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Good Nazis

In response to:

Beginning the Cold War from the December 29, 1966 issue

To the Editors:

In connection with Michael V. Korda’s letter about Allen Dulles and the “secret surrender,” [NYR, Dec. 29, 1966] I am in a position to add something which may be of interest to your readers.

Korda is right to say that Dulles was evasive in his discussion of the prosecution by West Germany of General Karl Wolff, the chief Nazi player in the Dulles negotiations. After glossing over the true nature of the case and avoiding the fact that the SS general lived under American protection for many years after the war, Dulles tells us that his aide Gaevernitz “followed the Wolff trial closely” and reported to the German court about the accused’s part in the surrender talks (p. 253). In truth some other kind of participation took place. Some months ago I learned from a high West German official, who was directly involved in this case in a principal role, that “very influential American circles” sought to prevent the prosecution of Karl Wolff. It is a well known “secret” among West German and Jewish war crimes investigators that both Wolff and Colonel Dollmann, another key figure in the surrender, had made a deal with the Americans and would never be tried by the Allies. And, of course, they never were.

Dollmann’s fate was quite different from that of Wolff. Korda errs in saying that Dollmann was the representative of the RSHA in Rome and Dulles’s characterization of him as an SS man “of quite a different cut” is substantially correct. I have interviewed Dollmann several times and he is a central figure in my book Death in Rome (Macmillan, January, 1967), in which he plays a rather positive role. Dollmann was never implicated in any war crime; but he also has never denied his loyalty to at least some of the ideals of the Third Reich. Dulles does not inform his readers, however, that Dollmann, too, was rewarded for his role in the negotiations with American protection and, as he himself tells it, was offered an assignment in 1946 as an American undercover agent to engage in espionage against the Russians—a job he immediately accepted (he apparently was never given a mission, though, doubtless because he was recognized in Rome, his true identity revealed, and was arrested by the Italians—later to be released by American intervention and then dropped). These and many other representations on the part of the US notwithstanding, Wolff and Dollmann have become embittered with their American friends, who, they feel, after all was said and done gave them a raw deal for their “peace” efforts.

As for some of the other “good” Nazis who took part in Dulles’s Operation Sunrise, the ex-CIA chief was even more evasive. One may assume that Dulles felt it unnecessary to recall the widely publicized case of Field Marshal Kesselring, who was convicted as a war criminal and sentenced to death (not carried out), but the majority of his readers could not be expected to know very much about such men as SS General Harster and SS Colonel Rauff. Harster with whom Dulles sympathizes as being torn between the need to be obedient to his chief in Berlin Kaltenbrunner and his wish to “cover” his chief in Italy Wolff (p. 102n), is now under arrest in West Germany, awaiting trial. He too was not tried by the Allies, but the West German prosecutor, who had Harster picked up one year ago, has accused the Gestapo general—among various charges related to mass murder—as being “responsible for the death of Anne Frank.” Colonel Rauff, described by Dulles as an SS “inspector” and portrayed as an ever-ready executor of Wolff’s pro-surrender orders, was a notorious RSHA man in Milan, and is today still at large, wanted by the West German police for war crimes, especially with regard to his work in Tunisia for persecutions against the Jews of Italy.

Of course the biggest evasion was what the “secret surrender” talks were really all about. Anyone who reads the books cited in Dulles’s bibliography, especially the accounts of the Germans who were involved, can only conclude that the negotiations, which even Dulles admits Hitler approved of (p. 178), were aimed at splitting the East-West alliance in hopes of an all-Western crusade against the onrushing Bolsheviks. (On May 17, 1945—ten days after the war in Europe was over—the Germans were still trying to do this, according to US diplomat Robert Murphy. In his book Diplomat Among Warriors, New York, 1964, Murphy says the Fuehrer’s successor, Doenitz, sought to convince the Americans that Germany now had to unite with the West against the Russians.) Dulles indicates he was aware of the German intentions and in a roundabout way says he was playing the same game, if by other means. On page 147 he writes that the “impelling reason” for the surrender was to prevent the westward movement of the Red Army in the Adriatic area. Thus the “secret surrender” had really nothing to do with World War II, which was virtually over, but, as Alperovitz ably demonstrated in his review, was one of the opening salvos, in the re-declaration of the Cold War that predated and transcended the European conflict, with which, in fact, it was always enmeshed. It was not the negotiations with the Nazis that represented a hostile act against the Russians, but the purpose of the negotiations, which was clearly anti-Soviet.

Robert Katz

New York City

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