The Odessa File
Published simultaneously in the United States & Canada.
Printed In The United States.
To all press reporters
Some, being former members of the SS, were not aware at the time wither whom they were talking to, or that what they said would end up in a book. Others have specifically asked that their names never be mentioned as source of information about the SS. In the case of others still, the decision not to mention their names is mine alone, and taken, I hope, for their sakes rather than for mine.
Throughout the book there occur the names of places and organizations and the titles and ranks of various people, most of which in the original language would be in German. To assist those who not know read German and find the longer words unpronounceable, I have taken the liberty of translating the majority into English. Those with knowledge of German, who will not doubt recognize the original form, are asked to forgive the translations. F.F.
The SS, as most readers will know, was the army within an army, the state within state, devised by Adolf Hitler, commanded by Heinrich Himmler, and charged with special tasks under the Nazis who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. These tasks were supposedly concerned with security of the Third Reich; in effect they included the carrying out Hitler’s ambition to rid Germany and Europe of all elements he considered “unworthy of life”, to enslave in perpetuity [[L. perpeluus: constant, eternity], unlimited time] the “subhuman races of the Slavic lands”, and to exterminate [[L. ex: out + terminus: boundary], destroy entirely, wipe out] every Jew, man, woman, and child, on the face of the Continent.
In carrying out these tasks the SS organized and executed the murder of some fourteen million human beings, comprising roughly six million Jews, five million Russians, two million Poles, half a million Gypsies, and half a million mixed others, including though it is seldom mentioned, closed to two hundred thousand non-Jewish Germans and Austrians. These were either mentally or physically handicapped unfortunates, or so-called enemies of the Reich, such as Communists, Social Democrats, Liberals, editors, reporters, and priests who spoke out too inconveniently, men of conscious and courage, and later Army officers suspected of lack of loyalty to Hitler.
Before it had been destroyed the SS had had the two initials of its names, and the twin-lightning symbols of its standard, synonymous with inhumanity in a way that not other organization before or since has been able to do.
Before the end of war its most senior members, quite aware the war was lost and under no illusions as to how civilized men would regard their actions when the reckoning [estimate] came, made secret provisions to disappear to a new life, leaving the entire German people to carry and share the blame for the vanished culprits [[Fr: culpable: guilty + prit: ready], a person accused of a crime]. To this end, vast sums of SS gold were smuggled out and deposited in numbered banks accounts, false identity papers were prepared, escape channels opened up. When the Allies finally conquered Germany, the bulk of the mass-murderers had gone.
The organization which they formed to effect their escapes was the Odessa. When the first talk of ensuring the escape of the killers to more hospitable climes [climate] had been achieved, ambitions of these men developed. Many never left Germany at all, preferring to remain under cover with false names and papers while the Allies ruled; others came back, suitably protected by a new identity. The very few men remained abroad to manipulate the organization from the safety of a comfortable exile.
The aim of Odessa was and remains fivefold; to rehabilitate former SS men into the profession of the new Federal Republic created in 1949 by the Allies, to infiltrate at least the lower echelons [[L. > Fr.: scala: ladder], subdivision of a military organization] of political party activity, to pay for the best legal defense way possible for any SS killer hauled before a court and in every way possible to stultify the course of justice in West Germany when it operates against a former Kamerad, to see that former SS men established themselves in commerce and industry in time to take advantage of the economic miracle that has rebuilt the country since 1945, and finally to propagandize the German people to the viewpoint that the SS killers were in fact none other that ordinary patriotic soldiers doing their duty to the Fatherland, and in no way deserving of the persecution [L. per: through + sequi: follow, afflict constantly as to injure or distress due to religious or race reasons] to which justice and conscious ineffectually subjected them.
In all these tasks, backed by its considerable [L. considerare: observe, important, much or large] funds, it has been measurably [[L. metiri: measure], by large] successful, and in none more so German courts to a mockery [mimic as in fun or derision]. Changing its name several times, The Odessa has sought to deny its own existence as an organization, with the result that many Germans are inclined [[L. in: on + clinare: lean, bend], have a tendency] to say the Odessa does not exist. The short answer is: it exists, and the Kameraden of the Death’s Head insignia [[L. in: on + signum: a sign, mark], distinguishing mark] are still linked within it.
