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|Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:16 pm Post subject: Web Premiere: Martin Bormann and Nazi gold by Milton Shulman
MARTIN BORMANN AND NAZI GOLD
Marilyn, Hitler and Me
The memoirs of Milton Shulman
Andre Deutsch (1998)
ISBN 0 233 99408 4
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Am instructed to find Martin Bormann or go to the Palladium... 40 years on, Creighton's mysterious claims unfold... Nazi gold and Ian Fleming's plot... Bormann dead or a double?.. Convincing publishers... Doubt and death threats... The conspiracy theory
(i) Involved in the mystery of Nazi Gold
The Fuhrer and his cohorts re-entered my life over 40 years later when I received a mysterious letter in response to an article I had written about my first day at the Evening Standard, back in 1947. On that day, the Standard's editor, Herbert Gunn, told me that my initial assignment, because I was a German army expert and had just written Defeat in the west, was to go to Berlin and find Martin Bormann. Startled by such a task, I protested, 'But Bormann is dead. I don't think it would be much of a story.'
'Are you sure he's dead?' persisted Gunn. '1 thought there was considerable doubt about that.'
'Yes,' I said. 'Some historians don't believe the evidence, but it would take some time to discover anything fresh.'
'About three or four weeks at least. And it would be rather expensive with probably nothing new to show for it.'
Gunn pondered my reply for a few minutes.
'Alright,' he said. 'If you don't think you can find Martin Bormann will you go to the Palladium and interview Chico Marx?'
Like a barrister who one day will sue a tabloid for libel and soon after defend another tabloid for a similar sort of libel, the journalist's briefs are the idiosyncratic demands of his editor. News, the lifeblood of a newspaper, has no orderly agenda. The dominant criterion of a journalist's work is readability; chronology is far less important.
In August 1989, complying with the imperative of topicality that is expected to dominate every weekly newspaper column, I used the peg of the anniversary of the defeat of Japan to write about the last days of Hitler. I retold my first day's experience on the Evening Standard when I was told to go to Berlin and find Martin Bormann. The headline read 'Find Bormann? But he's dead. . .'
My life has had many curious twists but none so strange as the Consequences of that innocuous headline on the next eight years of my career. The following day I received a letter from Christopher Creighton. The name meant nothing to me, although he assured me we had met some years before because of my friendship with his sister, a very attractive girl who was studying to become an opera singer. She gave up those aspirations when she married the owner of a small country inn and helped him run it. I had not seen her for many years when I heard that she had unexpectedly died after a brief illness.
Creighton, knowing my background in Intelligence, thought I might be more interested in Bormann than was indicated in my column. Did I want to know how he and Ian Fleming got him out? To establish his credentials as someone knowledgeable about Intelligence and Security matters, he told me he was the author of The Paladin, a novel written with Brian Garfield, which was based upon his true operations as a boy spy in 1940 and '41. The book was a great success, having made the best-seller lists in Britain and America, sold over 100,000 copies and been serialized in the Daily Express.
My first inclination was to treat the letter as one of those crank missives, usually written in red or purple ink, that often plague journalists and are dealt with by a quick toss into the nearest wastepaper basket. But because I had been extremely fond of his sister - and I was convinced that his introductory credentials were genuine - I felt I ought to put him off with a courteous reply. I asked Angus McGill, the paper's most experienced feature writer, for some advice about how to handle this strange note and, to my surprise, he was intrigued by its contents. He urged me not to dismiss Creighton and to find out more about him. I decided to give him a call. It was a decision that was to involve me in an intriguing international mystery whose ramifications - after having been investigated by intelligence experts, historians, academics and journalists - are still bewilderingly unresolved eight years after I first spoke to Christopher Creighton.
I listened with increasing fascination to the startling story Creighton summarized for me on the phone. I was, of course, well aware of the atmosphere of disbelief that existed in Fleet Street about any purported account of yet untold secrets about the final days of Germany's defeat. There had been a gullible market for such tales in the years immediately after the Armistice, but two intricate stories that turned out to be elaborate hoaxes had converted this area of historical speculation into a mendacious minefield that no editor was likely to put a toe into.
The editor of the Daily Express, Stewart Steven, was forced to admit that he had been conned into believing Martin Bormann had been discovered alive in the Argentine. An even more notorious hoax was the forging of documents purporting to be Hitler's War Diaries, which had taken in the Sunday Times as well as other respectable European papers. When Creighton had divulged what appeared to be another incredible Bormann story I told him I was intrigued by his tale but I had a small reputation as a military historian and did not want it to suffer the fate of Hugh Trevor-Roper, the author of The Last Days of Hitler, who supported the authenticity of Hitler's Diaries only to have to make a humiliating confession that he had been thoroughly duped.
After the collapse of the Ardennes offensive, the failure of Hitler's V-I and V-2 secret weapons to wreak any significant havoc against England and the speedy advance of the Russian armies in the East, it was obvious to anyone other than an ardent Nazi fanatic that Germany, had lost the war. By the beginning of 1945, senior Nazi officials and functionaries were already making plans to get as much money as they could out of Germany, and trying to arrange some bolt-hole for themselves and their families in some neutral land, either disguised or not.
Vast amounts of gold, foreign currency and art treasures were being lodged in foreign banks, chiefly in Switzerland. Some of those closest to Hitler - Ribbentrop, Goering, Himmler - were making clandestine approaches to contacts in Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, Paraguay and the Argentine for a safe haven after the surrender and Hitler's expected assassination or suicide.
They assumed that, even if they were arrested after the war, they might have to face a term in prison after which they could live out their days with the hidden resources they had stashed away. The concept of War Crimes trials and the execution of the defeated leaders was a novel and unthinkable prospect. After Germany's defeat in the First World War political and military leaders like the Kaiser, Hindenburg and Ludendorff had been allowed to become prominent and powerful figures in a vanquished Germany. It was a tradition that the Nazi establishment expected the Allied victors to respect.
Aware of the avalanche of German resources and pillaged treasures leaving the Reich, Churchill was determined to do something about it. One of the many steps taken was to put Naval Commander Ian Lancaster Fleming in charge of an exercise to discover where some of this gold and currency was being hidden and how it could be returned to the Allies when the war was over. He had been the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Rear-Admiral John Godfrey. In Room 60 in the Admiralty on the 4th January 1945 Fleming met Major Desmond Morton, Churchill's personal security chief and a personal friend since World War I.
Creighton told me that Morton was his godfather. Morton, born in 1891, had served in the First World War and received a bullet in his heart which no operation could remove and remained with him all his life. His bravery was recognized by his awards of a Military Cross, a Croix de Guerre and a mention in despatches. After the war he was seconded to the Foreign Office and In 1930 he set up a body known as the Industrial Intelligence Centre, a front for a super-secret organisation which was privately financed by successive monarchs George V, Edward VIII and George VI.
Although Creighton referred to it as the M Section, he told me that there was no official intelligence operation with that title. One of its earliest activities was to Supply Winston Churchill, then out of office, with Information about German rearmament, which helped alert the Baldwin and Chamberlain governments about Hitler's aggressive intentions.
Creighton described Morton as a tall, athletic man with an authoritative manner and an upper-class accent. He was a friend of Creighton's father, Jack Ainsworth- Davis, who had qualified as a doctor at Cambridge and was a member of the British 4 x 400 metre relay team which won a gold medal at the Antwerp Olympics in 1920. Involved with supporting that team were three undergraduates: Sub-Lieutenant Lord Louis Mountbatten and two of his cousins, the Duke of York (later George VI) and his younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester. These contacts with his father brought the young Creighton, as a boy, to the attention of both Desmond Morton, Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten.
As a surgeon, Jack Ainsworth- Davis had operated on Joachim von Ribbentrop when he was Germany's ambassador to Britain. They were also on social terms. Their friendship had begun when they were at school together in Metz before the First World War. It was there that Creighton's father spent a year studying German. Convinced that war was on the way, Morton could see in the young Creighton's social contacts with Ribbentrop prospects of using him in some clandestine activity when hostilities began. After Creighton's parents divorced, Morton had him enrolled at Ampleforth for a short period and then sent him to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in September, 1939, at the age of fifteen and a half, where he was instructed to call himself by a pseudonym and never be known as John Davis nor John Ainsworth-Davis again.
I learned about this background information many months after I agreed to offer him some advice about the book he was planning about Martin Bormann. His first letters were so startling, giving me a general outline of what he had done, that I could not resist finding out much more about it.
The task Fleming was given when he met both Morton and Churchill early in 1945 was to discover what means the German government and the Nazi Party were using to remove from their territory the billions of pounds of cash, gold, jewellery and art treasures and hide it away in foreign banks and secret caves where it could be recovered when the war was over. Using intelligence resources that had been nurtured before the war, Fleming discovered the names of two Swiss banks where this plundered loot was held in secret numbered accounts. In the course of acquiring this information and transmitting it by wireless to England, a young woman secret agent, very close to Creighton, had been tortured and murdered.
When I first discussed with Creighton how he planned to write this story, he believed it could only be done, even as late as 1989, as 'faction' - a combination of fiction and the truth. Because Creighton was almost paranoic about security, my initial contacts with him were almost comical in their remoteness. I did not meet him personally until well after he had started sending me the first sections of his book which was then called Project X-2.
