The ODESSA is an American codename (from the German: Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning: Organization of Former SS Members) coined in 1946 for a possible Nazi underground escape plan at the end of World War II by a group of SS officers with the aim of facilitating secret escape routes. The idea has been widely circulated in fictional spy novels and movies, notably Frederick Forsyth's best-selling 1972 thriller The Odessa File. The routes are also called ratlines. The goal was to allow the SS members to escape to Argentina, Brazil, or the Middle East under false passports.[1] This goal was in fact achieved by 300 Nazis with support from Juan Perón after he came to power in Argentina in 1946.[2]

Though an unknown number of wanted Nazis and war criminals did in fact escape Europe, the existence of an organisation called ODESSA is rejected by most experts. However it is widely accepted that there were escape organisations for Nazis. Uki Goñi maintains that archival evidence paints a picture that "does not even include an organization actually named Odessa, but it is sinister nonetheless, and weighted in favour of an actual organized escape network." [3] Guy Walters, in his 2009 book Hunting Evil, stated he was unable to find any evidence of the existence of the ODESSA network as such, although numerous other organisations such as Konsul, Scharnhorst, Sechsgestirn, Leibwache, and Lustige Brüder have been named,[1] including Die Spinne ("The Spider") run in part by Hitler's commando chief Otto Skorzeny.[4] Historian Daniel Stahl in his 2011 essay stated that the consensus among historians is that an organisation called ODESSA did not actually exist.[5][6] Uki Goñi's book "The Real Odessa" describes the role of Juan Peron in providing cover for Nazi war criminals with cooperation from the Vatican, the Argentinean government and the Swiss authorities through a secret office set up by Peron's agents in Bern. Heinrich Himmler's secret service had prepared an escape route in Madrid in 1944. In 1946, this operation moved to the Presidential palace in Buenos Aires. Goñi states that the operation stretched from Scandinavia to Italy, aiding war criminals and bringing in gold that the Croatian treasury had stolen.[7]

Origins of the term

The codeword "Odessa" – as used by the Allies – appeared for the first time in a memo dated July 3, 1946, by the American Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) whose principal role was to screen displaced persons for possible suspects. The CIC discovered that the word "ODESSA" was used at the KZ Bensheim-Auerbach internment camp for SS prisoners who used this watchword in their secret attempts to gain special privileges from the Red Cross, wrote historian Guy Walters. Neither the Americans nor the British were able to verify the claims extending any further than that.[1]


According to Simon Wiesenthal, the ODESSA was set up in 1944 to aid fugitive Nazis.[8] However, a documentary produced by the German TV station ZDF also suggested that the ODESSA was never the single world-wide secret organisation that Wiesenthal described, but several organisations, both overt and covert, that helped ex-SS men. The truth may have been obscured by antagonism between the Wiesenthal organisation and West German military intelligence. It is known that Austrian authorities were investigating the organization several years before Wiesenthal went public with his information.[9]

Similarly, historian Gitta Sereny wrote in her 1974 book Into That Darkness, based on interviews with the former commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, Franz Stangl, that an organisation called ODESSA had never existed although there were Nazi aid organisations:

The prosecutors at the Ludwigsburg Central Authority for the Investigation into Nazi Crimes, who know precisely how the postwar lives of certain individuals now living in South America have been financed, have searched all their thousands of documents from beginning to end, but say they are totally unable to authenticate (the) 'Odessa.' Not that this matters greatly: there certainly were various kinds of Nazi aid organisations after the war — it would have been astonishing if there hadn't been.[10]

This view is supported by historian Guy Walters in his book Hunting Evil, where he also points out that networks were used, but there was not such a thing as a setup network covering Europe and South America, with an alleged war treasure. For Walters, the reports received by the allied intelligence services during the mid-1940s suggest that the appellation "ODESSA" was "little more than a catch-all term used by former Nazis who wished to continue the fight."[11]

Nazi concentration camp supervisors denied the existence of an organisation called ODESSA. The US War Crimes Commission reports and the American OSS neither confirmed nor denied claims about the existence of such an organisation. Wechsberg, who after emigrating to the United States had served as an OSS officer and member of the US War Crimes Commission, however, claimed that in interviews of outspoken German anti-Nazis some asserted that plans were made for a Fourth Reich before the fall of the Third,[12] and that this was to be implemented by reorganising in remote Nazi colonies overseas: "The Nazis decided that the time had come to set up a world-wide clandestine escape network."[13]

