Revealed: Post-World War II Secret Nazi, Vatican Army

U.S. was seen as sympathetic to private anti-communism force.

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A secret plot by ex-Nazis, the Vatican, Spain, and even some in the United States to form a post-World War II military force to challenge Communist Russia's feared expansion into West Germany is going on the auction block next week.

According to the documents uncovered by Alexander Historical Auctions, there was such concern about Soviet expansion into West Germany and eventually all of Europe after the war that the plan drawn up by an ex-Nazi SS officer almost went into effect.

Probably the most explosive element of the package is a letter from a priest and co-conspirator of former Nazi Lt. Col. Otto Skorzeny, a Hitler favorite, to the Vatican official who would become Pope Paul VI. In that 1952 letter marked with a church stamp, Pope Paul VI, then deputy of foreign affairs for the Vatican, is praised for helping fund Nazi refugees living in Spain. [Read: Hitler's Signing Desk Set to be Auctioned.]

The blockbuster documents are the first ever to surface that lay out postwar plans by ex-Nazis, members of Franco's Spain, and the church to build a rogue army that would be stationed in Africa.

Alexander President Bill Panagopulos said that the plot began in September 1950, after Skorzeny fled a German prison. That year, he ended up in Spain, and historical documents show that he became one of the masterminds of ODESSA, a secret organization formed to find safe havens around the world for top Nazis. [Read: The Left's Limited Outrage at Hitler Comparisons.]

In his catalog for the December 8-9 auction, Panagopulos writes: "Skorzeny entered Spain under an alias to begin a collaboration with Spain's top military leaders, ex-SS generals and officers, and even the highest levels of the Vatican to plan the formation of a secret army of ex-Nazis and Spanish military in Spain or North Africa, prepared at any time to counter a Russian attack from East Germany. This grouping of documents, directly from Skorzeny's estate, documents his efforts to form such an 'army in exile,' perhaps with even more sinister intent. Its contents have remained hidden for over sixty years, totally unknown to journalists and historians alike."

The documents show that U.S. officials were aware of the plot and also worried about Moscow advancing into West Germany, but also feared that it could revive Nazism.

The secret army was never formed and Panagopulos suggests that Skorzeny's motives might have included elements of ODESSA.

"On the face of it, it appears that Skorzeny's motives were altruistic. Germany was indeed defenseless in 1950, having no army of her own and only a token occupation force with which to face any attack," he says. [ Read: Mengele Nazi Diaries Could Fetch $1 million.]

"The church's involvement can easily be explained: There was no place in communism for organized religion, a fact the Catholic Church made clear through its non-involvement in politics during the world war," adds Panagopulos.

But, he adds, Skorzeny's discussion in the letters, reports, and notes up for auction of freeing political prisoners "strongly suggests another motivation," namely protecting some of Hitler's most ruthless military men with him in Spain.

"It is no secret at all that Spain became a well-known 'resting place' for ex-Nazis on the run while en route to South America and the Middle East. As a matter of fact, it is believed that a wide swath of coastline owned by Skorzeny near Majorca was used to smuggle his comrades in and out of Spain. This archive, carefully researched, may help put together the pieces of the history of the postwar Nazi escape routes and 'rat lines,'" says Panagopulos.

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