At first I never wrote to him but telephoned him with any comments I had to make. He has been to my flat a number of times but I have never been to his home, although I have spoken to his wife on many occasions on the phone. At the beginning he stressed that because Operation James Bond - which was later the real code name of Project X-2 - was under the M Section, its existence was never to be made public. In his book OpJB Creighton writes: 'Even at the highest level, only a handful of people outside the M Section should know of the project's existence. It had never been mentioned in any document, except under its naval party assignation, or code number. It never would be mentioned. It had simply never existed, and never would.'
It would be an understatement to say that the details of Creighton's adventure with Ian Fleming and Bormann, if true, provide one of the most daring and amazing stories of the last Great War. Perhaps Otto Skorzeny's rescue of Mussolini from Allied hands, with German parachutists, comes close to the venture in magnitude of audacity.
As Creighton's story unfolded to me in batches of about 2,000 words every fortnight under the pseudonymous title, Project X-2, I learnt that Ian Fleming's first task was to read through the file of the young man whom Morton had recommended to him as a particularly qualified deputy. So weird and secret were the contents of those papers disclosing Creighton's war-time career to date, that the room in which Fleming read them had to have its doors and windows firmly bolted and two of M Section's security officers stationed outside while Fleming perused the official documents.
'Fleming read my record with astonishment,' comments Creighton in OpJB. 'If he himself had not been on the periphery of some of the events described, he would have doubted the account's veracity; but because he had often been involved he knew that the narratives were genuine.
Fleming's second task after agreeing to have Creighton as his operational commander was to fly to Basel in Switzerland where on 11 January 1945, a pre-arranged meeting had been organized with the Swiss Foreign Minister, Ernest Nobs, and two of his colleagues. He carried with him a diplomatic passport, wore civilian clothes and bore a personal letter from Winston Churchill. The letter asked the Swiss minister for help in returning to the Allies the vast wealth that had been deposited in Swiss vaults by the murderers and tyrants of the Nazi hierarchy. The minister's first reaction was to deny any knowledge of any illegal accounts held in Swiss banks by Hitler's despoiling minions.
When Fleming revealed that he knew the names of the banks in which most of this exported money was held, as well as the numbers of the suspected accounts, the Foreign Minister's answer was that it would be a criminal offence for him to disclose such information. Even if he knew it. Swiss banking regulations prevented him from naming the holders of such accounts and their identification could only be revealed if the proper signatories were obtained. But, Fleming pressed on, surely if it were proven that such funds had been illegally expropriated from conquered territories, the Swiss government would agree to have them frozen and investigated as soon as the war was over. The Foreign Minister agreed that if proof could be found that individuals or even explicit companies had been robbed by the Nazis, the banks would be ready to look into their claims; but as far as funds belonging to independent foreign states like Germany were concerned, they had absolute immunity unless the proper signatures for release were produced. They had reached stalemate when Nobs asked what would happen to these monies if they were handed over to the Allies. Fleming had a prepared answer. They would ask the Swiss government to act as trustee of these funds until an international committee had studied the claims made upon them and agreed who were the rightful owners. Any money that could not be traced to its original source would be distributed to peoples most damaged by the war - even Germans and Italians - as a form of reparations.
Although the discussion appeared to have hit a dead-end the minister was strangely insistent that Fleming stay for a few minutes for sandwiches and coffee. Sipping his coffee in a large empty room, Fleming was joined by a young, smartly .dressed woman wearing a raincoat and carrying a briefcase. She indicated that she was a member of the Swiss Intelligence Service and that she had something of interest to show him.
An hour's drive away, they arrived at a small village in a high valley in the Alps. Fleming's observant eye noticed small gun emplacements deployed unobtrusively m the area and innocent-looking chalets hiding large steel doors opening into a side of the mountain.
Fleming was told by his guide that this was a secure vault of the National Bank of Basle carved out of pure rock, and once inside his eyes feasted on an incredible Aladdin's Cave of gold nuggets, diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones including Crown jewels from the Hohenzollerns and other royal dynasties of Europe. In huge wooden crates were stacked masterpieces that had been looted from museums and galleries in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, the Ukraine and Luxembourg.
The means by which these art treasures were seized or bought with unstated threats at ludicrously low prices has been meticulously documented in a scholarly work, The Rape of Europa, by Lynn H. Nicholas, in which Martin Bormann, Hitler's private secretary, is pin-pointed as the individual who decided which of this growing art treasure should be seized or purchased after being shown to the Fuhrer. Hitler personally selected the ones to be sent to the town of Linz where he was amassing what he hoped would be the greatest art museum the world had ever seen. These masterpieces were probably destined for Linz.
Fleming, amazed at the vastness of this cornucopia, asked what part of it belonged to Germany. All of it, he was told. On the military airstrip outside Basle, a white envelope was handed over to Fleming by his Swiss companion. He was told the Finance Minister had asked her to give it to him before he flew off. Inside was a single sheet of white paper, bearing one typed line: 'Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei 60508.'.....
continued - see word doc or
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