Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nazis in Antarctica
Since I started writing this blog, I have started many stories that have proven too large to tell in one post. Sometimes I complete a story over time. Sometimes I find that other bloggers have jumped on the same story and made it pointless for me to repeat what they have to say. Sometimes real life interferes and I get distracted by changing events, crap like work, and my own short attention span (in my defense, I should point out that I have a kitten who is really cute). In spite of all that, occasionally someone like the Farmer (a young whippersnapper in spirit if not body) points out those unfinished essays. To them, I can only say "pooh" and take a shot at finishing a story:

By the Spring of 1945, as it was clear that the war in Europe was almost over, the whole world pondered the fate of Adolf Hitler. Following the July 1944 assassination attempt, Hitler had ceased appearing in public and his movements and whereabouts were treated as a state secret. Secrecy breeds suspicion and, where there is a lack of information, the vacuum will be filled with rumor, speculation, and conspiracy theories. Hitler did all he could to encourage this in his last days. As he died, the victors in the war did a superb job of taking over the burden of creating confusion.

In the West, newspapers printed every story regardless of improbability or whether or not it contradicted the story from the day before. Hitler was dead, killed by one of his closest associates. Hitler was alive and had had all of his closest associates killed. Hitler was on his last legs, feeble, insane and syphilitic. Hitler was fine, hiding in the South, and preparing to lead a guerrilla resistance. Hitler had fled the Reich and was hiding under the protection of Franco.

In the East, Stalin sifted through the rumors seeking to calm his own fears. For a time he feared Hitler would negotiate an anti-Communist separate peace with the West. As the Reich's armies faded in significance, Stalin feared Hitler himself would escape the hangman by surrendering to the weak West.

And in Berlin, Hitler had his own plans. As he gave orders for the German nation that had failed him to be destroyed, he also gave orders for a tiny loyal remnant to harass the conquerors as far into the future as possible.* Hitler made certain that he would not be made the subject of a humiliating trial by the West or by the East. After killing his dog, Hitler and his wife of less than a day committed suicide. As an added insult, he ordered that his suicide be kept secret and that his body be completely destroyed so that his enemies might always fear his return. It was an act of cheap spite which would pay dividends for decades.

Within two weeks of Hitler's death, the Soviet Army had captured Berlin, interviewed two witnesses to his death and cremation, and recovered and identified his remains. During that same time the remnants of the German government led by Admiral Karl Doenitz President of the Reich and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces had publicly announced Hitler's death and surrendered the Reich to the Allies. Despite all of this evidence, Stalin chose to keep what he knew a secret and allow the rest of the world to wonder.

My previous words:
Stalin, by now, had discovered that a live Hitler might be useful to him. The possibility of a return of Hitler justified a harsh occupation and division of Germany. The same possibility required keeping tight control on Eastern Europe; only the Soviet big brother could protect them from a resurgent Germany should Hitler return. The possibility that Hitler might be hiding in Spain was an excuse to demand the Western Allies treat the Franco regime roughly. At one point, he even insisted that Britain and the US invade Spain just to make sure Hitler wasn't there. The suggestion that the Soviet army had allowed Hitler to escape, allowed Stalin to treat the generals with contempt and hide them from the public eye.

This doesn't mean that the confusion was a carefully coordinated plot on the part of the Soviet government. Although they were in possession of all of the relevant facts about Hitler's death, there is no evidence that the people at the top put two and two together, or believed it when they did. Although they were perfectly capable of an evil conspiracy, the Soviet leadership assumed others were equally as deceptive and expected to find lies when they looked for facts. In addition, the Soviet government was one of the world's biggest bureaucracies. The politburo did not always know what the army was saying and the army did not always know what the propaganda branch was up to. Although all were trying to please Stalin, the boss did not always make his wishes clearly known. Chaos and uncertainty are the normal condition in a totalitarian state. .

Long before, Hitler and Stalin had been allies against the West. With Hitler's death, they unintentionally became allies again.

Me again:
The possibility that the Fuehrer had escaped led numerous die-hard Nazis to brag about their part in helping him escape. Lieut. Arthur Mackensen told how he had flown Hitler from the Tiergarten Park on May 5 to Denmark, where the local Nazis held a mass rally to say farewell before the Fuehrer had departed for parts unknown. Others flew him to Spain or Japan or saw him board a U-boat for South America.

The last suggestion generated a flurry of excitement as the last U-boats at sea began surrendering during the summer. When the submarine U-530 surrendered to the Argentine authorities in early July, a Buenos Aries paper reported that the captain had delivered Hitler and Braun to a secret base in Antarctica before returning to South America to surrender. The same story was reported and embellished by the Chicago Times the following day.

The captain of the submarine, Otto Vermouth, said no such thing. While sailing near New York, the crew of the U-530 had begun to get news of the fall of the Reich and confused orders to surrender or scuttle the submarine. The crew held an election and voted to head for South America. Although Vermouth managed to destroy the ship's log and code books before being picked up by the Argentine navy, an analysis the submarine's fuel consumption proved to Allied investigators that the U-530 had made no side trips an its way from New York to Argentina.

U-530 in Argentine captivity

In mid-August, another U-boat, the U-977 commanded by Heinz Schaeffer, also turned up in Argentina with a similar story. Argentina turned the sailors and the submarines over to the Allies who questioned the crews carefully before repatriating them to Germany (at least one of them later emigrated to Argentina).

The Allies were, with good reason, worried about Nazi leaders escaping to Authoritarian states in South America. Many of them did, including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. Since the Western Allies were unsure of Hitler's fate, they were especially on the lookout for him in any location where escaped Nazis concentrated. Hitler sightings in South America would happen with tedious regularity well into the seventies.

In the early fifties a number of tabloids picked up on the Antarctica rumor and featured it as often as the South America sightings.

Nazi Germany does have some genuine connections to Antarctica which have folded into the myth of Hitler's secret hideaway on the Southern continent.

Prior to the First World War, Germany had a very nice little colonial empire in Africa and the Pacific. Expansion of that empire featured very prominently in the war aims of the imperial government. In the peace that followed the war, Germany was deprived of all her colonies and declared unfit to be a colonial power. Many Germans saw this as one of the primary injustices of the Paris treaties and sought to have their overseas empire returned.

Hitler himself had little use for colonies. This was made obvious when he conquered France and didn't bother to demand the return of the German colonies annexed by France. However, Hitler did find German resentment over colonies to be useful and frequently gave lip service to the cause of colonies during the thirties. One exception was a curious expedition that the Reich sent to Antarctica in 1938-39.

In the 1930s, animal fats were still an important industrial resource and Germany suffered from a shortage of fat. Germany was one of the main purchasers of whale oil from Norway at a considerable expense to the German foreign currency reserves. In 1937 Germany launched a whaling fleet of its own, which set sail for the Southern Ocean. When the fleet returned the following summer, three annual exploring expeditions were planned. Hermann Goering took a personal interest in the project and rushed the preparations through the Reich bureaucracy. Due to the war, only the first expedition took place.

On December 17, 1938 the freighter Schwabenland sailed from Hamburg for Antarctica. The ship carried two Dornier Wal seaplanes, which could be launched from the deck using a catapult. The area they were to explore had earlier been visited by Norwegian explorers and named Dronning Maud Land. While the Schwabenland was at sea, the Norwegian government announced its annexation of the area.

This didn't stop the Germans. The two Dornier planes made fifteen flights over the region, took thousands of photographs, and dropped flags on the ice pack. The crew also landed on the coast, surveyed some landmarks, and planted a few more flags. The result was that they mapped 600,000 square km of new land, named many features, and discovered some hot springs and ice free "oases" in the interior. When they returned, Germany claimed about half of Dronning Maud Land and named it Neuschwabenland, or New Swabia.

Though the expedition was billed as scientific and economic, the crew did have a military mandate. While looking for potential whaling bases they also were looking for potential naval stations. If the second and third expeditions had been carried out, they would have tried to establish a permanent base on the Antarctic coast.

During the war, German surface raiders and a few submarines were active in the far southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans near Antarctica. One surface raider, the Pinguin captured an entire Nowegian whaling fleet and sent it to occupied France in early 1941.

The combination of the presence of escaped Nazis in the southern cone of South America, genuine interest by the Reich in the neighboring area of Antarctica, and German naval activity in the region during and after the war has proven irresistible to the conspiratorial minded. Many writers remembered that the the Schwabenland expedition had sighted hot springs and dry oases in Antarctica. It seemed to make sense that the Germans would have militarized that space. Perhaps they originally built a supply depot for surface raiders and submarines and later converted it into a hiding place in case of the unthinkable.

When Admiral Doenitz took over the u-boat fleet in 1943, he is supposed to have said "The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Fuehrer in another part of the world a Shangri-La on land, an impregnable fortress." This quote is frequently cited as evidence for the Nazi Antarctic base.

Finally, South America was home to many early UFO enthusiasts. Though they represented all types of UFO belief from the standard extraterrestrial theory to Atlanteans from the hollow earth and the highly esoteric and mystical, many South American UFO enthusiasts embraced the Nazi Antarctic base idea.

In the postwar years, the reputation of Nazi Germany's technical prowess grew until it seemed to have no limit. Many people around the world saw the space race and the atomic arms race as more a matter of our German scientists versus their German scientists and not a race between the Soviet man and Yankee know-how. If the Germans could build jet planes and put an American on the moon, digging a few tunnels into the ice didn't seem at all unlikely.

Unlike the myth of Hitler's personal survival, which has faded over the years, the myth of Nazi super science has continued to grow. Now, an entire publishing industry is flourishing on tales of Nazi space ships and flying saucers powered by free Tesla energy. The end of the Cold War and the opening of Eastern Europe led to a boom in conspiracy thought as eastern fringe science and history cross fertilized with western fringe science and history.

As the generation who fought World War Two pass away we will only discover more forgotten secrets. Some will be real, as the governments involved finally declassify the last official secrets from the war. Other secrets will be more folkloric as people repeat the stories from sources who are no longer alive and able to issue corrections. And some will be like this:
With the passing of time, all those who served in the Neuschwabenland campaign are no longer with us. The last survivor gave me the following account of the forgotten battle....

We were forced to undertake a gruelling month's training where we were prepared for cold-weather warfare. From being plunged into the icy Atlantic to facing the elements in a tent on South Georgia, the training was arduous and there seemed little sense in the madness that we were forced to undertake. However, after the month's training we were briefed by a Major and a scientist, and as the mission was relayed to us we all realised that there would be little chance of us all returning, especially if the suspicions proved correct.

We were informed that we were to investigate "anomalous" activities around the Mühlig-Hoffmann Mountains from the British base in Maudheim. Antarctica, so we were told, was "Britain's secret war". We were then briefed on British activities in the South Pole during the war.

We sat intrigued as to what was being divulged; none of us had heard anything so fascinating or frightening. It was not common knowledge that the Nazis had been to Antarctica in 1938 and 1939, and even less known was the fact that Britain began to set up secret bases around Antarctica in response. The one we were to visit, Maudheim, was the biggest and most important as well as the most clandestine Antarctic base of them all. The reason for its importance was the fact that it was within 200 miles of where the Nazis had supposedly built their Antarctic base.


Still, more and more revelations were forthcoming. The summer before, we were told, the original scientists and commandos had found an "ancient tunnel". Under orders, the force went through the tunnel but only two returned before the Antarctic winter set in. During the winter months, the two survivors made absurd claims over the radio about "Polar Men, ancient tunnels and Nazis". Radio contact was finally lost in July 1945, and ominously for our mission, going into the unknown, the last broadcast brought us all further anxiety as we listened to the fear in the voice: "...the Polar Men have found us!" was screamed before contact was lost.


As we split up to search the base, a trip wire was detonated and a siren sounded, destroying the silence and startling the whole force. A shout was soon heard, demanding us to identify ourselves, but the voice could not be targeted. With our guns raised the Major introduced us to the voice, and then, thankfully, the voice was given a body. The voice belonged to a lone survivor, and what he divulged made us more anxious and had us wishing that there were more troops amongst our ranks.

The lone survivor claimed that in Bunker One was the other survivor from the "tunnel" trip, along with one of the mysterious Polar Men that we had heard on the recorded broadcast. Despite obstructions and objections from the survivor, Bunker One was ordered to be opened. The survivor had to be held back and his fear and anguish panicked us instantly, and none of us wanted to be the one to enter the bunker.

Fortunately, I was not selected to enter; that honour was bestowed on the youngest member of our unit. He proceeded inside, hesitating slightly as he struggled with the door. Once inside, a silence descended across the base, followed moments later by two gunshots. The door was opened and the Polar Man dashed to freedom. None of us was expecting what we saw, and the Polar Man had fled into the surrounding terrain so quick that only a few token shots were fired.


That night our fears were confirmed, as the Polar Man did indeed return. However, this time no more casualties occurred [on our side], but the Polar Man was slain as he was lured to the camp. The scientist decided that the Polar Man was "human" but, it seemed, had been able to produce more hair and withstand the cold far more effectively. The corpse, after a brief post-mortem, was stored in a body bag, and with the cold could be preserved until a more meticulous dissection could occur.


We walked into the darkness, and thankfully after four hours of walking we began to see some light in the far distance. However, the light was still another hour away; and as each of us battled with our mind's questions of what we would uncover, we inched forward.


As we looked over the entire cavern network, we were overwhelmed by the numbers of personnel scurrying about like ants, but what was impressive was the huge constructions that were being built. From what we were witnessing, the Nazis, it appeared, had been on Antarctica a long time. The scientist jotted down everything he could, drew diagrams and took rock samples as well as the odd photograph. The Major, on the other hand, was more interested in how the base was to be destroyed without being caught by the Nazis present.


Throughout the day, mines were laid and more photos were taken; and with the odds of not being detected looking good, a hostage was taken, as well as proof of the Nazi base, the "Polar Man" and photographs of new, and quite advanced, Nazi technology.


The mines did indeed close the tunnel, but, for those Nazis and Polar Men behind, the chase was still on. In a fighting retreat, only three of the 10 escaped the tunnel: the Norwegian, the scientist and myself. The rest had fallen gallantly in making sure that some of the party survived.

Upon reaching the safety of the dry valley, enough mines were laid to close the tunnel permanently. After the mines were detonated, there was no evidence of any tunnel ever existing.

All the evidence was destroyed. The British government classified everything and the scientist denied having seen anything unusual in Antarctica. We're not told what happened to the Norwegian. Maybe he tried to tell someone, but who the heck can understand Norwegian? And so we have only the word of the lone anonymous survivor of the last battle of World War Two.

We should not let the sacrifice of those brave British soldiers be forgotten. Who can measure the debt that we owe them? If the alliance between the Nazis and Antarctic Yeti had been allowed to go forward, it would only have been a matter of time before the giant squid would have joined them. Where would we have been then?

I still haven't gotten around to tying in the Spear of Destiny or told the full tale of the Nazi flying sauces like I promised the Farmer. I'll just have to save those for next time, whenever that is.

* The werewolf units that Hitler envisioned never came into being. No supplies were set aside and the teenagers who were ordered to resist the Allies till they died quietly discarded their uniforms and weapons and went home.

No comments: