Fortunately, one of Wagner’s angry outbursts brought quick results and twenty four hours after our arrival, a powerful radio transmitter and receiver was set up in a corner of our office.
In the week that followed we received and transmitted orders for the escape from Germany of dozens of top officials in the Nazi Party. Who most of them are, I shall never know. To me they were just code names on a piece of paper. But it was obvious that this mass escape had been planned a long time before.
Our two main escape routes out of Germany led through the Swiss border towns of Feldkirch and Kempten. Of these, the latter was far the safest route as our agent there was a member of the local Communist Party - a Nazi who had been planted there during the War among our bitterest enemies. It was one of the few pieces of foresight shown by the German Intelligence Service - probably one of the most inefficient organizations of its kind in the world.
I had been in Rottach am Eggern for just a week when Wagner called me into his private office. He had been almost without sleep for a week and he looked like a man about to acknowledge final defeat. But he forced a smile as he told me:
“My dear Gomez; I have good news for you. You have been ordered back to Madrid. There you are to contact members of your old organization & prepare to receive a very special visitor.”
“Who is he?” I asked.
“That I cannot tell you. What I can tell you is that if the Nazi Party is to survive, then it is essential that this person gets safely out of the Reich and out of Europe. The job has been assigned to you. You will receive instructions in due course. They will be signed by the code name ZAPATO.”
I returned to my own quarters with mixed emotions. Glad to be getting back to Spain but intensely curious as to who it was Wagner considered so vital to the Nazi cause.
On the 29th of April, 1945 I left the redoubt - the last fragments of the Nazi Empire which had spanned Europe only a year before. That morning, I said goodbye to Colonel Wagner and Willy Oberbeil. My last vision of them was of two tired and dispirited men, their once arrogant black uniforms now stained and creased. They answered my salute with a weary mumbled ‘HEIL!’. I turned and left the bunker. Outside an SS guard was waiting with an OKW car, topped up with fuel and a pass to enable me to get out of the main gate.
I drove past the checkpoint, still heavily manned, and took the road to München where I had been given the address of a garage to refuel.
I was still a long way from the advancing American Front but the evidence of war was all around me. The road to München was littered with abandoned vehicles, a few intact but most of them partially or totally destroyed. Hastily arranged diversions set up by the Wehrmacht Police enabled me to avoid the worst sections and I was able to make good speed apart from a thirty minute holdup to allow a military convoy through. I met few civilians on the roads and the little traffic I encountered was all military.
SS Intelligence had supplied me with false papers, identifying me as a Spanish chef in the Hotel Deutsche Kaiser in München. My papers were barely glanced at by the guards at the checkpoints I passed. It was hard to recognize in the blank faces of these guards, the proud army which had once goose-stepped its triumphant way across Europe with such arrogant ease. And had it not been for the rigid discipline of their officers, I felt sure that many of these men would have swollen the stream of deserters who were daily giving themselves up to the advancing Americans.
But soon I had my own troubles. I had been assured that I would have no trouble getting fuel in München. None of the filling stations along the road had been open but it had not worried me. However, when I went to the address I had been given and the garage owner refused to serve me with gasoline, I became concerned. I told him no one at this time could run a car unless he were on government business. But he refused to be persuaded.
Just then, an SS detachment had turned into the street and was marching towards me. I waited until they drew abreast of me and I stepped out to speak with the sergeant in charge. I took the risk of confiding in him that I was on an extremely important secret mission which necessitated my traveling on forged papers. Had he not believed my story, I could have been thrown in prison and days might have passed with communications as they were, before Wagner could have arranged my release.
Fortunately, the man accepted my story and came with me into the garage owner’s office. The sergeant, a huge crop-haired brute, threatened the cowering man with instant arrest unless he filled the tank of my car. The man did so; and I can’t blame him.
The further towards Switzerland I traveled, the more obvious it became that the Third Reich was defeated. I began to meet groups of refugees; old men, women and children, trudging hopelessly away from the tide of battle. I questioned some of them, but they did not appear to know where they were going. They were just running away. The adults appeared thin and badly clothed, and I noticed that many of the children were without shoes. To one group, I tossed a few tins of meat and vegetables which had been stacked in the back of my car. They snatched them greedily without a word of thanks.
