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Chapter Eleven

Operation Fireland

"Bury your treasure, for you will need it to begin a Fourth Reich." [cdxxiii
              Adolf Hitler
              To Martin Bormann in 1943

"When the story of Martin Bormann is written it will reveal him to be the man largely responsible for West Germany's postwar recovery...." [cdxxiv
              The New York Times
              March 3, 1973

  The turning point against Germany during World War Two was not the loss of the Battle of Britain or the mounting of D-Day on Normandy's shores.  While the air battle over London was an important German defeat that allowed Britain to fight on - alone at the time - other than as a moral victory, taking the islands of the United Kingdom would have had little strategic value to Germany before the United States joined the conflict.  And by the time Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of northern France, the tide of war had already turned against the Nazi horde.  D-Day, while imperative and impressive, was actually the beginning of massive mop-up operations.

  During the autumn and winter of 1942, Germany suffered the most pivotal defeat of the war at the Battle of Stalingrad. From that day on, the outcome of the war was almost fixed.  And almost everybody knew it. Until the moment when Hitler looked up from the strategic objective he was pursuing in The Soviet Union, the oilfields and refineries of Ukraine to fuel his war machine, Germany was winning the war.  But the Fuehrer could not resist the moral victory that taking "Stalin's City," now so close, would be.  Planning a quick campaign that would take mere weeks, he swung his Sixth Army from its course southward toward the oilfields and refineries, turned them to the northeast, and attacked. The bold move was at first successful and Stalingrad was captured.  But in the frozen winter months of 1942-43, a four million-man Russian army surrounded the 330,000-man force of General Friederich von Paulus.

  The Soviets laid siege.  They starved the Germans.  They ran them out of ammunition. They ran them over on the rock-hard frozen snow under the treads of their heavy tanks, the Wehrmacht infantry unable to dig foxholes into the steely ice to avoid being crushed.  By the time Paulus surrendered, SS forces had barely been able to break through and rescue only 5,000 survivors. The rest were force-marched to Siberia and most never heard from again.  After the moral loss at Stalingrad and the tactical loss of oil to feed the hungry Nazi war machine, ultimate surrender for Germany was just a matter of time, barring an unforeseen miracle.

  Martin Bormann, true to his proven, pragmatic ways, was uniquely prepared to deal with the former eventuality, and possibly capable of providing the latter.  Through his old friend at the Reichspost, Richard Ohnesorge, it appears likely he was supporting a program that could furnish the miracle needed - Manfred von Ardenne's uranium enrichment program.  The program just required enough time.

  On the other hand, if time should run out, the last thing that Martin Bormann would allow his Fatherland to endure was another rapacious war reparations assessment like that forced upon it after World War One.  The Allies could kill the people, plunder the land, rape the women, and level the cities, but in his shrewdly insightful way, Bormann knew that they could not own Germany itself if they did not own Germany's wealth.  In the spring of 1943, Bormann began to look for ways to conserve the Reich's riches if the war was lost.

  He started with Aktion Feuerland, "Operation Fireland."  As German forces had overrun country after country, stormtroopers would follow behind advance waves and plunder each nation's valuables [cdxxv while the Gestapo gathered its Jews into ghettos and concentration camps, relieving them of every gram of valuable property they owned; including the gold and platinum in their teeth.

  The treasure consisted of hundreds of millions of reichsmarks; boxes and boxes of gold and platinum, pearls and diamonds; crates full of the priceless art of Europe; and billionaire bundles of stocks and other securities. [cdxxvi The loot was amassed in a series of bank safes and underground vaults throughout the Reich - until Martin Bormann was made aware of its existence by one of his many internal intelligence conduits.  In late 1943 he took control of much, though not all, of this booty and informed Hitler of its existence and a plan he had formulated for its conservation.

  "Bury your treasure, for you will need it to begin a Fourth Reich," Hitler had responded.  With that blessing, Bormann took control of at least six U-boats, [cdxxvii some of them unmarked, from Gross Admiral Karl Doenitz, and garnered the support of Generalisimo Francisco Franco to headquarter the U-boats in the Spanish port cities of Cadiz and Vigo. The U-boats for the next two years, supplied by cargo planes from Germany that transported the treasures to the coastal towns on the Atlantic, began a non-stop circuit transporting the treasure to the far southern reaches of Argentina - the region known as Tierra del Fuego, or Land of Fire. At their destinations they were unloaded by Bormann's mysterious minions and deposited into a variety of international bank accounts controlled by a cryptic cabal of Bormann partners.  This was Operation Fireland.