They used Germans who had been hired to drive U.S. Army trucks on the autobahn between Munich and Salzburg for the 'Stars and Stripes,' the American Army newspaper. The couriers had applied for their jobs under false names, and the Americans in Munich had failed to check them carefully... (the) ODESSA was organized as a thorough, efficient network... Anlaufstellen (ports of call) were set up along the entire Austro-German border... In Lindau, close to both Austria and Switzerland, (the) ODESSA set up an 'export-import' company with representatives in Cairo and Damascus.[13]

In his interviews with Sereny, Stangl denied any knowledge of a group called the ODESSA. Recent biographies of Adolf Eichmann, who also escaped to South America, and Heinrich Himmler, the alleged founder of the ODESSA, made no reference to such an organisation. However, Hannah Arendt, in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, states that "in 1950, [Eichmann] succeeded in establishing contact with ODESSA, a clandestine organisation of SS veterans, and in May of that year, he was passed through Austria to Italy, where a priest, fully informed of his identity, equipped him with a refugee passport in the name of Richard Klement and sent him on to Buenos Aires."[14] Notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele also escaped to Brazil.[15]

Sereny attributed the escape of SS members to postwar chaos and the inability of the Catholic Church, the Red Cross and the American military to verify the claims of people who came to them for help, rather than to the activities of an underground Nazi organisation. She identified a Vatican official, Bishop Aloïs Hudal, not former SS men, as the principal agent in helping Nazis leave Italy for South America, mainly Brazil.

Of particular importance in examining the postwar activities of high-ranking Nazis was Paul Manning's book Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile, which detailed Bormann's rise to power through the Nazi Party and as Hitler's Chief of Staff. During the war, Manning himself was a correspondent for CBS News in London, and his reporting and subsequent researches presented Bormann's cunning and skill in the organisation and planning for the flight of Nazi-controlled capital from Europe during the last years of the war—notwithstanding the strong possibility of Bormann's death in Berlin on 1 May 1945, especially in light of DNA identification of skeletal remains unearthed near the Lehrter Bahnhof as Bormann's.

According to Manning, "eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes set up by (the) ODESSA and the Deutsche Hilfsverein..." (page 181). The ODESSA itself was incidental, says Manning, with the continuing existence of the Bormann Organisation a much larger and more menacing fact. None of this had yet been convincingly proven.

In popular culture

In the realm of fiction, Frederick Forsyth's best-selling 1972 thriller The Odessa File brought the organisation to popular attention. (The novel was turned into a film starring Jon Voight.) In the novel, Forsyth's ODESSA smuggled war criminals to South America, but also attempted to protect those SS members who remained behind in Germany, and plotted to influence political decisions in West Germany. Many of the novel's readers assumed that ODESSA really existed.[16]

In the 1976 thriller novel by Ira Levin titled The Boys from Brazil, Dr. Josef Mengele, the concentration camp medical doctor who performed horrific experiments on camp victims during World War II, is involved in ODESSA. According to a young man and spy on his trail, Mengele is activating the "Kameradenwerk" for a strange assignment: he is sending out six Nazis (former SS Officers) to kill 94 men, who share a few common traits. In the book the terms "Kameradenwerk" and "ODESSA" are used interchangeably.[17]

It was mentioned in three Phoenix Force novels: Ultimate Terror (1984), The Twisted Cross (1986) and Terror In The Dark (1987).[18] It was also mentioned, sometimes in veiled terms, in Philip Kerr's 2006 novel, The One From the Other — one of Kerr's Bernie Gunther mysteries. Novelist Eric Frattini has emphasised his belief in ODESSA and incorporates elements in his novels, such as the 2010 thriller, The Mephisto's Gold.[19]

The First Order, the main antagonists from the Star Wars sequel trilogy, were based on the concept of ODESSA, in particular the theory that several Nazis escaped into Argentina.[20]

Bormann's survival and the ratline are also part of the History Channel TV series Hunting Hitler (2015-2018) in which former CIA agent Bob Baer, Gerrard Williams (author of Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler) and Tim Kennedy, a former member of the 7th Special Forces Group of the US Army, try to prove that Hitler might have survived WW II and fled to Argentina.

