Budapest to Vienna 1944
Budapest: Dawn on Christmas Eve 1944. The Soviet Armies were encircling Budapest from the South and East. Those who could leave were fleeing East to Vienna and beyond, while they still could. The death-throws of Budapest would be long and violent but the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
On 1944-NOV-04, Allied press reported that the Soviets were nine miles from Budapest and panic was sweeping through the city. According to Germans captured by the Soviet Army, there was looting in Budapest, with shooting between the police and gangs of looters. Also shooting between German troops and some Hungarian troops. Civilian authorities attempting to requisition vehicles were meeting resistance, including shooting, from civilians who were attempting to preserve their ability to escape the Soviet encirclement. It was estimated by the Soviets that the German and Hungarian armies had lost half their transport during fighting between the Danube and the Tisza in northern Hungary.
Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann had been stationed in Budapest for many months, charged with organizing the logistics of the Final Solution . Eichmann had only a sixty-strong staff of SS officers with him, the actual round-up and deportation of the Jews being carried out by 300,000 Hungarian civil servants and police.
Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenburg was attempting to negotiate the exemption of Jews who would be caught in Eichmann's dragnet. Wallenburg works on Eichmann continually and invites him to dinner to renew his charm offensive.
Christmas Eve 1944. They dine at the restaurant on the top of the Citadel , the fortress above the river overlooking the city. The large picture windows of the restaurant overlook the besieged city.
From Nazi Hunter - The Wiesenthal File by Alan Levy 1993 published by Constable and Robinson, Page 191 :
»Wallenburg and Eichmann - life and death sparring with each other while wrestling with the clock, or, as Wiesenthal puts it, 'two enemies with the same enemy: time' - had one last face-to-face encounter in December 1944, with the sound and sight of Soviet artillery fire, already on the outskirts of Budapest as a backdrop.
Hearing that Eichmann had said 'I know the war is lost, but I'm still going to win my war', Wallenberg had invited him to his apartment for dinner in one last effort to dissuade him. Then, in his flurry of activity and changes of address for safety from Eichmann, Dannecker and others, Raoul forgot about the event.
He happened to be at home, but was taken aback when Eichmann and an aid, both in full uniform, appeared at the door. After serving his guest a drink.«
[Eichmann dines with Raoul Wallenburg at Berg's on Gellert Hill at Wallenberg's invitation].
»During an elegant meal on fine china with rare wines, they talked about everything but the war. Over coffee and brandies in the sitting-room, however, Wallenberg extinguished the lights and treated his guest to a picture-window view of the Red Army's rocket's glare and the rolling thunder of an artillery barrage. 'Look how close the Bolsheviks are,' he told Eichmann. 'Your war is almost over. Nazism is doomed, finished, and so are those who cling to his hatred until the very last. It's the end of the Nazis, the end of Hitler, and the end of Eichmann.'«
»Several of the people in the room quavered, but Eichmann didn't flinch at Raoul's attack. 'All right, I agree with you,' Eichmann admitted calmly. 'I've never believed in all of Hitler's ideology, but it has after all, given me a good career, a good life. You're right, Wallenberg. Soon, very soon, this comfortable life will end. No more airplanes bringing women and wine from France. The Russians will take my horses, my dogs, and my palace on Rose Hill. They'd probably shoot me on the spot. For me there's no escape, no liberation. There are, however, some consolations. If I continue to eliminate our enemies until the end, it may delay our defeat - even for just a few days. And then, when I finally do walk to the gallows at least I'll know I've completed my mission.'«
[the conversation continues]
»Eichmann fled Budapest a few nights later when the Hungarian Government fled to Sopron on the border of what used to be Austria. For a few terrible weeks, Budapest belonged to the rampaging Arrow Cross [Hungarian Fascists] hoodlums plus such freelance fanatics as Mrs Wilmos Salzer, a society lady who liked to burn naked Jewesses with candles ... Kurt Rettmann, a former telephone company official who believed in shooting Jews on sight ... and Father Andras Kun, a Minorite monk clad in black cape and carrying giant crucifix in one hand, snub-nosed revolver in the other, and hate-literature in his robes. All three practiced what they preached - and so did their followers. As his executioners aimed their rifles at Jews they had tortured within an inch of their lives, Father Kun would give the command: 'In the holy name of Jesus, fire!'«
Levy's book should not be read without also reading Guy Walter's Hunting Evil.
Dining in splendid surroundings while the flashes on the horizon make visible the advance of the Bolshevik Horde as they set light to the ruins of the Third Reich must have quite an extraordinary atmosphere.
It seems that Wallenburg was arrested by no less than then Colonel and eventually to be President Brezhnev while driving a desirable saloon car, to which Brezhnev was known to be partial throughout his life. There is a strong likelihood that he was arrested purely in order to confiscate his saloon car. Once arrested, there was no mechanism for proving innocence in the Soviet arrest system. Intelligence officers were rewarded by how many enemies of the state they pulled in. Not how many innocent ones they released. The opening chapters of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago (1973) detail the lumbering, nearly-blind half-witted giant that was the Soviet state security apparatus at this time.
Gestapo Headquarters was in a villa on a plot now occupied by the Hotel Korszallo , but Eichmann had been based at the Hotel Majestic. Pulling out of Budapest at the last moment, Eichmann and his driver pushed the Mercedes-Benz hard out of Budapest to the north-west and around to the West to pick up what is now the old road to Vienna. Soviet Artillery already had the road under fire and one can imagine the scene through the narrow windshield across the end of the hood and the three-pointed star, the arc of the shells as they landed and exploded intermittently across the rolling snowy landscape like a storm-driven tide breaking over a causeway which shortly it shall engulf.
Eichmann must have only just escaped the Soviet net because at dawn on Christmas Eve Soviet tanks from the encircling pincers met in the suburbs of Buda.
As the Soviet encirclement closed, the siege of Budapest would begin, and last until the final attempt at a break-out on 1945-FEB-12/14 by surviving German and Hungarian troops.
DDAC map of Europe in 1939. Eichmann would have swung north out of Budapest to escape the encircling Soviet ring and then along the valley of the Donau to Gyor . At Gyor he would have swung north toward Pressburg (Bratislava) and then into Austria and to Wien.
Vienna to Altaussee
As Vienna fell to the Soviets the Order of the Day from the Wehrmacht was »Berlin will remain German. Vienna will be German again.«. But the collapse was certain now and everyone knew it. Eichmann's mind would have been on avoiding capture and escaping. While in Vienna he would have carried out little of his official function relating to the Final Solution . He would have concentrated on his next move, which would have been to the Alpenfestung - the interior of Austria which, at least in planning, was meant to be fortified for a prolonged resistance in that manner which the Swiss fortified Switzerland in preparation for the Cold War, with tank traps already cast in situ, bridges designed for ease of demolition, bunkers with interlocking arcs of fire. But the Reich was spent, physically and financially. Emotionally, the populace hoped that at the last moment the Western Allies would accept Germany's surrender and join with them to throw the Bolshevik Horde back into Asia. Rumors, the chief medium of communication in wartime, spread concerning tales of German forces retreating from the Eastern Front under Allied air cover. But if this ever happened it was merely a friendly fire incident. Fighter pilots cannot make out details on the ground, such as the type of tank they are shooting at. Meanwhile the RAF continued to bomb targets in Austria, and their Jabos continued to strafe anything which moved on the roads, vehicles, horses, refugees. Eichmann would know that the boiling rumble of Soviet artillery which ringed Budapest that night on Gellerts Hill would once again find him in Vienna, like a slow ring of fire on a map which has been lit with a match.
Plan of the Alpenfestung in 1945 complied by Roland Kaltenegger.
Fischerndorf 8, above Altaussee , where Adolf Eichmann hid from the Americans after the fall of Vienna to the Soviets.
The mountains are behind and the lake is behind the camera. He stayed here for some months after the end of the war along with other Nazis such as Kaltenbrunner, Höttl and Skorzeny . Kaltenbrunner's house, the Villa Kerry, is further back along the lake shore in the direction of Bad Aussee. Fischerndorf 8 belonged to an uncle of Eichmann's.
Map of Bad Aussee and Altaussee. The road from Bad Ischl to the north runs past Bad Aussee. You descend down into Bad Aussee and either turn east to head up the long shore of the Grundlsee and up again to the Toplitzsee, or you head north to Altaussee and the Altausseer See.
Map of Bad Aussee and Altaussee showing the disposition of hideouts of Eichmann, Kaltenbrunner and Skorzeny. Goebbels had a vacation house on the south side of the Grundlesee, but he was still in Berlin in the Führerbunker. General Kesselring was also in Austria, having completed the retreat of German forces from Italy, but was not connected with Bad Aussee. The owner of the Gasthof where he stayed still owns Kesselring's dress sword.
Kaltenbrunner retreated to the Albert Appel Haus Alpine Hütte in the high regions of the Totes Gebirg mountains (the Dead Mountains) to the east of Altaussee in the days following the surrender.
DDAC (wartime ADAC ) 1939 road map of Deutƒchen Alpenlandes. The Salzkammergut , the Austrian Lake Region is between Salzburg (center of map) to the north-west and Linz to the north-east.
You can see that in 1939 the München-Salzburg Autobahn was completed and the Salzburg-Linz Autobahn was planned. After the end of the war, an American officer used to drive a looted Auto Union racing car racing car along the autobahn from München to Augsburg every night after curfew. Looting by the Allies was rife, with everything from personal possessions through to works of art looted by ranks from private through to general. The looting even made it through into fiction: The American officer in Kelly's Heroes (1970) who is trying to get his looted yacht transported back to the United States was not merely a plot element in the movie.
DDAC map of Europe 1940 showing Austria. The northernmost end of the Adriatic appears center bottom.
The position of the locations in which hoards of valuables (gold and gemstones) were discovered in various years after May 1945.
Eichmann, Kaltenbrunner and possibly Skorzeny would have hidden the hoards of valuables in these locations in the closing days of the war, almost certainly with the complicity of the local inhabitants. The forested mountainsides provided cover for any quantity of hidden containers, should these hiding places not be enough. Fresh hoards are still being discovered today, when renovation and building work is undertaken on buildings.
The valuables had two sources: The contents of the Reichsbank in Berlin and the looted valuables of Hungarian Jewry from Budapest which were transported on what became known as the Gold Train. The valuables from the Reichsbank were, obviously, precious metals and banknotes. The valuables from the Gold Train, which were shipped from Budapest.
If Eichmann was involved with the confiscation of valuables looted from Hungarian Jewry (and he must have had access to or oversight of the program) then it is possible that he creamed off the most valuable valuables from the loot, which would have been gemstone jewelry and articles of jewelry made from gold. This is a suggestion not an assumption as looting was punished severely by the SS on other occasions.
Large quantities of valuables were stored at Schloss Fischorn under the control of SS-Standartenführer Josef Spacil . It is likely that at least a portion of these valuables were from the Gold Train. Spacil was handing out large quantities of the valuables to SS visitors to Schloss Fischorn, which might have included Eichmann and Kaltenbrunner and did include Skorzeny.
Several hoards were discovered buried in the grounds of Schloss Fischorn when the Americans arrived in May 1945.
A note on valuables: Immediately after the war, food, which was already short during the war, became even more scarse. Those Germans who possessed any item which we would consider valuable began to sell them in order to exchange them for a currency, such as cigarettes, or directly barter them for food. The only people still being paid were Allied soldiers, who bought up huge quantities of valuables and shipped them back home. German parachute containers were a favorite for this. Jewelry, furs, cameras, and looted Nazi items were popular with the troops. How valuable an item was would be determined by the market. When people were starving, they would sell anything at any price to obtain food. Women found that sex could be traded for food and supplies and otherwise respectable women turned to prostitution. This element of post-war Europe is best described in the memoir Naples '44 by Norman Lewis , which was written by a military policeman who was posted to Naples after the Allies took it. As a consequence, Syphilis became rife and penicillin to cure Syphilis became almost as valuable as food. It was referred to as »White Gold«. The plot of The Third Man (1949) revolves around it. Clearly the very large hoards of Reichsbank Gold were always going to be valuable, but the boxcars of items looted from Hungarian Jewry, for example, were valuable mainly in a historical sense. They were bulky and difficult to move, hide or sell for their pre-war value. Certainly, a German who was escaping and had nothing but his remaining Reichsmarks would gain at least some advantage from a few pocket-fulls of jewelry. These possessions would not, however, be a passport to a life or riches or the cornerstone of finance for a Nazi escape network.
The church in Fischerndorf. A hoard of gems was discovered behind the screen in the nave.
The innkeeper's barns at Bla Alm, above Altaussee. A hoard of gems was discovered under the flooring. The road from Altaussee is behind you. The inn is just around to the left.
The inn at Bla Alm
Café Fischer at Alt Aussee. A hoard of gems was discovered in the walls.
The road and bridge to Bla Alm.
The Café Fischer and the road to Bla Alm (up to the right).
Hotel Am See , Fischerndorf. A hoard of gems was discovered hidden here.
Kaltenbrunner's house at Altausee, the Villa Kerry.
The Villa Kerry
The Villa Kerry
The Villa Kerry from the road
The Villa Kerry from the road between the Café Fischer and Fischerndorf.
+ SEE ALSO
- Otto Skorzeny
Hunting Evil by Guy Walters published by Bantam Books ISBN 978-0-553-87939-7 www.guywalters.com - Perhaps the definitive work on post-war Nazis. Successfully de-bunks the myth of the ODESSA network. The first comprehensive, all-inclusive account of the capture of Adolf Eichmann. Large quantities of newly discovered archive material and eye-witness accounts. Successfully exposes the media and publishing circus which built-up around Nazi-hunting.
- Drama Between Budapest and Vienna - The Final Battles of 6. Panzer-Armee in the East - 1945 by Georg Maier published by JJ Fedorowicz Publishing www.jjfpub.mb.ca 2004 ISBN 0921991789
- Battle for Budapest by Krisztian Ungvary published by IB Tauris www.ibtauris.com 2003 ISBN 978 1 84885 973 9
- Die Schlact am Budapest 1944/1945 by Krisztian Ungvary published by FA Herbig 1999
- Budapest Ostroma by Krisztian Ungvary published by Corvina 1998
-- Krisztian Ungvary is still researching the Battle of Budapest and the publication of his editions has prompted survivors of the battle from all nations to come forward to him.
- Drama Between Budapest and Vienna by Georg Maier published by JJ Fedorowicz www.jjfpub.mb.ca 2004
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
+ The Siege of Budapest
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