Google+ Followers

Friday, 20 April 2012

Günter Grass – The Real Problem is that He Wasn’t a Nazi

Germans Transfer their Guilt Over the Holocaust to the Palestinian Victims of Zionism

Poem published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, has created a heated debate in both Germany and Israel

Why have I kept silent, held back so long,
on something openly practiced in
war games, at the end of which those of us
who survive will at best be footnotes?
It’s the alleged right to a first strike
that could destroy an Iranian people
subjugated by a loudmouth
and gathered in organized rallies,
because an atom bomb may be being
developed within his arc of power.
Yet why do I hesitate to name
that other land in which
for years—although kept secret—
a growing nuclear power has existed
beyond supervision or verification,
subject to no inspection of any kind?
This general silence on the facts,
before which my own silence has bowed,
seems to me a troubling lie, and compels
me toward a likely punishment
the moment it’s flouted:
the verdict “Anti-semitism” falls easily.
But now that my own country,
brought in time after time
for questioning about its own crimes,
profound and beyond compare,
is said to be the departure point,
(on what is merely business,
though easily declared an act of reparation)
for yet another submarine equipped
to transport nuclear warheads
to Israel, where not a single atom bomb
has yet been proved to exist, with fear alone
the only evidence, I’ll say what must be said.
But why have I kept silent till now?
Because I thought my own origins,
Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.
Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel’s atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because—burdend enough as Germans—
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
wil not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.
And granted: I’ve broken my silence
because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger
we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.
No other course offers help
to Israelis and Palestinians alike,
to all those living side by side in emnity
in this region occupied by illusions,
and ultimately, to all of us.
Günter Grass
Translated by Breon Mitchell

Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, who the BNP have previously praised for his attitude to non-Jewish immigrants, as when he said: ‘foreign workers brought diseases into Israel and that their presence threatened the Jewish and Zionist identity of the state’. BNP praises Israel minister on foreigners and BNP and Israel - the courting couple has single-handedly proven that whatever else it is, Israel is no democracy (even of the bourgeois democratic variety in the West). Whoever has heard of someone being banned from entering a country for writing a poem? Quite rightly, Gunter Grass compared it to the Stasi secret police in East Germany.

What other democracy accords you the right to protest and demonstrate, but if you take up that right, the Police & Army will batter you into submission - especially if you are riding a bike in the Occupied Territories. Equally although you have the right to demonstrate, we will do our utmost to prevent you entering the country and ban you for 10 years when we do. Kafka eat your heart out.

Unfortunately many Germans have taken to heart the libellous accusation of Daniel Goldhagen and the Zionist historical establishment that all Germans, including anti-fascist opponents of Hitler, were equally culpable as regards the holocaust. And if everyone is to blame then no one is to blame. What easier way of letting German (& non-German) neo-Nazis off the hook?

As anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of Nazi Germany knows, it was the Army, backed by the Right and leading industrialists, in particular the iron and steel barons, the Krupps, Kirdorfs and Thyssens, who put Hitler in power. This was a time when the Nazis were actually losing support. And it was the Protestant churches, the Junkers, the middle class and peasantry, that backed Hitler. The German working class voted solidly for the Socialist and Communist Parties in November 1932 and in greater numbers than those voting for Hitler. Indeed Hitler lost two million votes between July and November 1932.

However it’s far easier to blame the whole of the German people, victims included, rather than specific and particular sections of the population. Indeed, if you read Goldhagen’s pitiful book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996) then you might be fooled into thinking that apart from the situation of the Jews, Hitler’s Germany was a pretty benign state. If Germans didn’t protest against Nazi anti-Semitism it was because ‘eliminationist’ anti-Semitism was inherent to the German psyche.

So an unwritten agreement was reached between Israeli leaders and the German state, in particular David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer. Germany would pay reparations to Israel and various Zionist organisations and supply it with military and nuclear hardware. In return Israel wouldn’t criticise the employment of ex-Nazis in the German government and Civil Service. People like Hans Globke, who was Adenauer’s Ministerial Director in the Chancellery. During the Nazi era, Globke was an official in the Interior Ministry in the Race Section, the Ministerialrat responsible for Names. Globke drafted the law whereby all Jews had to have a middle name ‘Sara’ or ‘Israel’. [see Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews] West Germany of course was deeply enmeshed in NATO and US Foreign Policy there is no doubt that it would have had US approval.

Of course the attempt to blame all German people for the Nazis and the holocaust inevitably results in a strengthening of holocaust denying neo-Nazi groups who react to this guilt-tripping by simple denial. But for most Germans this guilt becomes hatred of the Palestinians and Arabs as Germans transfer their guilt onto others. And in the Zionist lexicon, it is indeed the Palestinians who are the new Nazis rather than secondary victims of Nazi Germany.

Gunter Grass confessed 6 years ago to having been conscripted, as a 17-year-old, into the Waffen SS. By that time the SS and Wehrmacht were virtually fused. Grass had no choice, he had to join and at that late stage of the war, a refusal would have been a capital offence. [William Shirer, The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich] But according to Eli Yishai, Grass is banned from Israel as an ex-Nazi. [see Israeli politicians are having a field day over Gunter Grass]

But let us examine this hoary old myth that Israel bans Nazis, because all is not what it seems. In fact all sorts of Nazis and neo-Nazis are welcome there. Indeed some of them, including a group of Russian neo-Nazis who had been invited by 2 Likud MKs, visited Yad Vashem and then indulged in more normal behaviour – the Hitler salute. And there is Michal Kaminiski, Euro MP for the Polish Law & Justice Party, who opposed any apology by Poland for the murder of hundreds of Jews in the village of Jedwabne in 1941 by anti-Semitic Poles. Conservatives Anti-Semitic Friend Declares his Undying Sympathy for Israel! And of course Robert Ziles of the Latvian Freedom & Fatherland Party who, between paying homage to the dead of the holocaust at Yad Vashem, attends each year the commemoration for the veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS who were the Nazis trusted guards of the camps and ghettos of Eastern Europe. Both of these characters are more than welcome to visit Israel any time they want and are, of course, welcome guests at the grotesque Holocaust Propaganda Museum otherwise known as Yad Vashem.

But dear reader, I know you are protesting that neither Kaminiski nor Ziles, whatever their opinions, were actually members of the Nazi party or its institutions, such as the Schutzstaffel (SS). And this is true, even if Gunter Grass was conscripted, he was still a member of the SS whereas Kaminski and Ziles may dislike Jews, but they are good Zionists and of course were not members of the Nazi Party. Why they’re not even German!

But that of course is not the end of the story. Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian Christian Union and German Defence Minister under Konrad Adenauer was an ex-Nazi supporter who famously visited Yad Vashem.

Leaving aside the Nazis that Israel Kasztner of the Jewish Agency testified at Nuremburg on behalf of a number of Nazi war criminals – SS Generals Becher and Juttner, Krumey, Kettlitz and Wisliceny – Israel pursued a policy of closely working with ex-Nazis after the war.

In the service of the Jewish State by Shraga Elam and Dennis Whitehead, in Israel’s liberal Ha'aretz (see below) gives as an example Walter Rauf.

Rauf was no 17 year old conscript. He was a major player in the final solution. Rauff was a member of Eichman’s Judenkommando and the Einsatzgruppen (killing squads). He could justly be titled the Father of the Gas Chambers. He it was who first developed the gas van which was used in the ‘euthanasia’ campaign to murder up to 200,000 mentally and physically handicapped Germans. When the extermination of the mentally and physically handicapped was denounced from the pulpit by Bishop Galen of Munster and other churchmen, Hitler was forced to call the T-4 campaign off (named after the address of its carefully disguised HQ – Tiergartenstrasse 4) (though in fact it was merely transferred to the concentration camps – the Wild Action).

Rauff’s gas vans then made their journey to Poland where they began their murderous work in Chelmno, the first death camp. In 1942, whilst Rommel was battling it out in North Africa, Rauff entered Nazi occupied Tunisia with a group of SS men and began plans to extend the final solution to North Africa. Only the defeat of Rommel at El Alamein in October 1942, coupled with the lack of co-operation of the Tunisians, prevented Rauff adding to the estimated one hundred thousand Jews whose deaths he was responsible for. Even so some two and a half-thousand Tunisian Jews are believed to have perished in the slave camps Rauf set up. But none of this prevented Ben-Gurion and the Mossad employing him in the service of the Israeli state and then helping him find a refuge in South America.

MI5 had a file on Rauff and described his activities thus:
Rauff supervised the modification of scores of trucks, with the assistance of a Berlin chassis builder, to divert their exhaust fumes into airtight chambers in the back of the vehicles. The victims were then poisoned and / or asphyxiated from the carbon monoxide accumulating within the truck compartment as the vehicle travelled to a burial site. The trucks could carry between 25 and 60 people at a time.” But none of this prevented the Israeli state working with Rauff.

Another example of Israel’s tolerance of Nazis was the case of Jacob van Harten. Harten was Jewish but throughout the war he was a Nazi collaborator, aiding Kurt Becher in particular in the stripping of Hungarian Jews of their wealth. He also worked closely with that other famous collaborator – Rudolf Kasztner – leader of Hungarian Zionism. As the following extracts show, Harten should have been tried in Israel for collaboration with the Nazis. Instead he ended up with powerful friends to protect him such as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
‘IRC delegates who visited the area of Merano and Bolzano soon discovered that van Harten, the man they had entrusted with freeing the concentration camp inmates, was in fact "a Nazi agent whom even the SS soldiers were saluting."59 Fearing that he would soon be unmasked, van Harten found it prudent to acquire some useful alibis by getting actively involved in the advancement of Jewish interests. In possession of great wealth, including large amounts of counterfeit pounds, he decided to seek the protection of the Zionist emissaries who were engaged in underground activities in Italy, including the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine,60 and to re-establish his contacts with Pozner and with Nathan Schwalb, head of the Hehalutz group in Geneva.’…
‘Van Harten's incarceration appears to have reinforced the bond between him and the Zionist agents. He was desperate to acquire their help to achieve his freedom; the Zionists, who were fully aware of his pro-Nazi activities, were resolved to extract the maximum amount of his wealth to finance their underground activities, including the Aliya Beth program and the acquisition of weapons. During van Harten's internment, this bond was nurtured by his wife, who worked closely with Yehuda Arazi, a legendary figure of the Yishuv. In charge of acquiring arms for the Haganah during the war, he volunteered after the end of the hostilities to organize Aliya Beth activities in Italy. Arazi had been alerted about van Harten's background and imprisonment by officers of the Jewish Brigade. He went to Milan where Mrs. van Harten, presumably in the expectation of help for her husband's release, gave him a considerable amount of money, both genuine and counterfeit, to pursue his underground operations. The headquarters of these operations was in a canteen for Jewish soldiers and Zionist activists in Milano.’

Another Nazi, Otto Skorzeny, was also employed by Israel’s equivalent of MI6, Mossad. Skorzeny had not only distinguished himself by rescuing Mussolini in 1943 from under the noses of the Allies but he had been instrumental in overthrowing the Latakos government in Hungary in October 1944 and bringing in the Hungarian Nazis, the Arrow Cross (Nyilas) who proceeded to kill at least another 50,000 Jews. He was originally recruited to provide information on German scientists working in Egypt. Skorzeny was a prominent figure in the ‘rat-run’, the Odessa organisation which helped Nazis find refuge in South America.

By Shraga Elam, Dennis Whitehead

In the late 1940s, Walter (Walter) Rauff, an SS officer who was responsible for the murder of at least 100,000 people and was wanted by the Allies as a war criminal, was employed by the Israeli secret service. Instead of bringing him to justice it paid him for his services and helped him escape to South America. Documents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that have been released over the past several years show that the Americans were aware that Rauff's case was not exceptional.

A CIA memorandum dated March 24, 1950 describes the relations between the Israel agent Edmond (Ted) Cross, whose name is deleted on this document, and a Nazi named Janos Walberg: "Subject's engagement be [sic] the Israeli Intelligence Service would fit into the picture as revealed by talks with X with [Edmond (Ted) Cross a.k.a. Magen or Crowder] consisting in the utilization of former Nazi elements for observation and penetration in the Arab countries. The attempt to send the well-known former SS Colonel Walter Rauff to Egypt having failed, the Israeli Service with all probability (however this has not yet been confirmed) had engaged Subject [Walberg], whose sentiments and past would arouse no suspicions in Egypt that he is a Jewish agent."

An earlier document, from February 1950, states that Cross helped Rauff obtain the necessary papers for immigration to South America, even though the attempt to send him to Egypt had failed. Why, though, did Israel help Rauff? This document provides a hint: "It is not improbable that Subject's presence in Syria was in connection with a mission for the Israel[i] service." Rauff was indeed in Syria, serving as military adviser to President Hosni Zaim, who sought a peace agreement with Israel. Rauff was forced to leave after Zaim was deposed in a military coup.

The mission Rauff was to have carried out in Egypt is not known, but his connection with Cross may supply more than a hint. According to research by Ruth Kimche, a former Mossad employee, Cross was sent in July 1948, as the War of Independence raged, to assassinate several key figures in Egypt with the help of a group of Jews. At the last minute the mission was called off. Cross returned to Egypt in September, but again the plan was not executed, probably because he became entangled in a love affair with the Egyptian Princess Amina Nur a-Din and had to leave the country. According to Kimche, "The whole story is very reminiscent of the Lavon Affair of the 1950s, except that fortunately for them the 1948 plan was not implemented, apparently thanks to the Egyptian princess."

But the plan was not jettisoned, either. In 1949, as the U.S. documents show, Cross wanted to sent Rauff to Egypt. According to another document in Rauff's CIA file, Rauff did not reach Egypt, but a 1953 memorandum quotes the U.S. ambassador to Egypt as saying that a man named Rauff was in the country. True, the memorandum describes this Rauff as a Pole, but it also notes that he organized the extermination of Jews in Poland, making it very likely that the reference is to the famous Nazi officer.

Rauff was born in 1906. He served in the German Navy from the age of 18. In 1937 he was dismissed for conduct unbecoming an officer due to adultery. A close friend and fellow former naval officer, Reinhard Heydrich, who was then deputy commander of the SS under Heinrich Himmler, helped get him into the Nazi organization. Initially Rauff served in SS headquarters in Berlin. After the conquest of Norway in 1940 he headed the security police there for three months. That year he was reinstated in the Navy, at his request, and commanded a fleet of minesweepers, but in 1941 Heydrich summoned him back to SS headquarters.

When Heydrich was appointed governor of occupied Czechoslovakia, Rauff accompanied him to Prague as his technical assistant. He returned to Berlin in June 1942, after Heydrich's assassination by the Czech resistance. Rauff was appointed head of the SS Technical Department and was responsible for the project of extermination using gas vans. After Jews and others were herded into the back of a gas van, the vehicle was sealed and the exhaust pipe introduced into the back. When the engine was turned on the fumes killed everyone in the back of the vehicle. Between 97,000 and 200,000 people, most of them Jews, were murdered in this way. This method of mass murder was too slow and cumbersome for the Nazis, however, who went on to develop the gas chambers using Zyklon B as the killing agent.

From July 1942 until May 1943, Rauff also commanded the Einsatzkommando (a unit of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing squads that were in charge of annihilating Jews) in North Africa and was responsible for concentrating the Jews in Tunisia. In July 1943, after a brief stay in Berlin, he was made commander of the Einsatzkommando in Corsica, and from September 1943 until the end of the war was the SS Kommandant in Milan. As such, he took part in the secret negotiations that led to the surrender of the Nazis in northern Italy.

Rauff, unlike other Nazis who participated in the talks, was arrested by the Allies on April 30, 1945. In 1947 he escaped and was recruited for Syrian intelligence by Captain Akram Tabara, who gave his name as Dr. John Homsi.

Rauff advised President Hosni Zaim in Syria and was arrested on the day of the coup against him. Rauff managed to convince his captors that he was only an adviser and had no command powers; he was released but ordered to leave the country.

According to one of the versions in the CIA files, Rauff was suspected of ties to "subversive Communist activity," as the agent of a German named Von Lipkau. After Rauff's expulsion from Syria, he was supposed to accompany Lipkau to India to disseminate Communist propaganda. According to one CIA report, the mission was aborted because Lipkau remained in Tel Aviv due to other commitments.

From Damascus Rauff went to Beirut, and from there to Italy. With the assistance of Israeli, and apparently also British intelligence, he sailed for South America in December 1949. He settled in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. A 1953 report put him in Buenos Aires, where he probably headed an anti-Communist group. In 1958 Rauff moved to Chile, obtaining permanent residency status there a year later. He became a cattle and fish merchant and was described as a rancher and an industrialist. His son, also named Walter, was accepted to the Chilean naval academy and was the protege of Chief of Staff General Carlos Prats, a supporter of the socialist President Salvador Allende. The son denies that his father ever worked for Israel.

On December 19, 1962, Rauff was arrested in Chile after West Germany requested his extradition. Chile's Supreme Court refused the request and released Rauff. Allende's election as president did not change the situation: in a friendly letter to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal Allende wrote that he could not reverse the court's 1962 decision.

In September 1973, Allende was killed in a military coup against his democratically elected government. A few months later, the French paper Le Monde reported that Rauff was appointed head of Chile's intelligence service; the report was denied by the Chilean government. Ten years later, in January 1984, Chile turned down an extradition request for Rauff from Israel's Justice Ministry. A month later, West Germany repeated its extradition request. Chile said the case would be reopened only if it were presented with evidence of new crimes. Extraditing Rauff would not serve any public interest in Chile, the court said, since he had lived in the country for many years and his behavior was always beyond reproach.

The U.S. government got into the act, emphasizing to Chile its conviction that Nazi criminals must face trial. The Santiago government came under heavy international pressure to extradite Rauff. Both President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the issue in 1984, but their comments did not impress Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld traveled to Chile to organize protests over the issue and was arrested twice for disturbing the peace.

Then director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, David Kimche, visited Santiago in 1984. The press reported that he urged his hosts to deport Rauff, whom he described as one of the major war criminals living in a Western country. His wife, Ruth Kimche, said on behalf of her husband that he does not recall this; they were in Chile on a private visit, she says. The sincerity of the Israeli efforts toward Rauff's capture can be gauged from the fact that already in 1979 Israel sold patrol boats to Chile and then overhauled Chilean war planes, and in 1984 was still assisting with their maintenance.

Rauff died of lung cancer in May 1984. The statement issued by the Israeli embassy sounded like a sigh of relief: "The problem with Mr. Rauff is now solved. God has tried him."

The fact that Rauff supplied intelligence to Israel has been published before, but for some reason the reports did not generate a public debate over the moral implications of Israel's providing protection to a major Nazi criminal, who was the subject of an international campaign by Nazi hunters Simon Wiesenthal and Beate Klarsfeld to bring him to trial. Similarly, the renowned U.S. Holocaust researcher Richard Breitman, who as director of historical research for the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group reviewed Rauff's CIA file, chose to ignore information indicating that Israeli intelligence systematically employed Nazis in Arab countries.

According to CIA records Rauff's handler was Ted Cross, whose Hebrew name was David Magen. Cross was recruited in 1948 for clandestine activity by Asher Ben-Natan, director of operations in the Foreign Ministry's Political Department, which served as the precursor to the Mossad. Cross was fluent in several languages and had served in British intelligence in World War II.

According to an article by Gil Meltzer in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth from a year ago, Cross - who was from a wealthy Jewish Budapest family named Gross - was an international adventurer, a hedonist and a womanizer. To pay for his flashy lifestyle, he dealt in drugs. When Israel discovered that he had also sold his services as an agent to Egypt - for the very handsome sum of $20,000 - he was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. After his release he went into the restaurant business and, among other things, helped found the Wimpy's hamburger chain.

Can the Israeli government be blamed for the ties between Cross and Rauff, or was this a private initiative by the double agent? The CIA, it turns out, did not know some important details about Rauff's connections with Israeli intelligence.

In Passover of 1993, Shlomo Nakdimon published an interview with Shalhevet Freier in Yedioth Ahronoth. In the late 1940s Freier was a branch director in the Foreign Ministry's Political Department, and in the 1970s he chaired the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. He has since died. In the interview he related how he had recruited Rauff in Italy, after friends in the Italian Foreign Ministry tipped him off about the new arrival. Rauff was using an alias at the time. According to Freier, then, it was the Political Department that employed Rauff; there is no mention of Cross in his interview.

Freier told Nakdimon that Ben-Natan and the director of the Political Department, came to Italy especially "in order to watch the adviser to the president of Syria enter the house of their man in Rome." Freier introduced himself to Rauff as a representative of Israeli intelligence. For an entire month the Nazi criminal sat and wrote a report on Syria's military deployment.

"When he didn't know the answer to a question, Rauff called friends in Syria for additional information," Freier said. The Israeli government not only paid Rauff, but also arranged for a legitimate Italian visa. Rauff, his wife and their children sailed from Genoa to South America. He handed Freier the last part of the report in the port.

The CIA received information that Rauff had acted on behalf of British intelligence in Syria and gave his handlers a copy of the Syrian intelligence service and political police reorganization plan. He seems to have been the servant of several masters at once. According to the CIA documents, in November 1949 Rauff arrived in Rome from Beirut and stayed at the Pensione Telentino under the name of Walter Ralf. Sources at the hotel said that he had little money and lived frugally. He had no visitors and received only a few telephone calls. A Catholic priest known for his Nazi leanings gave Rauff 40,000 lire. On December 17, 1949, Rauff set sail for Ecuador. Both the ticket and his passport were supplied by either Israeli or British intelligence.

In January 1950, Cross told CIA agents that Rauff had left Italy and had severed his ties with Israeli intelligence, but had left behind many interesting documents. Cross promised to bring them to the next meeting, but the agents did not really believe him.

Freier said in the interview that Rauff continued to write to him. He told Nakdimon that he maintained contact with the Nazi "because I thought that one day I might need him. The Arabs trusted him."

Ben-Natan, who later served as director general of the Defense Ministry and ambassador to France and to Germany, now confirms that Freier employed Rauff but says he received a report from him to this effect only post factum. In retrospect, Ben-Natan today believes it was a mistake to forge ties with the Nazi criminal, but emphasizes that he provided very important material.

In the memoirs he published five years ago, Ben-Natan has a different account. He writes that Freier "succeeded in sending to Syria a former Nazi officer, who upon his return brought information about the deployment of the Syrian army." Ben-Natan confirms that the officer was Rauff, but is not absolutely certain which version is correct. In writing the book, he says, he relied solely on his memory.

What did the Israelis who hired Rauff know about his past? Were they aware of the gravity of his crimes? Asked by Nakdimon whether he knew at the time that Rauff was responsible for the gas-vans and the death of up to 200,000 people, Freier said he was not: "I asked him about his past, and he claimed that he had been the Gestapo official in charge of forging British pounds in order to subvert the British economy. Only years later did I hear on the radio that the Americans, after decoding files of senior Nazis, stated that Rauff had been in charge of all the engineering activity of the Gestapo."

It is difficult to believe that Freier did not know who he was recruiting. On May 2, 1945, many newspapers reported that "the infamous Colonel Rauff, the long-sought head of the SS in Milan, was captured." On October 19, 1945, Rauff, in American captivity, signed a sworn declaration admitting his involvement in killing Jews in the gas-vans. This document was submitted at the Nuremberg trials, together with a letter from his subordinate, Dr. August Becker, which contained a report about technical problems in the mass murder of the Jews. Apart from this, Rauff's name appears 31 times in the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials. This information was readily available: all one had to do was contact Dr. Robert Kempner, an American Jew who was the deputy chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, or the Jewish observers who followed the trials. Ben-Natan, who collected material about Nazi war criminals during this period in Europe, confirms that this information was available.

Rauff's mention in connection with the SS project to forge British banknotes calls into question another operation in which Freier was involved. At the end of the war, a Jew named Jacques Van Harten, one of the central agents of the forgery project, contacted Jewish soldiers from Palestine in northern Italy and offered them large quantities of forged banknotes in return for protection. (An article about this episode appeared in this magazine in 2000.)

In addition to large sums of money, Van Harten was also in possession of a large quantity of jewelry. Shmuel Ossia, an associate of Freier, testified that Freier interrogated Van Harten at length about his past. Ossia remembers seeing the frightened Van Harten in the corridor during the interrogation, which went on for a few days. Van Harten undoubtedly related how he had helped Himmler's special envoy, Kurt Becher, who was in charge of plundering the property of Hungarian Jewry, and revealed what he knew about the source of the forged British money, which later, thanks to Van Harten, would become a crucial source of funding for the illegal immigration and arms purchasing operations of the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces.

The extent of Freier's awareness of Van Harten's deeds is shown not only by the commanders of the illegal immigration project (Aliyah Bet), but also by the fact that in an interview to the historian Nana Sagi in 1966, he said with feigned innocence that he did not understand how no reference was made to Van Harten in the Kastner and Eichmann trials. Sagi did not ask Freier why he did not use his extensive connections to address the issue.

The Americans arrested Van Harten in Italy, on suspicion of abetting the escape of Nazi war criminals. The Mossad l'Aliya Bet - the clandestine organization of the Jewish community in pre-1948 Palestine, which was in charge of the illegal immigration of Jews to the country - tried to obtain Van Harten's release. Yitzhak Tamari, a soldier in the Haganah who knew why Van Harten had been arrested, protested to the commander of the Haganah unit in Italy, Eliahu Ben Hur (Cohen). Ben Hur, who later became a major general in the IDF, told Tamari that Van Harten had been promised protection and a gentleman always keeps his word.

Following Van Harten's release, in 1946, Ben Hur instructed his father, Abba Cohen, Tel Aviv's fire chief, to help Van Harten acclimatize. Van Harten opened a jewelry store on Nahalat Binyamin Street, near the Carmel produce market. Abba Cohen later got a job in one of Van Harten's businesses. Van Harten died in 1973, a respected businessman and a resident of the upscale community of Savyon who during the war had used his money and connections to save Jews and smuggle out valuables for them, particularly jewelry. His family stuck to this account even after the publication of the article in 2000. The jewelry store, by the way, closed down soon after the article appeared.

Freier also helped Van Harten in 1947, when the British wanted to deport him. He put him in touch with the Jerusalem lawyer Mordechai Eliash and was probably also responsible for a letter sent to the British by Golda Meyerson (Meir), as the acting foreign minister of the Jewish Agency, stating that Van Harten was under the protection of the pre-State Jewish community, the Yishuv, because he had ostensibly helped save Jews.

But Van Harten was small fry compared to Rauff, who was a criminal on the same scale as Eichmann. It is thus not surprising that Klarsfeld, who invested considerable efforts to bring Rauff to trial, almost slammed down the telephone receiver when she heard that he had been employed by Israeli intelligence and had received its assistance in escaping to Europe. "In 1984, when I campaigned in Chile for Rauff's extradition, I had no knowledge of so-called 'contacts' between him and the Mossad," Klarsfeld wrote in an e-mail. "I doubt that it could have been possible, because Rauff was well-known in the Jewish world for his role in the gassing program by trucks and also because he persecuted the Jews of Tunisia when he was head of the Nazi police in Tunisia, and he persecuted the Jews in Italy when he was head of the Nazi police in Milano." Similarly, the director of the Israeli office of the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, finds it improbable that Freier did not know about Rauff's crimes. W

The Nazi collaborator with a Jewish heart:
The strange saga of Jaac van Harten

Braham, Randolph L. East European Quarterly35. 4 (Winter 2001): 411-434.
Abstract (summary)

One of the most bizarre accounts of Jewish collaboration involves the story of Jaac van Harten, a German Jew, who emigrated to Palestine in 1947 and lived in Savyon, a wealthy suburb of Tel Aviv, until his death in 1973. To the chagrin of his family and many friends, van Harten was identified as a collaborator, who, among other things, was in the employ of the "Abwehr," the Nazi intelligence service, and played a significant role in the Nazis' wartime scheme to undermine the British economy through the production and wholesale distribution of counterfeit British currency.

The literature on the Holocaust abounds with accounts of individual Jews' collaboration with the Nazis. Their motives varied: for many the primary motive was survival-the desperate effort to save themselves and possibly their families from the draconic anti-Jewish measures. Others decided to deal with the Nazis-the people who wielded absolute power-in order to save not only themselves and their loved ones but also as many other Jews as possible. Still others were ready to collaborate primarily for opportunistic reasons-the desire to advance their physical and material interests. A few in this latter category played it safe by maintaining contact with some Jewish leaders. In fact, toward the end of the war, presumably in search of alibis, they actually cooperated with Zionist agents engaged in laying the foundations of the future Jewish state, including the illegal transfer of survivors to British-controlled Palestine.

One of the most bizarre accounts of Jewish collaboration in this latter category came to the fore in 2000. It involves the story of Jaac van Harten, a German Jew, who emigrated to Palestine in 1947 and lived in Savyon, a wealthy suburb of Tel Aviv, until his death in 1973. A well-to-do businessman, he was hailed throughout his life in Israel as a genuine hero-a man who generously supported the Zionist underground movement and saved many Jewish lives during the Nazi era.

This idyllic portrayal was shattered in a series of exposes published in 2000 in Israel and elsewhere) To the chagrin of his family and many friends, van Harten was identified as a collaborator, who, among other things, was in the employ of the Abwehr, the Nazi intelligence service, and played a significant role in the Nazis' wartime scheme to undermine the British economy through the production and wholesale distribution of counterfeit British currency. He was shown to have been more than just a successful wholesale peddler of counterfeit banknotes. In possession of a Gestapo-supplied passport, van Harten also played a questionable role as a bogus "Plenipotentiary of the International Red Cross." A Budapest resident between September 1940 and late December 1944, van Harten apparently played this role with such conviction that he acquired the absolute confidence of the top leadership of the Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross (Nyilas) party and government. By 1944, the Nyilas leaders were most probably also aware of van Harten's dealings with SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (later SS-Standartenfiihrer) Kurt A. Becher, Heinrich Himmler's personal economic representative in Hungary. A few weeks before the Soviet conquest of Western Hungary early in 1945, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gabor Kemeny, acting in the name of Ferenc Szalasi, the head of the Nazi-type Hungarist puppet state, entrusted van Harten, the IRC "official" then in Merano, with the protection, in Germany, of the wealth and treasures of the Hungarian nation, including the Royal Crown and the Coronation Cloak.

