By Géraldine SCHWARZ


Documentary - Completed 2014

The recent opening of secret German State archives sheds new light on the destiny of former Third Reich officials, who were recruited in the Middle East after World War II to join the fight against Israel by military actions and propaganda.

    • Year of production
    • 2014
    • Genres
    • Documentary, Historical
    • Countries
    • FRANCE
    • Languages
    • Duration
    • 52 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Géraldine SCHWARZ
    • Writer(s)
    • Géraldine SCHWARZ
    • Producer(s)
    • Olivier MILLE (Artline Films)
    • Synopsis
    • The recent opening of secret German State archives sheds new light on the destiny of former Third Reich officials.
      Historians discover that Nazis were recruited in the Middle East after World War II to join the fight against Israel by military actions and propaganda. Nazi activities in the region also targeted British and French interests, just as the Third Reich had supported Arab countries against the old colonial powers. In secret, West Germany mysteri-ously protected some of these very special agents, instead of bringing them to justice. The turmoil of the Cold war, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the struggle for economic influence gave those Nazis a second chance in the Middle East.
      One of the most revolting phenomena of the post-World War II era is the impunity that was enjoyed by former Nazi criminals. Many of them managed to permanently escape justice by erasing all traces of their activities during the Third Reich and melting into German society. But for those whose role in the Nazi war machine had been too important to allow for post-war anonymity, staying in Europe was too risky. Hundreds, if not thou-sands, of top-ranking SS officers managed to flee over-seas, including some 50 or so who were accused of the most heinous crimes.
      South America was a favored destination.
      But another region of the world was just as welcom-ing.
      A region that until now has not been associated in most people’s minds with Nazi flight: the Middle East.
      Until now, no book or film has told the whole story of Nazis in exile in the Middle East. Except for some research about Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s deputy who found a safe haven in Syria, historians and journalists have barely scratched the surface. Why? Partly because South America monopolized attention on the subject, and partly because investigative work and access to archives are virtually impossible in Egypt and Syria. But above all, it’s because the issue raises questions that are essentially taboo in light of the explosive Israeli-Arab conflict that is still current.
      The Nazi community in the Middle East was consid-erably more active than the one in South America.
      This film tells the story of an alliance between former Nazis and the authorities in Egypt and Syria at a time when those countries’ goal was to annihilate Israel.
      It is the story of the importation of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda into Arab countries.
      It is the story of weapons trafficking for the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian War of Inde-pendence from France.
      One alliance often leads to another.
      The broader picture includes the implication, or even direct complicity, of a wide range of international authorities. Particularly Adenauer’s government and the German and American intelligence agencies.
      Even before they settled in the Middle East, those former Nazis – like those who fled to South America – were aided in their escape from Europe by collaboration from a wide range of international organizations, generally acting independently of each other: the CIS (Counter Intelli-gence Service, ancestor of the CIA); Catholic prelates, including bishops who were very close to the Vatican; the International Red Cross, indulgent Italian authorities, Interpol...
      The different facets of this complicity fit into the frame-work of the Israel-Arab conflict, the Cold War, and of emerging economic markets to nurture.
      For the most part, once those former Nazis arrived in their safe haven, they lived openly, under their real names; were often protected and even recruited by their host countries, and maintained contact with Germany. Al-though the international community roundly denounced Nazi atrocities, no one ever bothered to come after their perpetrators in the Middle East, and even less in South America. Egypt, Tunisia, Syria: so close, and yet so safe…
      Not only were these men able to live peaceful lives, far from the dock of international tribunals, but they were also able to nurture part of their Nationalist-Socialist ideals through their activities in the Middle East: anti-Semitism and the hatred of former colonial powers.
      More than 60 years after the events, it is time to shed light on this secret history of Nazi exile to the Middle East. When new archives were opened by the CIA and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs a few years ago, it allowed research into this hitherto unexplored topic to begin. But one recent, crucial event is what has really made the difference: the opening of the archives of the BND, the German intelligence agency.
      Thanks to this previously unpublished information, now analyzed by historians, the film will assemble the pieces of the puzzle and compose an overall view of the profile of former Nazis in the Middle East, their activities, influ-ence and networks… as well as the sources of the interna-tional complicity they benefited from.
    • Partners & financing
    • France Televisions
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