequently wound up in Spain.
ROLE OF CIC AND CIA
At the same time. Barbie, from the same SS detention pens at Darmstadt, was released for secret utilization by the American CIC. Years later in published interviews, Skorzeny detailed how both the CIC and the CIA had “arranged” for his escape He further claimed that he had already been recruited by U.S. intelligence while undergoing his trial as a war criminal. (Related story, P.4.)
Once on the outside, Skorzeny galvanized Die Spinne. He boasted that his group — with the assistance of American intelligence and West German industrialists and bankers — “rescued” more than 500 wanted Nazi criminals, among them Barbie.
Barbie also enjoyed the assistance of the CIC, the Vatican and the International Red Cross in his escape from Europe. (See Part One in the February 16 Bulletin.)
BARBIE ORDERED TO CONTACT WAR CRIMINALS
Once in Spain in late 1950 or early 1951, Barbie reported to his commanding officer, Skorzeny, at the offices of the latter’s “consultancy” in Madrid. Skorzeny was the secret agent of VOEST, the United Austrian Iron and Steel Works with offices in Latin America. Besides Barbie, such well-known Nazis as financier Hjlamar Schacht, banker Hermann Abs, and Rheinhard Gehlen, former German intelligence chief on the Russian front and head of the CIA-directed Gehlen Org in West Germany, were frequent visitors to Skorzeny’s Spinne headquarters.
Before leaving for Latin America, Barbie was given his orders to contact key Nazi war criminals in high and low places and was directed by Die Spinne to contribute to the Western hemisphere “beach-heads” of fascist “force” and “influence spheres” — as was stated in “The Madrid Letter,” a Spinne underground publication in early 1951.
A disciplined gestapo officer and a fanatic Nazi, Barbie, who was also at the center of drugs, arms and currency deals, quickly established a working relationship with some of the prominent killers of the Holocaust era who were alive and well in Latin America.
(Tomorrow: Part Three)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.