Van Harten's background was first revealed when he was interrogated by the Swiss police in Lausanne on July 11, 1940. The Swiss authorities, which were already aware of his association with the Gestapo,2 ascertained that the "Dutchman" Jaac van Harten, who then lived near Montreux, was in fact a German Jew named Jakob (a.k.a. Yaacov, Jaques-Jules, Julian) Levy, who was born in Gleiwitz, Silesia, in 1901. He grew up in Breslau (Wroclaw) and, following in his father's footsteps, became a competent jeweler and arts connoisseur. In 1937, according to his account, he established a business of his own in Berlin, only to be ordered out of the city a year later in the wake of the Nazis' anti-Jewish drive. In early September 1938, he, with his wife and stepson3 entered Switzerland in possession of a Gestapo-supplied Dutch passport bearing the name Jaac van Harten. Identified by the Swiss authorities as a Nazi agent, van Harten and his family were expelled from Switzerland and ended up in Budapest in September 1940.

There are a number of conflicting accounts as to why he gravitated to the Hungarian capital. During an interview dated September 23, 1967, van Harten claimed that he had been sent to Hungary by Chaim Pozner,4 the head of the Palestine Office in Geneva, to establish contact with Mikl6s (Moshe) Krauss, the head of the Jewish Agency's Budapest office, in order to secure assistance for the persecuted Jews of Poland.5 His stepson offered a different account. In an interview given a few months after his father's death in 1973, Micha van Harten asserted that the van Hartens ended up in Budapest while on the way to Palestine. He stated that they left the Istanbul-bound Orient Express in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, to say good-bye to Baron Egon von Scheibler, a Polish nobleman of German origin and a family friend, who had been refused asylum in Switzerland and found refuge in Hungary after the Nazi occupation of Poland.6

The van Hartens four-year sojourn in Budapest is shrouded in mystery.7 As well-to-do Dutch Aryans, they lived in luxury in the Hungarian capital, enjoying the company of many business and political leaders.8 Van Harten's own account during a 1967 interview is full of inaccuracies and outright lies.9 In his version of the facts, he denied having had any connections with Germans before the occupation of Hungary in March 1944, insisting that he dealt only with Hungarians for purposes of rescuing Jews. Toward this end, he established a firm, the Intercontinental Export-Import Company, through which he managed to free hundreds of Jews from internment camps. Since Krauss, Pozner's contact in Budapest, like the other Jewish leaders in Hungary and Switzerland, including Rudolph Kasztner and Saly Mayer, were too "formalistic" and "legalistic" in their approach, he decided to pursue his rescue activities by non-traditional methods. Among these were the mass production and distribution of forged documents. He did all this, he claimed, through his association with the Budapest unit of the Swedish Red Cross, working especially closely with a Mrs. Nielssen (sic). 10

Independent sources, however, provide a completely different and less flattering portrayal of van Harten's wartime activities. Nina Langlet, who was active in the rescue work of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest, looked upon van Harten as a Nazi collaborator and reportedly "kept away from him like fire."IM An American register of German spies, dated 1944, identified van Harten, alias Julian Levy, as an employee of the Abwehr in Stuttgart-a branch of the Nazi Intelligence Service that covered Switzerland. In April 1944, he was in the same register referred to as "one of the most important Abwehr agents in Budapest with contacts with the Swiss Legation."12 In a "Top Secret" report addressed to the State Department on May 15, 1947, an American intelligence officer identified van Harten as an agent working for an SS task force purporting to represent the International Red Cross.13 There is no evidence that he saved any Jews by exploiting his Budapest enterprise.14 In fact, far from being a rescue front, the Intercontinental Export-Import Company was a profitable enterprise actively involved in dealing with the Germans, delivering, among other things, tires for the military as well as drugs, pharmaceuticals, resins, and vegetable oils.15

Damaging as this trade was to the Allied cause, it was overshadowed by his active collaboration with the Nazis in "Operation Bernhard," the large-scale German operation to produce and distribute counterfeit British pounds. The operation, which also included the forging of stamps, passports, and other official documents, was designed not only to undermine the British economy'6 but also to purchase goods needed by the German war machine and finance many of the secret operations of the SS.17

The counterfeiting program was originally launched as Operation Andreas within the framework of the Reich Security Main Office in late 1939 with the full support of the top hierarchy of the Nazi regime.?18 With the many technical problems solved within a year, the first batch of counterfeit pounds passed the rigorous test early in March 1941.19 A year later, the operation was shifted from Berlin to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where the SS began the mass production of counterfeit pounds and other currencies20 under the general leadership of SS-Major Bernhard KrUger, a Referent in Amt VI of the RSHA, acquiring the code name Operation Bernhard. (Unternehmen Bernhard).21 The workshops were established in Blocks 18 and 19 of the camp, which were completely isolated from the other areas. They were staffed with mostly Jewish "professionals," including forgers, chemists, photographers, typographers, printers, and graphic artists, recruited from among inmates of the various concentration camps. In contrast to the other inmates of the concentration camps, the members of this Falscherkommando (Forgers' Commando) were treated fairly well, wore civilian clothes, and enjoyed many privileges, including access to the canteens.22 The counterfeiting of British currency grew steadily with the Nazis focusing on the production of 5, 10, 20, and 50 pound notes.23 The SS were reportedly so satisfied with the results that they decorated not only some of their own but also twelve members of the Falscherkommando, including three Jews.24

On February 21, 1945, following the rapid advancement of the Soviet forces, the Falscherkommando and the production facilities were transferred to Mauthausen, only to be moved again on March 25 to the Ebensee concentration camp, one of Mauthausen's sub-camps, and placed in a subterranean gallery near Redl-Zipf. Shortly thereafter, realizing that the Third Reich had lost the war, the Nazis decided to destroy all the evidence relating to the operation. Parts of the counterfeiting equipment and supplies were detonated in pits dug by the inmates; the remainder, including several waterproof crates with counterfeit currencies and documents, were sunk into the nearby Lake Toplitz.25 (The crates dumped into the lake have become the source of many speculations about their content: though firmly convinced that they contained not only counterfeit currencies but also some of the gold, precious stones, and valuables the Nazis had stolen during the war, three well-financed expeditions proved basically unsuccessful in locating them. They uncovered only a few cases with documents and counterfeit pounds.)26

The headquarters for the large-scale money laundering branch of Operation Bernhard was Schloss Labers, a mountain-ringed castle in Merano, Italy.27 The highly lucrative enterprise was headed by Friedrich Schwend, a German businessman with a checkered career. Born in Bocklingen in 1906, he was a teacher of mechanics and an arms dealer, who joined the Nazi party in 1932. In 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo in Italy on charges of spying for the Allies. He subsequently agreed to work for the Nazis who sent him back to Italy as a purchasing agent for the Wehrmacht and the SS.28 Tapped in 1942 to head the laundering branch of Operation Bernhard, Schwend assumed the cover name of Dr. Fritz Wendig. He was supplied with a new set of official documents, identifying him as a Major in the Waffen-SS and as a legal officer of the Gestapo. With the operation enjoying the approval of Hitler, Schwend was made directly responsible only to Himmler and Kaltenbrunner.29 His headquarters enjoyed virtual immunity, being identified as "Sonderstab.-Generalkommando III. Germanisches Dienstkorps" (Special Staff. General Commando III. German Service Corps).30

Directed from Schloss Labers, much of the laundering was handled through "Saxonia," a firm Schwend established in Trieste. Using the large quantities of counterfeit pounds shipped periodically from Berlin, members of the Wendig group laundered them for genuine hard currencies and used them to purchase on the free or black market anything and everything of value, including real estate, diamonds, precious metals, and weapons of all kind. They resold most of these goods at a profit for hard currency, much of which was used for the purchasing of goods needed by the Reich.

Some of the most successful wholesalers working for Dr. Wendig were Jews. Their inclusion in the group was intentional. In his account of Operation Bernhard, SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Wilhelm Mal, the former head of the Intelligence Service of the Security Police in Vienna (which covered Hungary), who played a leading role in the operation, recalls having recommended to Kaltenbrunner that the primary criterion for the recruitment of the wholesalers should be their talent rather than their Aryan background.31 The Jewish wholesalers were selected not only because of their business acumen, but also and primarily because the Nazis rightly felt that as Jews they would be less likely to be suspected of being German agents.32 Like most other members of the Wendig group, almost all of them operated under the cover of forged International Red Cross identification documents.33 The agents were highly motivated because in addition to the income derived from their own sideline black-market dealings, they received 25 percent of the net income of the "official" operation.34

The most successful among the Wendig wholesaler-purchasers, according to Hottl, was van Harten.35 He performed his laundering and purchasing operations while retaining his residence in Budapest. He reportedly had a number of sub-contractors whom he would secretly meet on the Swiss-Italian border.36 Following the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944, van Harten's dealings with the Germans were further expanded. In contrast to the Hungarian Jews who were subjected to the processes of the Final Solution, van Harten's financial opportunities appear to have been expanded. One of his main German contacts in the Hungarian capital was SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Kurt A. Becher. Van Harten's account of his association with Becher conflicts sharply with those offered by others.