  But Bormann was not satisfied just to rob the SS of the treasure trove it had stolen from murdered Jews, plundered citizens and overrun countries.  Earlier in 1943, he had recognized for himself the value of masterpieces hung in museums and those owned by Catholic and other churches and held in cathedrals, monasteries and convents throughout the Reich.  He initiated a program to collect all that could be gathered and even ordered high-ranking members of the party who had already assimilated such artwork into their own collections to turn them over to the Party Chancellery. [cdxxviii  From this time to the end of the war, one-third of Italy's great art treasures, and much of the rest of Europe's masterworks collections, were lost to the Nazis; a fair share of it going into Bormann's South American hideaway.

  Bormann appears to have laundered some questionable treasures of his own through Operation Fireland, as well.  For example, in 1942 Bormann started heading a Nazi project designed to weaken the British war economy while providing currency to pay for German armaments production. The British currency-counterfeiting program overseen by Bormann was printing 400,000 notes a month, which eventually totaled $600 million. [cdxxix  Bormann deposited the money into foreign banks through his mysterious partners.  Later he exchanged the funds into a more stable currency, often dollars, and then, instead of using the funds for the munitions for which they were intended, he would often hold them in one of his "ghost" accounts for his own future use.  Of the $600 million of counterfeit currency processed, approximately $300 million has never been accounted for, presumably lost to Bormann's enigmatic interchange.

  Bormann also generated huge sums of money through a vehicle that he had already utilized at least twice before to the benefit of the Fuehrer and the party - the creation of a fund designed to finance a specific task and to which all able Germans were compelled to contribute.  In this case, the "Winterfund" was established ostensibly for the welfare of the soldiers and civilians impoverished by the war. [cdxxx

  Besides mandatory donations, the fund was also supported by wealthy industrialists who were wined and dined at concerts they were expected to attend, all the while being coerced into contributing huge amounts of money, sometimes as much as 100,000 reichsmarks in a single donation. [cdxxxi  Eventually the fund accumulated over 3 billion reichsmarks but little of it was used for the support of the needy. Presumably, at least part, if not a great percentage, of these funds may have been included in Operation Fireland.

  Estimates of the value of Operation Fireland range from the unbelievably low $17 million, considering the sheer volume of non-stop transport voyages of the six U-boats over two years, and subsequent value of the treasures, into the more probable hundreds of millions and possibly even billions of dollars.  But Operation Fireland was small change compared to the blockbuster business venture Bormann would soon unveil.
  As the Thousand Year Reich began to crumble barely a decade after its inception, memories of Germany's World War One failure were still fresh in Martin Bormann's mind.  A devastated citizenry impoverished by the war had been saddled with yet even more hefty burdens than what the country had already lost in the conflict.  From the scant assets that had survived, the Germans were forced to pay the costs of the losses of the victors, as well; to replace their burnt out cities and towns, the sunken ships and shot down airplanes, their industries and lost revenues.

Because the conquered had so few resources left that there were insufficient assets with which to make recompense, their futures were mortgaged - a whole generation was indignantly indentured to its mortal enemy of yesterday.  While the fighting had ended, the war smoldered on in the angry hearts of the vanquished, to erupt two decades later in World War Two.  Now the pattern was repeating itself.  But the bitter gall of the last defeat was not going to be repeated in this one.  Not while Martin Bormann had a hand in the outcome.

  Reichminister Hermann Goering was responsible for the Reich's economic Four-year Plan and, as a result, the economic heads of all the occupied countries (and surreptitiously, many of the neutral nations, also) reported to him.  These countries included France, Belgium, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, Austria, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Portugal, Finland, Bulgaria, and Romania - virtually all of Europe except Russia - and also included many Latin American countries.  What is little known, however, according to Nazi In Exile author Paul Manning, is that Martin Bormann was the Party Minister of Economics [cdxxxii and therefore he oversaw all economic issues for the entire Reich, even outranking Hitler's then-chosen heir, Goering, in financial matters.

  In this role, on the heels of the Stalingrad defeat, Bormann had already begun to plan for the economic protection and resurgence of Germany following the war. Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Steinmetz writes of how top Nazis prepared for German post-war emergence by calling together a meeting of many of Germany's top companies in August 1944.  The meeting, held in a hotel in Strasbourg, France, was convened expressly "to discuss financing plans for the Fourth Reich," [cdxxxiii according to Steinmetz.

  Steinmetz's article also included information about Operation Fireland.  By the time the Steinmetz article ran in April 1997, however, it was very old news.  Decades before, Bormann biographers Paul Manning, William Stevenson and Ladislas Farago had already written in detail about Nazi exporting of plundered treasure and the secret economic summit in Strasbourg.  What was new was the fact no rebuff of Steinmetz or the Journal appears to have followed for revealing the information. In the past, accounts printed about Operation Fireland and the Strasbourg Conference had been squashed or quickly debunked.

  For example, when this author initially proposed Critical Mass to a publisher using only Operation Fireland documentation cited by Farago in his book Aftermath, I was told Farago had forged and planted the documents within the top secret files of foreign governments in order to support his "fictitious" claims.  Apparently there had been quite an international row in the publishing world over this deception, which occurred when I was too young to have taken notice.  At any rate, Farago and his book had been publicly and acrimoniously denounced and Farago died unvindicated a few years later.

  The publisher's initial assertions convinced me of the correctness of the dismissal of Farago's claims, thus stopping me from pursuing this book further - at least for a time.  I later came across Paul Manning's treatise of the despoiled Nazi loot and the Strasbourg meeting in his book, Nazi In Exile and again in William Stevenson's book, The Bormann Brotherhood.  The same events that Farago had revealed in his book were proven in these accounts, as well as some very important new information, but in many cases using different documentation.

  I contacted a member of the intelligence community with whom I had connections and whom I was told had researched the subject matter of these Nazi business dealings.  Without mentioning Manning or Stevenson by name, he asserted that what they had written about Nazi involvement in post-war international business preparations was true and that United States government intelligence agencies - he mentioned the CIA and its predecessor the OSS by name - had conducted a full inquiry into the issue.

  He asserted that these agencies had identified all of the relevant business dealings, had broken up the German cartels and stripped the Nazi owners of their financial properties and placed those instruments in the hands of the United States Alien Property Custodian program.  He "shared" this information with me in the spirit of proving that, while certain German businessmen and high-ranking Nazis- he mentioned Bormann specifically - tried to survive the war supported by Nazi funds invested by clandestine means, the United States had found and uprooted the deception. Therefore, he insisted, there was no story and no need for me to research further.

  But if what Paul Manning and William Stevenson had written about Nazi international business activity is true, then the same assertions that Ladislas Farago had earlier written about it are likewise true, as is other very essential information about who they all agreed initiated the Strasbourg Conference.  The effort to vilify Farago therefore was a smokescreen.  With the knowledge my original premise was intact and there was now an effort being put forth to fog the truth, I put forth, more carefully, once again on this book.

  The fact that the Nazi scheme had supposedly been put down was of no account to me, the mere affirmation that the Strasbourg plan was made and initially carried out is the cogent point for the premise of this volume.  In later research I discovered, however, that the story about the financial properties being expropriated once and for all by the United States government, while true in form, was not true in reality.  It was yet another effort to create a fog behind which the truth could be hidden.  I fully expect that when Critical Mass is published, it, too, will be countered in a similar way, or possibly in a different manner.

  In any case, the fact that Steinmetz was allowed to run his article unchecked was an important event that begins to blow the haze away from the central truth of these events.  Perhaps the reason the article ran unassailed was the irreproachable reputation for integrity of The Wall Street Journal and its sheer stature in the world of journalism.  Perhaps the article was allowed to run because it was triggered by a United States Senate investigation initiated in response to Nazi victims who are now United States citizens trying to retrieve personal property originally looted from them by the Nazis.  Probably both reasons are true to some degree.

  But it is likely the most important reason the Steinmetz article was allowed to run uncontested was that it still hid the issues at heart, which are what the United States government is really protecting.  What are those issues?  The first is that Martin Bormann was the central player in the Strasbourg Conference.  The second is that Bormann escaped Germany at the end of the war and lived for many years rebuilding and controlling the economy of West Germany and much of Europe and Latin America, and that he did this all with the protection, support and collusion of the United States government.

  While Steinmetz's article does not say so, Manning's and Stevenson's stories both have a central point in common regarding the Strasbourg Conference; and Farago's work, illustrated by other events, although not detailed in the specifics of the conference itself, supports the point:  Martin Bormann initiated the conference, controlled it and oversaw its results for many years following the war.   Bormann's yet unborn Fourth Reich, by war's end, had already ratholed $800 million plus 95 tons of gold. [cdxxxiv  And that was just by war's end.

  The Strasbourg Conference where Bormann introduced a new economic initiative, was convened under the highest secrecy and security in August 1944, to discuss post-war preparations between the Nazi government and the major German industrialists, as was so often the pattern with other issues since the end of World War One. [cdxxxv  Bormann assigned Dr. Bosse, of the Ministry of Armaments, and Lieutenant General Sheid to conduct the conference in his behalf. [cdxxxvi

  "German industry must realize that the war cannot now be won," Bormann told Sheid, continuing, "and (Germany) must take steps to prepare for a postwar commercial campaign which will in time insure the economic resurgence of Germany." [cdxxxvii 

 What Bormann was proposing was devious, conspiratorial and illegal, even within Nazi Germany.  To avoid security breaches, therefore, he ensured in every possible way that the strictest secrecy was maintained.  The meeting was held in a hotel conference room insulated from visual or audio surveillance by having rented all the rooms above, below and on all sides of the chamber.  All attendees and their personal possessions were thoroughly inspected physically and electronically by SS technicians. [cdxxxviii

  High-ranking industrialists from a spectrum of German firms listened intently to the amazing proposal: All corporations that agreed with Bormann's plan to conserve their businesses for post-war operations and to share post-war revenues with selected underground Nazi operations would, until such time as the Third Reich failed, be protected by Bormann from the "Treason Against The Nation" law. [cdxxxix  This law required death for all those who subverted currency regulations, traded in foreign currency or concealed ownership of foreign currency.  The law also precluded firms from being involved in almost any type of partnership, joint venture or licensing agreement with any country outside of the Reich or the boundaries of its allies.

  In reality, many of Germany's largest companies were already engaged in relationships with businesses neutral to or hostile to the Reich, including Germany's largest conglomerate, I.G. Farben, but the government had been turning a blind eye in order to keep the huge amount of capital these companies generated rolling in.  The waiver of the Treason Against the Nation law proposed at Strasbourg was therefore not only an incentive to those German companies that desired to survive the war but were not yet participating in such activities, but it was a veiled threat to those that were already circumventing the law.  To them Bormann was saying, in essence, if you do not share the wealth you are already gaining, we will have your heads by enforcing the law.  The Strasbourg announcement, for these companies, amounted to a form of blackmail; which they were glad to pay not only to save themselves but to save their companies from the post-war commercial blood bath that was sure to come.

  According to Dr. Bosse, participating companies' and Nazi funds were to be invested in foreign financial institutions while the Party maintained access to them, "in order that a strong German empire can be created after defeat." [cdxl  Bosse went on to explain: "Industrialists with government assistance [meaning with Bormann as their mentor and protector - author's note] will export as much of their capital as possible, capital meaning money, bonds, patents, scientists and administrators."[ [cdxli]  While hard currency was valuable, the currency with real potential was the "soft capital" the industrialist firms held: the trade agreements, patents and braintrusts that generated colossal revenues in perpetuity.

 The potential income of such intellectual and proprietary properties as international licenses sold to use the patents on stainless steel, synthetic fuels and rubbers and other commercial advances, and control of the braintrusts who created them was huge, generating millions, possible tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Many international companies, such as Bayer, Winthrop Chemical, AGFA-ANSCO, Hoescht and DuPont to a large degree owed their existence and continuing prosperity to exclusive use of I.G. Farben patents and licenses alone. [cdxlii

  In addition to exporting technologies, the German firms were directed to borrow against these and other assets to obtain more hard capital and thus be able to more quickly export additional hard currency [cdxliii into what was now being called Bormann's "Flight Capital" program.  Technical and business bureaus were to be established for each industry and in each foreign office of each company, with a covert Nazi liaison officer in each office to oversee and, where possible, personally manage the operations. [cdxliv  From among these liaisons German economic specialists successfully penetrated 11 nations' economies, in addition to Germany's, and eventually controlled them in the post-war period. [cdxlv

  Bosse reported to Bormann after the meeting that the terms of the Strasbourg conference had been agreed to by all involved and therefore the new Flight Capital Program had been successfully initiated. [cdxlvi  Bormann in turn established 750 camouflaged corporations under the names of companies or individuals for which he held power of attorney, and therefore over which he had total control, [cdxlvii as vehicles for managing the income of the Flight Capital Program. These businesses were scattered across countries throughout Europe, the Mid-east and Latin America.  Holdings were even kept in bank accounts in the United States of America, [cdxlviii some of which eventually were in his own name, including accounts with Manufacturers Hanover Trust, The Chase Manhattan Bank, and First National City Bank, according to author Paul Manning.