I stopped at a small roadside inn and asked inside for a cool lager, but the landlord shrugged and offered me the only thing he had in his cellar - a glass of water. I pressed them to look again and this time I produced a piece of butter, half the size of a matchbox. The landlord’s wife accepted eagerly and moments later, a liter of foaming chilled beer was mine. Two miles further along the road, I discovered what price I really had to pay.
The car shuddered and stopped! My host had siphoned off my whole tank of petrol. In a fury, I considered having the man arrested, but common sense made me realize I would be wasting precious time. Instead, I filled a case with food and a blanket - and a spare pair of shoes, and walked.
In just over an hour, I arrived at a small railway station where I was amazed to find that trains were still running. But there was no question of buying a ticket.
“Are you mad?” Asked the porter. “Nobody buys tickets any more. When the train stops, you just get on if you can.”
When it arrived, the train consisted of freight wagons and open coaches, but at least it took me to the outskirts Garmisch where, after a three hour delay, I was able to get a train through to Innsbruck.
The town was swarming with troops and the station itself was littered with stretcher cases and walking wounded. I decided to eat before continuing on the last stage of my journey to Feldkirch. I walked away from the station and threaded my way down a little side street until I came to a tiny coffee house away from the crush of field grey uniforms. I sat at a table near the cafe’s entrance. It was dim in the blackout and at first, I did not notice the couple sitting adjacent to me.
I could scarcely believe my eyes when I turned to study them more closely and recognized the man. I had last seen him in the Führerbunker, exhorting us to the final defense of the Third Reich. It was General SS Zimmermann! He must have recognized me at the same instant and a flicker of disbelief crossed his face. He beckoned me over. I hardly sat down when he began to talk quietly and rapidly.
“This lady is my wife. I want you to take care of her. See that no harm comes to her, because I intend to kill myself.”
I was speechless. This man was a comparative stranger, an influential SS officer who did not even know my name. He who a short time ago had been full of optimism now proposed to commit suicide, and thrust the responsibility of his wife’s safety onto my shoulders.
I begged him to reconsider, but despite my pleadings, he explained that he could never leave Germany and since he had no intention of serving anyone but the Führer, the only course open to him was suicide. Seeing that it was pointless to go on arguing, I told him that I had been ordered back to Spain and would take his wife with me if he insisted.
Suddenly, as if fearing I might change my mind, Zimmermann stood up. He kissed his wife on the forehead, shook me firmly by the hand and without saying a word, walked out into the night. Frau Zimmermann, her name was Maria, half rose from her chair, then slumped back. She simply said: “God help him, wherever he goes”
Two years after the war I discovered that General Zimmermann had indeed carried out his promise and committed suicide.
Maria Zimmermann and I, the following night, made contact with our agent, a Catholic priest in Feldkirch named Father John. We decided it would be best if we traveled as man and wife, and Father John promptly forged an appropriate wedding certificate. We stayed with the priest for three days and it was in his house on May 1st that I heard the German radio announcement that Hitler
“....had died at the head of his troops.”
I was confused by this announcement, for I felt it could not be true. I knew of Bormann’s instructions to transport the Führer to a safe place, away from the battle and the advancing Red Army. I had seen for myself the carefully planned escape of every other top Nazi, and I refused to believe that Hitler had been allowed to remain behind.
On the night of May 3rd, I crossed safely back into Switzerland, knowing that scores of high-ranking Nazis had preceded me through similar escape routes and countless others were to follow.
In Switzerland we presented ourselves to the authorities as Angel Donate Reca and Maria Pinto, man and wife, and asked for repatriation to Spain. Both of us were extensively questioned and passed from camp to camp until at last we were dumped in the refugee camp for Spanish nationals at lePlaine near the French border.
I was in this ghastly place on May 7 when I heard that the war was over. Germany had surrendered unconditionally. The misery of the filth at lePlaine almost defied description. We lived in unheated huts and slept on wooden bunks thinly covered with straw. The toilet was a hole in the ground at one end of the hut. The stench was indescribable.
On the second day there, I was lucky enough to find a pro-Nazi Swiss guard who agreed to pass on a message to a certain Father Ramon, whose name had been given to me by the Catholic priest who assisted us in Feldkirch. This monk took my case to the Spanish consul in Geneva, and shortly afterwards, I was visited by the Spanish Consul, one Senór Albazor. He pulled a great many strings and arranged with the Allied authorities on the Inter-Allied Commission for the Repatriation of Refugees to have Maria and I transferred to a hotel in Geneva under police supervision. From here it was a simple job to arrange a passage for the two of us to Barcelona.
