In The Beginning…

Cruiser DRESDEN, sole survivor of the 1915 battle.

During the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1915, the cruiser squadron of Admiral Graf von Spee was destroyed except for the light cruiser DRESDEN. Badly damaged, she made her painful way through the Straits of Magellan toward escape and freedom. Aboard the cruiser was a young Oberleutnant zur See, Wilhelm Canaris. With dreams and plans for the future, Canaris was carefully plotting all the hidden coves and harbors they passed in the Straits for future use. He was destined to become Admiral Canaris and head of the Abwehr, Germany’s Intelligence unit in the Second World War.

He plotted a great many hidden harbors known as “U-Plätze” where a boat or ship could lie at anchor hidden from the outside. In true German fashion, he made detailed notes. DRESDEN then made it to Chile and Canaris was interned with the crew but he either escaped or bribed his way out then on horseback, he traversed the Andes and arriving in the little village of San Carlos de Bariloche just over the border into Argentina. Canaris was astonished! The little village looked very much like any little Bavarian village back in his homeland of Germany. This too, was burned into the brain of the man to be spymaster of the Reich.

San Carlos de Bariloche in 2008

In 1938 the old German line ship SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN retraced this route and updated the notes to perfection.

All this data, charts and more have been published in the monthly magazine of Sharkhunters. Here are just a few of those secret charts on the next pages.

There were more and detailed instructions to find and enter these hidden harbors. They contained sailing directions, how to spot the entrance, what the bottom was like, the prevailing winds, distance from steamer routes and towns, how many ships of what size could hide there and much more.

The island Trindade (not to be confused with Trinidad) is a rock in the middle of the southern Atlantic and has been a possession of Brazil for centuries. They keep a small naval contingent on the island to raise and lower the Flag daily so they can claim ownership and thereby control the fishing rights for 200 miles around. It literally is in the middle of nowhere, but it has great strategic importance.

Shortly before the war, Brazil removed her personnel and within a week, a group of German ships arrived. German personnel occupied the old huts that were built by fishermen in the early 20th Century and they built the radio station seen in the preceding chapter ‘Bormann’s Lessons’.

Northern plateau where the second radio station was built.

Southern plateau where the first radio station was built.

Remains of the hut foundations – these photos shot in 2009

In 1944 as the Reich was already crumbling, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz told one of his aides that Germany had found an impregnable Shangri-La for the Führer. We believe that he meant San Carlos de Bariloche. The majority living in Bariloche by this time were Germans and thanks to a relatively unknown German named Otto Mehling who arrived in the early 1930’s on a ‘spook’ mission, there was surveillance all around the huge deep fresh water Lake Nahuel Huapi and there was an armed German security force both on land and on the water.

From the house he built by hand (above left), which he named the Berghof, Mehling could oversee a large part of Lake Nahuel Huapi and he built a watch force that left no corner of the lake or the nearby town unseen. The view from Mehling’s Berghof over the lake is seen in the photo above right and the prominent island there is Heumel Island on which German scientists built a nuclear research laboratory – in 1947.

Item #1 on this map is Golfo San Mathias where our files indicate that many U-Boats and specially equipped sailing ships came and went with all the works of the German Abwehr: spies, personnel, money, radio sets and a tremendous amount of items needed for the South American spy service. The little town at the NW corner of the Gulf was the terminus of one rail line running to Buenos Aires and the other to the west, ending at the Estancia San Ramon outside Bariloche.

An unknown German Skipper made this run many times with his secret sailing vessel code name “MARY”. Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Garbers was decorated with the Knights Cross for his work here.

In 1944 when it was obvious that the Reich was going to lose the war, Garbers was quizzed about his voyages. He assured the leaders of the Reich that a wooden boat would not be detected by radar, and that he could bring anyone to Patagonia. We know that he made at least one post war voyage here – we think he made more.

In the war years and for decades later, it was not possible to go by train all the way to the town of Bariloche. The rail line ended at the Estancia San Ramon and from there, it was necessary to arrange transportation the last 20 or so kilometers to the town.

In the winter, this was impossible because of the heavy snowfalls in Patagonia. Our findings indicate that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (Hitler) arrived in late June or early July 1945, right in the dead of the Argentine winter and were guests at the Estancia until the snow melted – and their quarters readied for them outside Bariloche.

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