U.S.: the Mengele hunt - and beyond.
Bowing to heavy pressure, Attorney General William French Smith has finally ordered a full-scale investigation into the whereabouts of the notorious Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. According to documents obtained from the Army under the Freedom of Information Act by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, the Auschwitz physician may have been arrested by U.S. authorities in Austria in 1947 and subsequently released. It is believed that he fled to South America and that now, at 73, he lives in a restricted military compound in Paraguay.
If the allegations about U.S. complicity in Mengele's flight prove correct, echoing the results of the Justice Department's investigation into the Klaus Barbie case, the questions about the U.S. government's postwar policies toward Nazis will be raised to a new pitch of urgency.
One of the first questions is why several government agencies were working at cross-purposes. Documents in the Harry S. Truman Library show that during the same period that Army Intelligence was hiding Barbie and allegedly releasing Mengele, State Department officials had discovered a plan to organize a network of Nazis and their sympathizers to rebuild "German war potential outside of [German]," An October 10, 1946, memorandum to Assistant Secretary of State Will Clayton states:
The department has recently obtained confirmation of previous reports that a plan was in existence to smuggle German "activists" from Spain to Argentina. Many Abwehr agents are known to be at liberty in Argentina. Others, such as Juan Sindreu Cavatorta, a Spaniard, and Helmuth Johannes Christian Carl Reuther, have recently been traced there.
According to the memo, a former Nazi agent picked up for questioning by U.S. authorities "admitted that the German military intelligence service, Abwehr, survived in skeleton form in Spain and that it had been provided with funds to keep itself operative in Argentina until relations between the Allied Nations 'deteriorate to the point of war.'''
The State Department memo demonstrates that the issue was not simply one of preventing the establishment of old-boy networks of Nazi sympathizers. The memo quotes from a document, dated August 30, 1944 that makes clear that the dying Hitler regime worked closely with German industrialists on a plan to safeguard '''German interests' in the technical and engineering field in the Western Hemisphere." A cover organization called the Standards Commission was set up chiefly to "assure control of Argentine engineering and heavy industry from Germany." On its board were representatives from such firms as Krupp, AEG, Wayss Y Freytag and Deutz, which were "all dedicated to the survival of German war potential outside of Germany during Allied control of the homeland."