I had cabled my wife when we were arriving, and she was waiting for us with a car when we docked late in July. After hearing our story, she insisted on Maria Pinto going back to live with us in Madrid. Maria stayed with us for three years before returning to Germany. Later I learned that she was working for the German Government in South America. Now Maria is once again settled in Germany, at Köln, and got engaged to an Englishman but now she lives under the name of Maria Danneworth.
By the time I reached home, the Allied nations were celebrating the crushing of Nazi Germany. But I knew that their victory had not been complete. Even as they rejoiced, scores of men, capable of keeping the spirit of Nazism alive, were being assisted to safety by those who still believe in their cause. I was one of those who assisted in these escapes. Two men came to me for help.....the first stands convicted for the murder of millions.
I met him the first time in 1946. In June of that year, a monk from a Swiss order, called at my home in Madrid asking me to give assistance to a German refugee who had sought sanctuary with his brotherhood. The man’s name he said, was Climents. He was described by the monk as:
“A good man who wishes to start a new life in the Argentine.”
I said I might possibly be able to help, but first I would like to meet him. I accompanied the monk to the college of his order a few miles from Freiberg in Switzerland. I thought it possible that I might recognize Climents, but I did not. At that time he told me simply:
“I am an officer of the SS, and I am being hunted by the Allies. Will you help me?”
Climents returned with me to Madrid on a special passport issued to him by the Vatican. These passports were issued to many refugees after the war, but were valid for travel only inside Europe. I noticed that this passport was made out in the name of Didier. However, I asked no further questions and obtained an Argentine passport for him in the name of Climents. On the third day of July, 1947 I drove him to Madrid Airport to catch a plane for Buenos Aires.
As we waited together in the departure lounge, I asked if he could tell me his real name.
“My name in Eichmann.” He replied. It meant nothing to me then. But now, all these years later, all the world knows what the name Eichmann means.
Who was the other man who came to me for help? It was Martin Bormann.
I stood with my companion on the conning tower of the U-Boat and stared out across the white-flecked Atlantic. The coast of Spain was a grey smudge in the thin light of early dawn. It was quiet except for the hollow slap of waves against the submarine’s hull. Then my companion spoke:
“This is not running away. This is merely a pause. The war is not over as everyone believes. One day Germany - Hitler’s Germany - will emerge victorious”
He gazed toward the distant coast. But I knew that it was not Spain that he saw. He was seeing Germany. A much diminished, war torn, scarred and defeated Germany.
“One day I shall return.” he challenged. “On that, I, Martin Bormann, give you my word.”
In silence we descended to the deck below. As Bormann dropped into sight, a 12 man Kriegsmarine guard of honor crashed to attention. Martin Bormann faced the U-Boat commander across the narrow deck and proudly drew himself to attention. Their arms came up as one and together they answered the salute. “Heil Hitler.”
It was May 7, 1946 - exactly one year to the day after the signing by Germany of an unconditional surrender at Reims. A new chapter in the history of Nazism had begun.
After my escape from Germany, where I spent the last three months of the war in the Führerbunker, Hitler’s headquarters beneath the Reich Chancellery, I thought for a time that I had finally finished with my Nazi masters.
On leaving the Reich, I had been instructed to alert the members of the Nazi espionage ring in Spain, of which I had been the wartime chief, to prepare for a ‘special visitor’. These were the instructions given to me by Colonel SS Wagner, Intelligence Chief at Rottach am Egern - scene of the Nazi’s last stand against the invading Allies.
From time to time during the following months I recalled these orders, but was convinced they would never be put into operation. I little imagined I was soon to be plunged once more into the National Socialist cause, which I was certain had no further need for me. Until that day in December, 1945 when I received a visit from Felipe, a German who had worked with my organization in Spain. It had been several years since I had last seen him. Then, he had weighed a good 16 stones, but now he had lost considerable weight. He was tall, blond-haired & aged about 40.
He threw his arms around me and seemed very happy to see me again. We talked over old times together, before and during the war. I was not very surprised when Felipe told me he was still working for the Nazis. I knew that large sums of money had been deposited with different agents in various parts of the world - all men dedicated to the Nazi cause. These men, and Felipe was one of them, had been chosen to keep Nazism strong in the event of Germany losing the war. They were all fanatics. Some of them had even sold their homes and possessions to carry on their work. But Felipe was more fortunate and still had access to large sums of ready cash. His was a key position in the escape route that had been reserved for those top Nazis who survived the war.