According to van Harten, Becher, aware of his expertise in fine arts, summoned him to determine, through a photograph, the authenticity of a Frans Hals masterpiece which he had "acquired" for Himmler. Upon ascertaining that it was not the painting Himmler was looking for, van Harten claimed that he had saved Becher from his boss's ire by declaring loudly - so that everybody in the SS officer's entourage could hear-that it was, but that it needed restoration that would require a few months. He then allegedly provided Becher with another seventeenth-century Dutch painting to be sent as an interim gift to Himmler. While there is no evidence of this encounter except his interview statement, van Harten disingenuously offered it as still another "evidence" of his "rescue" activities. He claims that Becher was so grateful for having had his life saved that he readily consented to cooperate on a scheme to rescue hundreds of Jewish craftsmen. Identifying himself as "a man of the Swedish Red Cross," van Harten allegedly persuaded the SS officer to set up a number of workshops to save Jewish craftsmen from deportation.37 Becher, of course, needed no persuasion from van Harten in this regard. As in other countries under Nazi occupation, in Hungary too the SS set up workshops to exploit Jewish labor for the production of goods needed by them and the Reich. While working in these SS-Werkstatte the Jews, most of whom had to pay for this "privilege," enjoyed a degree of security. In most countries this security was ephemeral because with the dismantling of the shops in the wake of military reversals, the Jewish craftsmen were also subjected to the Final Solution. In Hungary the situation was less ominous because virtually all of the workshops were only set up in Budapest after Mikl6s Horthy, the Hungarian head of state, halted the deportations on July 7, 1944. For Becher, the workshops were just another means for the maximum exploitation of the Hungarian Jews.38

Van Harten also boasted about his contacts with Rudolph (Rezso) Kasztner, the executive head of the Relief and Rescue Committee of Budapest. Kasztner allegedly had asked for his advice in connection with his dealings with Adolf Eichmann for the rescue of a transport of close to 1,700 Jews. When informed that the transport was to be taken to the West, van Harten recalled having sounded an alarm bell, warning the Zionist leader about a possible disaster. He suggested that the eastern route through Romania was a safer way to get to Palestine.39

A radically different version of van Harten's dealings with Becher is offered by Peretz Reves (a.k.a. Perec Revesz), a SlovakianJewish refugee in Hungary van Harten identified as "my man." Reves, who played a leading role in the Zionist underground movement in wartime Budapest, claimed that van Harten "effectively handled the financial affairs of Becher."40 Reves admits, however, that van Harten, whom he first met in 1944, was also helpful in supporting the Zionists' relief and rescue activities. He recalls that van Harten admitted that he was Jewish and swiftly arranged for the delivery of supplies to a children's home. Shortly thereafter, he said, van Harten even handed him a large amount of money to pursue the cause of rescue: "British money that was worth about $50,000 at the time." In the expectation that he would be reimbursed by the Jewish Agency after the war, van Harten asked only that Reves sign a receipt in the presence of two witnesses.41

Reves's recollection of his last encounter with van Harten is quite bizarre. He claims that he was invited to van Harten's villa some time in December 1944, when the Soviet forces were fast approaching Budapest, to help him load his car. Asked why he was fleeing when liberation was close at hand, van Harten allegedly replied that he had to join Becher. During the loading, Reves recalls, he accidentally dropped one of the suitcases, scattering to the great embarrassment of van Harten "a huge amount of British pound notes and jewels."42

Reves's sensational revelations about van Harten's alleged activities in Hungary are somewhat disturbing not only because they could not be fully corroborated, but also because he chose to remain silent about them for decades.43 These revelations, moreover, largely contradict the testimony he gave in the late 1980s for a book on the Halutz resistance in Hungary. That testimony reveals, for example, that Reves was not even aware of van Harten's Jewish background in 1944. According to the account published in 1990, Reves visited "Baron van Harten, a Dutchman who lived in Pest for a long time" in the company of Nina Langlet of the Swedish Red Cross at his (van Harten's) request. Van Harten, he said, requested the meeting because he wanted to get acquainted with a "Jewish leader with influence."

Aware of the plight of the Jews, "the Baron" offered his help and actually provided for the delivery of badly needed goods for a Jewish children's home. Shortly thereafter, Reves and his wife were invited to lunch in the Baron's luxurious villa "laden with art works." This time, according to Reves, Baron van Harten offered him a large sum of money-30,000 dollars and 10,000 pounds-on the sole condition that he sign a receipt in the presence of two witnesses. Reves claims that he picked up the money a few days later in the company of his brother Puffi and [Sholem] Offenbach, who co-signed the receipt, and promptly handed it over to the Rescue Committee, which used it shortly thereafter to pay off Becher for his promise "to protect the ghetto." Reves claimed that his contact with van Harten came to an end a few days before the Russians surrounded Budapest, when he fled "on Becher's order." Reves and his comrades reportedly had a good laugh after the war when they realized that the money the Rescue Committee used to pay off Becher was in fact counterfeit.44

While Reves may have had a laugh years after the war over the counterfeit money used to pay off Becher, in December 1944 he and his comrades complied with the conditions of the agreement under which they accepted the "loan" from van Harten. In a letter dated December 10, 1944, they acknowledged the receipt of 42,500 Swiss francs against the Rescue Committee's account at the American Joint Distribution Committee (Joint)-a letter van Harten used in his quest for the repayment of the "loan" a few months after he fled Hungary.45

The van Hartens' departure in the company of the SS just before the beginning of the Soviet siege of Budapest must have reinforced the Hungarian Nazis' conviction that the "Aryan Dutch Baron," Becher's close associate, was indeed a bona fide anti-Communist representative of both the Swedish Red Cross and the International Red Cross they could trust. The leaders of the Arrow Cross (Nyilas) Party, who had come to power a few months earlier,46 apparently came to believe in the bogus Plenipotentiary of the International Red Cross to such an extent that they entrusted him with the protection of the Hungarian people's wealth and greatest treasures, including the Royal Crown and the Coronation Regalia, that were taken to the West early in 1945 to prevent them from falling into Soviet hands.47 Acting on behalf of Ferenc Szalasi, the Head of State and Leader of the Nation, Foreign Minister Baron GAbor von Kemeny provided van Harten with an official authorization (Bevollmachtigung) on March 17, 1945.

The extent of the trust the top Nyilas leadership had in van Harten is reflected in the first two paragraphs of the authorization. The "Plenipotentiary of the International Red Cross":

1. Is empowered to place under the protection of the Committee of the International Red Cross all treasures and valuables of the Hungarian State, such as the Royal treasure (King Stephen's Crown, the Coronation Cloak, the Holy Right Arm, etc.), the State treasure (gems, noble metals: gold, platinum, silver, etc.), arts treasures (art gallery, library, archive, etc.), and all provisions (textiles, leather, foodstuffs, etc.) belonging to the Royal Hungarian Government that are or will be located in the German Reich, and to do everything possible to secure and safeguard the named items belonging to the Hungarian Nation.

2. The authorization applies to all measures required for the pursuit of Point 1. Accordingly, the holder of this authorization, J. L. van Harten, is authorized to take under his protection in the name of the International Red Cross all Hungarian treasures and valuables, goods and objects located in Germany, and to preserve them and place them in a secure location. He is further authorized to transfer all items located in Germany to Switzerland, where he is also authorized to exhibit them to the benefit of Hungary.48

According to van Harten the authorization was delivered to him by two delegates of the Szalasi government while he and his family were staying in Merano. He had no difficulty in explaining why he, ostensibly the benefactor and rescuer of so many Jews in Hungary, felt compelled to leave Budapest prior to the arrival of the Soviet forces and seek refuge together with many Nazis and Hungarian Fascists in German-occupied territory.49

It appears that the main reason for van Harten's return to Merano was not only the desire to escape the wrath of justice but also, and above all, to safeguard the valuable properties he and the Wendig group stored in Schloss Labers and several other locations that were guarded by the SS.50 These included vast quantities of goods the Wendig wholesalers "purchased" with counterfeit currencies and, reportedly, valuables the Nazis had confiscated from Jews.

Like Becher, his mentor in the Hungarian capital, van Harten had an ingenious ability to camouflage his nefarious activities by estabfishing alibi-providing contacts with carefully selected individuals, especially influential IRC officials and Jews associated with rescue organizations. Thus, concurrently with protecting the interests of the Wendig group, van Harten also found it prudent to engage in several rescue-related activities. Toward this end, shortly after his arrival in Merano on January 1, 1945, he established contact with the local representatives of the IRC as well as with several leaders of international Jewish organizations in Switzerland.

Van Harten catalogued his rescue-related successes in Italy during his 1967 interview. He claimed, among other things, that he had played a pivotal role in the freeing of close to 15,000 concentration camp inmates on February 15, 1945,51 and that later he was instrumental in rescuing close to 150 mostly Italian Jews in the Bolzano concentration camp by serving as an IRC middleman between the Allies and the Germans early in 1945. He claimed that he was involved as an intermediary in "Operation Sunrise," the secret negotiations between Allen Dulles, the OSS representative in Switzerland, and General Karl Wolff, the Higher SS- and Police Leader in Italy, for the surrender of the Nazi forces in northern Italy. He also bragged about persuading the Gauleiter of Bolzano to arrange the turnaround of a deportation train on the way to Auschwitz by convincing the Allies not to bomb Merano and Cortina del Pezzo, two cities with large numbers of wounded Allied soldiers and German military personnel.52

In fact, the Jews held in concentration camps in German controlled northern Italy were freed as a result of negotiations between the SS and representatives of the IRC. The latter were first represented by Colonel Hans Bon, a hotelier in St. Moritz, who was appointed at the recommendation of Valerio Benuzzi, an ItalianJewish Nazi collaborator with good connections with both Nazis and the Swiss. Because of Bon's illness, the negotiations were continued and brought to a successful conclusion by Hans Bachmann, the Secretary General of the IRC, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the Reich Security Main Office.

Van Harten's association with Benuzzi and some IRC officials in northern Italy made it possible for him to acquire official IRC status late in April. Van Harten visited Bon, whom he presumably had met through Benuzzi, in St. Moritz on April 26 and acquired official IRC authorization from him for a specific assignment: in line with the Bachmann-Kaltenbrunner agreement to free the concentration camp inmates in Bolzano.53 In possession of this document, van Harten identified himself as the head of the IRC in Merano-a city the Americans liberated on April 21. On April 28, he arrived in the Bolzano camp with several trucks freeing an indeterminate number of inmates. He used his official authority to also take over and seal a large warehouse containing goods and valuables reportedly expropriated from Italian Jews as well as invaluable paintings by Michelangelo, Donatello and other masters that belonged to Italy's royal family.54

In pursuit of his personal material interests, van Harten exploited his "official" status to advance his and the Wendig group's agenda. He supplied members of the group with forged documents identifying them as IRC officials, marked vehicles driven by the SS with IRC flags, and provided special IRC door plaques for the protection of the Wendig warehouses.55 As an IRC "official" he made it possible for many Nazis, including Friedrich Schwend, to escape by providing them with forged IRC certificates bearing his signature.56 The escape of the Nazis and their collaborators was directed primarily from Schloss Labers with the involvement of a variety of groups and agencies that had one postwar interest in common: opposition to Communism and the USSR. Among these were reportedly not only such Nazi underground groups as ODESSA,57 but also the Vatican and the CIC.58

IRC delegates who visited the area of Merano and Bolzano soon discovered that van Harten, the man they had entrusted with freeing the concentration camp inmates, was in fact "a Nazi agent whom even the SS soldiers were saluting."59 Fearing that he would soon be unmasked, van Harten found it prudent to acquire some useful alibis by getting actively involved in the advancement of Jewish interests. In possession of great wealth, including large amounts of counterfeit pounds, he decided to seek the protection of the Zionist emissaries who were engaged in underground activities in Italy, including the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine,60 and to re-establish his contacts with Pozner and with Nathan Schwalb, head of the Hehalutz group in Geneva.

