ODESSA ( German : Organization der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen : Organization of Former SS Members ) was a secret collaboration network developed by Nazi groups to help escape SS members from Germany to other countries where they were safe, particularly To Latin America .

The organization was used by the novelist Frederick Forsyth in his 1972 work The Odessa File , based on real events, which gave a great media impact. On the other hand, the greatest investigator, persecutor and in charge of informing about the existence and mission of this organization was Simon Wiesenthal , an Austrian Jew survivor to the Holocausto , that dedicated to locate exnazis to take them to judgment.


This secret organization helped refugee Nazi exiles, in Argentina , Brazil , Chile , Mexico and Paraguay, mostly after the Second World War . Most of its members resided in France , Spain , neutral during World War II, and Italy . There is no record of the organization at present, most likely given the age of survivors, it no longer exists.

Case of Martin Bormann

Main article: Martin Bormann

Although for years it was said that Martin Bormann had died crossing the river Spree in Berlin , during the fall of the capital on the night of 1 of maypole of 1945 , the reality is that not found a body until 1972 , when a group of Workers excavated in the area to carry out works and was found with two corpses. Before that, CIA (former OSS ) agents and the FBI got tired of tracking down Bormann, both in the Andes area of Bariloche on the Argentine side, and the La Unión commune on the Chilean side, as well as On the triple border between Brazil , Paraguay and Argentina . This was known when in 1999 the FBI declassified Bormann’s files – which they sought in Argentina until 1971- and even Adolf Hitler .

In the case of Bormann, the American journalist Paul Manning asserts that he was responsible for the immense funds of the NSDAP and that together with great German bankers led the largest money laundering operation in history. Another American journalist named Gerald Posner claims to have run into a Bormann file in the Argentine Federal Police. The Argentine journalist Rogelio García Lupo told in his book El Paraguay de Stroessner that the Paraguayan president was known to Bormann, which led to speculation about the possible exile of the Nazi in the South American country. It is believed that his body was repatriated in 1970 and that he was buried in the place where he was said to have died. When DNA was tested on the skull in 1988 , it was concluded that it was Bormann’s skull, even if it was covered with a penetrating red earth. The expert on the part of the German state wanted to record in records that he believed that the land – which does not exist in Europe – was really Paraguayan land.

Case of Heinrich Müller

Main article: Heinrich Müller


See also: Richard Glücks and Eduard Roschmann .

Richard Glücks died in May 1945 at a military hospital in Ebbense and Eduard Roschmann died in a hospital for the needy in Asuncion in August 1977 .


According to Simon Wiesenthal , ODESSA was founded in 1946 to help Nazis fleeing international justice. Other sources, such as interviews conducted by the German television station ZDF to former SS members, suggest that ODESSA was not the only secret organization Wiesenthal described worldwide. Instead, there were several organizations, both open and covert (including the CIA , several Latin American governments and a network of Catholic clerics based in Italy), which helped former SS members flee Germany.

Historian Gitta Sereny wrote in her book Into That Darkness (1974), based on interviews with former commander of the Treblinka Extermination Camp , Franz Stangl (see references below), that ODESSA never existed. He wrote: “Prosecutors at the Ludwigsburg Central Authority for the investigation of Nazi crimes, who knew precisely how the lives of certain individuals in South America were financed in the postwar period, have sought from thousands of documents from the beginning to the end, But claim that they are totally incapable of authenticating the existence of ‘Odessa’. Not that this matters: there certainly were various types of aid organizations to Nazis after the war – it would have been surprising if they had not. ” 1

In his interviews with Sereny, Stangl denied any knowledge of a group called ODESSA. Recent biographies of Adolf Eichmann , who also escaped Argentina , and Heinrich Himmler , the alleged founder of ODESSA, make no reference to such an organization. 2

Sereny attributes the fact that SS members could escape not so much from the activities of a clandestine Nazi organization as from the chaos of the postwar period and the inability of the Catholic Church , the Red Cross and the US military to verify the claims Of the people who came to them for help. Thus, he identified the Vatican official, Archbishop Alois Hudal , as the main agent in helping the Nazis escape from Italy to South America.

Uki Goñi , in his 2002 book The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron’s Argentina (see references), suggests that Sereny’s more complex and less conspiratorial story was closer to reality. The book gave rise to a resolution of the House of Representatives of the United States in 2003 , which recommends to Argentina to declassify its, until that time, official documentation concerning this subject.

Of particular importance in examining the post-war activities of the high-ranking Nazis was Paul Manning’s book Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile , which detailed the rise to power of Martin Bormann through the NSDAP and as Hitler’s personal secretary . During the war, Manning was a correspondent for CBS, along with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite in London, and his reports and subsequent research presented Bormann’s ingenuity and his organizational skills in planning the flight from Europe to the capital controlled by The Nazis during the war years; Despite the possibility of Bormann’s death in Berlin on 1 May 1945.

According to Manning, “finally, more than 10,000 German ex-soldiers managed to escape to South America through escape routes created by ODESSA and the Deutsche Hilfsverein …” (page 181). While for Manning ODESSA in itself it was incidental, the continued existence of Bormann’s organization was a much greater and more threatening fact. In Argentina, the help of some Catholic bishops was essential, according to declassified records of the United States Department of State, important information on the collaboration of Fermín Emilio Lafitte, bishop of Córdoba with fugitive war criminals from the Nuremberg Trials after the defeat of the Nazi Germany. 3

Argentine politics related to the Nazis

See also: Juan Perón and Rodolfo Freude .

In 1938, on the eve of World War II, and with Adolf Hitler’s policies on Jews in transit, the Argentine Foreign Ministry issued a secret circular that restricted the granting of visas to every individual despised or abandoned by the government of his country . This implicitly pointed to Jews and other minorities fleeing Germany at this time. The circular was discovered and denounced by the Argentine writer Uki Goñi , who admits that his own grandfather participated in his ratification. However, Argentina accepted more Jewish immigrants than any other Latin American country. This legislation, although completely in disuse for many years, was revoked on June 8, 2005 by Argentine President Néstor Kirchner.

The Jewish Virtual Library writes that although Juan Perón sympathized with the powers of the axis, “Perón also expressed sympathy for the rights of the Jews and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Since then, more than 45,000 Jews emigrated to Israel from Argentina” . 4

In December 2002, the Argentine government in Buenos Aires rejected orders from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for the publication of 58 archives concerning the escape of Nazis to Argentina. But in July 2003, just a month after his inauguration, Néstor Kirchner opened two of the archives and since then, the Argentine government has cooperated with the investigations.

When revealing one of the secret archives, it was possible to know that during the government of Juan Domingo Perón, five thousand Nazis entered to the Argentina. In total nine thousand Nazis arrived in South America, through the organization ODESSA. Most of them settled in Argentina, with the complicity of the Government of Juan Domingo Perón, who sold a total of 10,000 Passports in White to ODESSA, the organization set up to protect the Nazi members of the SS. 5

See also

  • The Odessa File
  • Odessa (film)
  • SIDE
  • Paperclip Operation
  • Ratlines
  • HIAG
  • David Emory
  • OR IF


  1. Back to top↑ Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness (Pimlico 1974), 274
  2. Back to top↑ David Cesarini, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (Vintage 2004); Peter Padfield: Himmler: Reichsfuhrer SS (Macmillan 1990)
  3. Back to top↑ Graciela Ben-Dror, The Catholic Church and the Jews: Argentina, 1933-1945, U of Nebraska Press, 2008, p. 94
  4. Back to top↑ Jewish Virtual Library. Http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Argentina.html#WW2
  5. Back to top↑ Daily Mirror. Http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2117093/Secret-files-reveal-9-000-Nazi-war-criminals-fled-South-America-WWII.html