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 Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2001

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The Sunday Times

London, April 8 2001

[All images and captions added by this website]




Nazi mystery: prisoners at Buchenwald were said to have been executed on orders from Müller

US may have used Gestapo chief as cold war warrior

Nick Fielding

Right: Heydrich and Gestapo-
chief Müller (Irving collection)


THE disappearance of Heinrich Müller, Germany's Gestapo chief, may be explained by newly released documents from a military archive more than 50 years after he fled Hitler's bunker during the dying hours of the Nazi regime.

Historians regard Müller's fate as one of the great mysteries of the second world war. It was assumed that he died dodging the allies advancing on Berlin, or that he escaped to start afresh under a false name in the Soviet Union, the Middle East or South America.

Documents in the national archives in Washington, however, suggest that Müller was held by the Americans in an internment camp in Germany for at least a month at the end of 1945. Several hundred other pages due to become available in the next few weeks are expected by some historians to show he was then used by the American security services, possibly in an undercover cold war role against the Soviet Union.

The clues were in 135 pages from the American army's intelligence command. The material was released a year ago but the significance of three small typed record cards has only now been realised after research by Ralf Piechowiak, a journalist from Germany's ZDF television channel.

"I have spent months checking out these documents and it is impossible to escape the conclusion that Müller was held by the Americans," Piechowiak said. The cards have been authenticated by George Chalou, chief archivist at the US National Archives and Records Administration.

The first card, dated December 26, 1945, describes how a Heinrich Müller was moved from a civilian internment enclosure in Altenstadt, in Bavaria, to an American-controlled holding camp at Ilmenau in northwestern Germany. Müller disappeared as Berlin fell and may have been recruited by the US Another said he was "Wanted as to war crimes List No 7 for Murder" and sought by "CIC War Crimes Branch". The Central Intelligence Command CIC) was the CIA's forerunner.

The cards refer to Müller's early work with the Gestapo in Munich, where he was "specially concerned with communists". They give details of his appearance: "Height: 5ft 3in. Thin dark hair, lively black eyes, pleasing face, very active, gives the impression of great intelligence."

One card says he was interrogated and the information obtained was passed to US Army Command and the CIC. However, the last record ends with the sentence: "Case closed January 29, 1946." It does not explain why the case was closed or what Müller did next.

Hitler, Himmler, 1943"Gestapo Müller", as he has become known, was born in Munich in 1900 and became a highly decorated fighter pilot during the first world war. After the war ended, he joined the police force and by the late 1920s was one of its authorities on the German Communist party. The reports he wrote on its activities brought him to the attention of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, the Nazi party's ruthless elite corps, and the Gestapo.

During the 1930s Müller was rapidly promoted in the SS and his power continued to grow until he assumed operational command of the Gestapo. He took part in the planning of the "final solution", the policy that resulted in the murder of 6m Jews in extermination camps between 1942 and 1945. Later Müller played an important role in investigating the failed plot by German officers to kill Hitler in 1944. He remained loyal to the Führer to the end, organising the rounding-up of thousands of Jews in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia for deportation to Auschwitz.

Another recently released American government document says he ordered he execution of prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp. The last confirmed sighting of Müller was in the bunker on the day before the end of the war. "Defend Berlin to the last man, the last bullet," was his final order.

Children leave Buchenwald camp

Buchenwald camp: child survivors file out of the main gate with US soldiers, April 27, 1945. Note that the ubiquitous Eli Wiesel claims to appear as the fourth child in the left column.

There were unconfirmed reports later that he had escaped to Egypt or the Soviet Union, and worked for Nazis who went to South America. In 1963 a grave said to hold his remains was found to contain the skull of a man aged 30 - 15 years younger than Müller would have been at the end of he war.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, described the claim that the Americans had detained Müller as "absolutely extraordinary".

Lord Janner, secretary of the all-party war crimes group and a former war crimes investigator, said the Americans should now reveal all they knew. Janner suggested that rather than releasing him by mistake, the Americans were more likely to have employed him: "It is beginning to look as if he sold his knowledge about Soviet secrets in exchange for his life."

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