  Although not listed as a company represented at the Strasbourg conference, Germany's largest industrial cartel, the chemical concern I.G. Farben, was active in the Flight Capital Program as well.  In fact, it had not been necessary for Farben representatives to attend the program's introduction at all because it's leader, chairman and president Hermann Schmitz, had been integrally involved in the Flight Capital Program's creation.  I.G. Farben had supported the Nazi cause from the beginning of the its climb to power, having donated generously through Farben's intelligence, propaganda and political economic operations, known as I.G. NW7. [cdxlix

  In his Wall Street Journal article, Steinmetz unwittingly hints at this involvement - and particularly at the Flight Capital Program - in a portion of the article that reviews reports that Germany's Bosch AG company during the war allied with the wealthy Wallenberg family of Sweden to camouflage German funds.  Robert Bosch, the founder of Bosch AG, was the uncle of Carl Bosch, [cdl the founder of I.G. Farben.  Close relationships were maintained between the companies.

  Before taking Carl Bosch's place at the head of I.G. Farben, Schmitz had been Bosch's top lieutenant and handpicked successor. [cdli He had overseen all of I.G. Farben's international business, and, between the wars, was responsible for concealing Farben's huge global income from German tax administrators through the use of foreign "blinds" he had created. These camouflage devices operated remarkably like the alleged arrangement between Bosch A.G. and the Wallenberg's. [cdlii

  Before the war, Schmitz took over the helm of I.G. Farben and had become a close "confidant and advisor to Martin Bormann," [cdliii writes Paul Manning in his book Martin Bormann: Nazi In Exile. Manning adds that Bormann was a student in a sort of personal, and confidential, tutelage under Schmitz. [cdliv  Bormann, in fact, surreptitiously gave the title of "Secret Councilor to the Nazi Party and Martin Bormann," to Hermann Schmitz, [cdlv in return for the latter's intellectual contributions and mentoring.  Under Schmitz's direction and with the complicity of Bormann, I.G. Farben looted the chemical properties of the nations Germany had conquered: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway and France. [cdlvi

  By the end of the war, Farben had interests in over 700 companies, not including operations within its own corporate structure that stretched across 93 countries. [cdlvii  In all, Schmitz, in league with Bormann, who cleared the path of government constraints, expanded Farben's foreign investment to at least 7 billion reichsmarks during the war. [cdlviii  As the two men weaved their web they made many pacts; among them one that ensured all Farben leaders overseas were Nazi Party members accountable to Martin Bormann - a precursor to the Flight Capital Program.  Working together, the two men expanded this relationship to other German firms in the form of the Flight Capital Program.

  The objective of the Flight Capital Program was not to make money in and of itself.  The objective - Bormann's master plan - was to save and protect Germany's industries and economy from being looted at the hands of the conquerors as had happened at the end of the First World War.  After the war, the Flight Capital Program would control and direct not only the German economy, but also other economies linked to the underground Fatherland, in an effort to produce a quick German rebirth and eventual European economic domination.

  Bormann and Schmitz met on multiple occasions while developing the Flight Capital Program. [cdlix  So thoroughly did Bormann capture all of the funds transferred out of the Reich that when Hermann Schmitz died in 1960, at the age of 79, he was nearly a pauper. [cdlx  "To this day no one has been able to explain what happened to his fortune.  Few who knew him can believe it doesn't exist," wrote Joseph Borkin, author of The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben.

Strategies for covertly redeploying the economy included the implementation of a "foreign trade offensive," according to Peter Hayes' book Industry and Technology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era. [cdlxi

They also included a "'European economic community'" that positioned Germany as the hub and "flag bearer" of a confederated Europe that would "predominate by 'elastic political methods'... not with brutal force."

 These elements are certainly recognizable in the history of post-war Europe as it actually unfolded, and, in fact, continues with a high profile in the European economic model of today.  The evidence reflects that the Flight Capital Program and Bormann's partnership with I.G.Farben not only paid off as planned, but it set the foundation for the European economy of today, and by extension that of the world.

  But in April 1945, with Berlin succumbing to the Russian siege, a hysterical Hitler visibly crumbling in front of him, and the Reich reeling in its death throws, Bormann, true to his brutish, realistic, pragmatic nature and leaning heavily on his incomparable bureaucratic proclivities, was focused on escaping.

 Bormann was willing, able and self-authorized to negotiate any agreement that secured his - and presumably, at one time, the Fuehrer's - escape. Signals from "The Brown Eminence's" radios bounced to and from various German generals authorized to negotiate with Russian and United States military leaders. The Allies, in complete control and determined to achieve nothing but total and unconditional surrender - outwardly at least - would not negotiate.  Escape was the only option.



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