Nazi who saved Hitler is in Spain: Phil Davison in Marbella exposes the Odessa-style network protecting Otto Remer and other old Nazi officers

EVEN after Hitler survived an assassination attempt in his 'Wolf's Lair' in East Prussia 50 years ago today, the conspiring officers had a brief chance to grab power in Berlin and change the course of history. That they were not able to do so had a lot to do with a 31-year-old Nazi officer called Otto Ernst Remer, commander of the so-called Wachtbataillon Grossdeutschland, who was ordered by the conspirators to surround the Berlin ministries, but was persuaded by the Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, to support the Fuhrer.

Thanks to a Spanish neo-Nazi network reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth's partly-fictitious Odessa organisation, Remer, now 81, is living in a rented villa, thought to be paid for by Spanish neo-Nazis, overlooking the Mediterranean. He is new here but there are thought to be around 40 senior Nazi officers living prosperously in Spain, mostly along the Costa del Sol, around Barcelona, or on the Balearic Islands.

While hundreds went on to Latin America after the war, partly the theme of Forsyth's Odessa File, those who stayed here have been protected by an Odessa-like group called the Spanish Circle of Friends of Europe, known by its Spanish acronym, Cedade. The group is registered as a cultural association and is the hub of the European neo-Nazi movement's propaganda network, printing neo-Nazi books, magazines and leaflets openly in Barcelona.

Its leader, 37-year-old Pedro Varela, was convicted in Austria a few years ago, but was later acquitted by an appeals court, for saying publicly that 'the holocaust was an invention of the Hollywood Jews'. Cedade's publishing group, Europa, prints German-language magazines such as Halt and Sieg, which are shipped to Germany and sell many thousands of copies. Mr Varela works closely with Gerd Honsik, 53, an Austrian, who is wanted in his own country for neo- Nazi activities. He is said to be a nephew of Amon Goeth, the Nazi officer whose character was brought back to life in Schindler's List.

(After the 20 July, 1944, attack on Hitler, when a general trying to get a better look at a map of the Russian front shoved aside a briefcase bomb planted beneath the table, probably saving Hitler's life, Goebbels persuaded Remer not to follow the plotters' orders. The propaganda chief put Remer through to Hitler by phone and heard the Fuhrer say: 'As you can hear, I'm very much alive.')

Although Remer is not considered a serious war criminal and has lived partly in Germany since the war, he is a fugitive from German justice. He fled Germany in March after his appeals failed against a 22-month jail term for 'incitation to hate, violence and racism'. Remer, a major when the assassination attempt occurred but promoted to colonel later, publicly endorsed the so-called 'Auschwitz Lie' - that there were no gas chambers, only disinfecting rooms, and that the Holocaust was a fabrication of Jewish propaganda.

He fled to Spain in the knowledge that Cedade, which has strong ties with elderly, Franco- era officers of the army, Guardia Civil and police, would protect him and that extradition would be difficult, since the crime for which he was convicted in Germany did not exist under Spain's legal code. That has since changed, however, and a new, similar law has been passed here since Remer's arrival. As a result, the government has agreed to Germany's extradition request but Remer could stall the process for years through a labyrinth of appeals procedures.

The former Nazi colonel, wishing to publicise his status as one of the leaders most revered by the neo-Nazi movement, repeated the no-Holocaust argument in a Spanish television interview that brought horrified reaction from the country's Jewish community.

'This man should be extradited. I feel like I'm living under Franco again, in a country that remains a paradise for Nazi refugees,' said Violeta Friedman, a 64-year-old Jew living in Madrid who survived Auschwitz but saw her parents, grandmother, brothers and sisters and other relatives gassed there. 'The trouble is that the Spanish judicial system remains riddled with old Franquistas (Franco supporters).' It was largely as a result of Mrs Friedman's efforts that the Spanish parliament made the Auschwitz Lie illegal.

Mrs Friedman won a long court battle against another former Nazi, Belgian SS General Leon Degrelle, several years ago after he, too, denied the Holocaust in a Spanish magazine interview. Degrelle spent the post-war years in Spain, protected first by Franco, then by the neo-Nazi network and died in Malaga this year, aged 87.

Although he is theoretically under house arrest, there are no policemen outside Remer's villa in Marbella and he has been seen, in a wheelchair pushed by friends, in the city centre. He does, not, however, receive a welcome from Johanna van Dalen, the Dutch owner of the villa next to his. Her Jewish husband died in Auschwitz in 1943.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
Nick Clegg playing 'Palin or prom queen'
newsNick Clegg on TV's The Last Leg
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee