Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
ODESSA (German: Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen; "The Organization of Former SS-Members") was an alleged Nazi fugitive network set up towards the end of World War II by a group of SS officers. With alleged ties to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Vatican, ODESSA allegedly operated out of Buenos Aires and helped Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke and many other war criminals find refuge in Latin America.
SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny was believed to have been active in this organization, but this supposition has never been proved. Similarly, General Reinhard Gehlen's entire intelligence organisation that was employed and protected by US Intelligence within a few months of the end of the war, has come under suspicion.
Did ODESSA exist?
According to Simon Wiesenthal, ODESSA was set up in 1946 to aid fugitive Nazis. Other sources, such as many interviews by the ZDF German TV station with former SS men, suggest that ODESSA never was the single world-wide secret organization that Wiesenthal described, but that there were several organizations, both overt and covert (including the CIA and several Latin American governments), that helped ex-SS men.
To some extent whether ODESSA was a criminal conspiracy that protected and smuggled out war criminals or an informal network by which various German and Allied elements protected "useful" former SS anti-communists from war crimes charges is purely a matter of viewpoint since, short of finding a genuine documentary constitution for it, any facts or actions would fit both descriptions equally.
Apart from the ZDF, biographer Gitta Sereny criticized the ODESSA theory in her 1974 book Into that Darkness. She attributed the fact that several criminal SS-men could escape to the post war chaos, and the lack of means of the church to verify the claims of people who came to them for help. Uki Goņi, in his 2002 book The Real Odessa suggests that this more complex story is the real truth.
- "We knew what we did. It was absolutely necessary that we used every son of a bitch as long as he was an anti-communist".
–Harry Rositzke, CIA-Russia expert (in translation from ZDF.de's article "Mythos Odessa: Wahrheit oder Legende?"; see external links, below)
- Goņi, Uki (2002). The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perķn's Argentina. Granta Books. 382 pp. ISBN 1862075816.
- Sereny, Gitta (1974). Into that Darkness. From Mercy Killings to Mass Murder.
Republished (1983) as Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. Vintage. 400 pp. ISBN 0394710355.
- ODESSA – From www.us-israel.org
- ZDF.de (2002). "Mythos Odessa: Wahrheit oder Legende?" ("The Myth of ODESSA: Truth or legend?") (in German)
- ODESSA and Nazis in Latin America – From The Straight Dope
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