Despite its successes in almost all its objectives, the Odessa does occasionally take a defeat. The worst it ever suffered occurred in the early spring of 1964, when a package of documents arrived unannounced and anonymously at the Ministry of Justice in Bonn. To the very few officials who ever saw the list of names on these sheets, the package became as “The Odessa File”.
Nevertheless [however, in spite of that], the publishers feel the reader may be interested or assisted to know that the story of former SS Captain Eduard Roschman, the commandant of the concentration camp at Riga from 1941 to 1944, from his birth in Graz, Austria, in 1908 to his present exile in South America, is completely factual [of or containing actual, fact, real] and drawn from SS and West German records.
New York, 1972.
1 There was a thin robin’s-egg-blue [eggshell blue] dawn [daybreak] coming up over Tel Aviv when the Intelligence analyst finished typing his record. He stretched the cramped [hampered or restrained] muscles of his shoulders, lit another filter-tipped Time, and read the concluding paragraphs.
The man on whose the debriefing the report was based stood at the same hour in prayer at fifty miles to the east at a place called Yad Vashem, but the analyst did know this. He did not know precisely how the information in his report has been obtained, or how many men had died before it reached him. He did not need to know. All he needed was to be assured [[L. ad: to + securus: secure], make one sure of something] the information was accurate [[L. ad: to + cura: cure], free from errors] and that his forward-analyst was soundly [free from decay, defect or damage] and logically arrived at.
Corroborative [[L. com: intense + robus: strength], confirmative or supportive] details arriving in this office indicate the substantial [strong or solid, full of substances] accuracy of the named agent’s claim with regard to the location of the factory. If the appropriate action is taken, it may be safely assumed [[L. ad: to + sumere: take], suppose] the West German authorities will concern themselves with its dismantlement [[L. dis: separate + montellum: loose], take apart].
It is recommended [[L. re: again, anew, again + com: intense + mandare: entrust], suggest] that the substantial record of the facts be placed soon in the hands of theses authorities. It is felt by this agency that this would be the best way of ensuring an attitude [[L. aptus: appropriate, fitting], manner] at the highest level in Bonn that will ensure the continuance of the Waldorf deal.
To all intents and purposes therefore the Right Honourable members of the Committee may be assured the project known as Vulkan [[Gr. > L. Volcanus > Vulcon: Roman god of fire & metalworking], Vulcon] is in the process of being dismantled. Consequent on this, our best authorities assure us the rockets can never fly in time. Finally, that being so, it may be concluded that if and when war with Egypt comes, that war will be fought and won by conventional [[L. com: together + venire: come], customary] weapons, which is to say by the Republic of Israel.
The analyst signed the foot of the document and dated it: February 23, 1964. Then he pressed a bell to summon [[L. sub: secretly + monere: call], command to come] a dispatch rider [sending quickly] who would take it to the office of the Prime Minister.
Everyone seems to remember with great clarity what he was doing on November 22, 1963, at the precise moment he heard President Kennedy was dead. Kennedy was hit at twelve-thirty in the afternoon, Dallas time, and the announcement that he was dead came at about half past one in the same time zone. It was two-thirty in New York, seven-thirty on a chilly [moderately cold], sleet-swept [a mixture of rain with snow, partly frozen rain] night in Hamburg.
Peter Miller was driving back into the town center after visiting his mother at her home in Osdorf, one of the outer suburbs [[L. sub: near + urbus: town], district or town in the outskirt of a city] of the city. He always visited her on Friday evenings, partly to see if she had everything she needed for the weekend and partly because he felt he had to visit her once a week. He would have telephoned her if she had a telephone, but as she had none, he drove out [trip in a car out] to see her. That was why [for that reason] she refused to have a telephone.
As usual, he had the radio on, and was listening to a music show being broadcasted by Northwest German Radio. At half past eight he was on in the Osdorf Way, then minutes from his mother’s flat, when the music stopped in the middle of a bar and the voice of the announcer came through, taut [tense, tightly stretched as in a rope] with tension [mental or nervous strain].
“Ahctung, Achtung. Here is an announcement. President Kennedy is dead. I repeat, President Kennedy is dead”.
Miller took his eyes off the road and stared at [look at] the dimly [not bright or clear] illuminated [[L. in: in + luminare: enlight], lit] band of frequencies along the upper edge of the radio, as if his eyes would be able to deny what his ears had heard, assure him he was tuned in to the wrong radio station, the one that broadcast nonsense.
“Jesus” [Oh my God], he breathed quietly, eased down [free from] on the brake pedal, and swung [sway or move forward or backward] to the right-hand side of the road. He glanced up [look up, stare up]. Right down the long, broad, straight highway, through Altona toward the center of Hamburg, other drivers had heard the same broadcast and were pulling in to the side of the road as if driving and listening to the radio had suddenly become mutually exclusive, which in a way they had.
Along his own side he could see the brake lights glowing [give out a steady light] on as the drivers swung [pull aside] to the right to park at the curb [bent] and listen to the supplementary [[L. sub: under + plere: fill], additional] information pouring from their radios. On the left the headlights of the cars heading out of town wavered [sway pro and back] wildly [stormily] as they to swung away toward [pull away toward] the pavement [paved road]. Two cars overtook [catch up with or come upon suddenly] him, the first hooting [the sound that an owl makes] angrily, and he caught a glimpse of the driver tapping his forehead in Miller’s direction in the usual rude [crude or tough] sign, indicating lunacy [[L. luna: the moon], insanity or utter folly], that one German driver makes to another who has annoyed him.
He’ll learn soon enough, thought Miller.
The light music on the radio had stopped, replaced by the “Funeral March”, which was evidently all the disk jokey had on hand. At intervals [at breaks] he read snippets [small, snipped piece of information or write] of further information straight off the tele-printer, as they were brought in front of newsroom. The details began to fill in: open-car ride into Dallas, the rifleman [gunman or gunner] in the window of School Book Depository. No mention of an arrest.
The driver of the car ahead of Miller climbed out [get out of] and walked back toward him. He approached the left-hand window, then realized that the driver’s seat was inexplicably [[L. in: not & ex: out + planus: level, plain], can not be explained] on the right and came round [go round] the car. He wore a nylon-fur-collared jacket. Miller wound down [roll down] his window.
“You heard it?” asked the man, bending down to the window.
“Yeah” said Miller.
“Absolutely fantastic”, said the man. All over Hamburg, Europe, the world, people were walking up to complete strangers to discuss the event.
“You reckon [regards as being or estimate] it was the Communists?” asked the man.
“I don’t know.”
“It could mean war, you know, if it was them” said the man.
“Maybe,” said Miller. He wished the man would go away [distance]. As a reporter he could imagine the chaos sweeping [pass swiftly over] across the newspaper offices of the country as every staff man was called back [request back] to help put out a crash edition for the morning breakfast tables. There would be obituaries [[L. obire: die], Notice of Death] to prepare, the thousands of instant tributes [[L. tribuere: allot], something given, done or said to show gratitude respect, honor or praise] to correlate [to be in mutual relation] and typist, the telephone lines jammed with yelling men seeking more and ever more details because a man with his head shattered lay death in a city in Texas.
He wished in a way he were back on the staff of a daily newspaper, but since he had become a freelance [writer, actor who sells his services to individual buyers] three years earlier he had specialized in news features inside Germany, mainly connected with crime, the police, the underworld. His mother hated the job, accusing him of mixing with ”nasty [filthy, morally offensive, very unpleasant] people”, and his arguments that he was becoming one of the most sought-after reporter-investigators in the country availed [[L. ad: to + valare: be strong], to be of use, help or worth & benefit, help or use] nothing in persuading her that a reporter’s job was worthy of her only son.
