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The Churchill-Roosevelt Forgeries
The campaign to revise Hitler’s reputation has gone on for 50 years, but there’s another strategy now. Some of it is built on the work of the head of the Gestapo—who may have enjoyed a comfortable retirement in America.
November/December 2002 | Volume 53, Issue 6
“I can assure you,” Churchill tells Roosevelt in November 1941, “that their goal is… Pearl Harbor.”
Any historian knows, or ought to know, that documents by themselves do not make history, that it is history that makes documents. Who wrote them? And why? Who published them? And why? The provenance of these Churchill-Roosevelt transcripts is in itself surprising, to say the least.
The chief of the Gestapo in Hitler’s Germany was a former Bavarian police officer named Heinrich Müller. (The term Gestapo is often inaccurately used. Heinrich Himmler was the head not of the Gestapo but of the entire Reich security apparatus, of which the Gestapo was an important branch.) Müller was no middle-rank bureaucrat; among other things, he attended the infamous Wannsee Conference in January 1942, where the specific plan for the so-called Final SoIu- tion (liquidation of the Jewish population across Europe and in Russia) was decided upon.
It is almost certain that Müller survived the war. It seems that in 1945, during its last days or shortly thereafter, he fled Germany under an assumed name to Switzerland; that about three years later he was secretly brought to the United States, probably by Alien Dulles, who had been the chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Switzerland during the war and who would become the first head of the CIA; that Müller was interrogated by the CIC (Army Counterintelligence Corps); that extensive records of his interrogations exist; that he lived for a while in a safe house in Washington; and that he eventually died somewhere in the United States. “It seems,” because there is no hard evidence about this amazing story, even though there are all kinds of other evidence, including the names of his American interrogators and his (edited or not) answers. What is certain is that both the Swiss and the American secret services have been extremely sensitive, if not altogether panicky, about revelations involving Müller. What is also certain is that the West Berlin grave marked with Heinrich Müller’s name, date of birth (1900), and supposed death (1945) was exhumed on orders of the West German government in 1963 and did not contain his body.
This is, of course, an at least potentially explosive story in itself. Various revelatory books published during the last 30 years have described the occasional cooperation of American secret services with former Nazi personages in the Cold War. But the protecting and paying and bringing to this country of the head of the Gestapo takes the cake. However, the writer of this article is a historian, not a Nazi hunter. Let a first-class reporter go after the Müller story. I am less interested in Müller than in what he brought here with him, and why.
Three smallish volumes containing the Müller interrogations and documents he produced have been published by a small firm in California under the title of Gestapo Chief: The 1948 Interrogation of Heinrich Müller, edited and with (a poor, but that is not the point) commentary by “Gregory Douglas,” most probably a pseudonym of an American of German origin who knew the name of at least one of Müller’s interrogators and got hold of the record of the interrogations and the documents. Some of these “documents” are patently false. Others have at least some marks of authenticity, as, for example, the transcripts of the Churchill-Roosevelt telephone conversations.
I was told of the existence of these Müller volumes five years ago by a German woman, the historian Marlis Steinert, who is the author of a very good biography of Hitler. Thereafter I was able to acquire them. My main interest was less Müller than the documents. Two things struck me as I read the transcripts of the Churchill-Roosevelt telephone talks. One was that unlike in other documents Müller brought forth, whoever produced them knew a great many accurate details and historical circumstances of the time. The other was my growing conviction that these transcripts were falsified—cleverly falsified, but falsified nonetheless—with the purpose of producing evidence of unspeakable conspiratorial endeavors by Roosevelt and Churchill. I had only circumstantial evidence that these transcripts were forgeries. A few examples: In the July 29, 1943, transcript, Churchill and Roosevelt talk at length about what to do with Mussolini and whether to have him assassinated. In the German Army’s summary of this conversation there is no mention of Mussolini. Moreover, between July 25 and 30, the six days after Mussolini’s fall from power, Churchill and Roosevelt exchanged 19 written messages; they contain just one very brief mention of Mussolini. Worse, Roosevelt in the Müller transcript keeps referring to Churchill’s alleged complicity in the assassination of the French admiral Jean Darlan seven months before and to Churchill’s role in the airplane accident that killed the Polish prime minister Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski, four weeks after their supposed discussion on how to liquidate Mussolini. But perhaps more telling is that in this transcript Churchill does not at all sound the way he talked. ("Of course there are negative aspects to every business, Franklin.” “At this point in history, I feel a watershed has been passed and the momentum lies with us now.” Of all people, Winston Churchill was not a man for a mixed metaphor. And in 1941 and 1943 he did not call the President “Franklin"—surely not on the telephone.)