Because of this, I felt sure that his surprise visit was not simply a social one. It was probably connected with the arrival of my long-awaited ‘special visitor’. Felipe told me nothing of his mission, but before leaving he handed me a sealed envelope which he said contained important information.
I opened it in the usual way. My espionage training with the Germans had taught me how to handle this kind of message. I went to my bureau and selected a large plain envelope, a size larger than the one Felipe had left. I placed the one inside the other and sprayed the whole package with a liquid which I kept locked in my desk drawer. Quickly I plugged in an electric iron & pressed the twin package until it was dry. It became rigid.
Treatment with a second liquid spray caused the inside envelope to open. To have tried to open it in any other way would have resulted in the message it contained being destroyed. My instructions were in Spanish.
EXPECT SPECIAL VISITOR IN MADRID BETWEEN JANUARY 1ST AND 15TH. THIS PERSON, WHOM YOU WILL RECOGNIZE, WILL BE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE BEARER OF THIS LETTER.
ZAPATO! That was the code name which Wagner had made me memorize before leaving Rottach am Egern.
I spent the next four weeks in a frenzy of speculation. The peace of mind I had known over the past few months vanished, to be replaced by an undeniable compulsion to be once more back in the service of the cause. The message, though guarded in its phrasing, told me the one thing I wanted most to hear. At least one important Nazi had survived the war.
Felipe came to my house on January 3, 1946. But this time he was not alone. His companion I did not recognize at first. He was wearing a dark overcoat over a grey suit and wore a bottle-green trilby hat pulled down low over his eyes.
I knew I had seen this man before, but I could not see enough of his face to give him a name. Felipe introduced us.
“Angel, I would like to present you to Herr Fleischmann,”
It was as I stepped forward to shake his hand that I recognized Martin Bormann. But a much changed Bormann. When I had last seen the Party Chancellor in the Bunker, he had been a good three stones heavier. His heavy jowled face had grown lean and his cheeks drawn. But there was about his eyes some unmistakable gleam, which reflected his insatiable appetite for power and limitless ambition.
He removed his hat and I noticed he was partly bald at the front, though I discovered that this had been artificially brought about. Plastic surgery had taken care of his prominent Greek nose.
Felipe was curious to learn the real identity of the man he had brought to my house and at the first opportunity, he took me aside and asked,
“Who is this Herr Fleischmann?”
I told him:
“Who else should it be but Herr Fleischmann?”
But he pressed me to know what position the man held in Germany. I told him I had known Herr Fleischmann as one of Himmler’s assistants. I could see that Felipe was not satisfied with that answer, but he shrugged and dropped the subject and left shortly afterwards.
As soon as we were alone, I took Bormann into the lounge, offered him a cigarette and a glass of Spanish brandy; both of which he accepted - and I waited.
He spoke first. “Do you remember me from the bunker?”
“Yes,’ I replied. ‘You are Martin Bormann.”
He smiled thinly and told me, “That’s right. But to everyone else, I am Herr Fleischmann. Do you understand?”
“Of course.” And then remembering to whom Felipe’s message had been addressed, I added “If you are Herr Fleischmann, then I am not myself, but Senór Gomez.”
Gomez was the name I had worked under in the Berlin Bunker. We talked in Spanish, though the Spanish of Bormann was a terrible thing.
“You will have to study hard if you want to improve your
Spanish sufficiently to stay here undetected.”
I told him.
“I shall not be staying in Spain permanently.” He replied. “But I shall take your advice and study the language.”
Then he handed me a white envelope, blank on the outside and unsealed. Inside were further instructions, signed ZAPATO.
I was told to take Bormann down to Condor, a Castle on the Mediterranean coast of Spain at Denia, 30 miles south of Valencia. I was further informed that Macario, a German who had been living in Spain for over thirty years and who had been working for the Nazis since before the war, was expecting us. He had a large house two miles from the castle, and the use of a small cottage built into the castle wall.
I assumed then that my part in the business would be over when I had delivered Bormann to Denia, but Bormann warned me,
“Get plenty of exercise. You must be fit to make a long journey very soon.”
That night he slept in the guest bedroom of my home. He had arrived without luggage of any kind and I had to send out for pajamas and shaving gear.