ODESSA and another secret society was mentioned in Terry Hayes' novel I am Pilgrim. In the novel, the main character, disguised as an FBI agent in Damascus, is searching for a secret passage and encounters an underground tunnel with German inscribing on a tunnel wall. Names of SS military personnel involved with the construction of the tunnel are listed.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Guy Walters (2010). Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice. Crown/Archetype. ISBN 0307592480 – via Google Books, preview.
  2. ^ Rohter, Larry (2003-03-09). "Argentina, a Haven for Nazis, Balks at Opening Its Files". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  3. ^ Uki Goni, The Real Odessa: How Peron Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina (2002) p xx.
  4. ^ Guy Walters (2010). Hunting Evil. pp. 139–142.
  5. ^ Daniel Stahl, "Odessa und das 'Nazigold' in Südamerika: Mythen und ihre Bedeutungen" ('Odessa and "Nazi Gold" in South America: Myths and Their Meanings') Jahrbuch fuer Geschichte Lateinamerikas (2011), Vol. 48, pp 333-360.
  6. ^ Oliver Rathkolb. Revisiting the National Socialist Legacy: Coming to Terms With Forced Labor, Expropriation, Compensation, and Restitution. Transaction Publishers. pp. 271, 291.
  7. ^ "The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron's Argentina". Foreign Affairs (January/February 2003). 2009-01-28. ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  8. ^ Organization of Former SS Members (ODESSA). The SS (Schutzstaffel). Jewish Virtual Library.
  9. ^ Mysteryquest, Rise of the Fourth Reich (Season 1, Episode 6)
  10. ^ Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness (Pimlico 1974), p. 274.
  11. ^ Guy Walters, Hunting Evil p. 215, Bantam Books, Transworld Publishers, London 2010.
  12. ^ Wechsberg, The Murderers Among Us (New York, 1967), p. 80
  13. ^ a b Wechsberg, The Murderers, p. 82
  14. ^ Hannah Arendt (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking.
  15. ^ David Cesarini, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (Vintage 2004); Peter Padfield: Himmler: Reichsfuhrer SS (Macmillan 1990)
  16. ^ Guy Walters (2010). Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Quest to Bring Them to Justice. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 139, 156.
  17. ^ John Sutherland (2010). Bestsellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970s. Taylor & Francis. pp. 187–88.
  18. ^ Gar Wilson (1986). Chip Off the Bloc. Worldwide.
  19. ^ Eric Frattini (2008). The Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage. St. Martin's Press. p. 392.
  20. ^ Dyer, James (August 25, 2015). "Kylo Ren Is Not A Sith". Empire Magazine. Retrieved August 25, 2015.


  • "A la caza del ultimo Nazi". El Mundo. October 30, 2005.
  • Goñi, Uki (2002): The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón's Argentina. New York; London: Granta Books. ISBN 1-86207-581-6 (hardcover); ISBN 1-86207-552-2 (paperback, 2003)
  • Eric Frattini (2011): El Oro de Mefisto. Madrid, Espasa Calpe.
  • Infield, Glenn (1981) Secrets of the SS. New York: Stein and Day.
  • Lee, Martin A. (1997): The Beast Reawakens. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
  • Manning, Paul (1980) Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile. Lyle Stuart, Inc., also available online.
  • Sereny, Gitta (1974): Into That Darkness. From Mercy Killings to Mass Murder. Republished (1983) as Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. New York: Vintage.
  • Stahl, Daniel. "Odessa und das 'Nazigold' in Südamerika: Mythen und ihre Bedeutungen" ('Odessa and "Nazi Gold" in South America: Myths and Their Meanings') Jahrbuch fuer Geschichte Lateinamerikas (2011), Vol. 48, p. 333-360.
  • Wechsberg, Joseph (1967): The Murderers Among Us. New York: McGraw Hill.

External links

1941 Odessa massacre

The Odessa massacre is the name given to the mass murder of the Jewish population of Odessa and surrounding towns in the Transnistria Governorate during the autumn of 1941 and the winter of 1942 while it was under Romanian control.

Depending on the accepted terms of reference and scope, the Odessa massacre refers either to the events of October 22–24, 1941 in which some 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were shot or burned, or to the murder of well over 100,000 Ukrainian Jews in the town and the areas between the Dniester and Bug rivers, during the Romanian and German occupation. The primary perpetrators were Romanian soldiers, Einsatzgruppe SS and local ethnic Germans.

2014 Odessa clashes

Clashes between Euromaidan and anti-Maidan demonstrators erupted in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa during January 2014, during the lead-up to the late February revolution. In southern and eastern Ukraine there was resentment against the revolution. Odessa, largely Russophone, witnessed continued unrest throughout 2014. The worst incident occurred on 2 May, when 46 pro-federalism (anti-Maidan) and 2 pro-Ukrainian unity activists were killed and over 200 people were injured during a confrontation in the city center and at the Trade Unions House.

Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Бронено́сец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Potyomkin), sometimes rendered as Battleship Potyomkin, is a 1925 Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against its officers.

Battleship Potemkin was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. In 2012, the British Film Institute named it the eleventh greatest film of all time.

FC Chornomorets Odesa

FC Chornomorets Odesa (Ukrainian: Футбо́льний Клуб Чорномо́рець Оде́са [tʃornoˈmɔrɛtsʲ oˈdɛsɐ]) is a Ukrainian professional football club based in Odessa.

The club's home ground is the 34,164 capacity Chornomorets Stadium opened in 1935 and rebuilt in 2011. According to the club's website, it was formed in 1936 as Dynamo, but until 2002 it carried a logo with 1958 and 1959 years of foundation on its shield when the club received its current name. Moreover, the club's shield is very similar to the shield of Romanian FC Farul Constanta.For over 30 years the club was sponsored by the Black Sea Shipping Company (1959-1991). The club was among top 20 Soviet clubs (Soviet Top League).

Friday Night Lights (film)

Friday Night Lights is a 2004 American sports drama film, directed by Peter Berg. The film follows the coach and players of a high school football team in the Texas city of Odessa, which supported and was obsessed with them. The book on which it was based, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (1990) by H. G. Bissinger, followed the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they made a run towards the state championship. A television series of the same name premiered on October 3, 2006 on NBC. The film won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award and was ranked number 37 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the Best High School Movies.


KODM ("Mix 97.9") is a radio station that serves the Midland–Odessa metropolitan area with Hot AC music. The station is under ownership of Townsquare Media.


KOSA-TV, virtual and VHF digital channel 7, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Odessa, Texas, United States and serving the Permian Basin area. The station is owned by Gray Television, as part of a duopoly with Big Spring-licensed CW+ affiliate KCWO-TV, channel 4 (which is simulcast in high definition on KOSA's second digital subchannel); it is also sister to Odessa-licensed low-power Telemundo affiliate KTLE-LD, channel 7.5 (which is simulcast in standard definition on KOSA's third digital subchannel and in high definition on KCWO's second digital subchannel). The three stations share studios inside the Music City Mall on East 42nd Street in Odessa, with a secondary studio and news bureau in downtown Midland; KOSA's transmitter is located on FM 866 west of Odessa. The station is relayed on low-power translator K31KJ-D in Big Spring. On cable, KOSA is carried on Reach Broadband channel 4, and on channel 7 on other cable systems in the market.

Midland-Odessa Sockers FC

Midland-Odessa Sockers FC is an American soccer team based in Midland, Texas, United States. Founded in 2008, the team plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid, in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region.

The team has played its home games at the Grande Communications Stadium since 2009. The team's colors are white and navy blue.

Two of the team's co-owners, Miles Prentice and Bob Richmond, are also the owners of the Midland RockHounds Double-A Minor League Baseball team. They have won three titles.

Odessa, Delaware

Odessa is a town in New Castle County, Delaware, United States. The population was 364 at the 2010 census. Founded as Cantwell's Bridge in the 18th century, the name was changed in the 19th century, after the Ukrainian port city of the same name. Today a significant part of the town is a historic district list on the National Register of Historic Places.

Odessa, Texas

Odessa is a city in and the county seat of Ector County, Texas, United States. It is located primarily in Ector County, although a small section of the city extends into Midland County. Odessa's population was 118,918 at the 2010 census, making it the 29th-most populous city in Texas; estimates as of July 2015 indicate a population of 159,436 in the city. It is the principal city of the Odessa Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Ector County. The metropolitan area is also a component of the larger Midland–Odessa combined statistical area, which had a 2010 census population of 278,801; a recent report from the United States Census Bureau estimates that the combined population as of July 2015 is 320,513. In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked Odessa as the third-fastest growing small city in the United States.

Odessa College

Odessa College is a public junior college in Odessa, Texas. The college serves the people of Ector County and the Permian Basin. It was established in 1946 and currently enrolls about 5,000 annually in its university-parallel and occupational/technical courses, and 11,000 students annually in its Basic Education, Continuing Education, and Community Recreation courses.

Odessa International Airport

Odesa International Airport (Ukrainian: Міжнародний аеропорт «Одеса») (IATA: ODS, ICAO: UKOO) is an international airport of Odessa, the third largest city of Ukraine, located 7 km (4.3 mi) southwest from its city centre.

Odessa Jackalopes

This article is about the current Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL. For the original WPHL/CHL franchise of same name, see: Odessa Jackalopes (1997–2011).The Odessa Jackalopes are a Tier II junior ice hockey team playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The team is based in Odessa, Texas and plays their home games at Ector County Coliseum. Jackalopes games are broadcast on the radio on Classic Rock 102 or HockeyTV.com

Odessa Oblast

Odessa Oblast (also known as Odesa Oblast; Ukrainian: Одеська область, Odes’ka oblast’, Russian: Одесская область, Odesskaya oblast’) is an oblast (province) of southwestern Ukraine, located along the northern coast of the Black Sea. Its administrative center is the city of Odessa (Ukrainian: Одеса, romanized: Odesa).

The region, the largest in Ukraine by area, is approximately the size of Belgium. The length of coastline (sea-coast and estuaries) reaches 300 km (190 mi), while the state border stretches for 1,200 km (750 mi). The region has eight sea-ports, over 80,000 ha (200,000 acres) of vineyards, and five of the biggest lakes in Ukraine. One of the largest, Yalpuh Lake, is as large as the city of Odessa itself.Odessa, the administrative center of the oblast, is the third-largest city in Ukraine. The town has become known in Ukraine as the "Black Sea Pearl" or as the "Southern Palmyra". Odessa became the first city in Ukraine to see a car, with the internal combustion engine brought to the city in 1891 by Vasiliy Navrotskiy, the chief editor of Odesskiy Listok. After Catherine the Great founded Odessa, one of her foreign military commanders, José de Ribas (1749-1800), brought the lava for making the cobblestones on vulytsia Deribasivska from the Vesuvius volcano near his native Naples. Under that street are the Odessa catacombs, which purportedly exceed the expanse of the catacombs in Paris or Rome.

Odessa University

Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University (Ukrainian: Одеський національний університет імені І. І. Мечникова, Russian: Одесский национальный университет имени И. И. Мечникова), located in Odessa, Ukraine, is one of the country's major universities, named after the scientist Élie Metchnikoff (who studied immunology, microbiology, and evolutionary embryology), a Nobel prizewinner in 1908. The university was founded in 1865, by an edict of Tsar Alexander II of Russia reorganizing the Richelieu Lyceum of Odessa into the new Imperial Novorossiya University. In the Soviet era, the University was renamed Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University (literally, "Odesa National University named after I. I. Mechnikov").

During the century and a half of its existence, the University has earned the reputation of being one of the best educational institutions in Ukraine. The excellence of the University is also recognized outside Ukraine; Odesa National University is one of the highest-ranked universities in the world, occupying 48th place in one rating of universities worldwide.Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University comprises four institutes, ten faculties, and seven specialized councils. The University is famous for its scientific library, the largest and oldest of any university in Ukraine (3,600,000 million volumes, ranging from the 15th century to the present day).

Permian High School

Permian High School is a public high school located in Odessa, Texas and is one of three high schools in the Ector County Independent School District. It was the subject of the book Friday Night Lights which in turn inspired a movie and TV series of the same name.

SC Odesa

SC Odessa is a former Ukrainian football team that appeared in 1992 following the reorganization of the Soviet SKA Odessa. The new city municipal team was located in Odessa, Ukraine and previously at one point was part of the Soviet Army sport system.

Siege of Odessa (1941)

The Siege of Odessa, known to the Soviets as the Defence of Odessa, lasted from 8 August until 16 October 1941, during the early phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II.

Odessa was a port on the Black Sea in the Ukrainian SSR. On 22 June 1941, the Axis powers invaded the Soviet Union. In August, Odessa became a target of the Romanian 4th Army and elements of the German 11th Army. Due to the heavy resistance of the Soviet 9th Independent Army and the rapidly formed Separate Coastal Army, supported by the Black Sea Fleet, it took the Axis forces 73 days of siege and four assaults to take the city. Romanian forces suffered 93,000 casualties, against Red Army casualties estimated to be between 41,000 and 60,000.

Post-war flight of Axis fugitives
Disputed / dubious
See also
Core topics
Deaths and
New World Order
Health, energy,
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