As the reports from radio came through [run], his mind was racing [run wildly], trying to think of another “angle” that could be chased up [follow so as to catch, run after, go I pursuit] inside Germany and might make a sidebar [corner-line or edge-spot] story to the main event. The reaction of the Bonn government would be covered out of Bonn by the staff men; the memories of Kennedy’s visit to Berlin the previous June would be covered from there. There did not seem to be a good pictorial [[L. pingere: paint], of containing, or expressed in pictures, suggesting a mental image] feature [facial form or appearance any of the parts of the face] he could ferret out [[L. fur: thief], force out of hiding, search out] to sell to any of the score of German picture magazines that were the best customers of his kind of journalism.
The man leaning [bending] on the window sensed that Miller’s attention was elsewhere and assumed [[L. ad: to + sumere: take], take on the appearance or role of] it was out of grief [[L. gravis: heavy], intense emotional suffering] for that President. Quickly he dropped [leave, stop] his talk of world war and adopted [[L. ad: to + optare: choose], choose, select], the same grave demeanor [[L.>OFr. demener: lead], outward behavior, conduct, deportment].
“Ja, ja, ja” he murmured [[L. murmur: low, continuous sound], mumbled complaint] with sagacity [[L. sagax: wise], keenly perceptive, shrewd], as if he has seen it coming all along [from the beginning]. “Violent people, these Americans, mark by words, violent people. There’s a streak [a long, thin mark or stripe] of violence [[L. violentus: forceful injure], physical force used so as to injure] in them that we over here will never understand.”
“Sure.” Said Miller, his mind still miles away.
The man took the hint [slight indication, indirect allusion] at last [finally]. “Well, I must getting home”, he said, straightening up [bend up]. “Grüss Gott.” He started to walk back to his car.
Miller became aware he was going. “Ja, gute nacht,” he called out of the open window, then wound it up against the sleet [partly frozen rain] whipping in off the Elbe River. The music on the radio continued in funeral [[L. funus], ceremony made for dead one] vein [[L. vena: blood tube], any blood vessel carrying blood], and the announcer said there would be no more light music that night, just news bulletins [[L. bulla: a seal], brief statements of news, regular publication] interspersed [[L. inter: among + spargere: scatter], put here and there, scatter] with suitable music.
Miller leaned back on the comfortable leather upholstery [[OE. Upholder: tradesman], interior furniture of vehicles] of his Jaguar and lit up a Roth-Handle, a filter-less black-tobacco cigarette with a foul [stinking, loathsome, sewage] smell, another thing that his mother complained [[L. com: intense + plangere: strike to the breast], expression of displeasure or pain] about in her disappointing [[L. dis: not + ad: to + punctum: point], fail to satisfy] son.
It is always tempting [[L. temptare: test], incline strongly] to wonder what would have happened if… or if not. Usually it is a futile [[L. futilis: easily pour out], useless, vein] exercise [[L. exercere: put to work], active use or operation, practice], for what might have been is the greatest of all the mysteries [[Gr mysterion: secret rite], something unexplained or unknown]. But it is probably [[L. probare: prove], likely to occur or be] accurate [[L. ad: to + cura: cure], free from errors] to say that if Miller had not had his radio on that night he would not have pulled in to the side of the road for half an hour. He would not have seen the ambulance, or heard of Saloman Tauber or Eduard Roschmann, and forty months later the Republic of Israel would probably [[L. probare: prove], likely to occur or be] have ceased [[L. cedere: yield], end or stop] to exist [[L. ex: out + sistere: set, place], having a reality or being, occur or be present].
He finished his cigarette, still listening to the radio, wound down the window, and threw the stub [a short piece left over] away [to discard away]. At a touch of the button the 3.8-liter engine beneath the long sloping bonnet of the jaguar XK 150S thundered once and settled down to its habitual and comforting rumble [deep, continueous, thumbling sound], like an angry animal trying to get out of a cage. Miller flicked [light, quick stroke] on the two headlights, checked behind, and swung out into growing traffic stream along Osdorf Way.
He had got as far as the traffic lights on Stresemann Strasse, and they were standing at red, when he heard the clamor [[L. clamare: cry out], loud uproar, uproar] of the ambulance behind him. It came past him on the left, the wail [long, loud and sad cry] of the siren rising and falling, slowed slightly before heading into road junction against the red light, then swung across Miller’s nose and down to the right into Daimler Strasse. Miller reacted on reflexes alone. He let in the clutch, and the Jaguar surged [[L. surgere: rise], move swiftly] after the ambulance, twenty meters behind it.
As soon as he had done it he wished he had gone straight home. It was probably [[L. probare: prove], likely to occur or be] nothing, but one never knew. Ambulance meant trouble, and trouble could mean a story, particularly [[L. pars: part], in detail, especially, specifically] if one were first on the scene and the whole thing had been cleared up before the staff reporters arrived. It could be a major crash on the road, or a big wharf [dock, pier, port] fire, a tenement [[L. tenere: hold], o room or suit rented as a separate dwelling] building ablaze [flaming, under fire], with children trapped inside. It could be anything. Miller always carried a small Yashica with flash attachment in the glove compartment of his car because one never knew what was going to happen right in front of one’s eyes.
He knew a man who had been waiting for a plane at Munich Airport on February 6, 1958, and the plane carrying the Manchester United football team had crashed a few hundred meters from where he stood. The man was not event a professional photographer, he had unslung [?] the camera he was taking on a skiing holiday and snapped [take a snapshot] the first exclusive [[L. ex: out + claudere: shut], excluding all others, not shared] pictures of the burning aircraft. The pictorial magazines had paid more than 50,000 Marks for them.
The ambulance twisted into [wind around] the maze [confusing, intricate of networks of pathways, confused stte] of small and mean streets of Altona, leaving the Altona Railway Station on the left and heading down toward the river. Whoever [any person that, no matter who] was driving the flat-snouted [projecting nose and jaws an animal, flat-nosed], high-roofed Mercedes ambulance knew his Hamburg and knew how to drive. Even with his higher acceleration [[L. ad: to + celerare: go, yield], increase the speed of, speeding] and hard suspension [[L. sus: under + pendere: hang] slowing down or breaking system], Miller could feel the back wheels of the Jaguar skidding [slipping] across the cobbles [rounded stone formerly much used for paving streets] slick [slippery, skidding] with rain.
Miller watched Menck’s auto-parts warehouse rush by, and two streets later his original question was answered. The ambulance drew up in a poor and sleazy [flimsy, thin in substance] street, ill lit and gloomy [darkened, dimmed] in the slanting [inclining, sloping] sleet [a mixture of rain with snow, partly frozen rain], bordered by crumbling tenements [[L. tenere: hold], o room or suit rented as a separate dwelling] and roomig-houses [houses having rented rooms in it]. It stopped in front of one of theses, where a police car already stood, its blue roof light twirling [rotate rapidly, spin], the beam [a slender shaft of light] sending a ghostly [horrible, frightful] glow [brightness, warmth] across the faces of knot of bystanders grouped round [circle around] the door.
A burly [big & strong] police sergeant in a rain of cape roared at the crowd to stand back [be away] and make a gap in front of the door for the ambulance. Into this the Mercedes slid. Its driver and attendant climbed down, run round to the back, and eased out [move out] an empty stretcher [sick or injured carrier]. After a brief word with the sergeant, the pair hastened [go faster, speed up, hurry up] upstairs.
Miller pulled the Jaguar to the opposite curb [slope] twenty yards down the road and raised his eyebrows. No crash, no fire, no trapped children. Probably [[L. probare: prove], likely to occur or be] just a heart attack. He climbed out and strolled over [wander over] to the crowd, which the sergeant was holding back in a semi-circle around the door of the rooming-house.
“Mind if I go up?” asked Miller.
“Certainly do”. It’s nothing to do with you [There is nothing for you get interested in].”
“I’m press,” said Miller, proffering [offer] his Hamburg city press card.
“And I’m police,” said the sergeant. “Nothing goes up. Those stairs are narrow enough as it is, and none too safe. The ambulance men will be down right away.”
He was a big man, standing six feet three, and in his rain cape, with his arms spread wide to hold back the crowd, he looked as immovable as a barn [farm building] door.
“What’s up, then?” asked Miller.
“Can’t make statements. Check at the station later on.”
A man in civilian clothes came down the stairs and emerged onto the pavement. The turning light on top of the Volkswagen patrol car swung across his face, and Miller recognized him. They had been at school together at Hamburg Central High. The man was now a junior detective inspector in the Hamburg Police, stationed at Altona Central.
The young inspector turned at the call of his name and scanned the crowd behind the sergeant. In the next swirl of the police-car light he caught sight of Miller and his raised right hand. His face broke into a grin, part of pleasure, part of exasperation [[L. ex: out + asper: rough], irritate, anger or vex]. He nodded to the sergeant.
“It’s all right, Sergeant. He’s more or less harmless.
The sergeant lowered his arm, and Miller darted [move suddenly & fast] past.
He shook hands with Karl Brandt.
“What are you doing here?”
“Followed the ambulance.”
“Damned vulture. What are you up to these days?”
“Same as usual. Freelancing.”
“Making quite a bundle out of it by the look of it. I keep saying your name in the picyure magazines.”
“It’s a living. Hear about Kennedy?”
“Yes. Hell of a thing . They must be turning Dallas inside out tonight. Glad it wasn’t on my turf [a top layer of earth containing grass with its root].”
Miller nodded toward the dimly [not bright or clear] lit hallway of the rooming-house, where a low-watt [low-volted] naked bulb cast [project light] yellow glare [steady, dazzling light] over peeling [[L. pilare: make bald], cut away, shed the skin of] wallpaper.
“A suicide [[L. sui: of oneself + caedere-cide: kill, killing], act of killing oneself intentionally]. Gas. Neighbors smelled it coming under the door and called us. Just as well no one struck a match; the place was reeking [strong, unpleasant smell] with it.”
“Not a film star by any chance?” asked Miller.
“Yeah. Sure. They always live in places like this. No, it was an old man. Looked as if he had been dead for years anyway. Someone does it every night.”
“Well, wherever [where: an emphatic form] he’s gone now, it can’t be worse than this.”
The inspector [[L. in: at + specere: look at], an officer on a police force ranking next below superintendant] gave a fleeting [passing swiftly] smile and turned as the two ambulance men negotiated [[L. negotium: business], discuss with a view to reaching agreement] the last seven steps of the creaking [harsh, squeaking sound] stairs and came down the hallway with their burden. Brandt turned around. “Make some room. Let them through.”
The sergeant [[L. servire: serve], a police officer ranking next below a captain or lieuftenant] promptly [[L. pro: forth + emere: take], swiftly, immediately] took up [become interested in] the cry and pushed the crowd back even farther [more distant, additional, more]. The two ambulance men walked out onto the pavement and rounded to the open doors of the Mercedes. Brandt followed them, with Miller at his heels. Not that Miller wanted to look at the dead man, or even intended to. He was just following Brandt. As the ambulance men reached the door of the vehicle, the first one hitched [move jerkily] his end of stretcher [sick or injured carrier] into the runners [a long, narrow cloth or rug] and the second prepared [[L. prae: before + parare: get ready], make ready] to shove [push roughly] it inside.
“Hold it,” said Brandt and flicked back the corner of the blanket above the dead man’s face. He remarked over his shoulder, “Just a formality. My report has to say I accompanied the body to the ambulance and back to the morgue [Fr. A place where dead bodies temporarily are placed].
The interior [[L. inter: between], inner] lights of the Mercedes ambulance were bright, and Miller caught a single two-second look at the face of the suicide [[L. sui: of oneself + caedere-cide: kill, killing], act of killing oneself intentionally]. His first and only impression [[L. in: at + premere: press], affect strongly the mind or emotions of] was that he had never seen anything so old and ugly. Even given the effects of gassing, the dull mottling of the skin, the bluish tinge [[L. tingere: dye], a slight coloring, tint] at the lips, the man in life could have been no beauty [[L. bellus: pretty], pleasing, pretty].