Toward the end of April 1945, when the German forces were surrendering in northern Italy, van Harten got in touch with Captain Alex Moskowitz, a German-speaking officer serving in the JewishBritish Transport Unit 462. Apparently he tried to impress the officer about his anti-Nazi credentials by informing him about the location of various warehouses that contained valuable goods and art works looted by the Germans. He also boasted about how he safeguarded several camps and hospitals by placing them under the protection of the IRC, and suggested that a transit station be established in Merano to serve the interests of Jewish refugees. A few days later, Moskowitz introduced van Harten to two emissaries of the Yishuv-Levi Argov (Koppelevitch) and Moshe Ben David-who were looking for assistance for the advancement of their Aliya Beth mission. To Moskowitz's astonishment, van Harten promptly provided the emissaries with 40,000 to 50,000 brand new British pounds.61

Van Harten waited more than three months before contacting Pozner. In a letter dated April 12, 1945, he informed the leader of the Palestine Office that since circumstances had made it impossible for him to go to Palestine four years earlier he had decided to engage in rescue work in Budapest, where he and his family also had endured much suffering. He informed Pozner that following the successful completion of this work through his contacts with Becher, including the placement of around 1,000 children under the protection of the Swedish Red Cross, he had decided in mid-December 1944 to go to Italy to perform similar duties.62 As if to emphasize the wisdom of his decision, van Harten disingenuously informed Pozner that he decided to go to the area of Bolzano because, according to information he obtained while still in Hungary, there were a large number of Italian Jews in the local concentration camps.63

One of the primary reasons for the re-establishment of contact with Pozner was van Harten's desire to get repaid for the "loan" he had given to the three leaders of the Rescue Committee in Budapest. He was anxious to learn whether Pozner had received a copy of the letter signed by the Reves brothers. He identified them as two individuals with whom he had "worked well and successfully in Budapest," and together "contributed to the rescue of some tens of thousands of our people." Van Harten referred to the letter the Reves brothers and Offenbach signed on December 10, 1944, acknowledging the receipt of 42,500 Swiss francs from him.

It was toward the same end that van Harten contacted Nathan Schwalb a few days later. Van Harten forwarded a copy of this receipt to Schwalb as well, requesting his cooperation toward the repayment of the loan. Schwalb relayed this correspondence on May 15, 1945, to Saly Mayer, head of the Joint in Switzerland, emphasizing that the three co-signers were involved in rescue work in Budapest during the absence of Rudolph (Rezso) Kasztner.64 As to van Harten, Schwalb identified him as a man who for the past several months had served as the representative of the Swedish and of the International Red Cross in Italy-a man he knew through his correspondence with Reves to be "a very devoted representative of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest." He urged that this matter be settled urgently because "Mr. van Harten is very well known in IRC circles."65 Mayer was prudent enough not to comply immediately. He acknowledged the receipt of the letter two days later, and assured Schwalb that the money was safe in the account until the completion of an investigation.66

To entice Pozner, on April 30, van Harten informed him about the "authorization" he had received from the Hungarian Foreign Minister for the protection of Hungary's national treasures. He felt it important to emphasize that the "large quantities of jewels" he was authorized to "protect" were in fact "items confiscated from Jews" and suggested that the "whole matter be handled legally and discreetly." He requested that Pozner send a copy of his response to Manser, his Wendig colleague, in care of the Munster Customs Office.67 This communication was clearly designed to merely arouse Pozner's interest, for van Harten, though in possession of an "authorization" to keep an eye on the treasures, had no idea-and could not possibly know-where those treasures were.68 Pozner, who apparently was not at the time aware of van Harten's multiple roles, expressed interest in getting a clearer picture about just where the valuables confiscated from the Hungarian Jews were, in order to be able to dispose of them appropriately.

While clearly interested in safeguarding the wealth looted from Hungarian Jews, Pozner, who was in constant touch with IRC officials, apparently became uneasy about van Harten's questionable activities. He expressed his deepening misgivings to van Harten, relaying to him the annoyance of the Swiss officials: "Mr. B. of the IRC69... has become suspicious and angry because of your unauthorized activities in various matters." Pozner was particularly chagrined because, according to Mr. B., van Harten transported 72 people into Switzerland by truck. Pozner, who was not aware of the background of the people smuggled into Switzerland,70 nevertheless did his best to "explain" van Harten's "unauthorized activities" to Mr. B. But obviously he was not convinced about their propriety either. In a letter dated May 22, 1945, Pozner expressed his bewilderment to van Harten: "When you get down to it I don't know exactly what the real facts are; it's too bad that you did not keep me informed on a detailed basis about all these matters."71 Nevertheless, he remained confident enough to correspond with him, using the same coded language he used with his Zionist counterparts elsewhere in the world.72

Van Harten's luck ran out on May 17, 1945, when the Americans arrested him on suspicion of collaboration with the Nazis and interned him in Terni, a detention camp where a large number of Nazis, collaborators, and other suspects were held.73 A search of his house turned up many valuable paintings, large amounts of counterfeit pounds, and black-market goods.

Van Harten's incarceration appears to have reinforced the bond between him and the Zionist agents. He was desperate to acquire their help to achieve his freedom; the Zionists, who were fully aware of his pro-Nazi activities, were resolved to extract the maximum amount of his wealth to finance their underground activities, including the Aliya Beth program and the acquisition of weapons. During van Harten's internment, this bond was nurtured by his wife, who worked closely with Yehuda Arazi, a legendary figure of the Yishuv. In charge of acquiring arms for the Haganah during the war, he volunteered after the end of the hostilities to organize Aliya Beth activities in Italy. Arazi had been alerted about van Harten's background and imprisonment by officers of the Jewish Brigade. He went to Milan where Mrs. van Harten, presumably in the expectation of help for her husband's release, gave him a considerable amount of money, both genuine and counterfeit, to pursue his underground operations. The headquarters of these operations was in a canteen for Jewish soldiers and Zionist activists in Milano.

Mrs. van Harten's financial contribution to Arazi appears to have been just a first down-payment. A major role in the extortion and eventual freeing of van Harten was played by Shalheveth Freier, an Aliya Beth activist, who later emerged as a key figure in the development of Israel's nuclear program.74 Freier, who was reportedly assigned to deal with the van Harten case, including his release, first contacted Mrs. van Harten in Merano. There he reportedly found her with packed suitcases that contained both genuine and counterfeit currencies, neatly labeled packages with jewelry which, he thought, originated from Hungarian Jews as well as "wedding rings, apparently belonging to Jews in concentration camps." After Freier filed a report on his findings, the underground Zionist group decided to take Mrs. van Harten to Palestine and "relieve" her of that property.75

Freier could not bring his task to fruition because he himself was arrested shortly after he first met van Harten in the POW camp in Terni. Van Harten was freed almost a year after his internment through the efforts of Freier's comrades and the interventions by several of his friends in Palestine and Switzerland.76 Shortly after he was freed he moved to Milan where he promptly resumed his favorite pastime: making money, this time by selling underwear. While there, he was implicated in an Italian trial that was initiated in June 1946. He and Schwend were tried in absentia; Albert Crastan, the Swiss consular agent who lived in Merano and whose castle-Schloss Rametz-was raided by the Italian police on the night of May 25-26, 1946, was present. They were accused by the Police Commissioner of Merano of having worked for the SS and of having illegally acquired the large amounts of goods uncovered during the raid. For reasons not fully known, they were found not guilty on grounds of lack of evidence on August 9, 1947.77

After his arrival in Palestine early in 1947, van Harten established a plant for the manufacturing of tubes and opened a jewelry store in Tel Aviv.78 Aware of his wartime activities, the British were eager to expel him. Their efforts proved unsuccessful largely because van Harten used his wealth as well as his "rescue" and pro Aliya Beth record to full advantage. To defend himself, he hired M. Elias, an influential lawyer who later became Israel's Ambassador in London,79 and acquired the support of some of the most powerful figures of the Yishuv, including that of Golda Meir who was then head of the Jewish Agency's Political Department. In response to a request by Elias in which he outlined the "merits" of his client, the future Prime Minister provided a positive evaluation in support of van Harten's struggle to avoid expulsion. She wrote, among other things:

I would like to inform you that we are in possession of documents to the effect that Mr. Van Harten was a member of the Jewish underground in Europe throughout the last war .... I am of the opinion that Mr. Van Harten's past during the war justifies preferential consideration of his request to remain in Palestine.80

Because of legal maneuvering the case dragged on and following the establishment of the State of Israel and the concurrent end of the British mandate the issue became moot. Van Harten was so confident of his case even during the mandate period that he sued the United States Government for five million dollars as compensation for the property the American forces confiscated in Merano shortly after the end of the war-property that was in fact "the loot of the SS group which had been stored in Schloss Rametz, Schloss Labers,...and other buildings in Merano."81 Van Harten also submitted claims to the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (Joint) for repayment of the "loans" he had given to Jewish activists in Budapest and Italy during the last year of the war.82 Although unsuccessful in these quests for "restitution," van Harten managed to live in luxury, identified as a genuine hero of the Second World War-a rescuer of Jews and a major supporter of the Jewish underground-until his death in 1974.

The definitive story of van Harten has yet to be written. Clearly, he was a very shrewd, calculating, highly intelligent entrepreneur who appears to have been motivated almost exclusively by two objectives: survival and enrichment. In pursuit of these goals, he first became an Abwehr agent, and later emerged as the most successful wholesalerpurchaser in the Wendig group of "Operation Bernhard." In possession of both genuine and forged IRC certificates, van Harten managed toward the end of the war to become useful to both his Nazi colleagues and several Zionist underground figures. He helped many among the former to escape justice; for the latter, who were fully aware of his wartime record, he provided-however reluctantly-a considerable portion of his wealth toward building the foundations of the new State of Israel. Many among the champions of the State are ready to forgive him for his wartime pro-Nazi activities which, in their view, did not directly harm the Jews. Others will find it hard ever to forgive him for his collaboration, which not only undermined the interests of the Allies but also caused irreparable harm to Jewry by contributing to the Nazis' ability to extend the war.


1. The story was first exposed by Shraga Elam, an Israeli investigative reporter living in Switzerland. See his Hitters Fd1scher (Vienna: Ueberreuter, 2000), 208 p. (Cited hereafter as Elam.) The book was the primary source for two articles by Ronen Bergman, "Nazi Collaborator, or Hero?" Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv, April 28, 2000; and "The Van Harten Affair: New Evidence." Ibid., May 19, 2000. (Cited hereafter as Bergman.)

2. The Swiss authorities were tipped off in April 1940 by someone in Britain. For details on his police interrogation of the van Hartens, see Elam, pp. 39-43.

3. Van Harten reportedly married his second wife, Elfriede-Viola Boehm (nte Hirsch-Schocken), herself a divorcee with a son named Micha-Antony (a.k.a. Michael), in 1935. Mrs. Harten was related on her mother's side with the Schocken family who controlled the prestigious Hebrew-language daily Ha'aretz published in Tel Aviv. For further details, see Elam, pp. 38-43.

4. Shortly after he established permanent residence in Palestine/Israel, Pozner changed his name to Pasner. In this study, he will be identified throughout as Pozner.

5. The 1967 interview was conducted by Nana Nusinow, an MA student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The 18-page manuscript is filed as Document (43)16 in the Oral History Department of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University. (Cited hereafter as Nusinow.)

Pozner denied having entrusted van Harten with any mission in Budapest. He admitted, however, that he had given van Harten Palestine immigration certificates some time in the summer of 1940. Pozner further claimed that he only met van Harten twice-early in the spring of 1940 and in late autumn 1944. Elam, pp. 43-44.

6. Ibid., pp. 44-45. Micha's account was originally published by Habib Kna'an in his Ha'aretz pieces of May 31, 1974 and June 7, 1974.

7. As aliens, the van Hartens were certainly required to register with the Central Alien Control Office (Kulfoldieket Ellenorzo Orszdgos Kozponti Hat6sdg-KEOKH). Unfortunately, a large portion of the KEOKH files, including those pertaining to the van Hartens were reportedly destroyed. Communication by Laszlo Varga, the former chief archivist of the Municipal Archives of Budapest, dated October 30, 2000.

8. In his interview with Nusinow, van Harten identified the fashionable Ritz Hotel as his residence. Peretz Reves, one of the Zionist underground leaders, recalls having met him in a villa, where he had a General Motors car equipped with central locking and automatic windows. Bergman, April 28, 2000.

9. Nusinow. Basically the same positive picture of van Harten's rescue activities is included in the account by Habib Kna'an cited above.

10. Reference is probably to Asta Nielson (Nilsson), King Gustav's cousin, who headed a children's unit of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest. Valdemar Langlet, the wartime head of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest, makes no mention of van Harten. See his Verk I dagar I Budapest (Work and Days in Budapest) (Stockholm: Wahlstrbm & Widstrand, 1946), 221 p.

11. Bergman, April 28, 2000. Nina was Valdemar Langlet's wife.

12. Elam, Shraga. "Jaac van Harten - ein Agent im Zwielicht" (Jaac van Harten An Agent in the Twilight). Tages-Anzeiger, Zurich, June 7, 2000.

13. Addressed to Herbert J. Cummings, the report was submitted by Vincent La Vista. The reference to van Harten and his associates is in Appendix C of his report. U.S. National Archives. Record Group 59, FW800.0128//5-1547. (Cited hereafter as the La Vista Report.)

14. In his interview with Bergman, Peretz Reves asserted that he never heard of any Jews having been saved by van Harten in Budapest. Bergman, April 28, 2000.

15. Elam. pp. 47 and 85. That the enterprise was profitable is revealed also by the fact that van Harten was successful in selling it to the Germans for hard currency before he left Budapest in December 1944. Ibid., p. 85.

16. The Nazis' original plan was to inundate Britain with the counterfeit pounds dropped from the air. It was abandoned, according to Walter Schellenberg, chief of the Nazis' counterintelligence service, because "the air above Britain was too well defended, and our fuel situation was critical." See his The Schellenberg Memoirs (London: Andre Deutsch, 1956), p. 419.

17. One of the most spectacular of these operations was the freeing of Mussolini on September 12, 1943 by an SS commando led by SS-Obersturmbannfihrer Otto Skorzeny. For details on this and the other operations "financed" through Operation Bernhard, see Wilhelm Hottl (Walter Hagen), Unternehmen Bernhard. Ein historischer Tatsachenbericht aber die grossle Geldfaelschungsaktion alter Zeiten (Operation Bernhard. An Historical Factual Report About the Greatest Money Counterfeiting Operation of All Times) (Well and Starnberg: Verlag Welsermiil, 1955), 292 p. A somewhat abbreviated version of the book is also available in English: Hitler's Paper Weapon. (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955), 187 p.

18. The operation was launched in the SS workshops on DelbrUckstrasse in Berlin.

19. On March 1, 1941, a German businessman deposited a few of the counterfeit British banknotes in a Swiss bank whose officials, after careful checking, identified them as "genuine." Elam, pp. 14-15. According to Walter Schellenberg, "the Bank of England withdrew about ten per cent of the notes as forgeries; but the rest they confirmed as bona fide Bank of England notes." The Schellenberg Memoirs, p. 420.

20. Plans for the counterfeiting of American dollars were finalized by late 1944. However, the looming defeat of the Reich prevented the leaders of the operation from proceeding to the production phase.

21. KrUger escaped prosecution after the war. He worked for many decades for the very paper company that produced and supplied the paper for the counterfeiting operation. After his retirement he moved to Stuttgart and, after having been unmasked, he escaped avoiding prosecution. For details on Kriger see Adolf Burger (one of the surviving members of the Commando, a Jewish inmate deported from Slovakia), Unternehmen Bernhard. Die Falscherwerkstatt im KZ Sachsenhausen (Operation Bernhard.

The Forgery Workshop in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp) (Berlin: Edition Hentrich, 1992), pp. 229-231. See also Szabolcs Szita, "Ebensee. Magyar deportiltak Mauthausen altaboraban" (Ebensee. Hungarian Deportees in Mauthausen's Sub-Camp). Szdzadok (Centuries), Budapest, 134:3 (2000), p. 696.

22. The Commando, which started out with 28 members, consisted of 144 "specialists" when the production reached its peak in 1944. Representing close to 60 different specializations, the inmates were nationals of 12 different countries, including Poland, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands. They worked under the immediate supervision of SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Fritz Werner. For details about the background of the members of the Commando and the production process in general, see Burger, pp. 236-239. See also Elam, pp. 12-22, and Szita, pp. 692-700.

23. According to Oskar SkAla, one of the inmates, the Fd1scherkommando produced 8.9 million British banknotes amounting to 134.6 million pounds sterling by 1944. Elam, p. 16. See also Szita, p. 694.

24. Elam, ibid.

25. Burger, Unternehmen Bernhard, pp. 215-226. See also Szita, pp. 694-695.

26. The first expedition was financed by the German Der Stern magazine in 1959. The second was authorized by the Austrian government in 1963. These yielded only several cases stuffed with secret documents and large amounts of forged documents and counterfeit British banknotes. In mid-June 2000, CBS with the financial and moral support of the World Jewish Congress and of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, recruited Oceaneering Technologies, a professional salvage company known for its state-of-the-art sonar and video equipment, to unravel the mysteries of the lake. This expedition, too, was basically as unsuccessful as the earlier ones. However, it led to the

production of a CBS documentary titled Hitler's Lake, which was first shown on November 21, 2000 (60 Minutes II program). See also Elam, pp. 161-163. For some observations as to why Der Stern decided to discontinue the probe, see Shraga Elam, "Tauchaktion. Im Toplitzsee liegen Akten and unangenehme Wahrheiten" (Diving Operation. Documents and Unpleasant Truths Lie in Toplitz Lake). Kulturwerkstaat (Cultural Workshop), Bern, July 8, 2000.

27. Built in the eleventh century, the castle was bought by the Stapf-Neubert family in 1885 and transformed it into a hotel. It was taken over by the SS in 1940, and released in 1943 for Schwend's operation. After the war, it reverted back to a hotel under the ownership of Jeorg Stapf-Neubert, the original owner's great-grandson. Ralph Blumenthal, "The Secret of Schloss Labers. The New York Times, June 22, 1986.

28. Ibid.

29. La Vista Report. According to Ralph Blumenthal, Schwend was directly responsible only to Hitler and Kaltenbrunner.

30. For additional details on Schwend's background, see Elam, pp. 17-21.

31. See his Unternehmen Bernhard, pp. 121-122.

32. In addition to van Harten, the group included, among others, Albert Crastan, the brothers Alfred and Franz Manser, Arthur and Carlo Lovioz, and Georg Spencer Spitz. For details on their background and activities, see Elam, pp. 36-37, 93-103.

33. For additional evidence to this effect, see the La Vista Report.

34. Elam, p. 21.

35. Wilhelm Hottl, Einsatz fir das Reich (Engagement for the Reich) (Koblenz: Verlag Siegfried Bublies, 1997), p. 331. Interestingly, Hottl fails to refer to van Harten in his other books dealing with the operation.

36. Bergman, April 28, 2000.

37. Nusinow. There is no evidence to substantiate this assertion. See also note 14.

38. As in many other parts of Nazi-dominated Europe, the Jewish leaders of Hungary embraced the "rescue through labor" scheme as well. For some details on the exploitation of the Hungarian Jews by Becher and his SS associates, see Kurt Emmenegger, "Reichsfirers gehorsamster Becher" (The Reichsfiihrer's Most Obedient Beaker). Sie and Er (She and He), Zurich, 39:3 (January 17, 1963), pp. 36-37. See also Elam, p. 54.

39. Nusinow. This section of the interview is full of inaccuracies, revealing van Harten's ignorance about the Final Solution in Hungary. Moreover, none of the postwar memoirs and reports written by the leading members of the Budapest-based Relief and Rescue Committee makes any mention of Jaac van Harten.

40. According to Michael, van Harten's son, his father only "used his expertise as an art collector and dealer on appraising stolen paintings for Be-Cher." Bergman. Shraga Elam, the Israeli investigative reporter who is a leading authority on this subject, believes that van Harten's main function was to serve as an appraiser of "the valuables robbed from the Jews." Personal communication dated June 21, 2000.

41. Bergman, April 28, 2000.

42. Ibid.

43. Reves claims that even though he knew that van Hatten's children's portrayal of their father as a righteous man "was all nonsense," he "didn't want to spoil the good impression they had of their father" after his death. Ibid.

Reves fails to explain the moral imperative that induced him to spoil that good impression decades later. He apparently also "forgot" to reveal his own dealings with van Harten to the scholars that wrote about the Halutz resistance movement in wartime Hungary. Neither Asher Cohen nor Avihu Ronen, the two leading authorities on the Halutz resistance in Hungary, make any reference to van Harten in connection with their description of Revel's role. See Cohen's The Halutz Resistance in Hungary, 1942-1944 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), and Ronen's Harc az iletert (Battle for Life). (Budapest: Belvirosi Konyvkiado, 1998). Both books appeared originally in Hebrew.

44. T,pd le a sarga csillagot (Rip Off the Yellow Star). Edited by Istvan Gibor Benedek and Gyorgy Vamos (Budapest: Pallas Lap- es Kbnyvkiad6, 1990), pp. 174-185. See especially, pp. 184-185.

45. The receipt-letter apparently was given to van Harten shortly before he fled from Budapest. Interestingly, the letter refers to 42,500 Swiss francs. In the interview during the late 1980s, Peretz Reves talked about 30,000 dollars and 10,000 pounds; during the interview with Bergman, he referred to "British money worth $50,000 at the time."

46. The Hungarian pro-Nazi party came to power with German assistance on October 15, 1944, following the aborted attempt by Mikl6s Horthy to extricate Hungary from the Axis Alliance. For details, see Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide. The Holocaust in Hungary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), pp. 824-829.

47. These treasures, including the Royal Crown and the Coronation Regalia, were removed from the vaults of the Royal Castle in Budapest and taken to Austria by Colonel Er Pajtis, Commander of the Hungarian Crown Guard. They were handed over to the American occupation forces in Austria. For details on the transfer and subsequent fate of these treasures, see Katalin Kid& Lynn, "The Return of the Crown of St. Stephen and Its

Subsequent Impact on the Carter Administration." East European Quarterly, Boulder, 34:2 (June 2000), pp. 181-215. See also Balazs Il16nyi, "The Adventures of the Holy Crown of Hungary." The New Hungarian Quarterly, Budapest, 41 (Summer 2000), pp. 32-61.

48. In addition to informing the Committee of the International Red Cross and the Government of the Third Reich, the Hungarian Foreign Minister also informed the top officials of the Hungarian government about the authorization given to van Harten. Among these were the presidents of both houses of the parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Jeno Szollosi, Minister of the Interior Gabor Vajna, Finance Minister Lajos Rem6nyi-Schneller, and Minister of Supplies B61a Jurcsek. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Archives, Pasner File PI 2139.

Interestingly, when writing my study on the Holocaust in Hungary, 1, too, was convinced on the basis of the documents supplied to me by Chaim Pasner in the 1970s that van Harten was a genuine representative of the International Red Cross whom the Nyilas leaders had trusted. See The Politics of Genocide, pp. 1160 and p. 1180 n.46.

49. Peretz Reves recollects that van Harten informed him that he had to leave Budapest on Becher's request. Michael van Harten claimed that his father decided to leave in December 1944 in order to escape the fate that befell Raoul Wallenberg in January 1945. Bergman, April 28, and May 19, 2000.

50. Another important storage place was Schloss Rametz, a castle owned by Albert Crastan, a Wendig-Jew who posed as a Swiss Consul and a representative of the International Red Cross. La Vista Report. According to Elam, Crastan was not Jewish and a genuine Swiss consular agent. Elam, pp. 81, 94.

51. Nusinow. These inmates were in fact freed as a result of the activities of Valerio Benuzzi, an Italian Jew who was also in the service of the SS. Elam, pp. 78-8 1.

52. Nusinow. These claims could not be substantiated. In his memoirs Allen Dulles makes no mention of van Harten. He notes, however, that as evidence of his ability to act, General Wolff was prepared to "release to Switzerland several hundred Jews interned in Bolzano." Allen Dulles, The Secret Surrender (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 99. See also From Hitler's Doorstep. The Wartime Intelligence Reports of Allen Dulles, 1942-1945. Edited with commentary by Neal H. Petersen. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 684 p.

53. It appears that Colonel Bon was not aware that van Harten had been ousted from Switzerland as a Nazi collaborator early in July 1940.

54. Elam, p. 84.

55. Ibid., pp. 83-84. See also his "Jaac van Harten - ein Agent im Zwielicht" (Jaac van Harten - An Agent in the Twilight.) Tages-Anzeiger, Zurich, June 7, 2000.

56. Schwend's IRC certificate signed by van Harten bore the date of April 28, 1945. Bergman, April 28, 2000. See also Elam, p. 98. There is evidence that van Harten maintained some contact with Schwend even after the SS officer landed in Peru and was said to be involved in business dealings with Klaus Barbie and Josef Mengele. In 1953 van Harten reportedly offered Schwend his help to unblock his bank account at the Soci&6 Genitale de Surveillance in Geneva. Elam, "Jaac van Harten - ein Agent im Zwielicht," op. cit.

57. Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehorigen (Organization of Former Members of the SS).

58. La Vista Report. For details, see Charles R. Allen, Nazi War Criminals in America (New York: Highgate House, 1985), 110 p. See also his "The Vatican and the

Nazis." Reform Judaism (Spring-Summer 1983), pp. 4-5; (Fall 1983), pp. 6-7, 34. For an exchange of views between Eugene J. Fisher, George R. Kemon and Allen, see (Fall 1983), pp. 8-9, 35-56, and (Winter 1983-84), pp. 47-48.

59. Personal communication by Shraga Elam dated June 21, 2000. In the IRC archives in Geneva, van Harten's file (Archives G-61) is identified under the label "Impostors."

60. These emissaries (shlichim) were in the service of the Aliya Beth, the organization devoted to the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine. For details on the organization and its activities, see Yehuda Bauer, Flight and Rescue: Bricha (New York: Random House, 1970), 369 p.

61. Elam, pp. 140-141. Yehuda Bauer claimed that the emissaries received only 10,000 counterfeit pounds. Moreover, it appears that he was not at the time of the writing aware of, or particularly interested in, van Harten's background. Bauer, pp. 106-7. In his 1967 interview, van Harten insisted that he gave the two emissaries 20,000 pounds of his own money that he brought from Budapest-money that was "not faked." Nusinow.

62. Yad Vashem Archives. Pasner File P12/39. At van Hasten's request, Pozner sent a telegram to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem on April 18, 1945, informing the family of Salman Schocken, the publisher of Ha'aretz and Mrs. Harten's relative, that the van Hartens were alive and in good health. See also Elam, pp. 76-77.

63. Report to the International Committee of the Red Cross, dated June 8, 1945, as cited by Elam, p. 76 and 188, n.I

64. At the time Kasztner was traveling with Kurt Becher in an attempt to prevent the destruction of the Jews still in concentration camps.

65. Yad Vashem Archives. Pasner File PI V39.

66. A section of the letter was forwarded by Schwalb to Pozner on May 22, 1945, with the suggestion that he urge van Harten to address a letter on this issue to Saly Mayer directly. Ibid.

67. The letter was written on IRC stationery.

68. See note 47. The Manser brothers, who were Swiss, were reportedly instructed by van Harten, their Wendig colleague, to maintain good contact not only with Swiss governmental and IRC officials, but also with Pozner and other Jewish leaders. According to the brothers' undocumented account, van Harten knew where the Hungarian treasures were buried, and it was because of his silence that the Americans arrested him. Elam, p. 96.

69. Reference is probably to either Hans Bon or Hans Bachmann.

70. In the same letter he asked van Harten: "Are these Jews?" Clearly, Pozner could not possibly know that these 72 individuals were in fact French Nazi collaborators who were included by van Harten in an IRC refugee group reportedly at the urging of Schwend. Elam, p. 98.

71. Yad Vashem Archives. Pasner File P12/39. By that time, van Harten was already in an internment camp.

72. Although ambivalent, Pozner was probably influenced by the Schocken-family connection of Mrs. Van Harten or perhaps by the lure of the Jewish wealth van Harten was allegedly privy to. In his correspondence with van Harten Pozner used the same code words (e.g., Hagar, alafim; Uncle) that representatives of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, Budapest, Bratislava, Turkey, and Switzerland used in their communications.

73. According to an IRC report the Americans suspected him of collaboration with the Nazis after they discovered several warehouses laden with expensive goods. Van

Harten claimed that he got in trouble with the Americans and the British because he had warned them against fraternization with the Germans. Mrs. Van Harten asserted that her husband had been denounced by a disgruntled Hungarian named Alexander Kolosz, her husband's former associate, who operated a bordello for American soldiers. In a letter dated November 11, 1945, addressed to Pozner during his imprisonment in Terni, van Harten wrote the following about his former associate: "Kolosz is an old SD-criminal, he was a leader of the Gestapo in Bratislava and brought about the murder of 10,000 Jews." Elam, pp. 134-136. See also Nusinow.

74. Freier was a member of a secret organization of Jewish soldiers in the British army who called themselves the havurah (the gang). After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he became chairman of its Atomic Energy Commission. Bergman, April 28, and May 19, 2000.

75. Elam, pp. 145-147. See also Bergman, April 28, 2000.

76. Among these was Pozner. In a letter to the IRC, Pozner emphasized van Harten's activities on behalf of Jews in Budapest and Italy, adding that he was not aware of his activities that were not related to Jews. Elam, p. 139.

77. It is not clear why van Harten was tried in absentia. According to a theory advanced by Elam, van Harten presumably cooperated with the authorities by denouncing the other accused among whom was Alexander Kolosz, his former associate. He allegedly also identified the places where the goods were hidden as part of the deal under which the Americans freed him. See also Elam, pp. 136-137.

78. At first the van Hartens lived at 184 Hayarkon Street, then moved to Savyon, an exclusive suburb of Tel Aviv.

79. Elam, pp. 149-150

80. Elam, "Jest van Harten - ein Agent im Zwielicht," op. cit.

81. La Vista Report.

82. Peretz Reves recalled that while still in Budapest, he was contacted by Gideon Raphael, the future Director-General of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, who, in the company of an Aliya Beth activist, inquired whether he had signed a receipt for some money he had received from van Harten. Bergman, April 28, 2000.

Randolph L. Braham
The City University of New York
Copyright East European Quarterly Winter 2001

No comments: