The Comerciante Océano Pacífico, a Spanish-flagged merchantman, had been sent to Samborombón Bay in the Argentine section of the River Plate estuary ostensibly with the clandestine mission of replenishing the increasingly desperate South Atlantic U-boats. Replenishment was not, however, its only secret mission. It was also charged with smuggling into Argentina equipment and supplies intended to aid the escape from internment of the crew of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, which had been scuttled in the harbor of Montevideo, Uruguay, in December 1939, after a running battle with the Royal Navy.
The repatriation of the Graf Spee crew was especially dear to the heart of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who had himself escaped internment in Argentina during the First World War.
There was a third, far more secret, mission for the Océano Pacífico. It had become clear to a number of Hitler's highest-ranking associates that the war might be lost - and probably would be - and that the life span of the Thousand-Year Reich was likely to be only a matter of years, perhaps less. With that in mind, it was deemed prudent to establish in South America a place of refuge.
"Operation Phoenix" was set in motion. Money was ob-tained, largely from Jews, either from the dead - jewelry, gold fillings, and the like - or from the living, by way of extortion.
The equivalent of $100,000,000 (in various currencies, including American dollars) was aboard the Océano Pacífico. Once smuggled ashore, along with the material for the interned Graf Spee crew, the money would be covertly placed in Argentine banks and used to establish a South American refuge for Nazis who not only hoped to escape punishment for their crimes, but who also sought a place where the Nazi philosophy could be kept alive for an eventual return to Germany.
Himmler raised his eyes to Korvettenkapitän Boltitz.
"Please be so good as to thank Herr von Ribbentrop for me," he said.
"Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer."
"That will be all," Himmler said. "Thank you."
Korvettenkapitän Boltitz rendered another crisp Nazi salute, which Himmler again returned casually, then made a military about-face and marched out of Himmler's office.
Since the door to the outer office remained open, rather than returning to his desk and using the intercom, Himmler raised his voice and called, "Frau Hassler!"
Frau Hassler was tall, thin, and in her early fifties; and she wore her gray-flecked hair in a bun. When she appeared at his door moments later, she was clutching her stenographer's notebook and three pencils.
"Please ask Oberführer von Deitzberg to see me immediately." Oberführer was a rank peculiar to the SS that fell between colonel and brigadier general.
"Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer," Frau Hassler said, and pulled the door closed.
Manfred von Deitzberg, Himmler's adjutant, appeared in less than a minute. He was a tall, slim, blond, forty-two-year-old Westphalian; his black SS uniform was finely tailored, and there was an air of elegance about him.
He entered the room without knocking, closed the door after him, then leaned against it and looked quizzically at Himmler. He did not render the Nazi salute, formally or informally.
"We've heard from Goltz," Himmler said, and held the message out to him.
Von Deitzberg walked to the desk, took the message, and read it. When he'd finished, he looked at Himmler, returned the message to him, but said nothing.
"Comments?" Himmler asked.
"It looks like good news," von Deitzberg said.
"The Operation has not been completed. Either part of it."
"He seems confident that it will succeed . . . that both parts of it will succeed. You aren't?"
Excerpted from Secret Honor, by W. E. B. Griffin. © January 10, 2000 , W. E. B. Griffin used by permission of the publisher. No part of this book can be reproduced without written permission from the publisher
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