Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler by Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams | Hardcover, 384 pages, US$24.95 Publication Date: October 4, 2011
On April 27, 1945, Adolf Hitler spoke briefly with one of the SS soldiers standing guard outside the Führerbunker, the last refuge of the inner circle of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. “Germany,” he said, “can hope for the future only if the whole world thinks I am dead.”
It seems impossible to believe that Adolf Hitler could not only have escaped Germany but, in fact, survived in relative comfort in Argentina until his death of natural causes in 1962. Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams’ new book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, which released earlier this month, presents a remarkable, linear account of a sequence of shadowy events occurring in the final days of World War II that is neatly timelined and meticulously sourced.
Recalling the early realization – in 1943 – by Party Reichsleiter Martin Bormann of the necessity of planning a route of final retreat, the book navigates the various stages of creation and execution of what may have been one of the most daring and enigmatic escapes in history. It examines the early preparations of a secret German base in the Canary Islands as well as mid-level contacts between Germany and the United States, when the latter was presented with an opportunity to turn a blind-eye to Hitler’s escape with the choice of “a carrot or a stick.” (The U.S. could, on the one hand, accept a secret exile for a dozen members of the Nazi hierarchy, in which case Germany would dutifully capitulate and peacefully transfer her gold, art and scientific patents to a victorious, U.S.-led allied coalition. Alternatively, they could refuse such an offer, in which event said treasures would be destroyed and the great, unscathed cities of the U.S. east coast would find themselves under sudden and punishing attack from submarine-launched, nerve gas equipped, V-1 rockets.)
The indicators of an escape are presented in chillingly irrefutable detail. There is the case of Luftwaffe pilot Peter Baumgart who declared, in court testimony, he had personally flown Hitler and his entourage to an intermediate destination in Denmark. Baumgart’s testimony would be corroborated by notes from the U.S. Army interrogation of an SS officer who claimed to have witnessed the escape, though – according to Dunstan and Williams – at least one of the men would mysteriously disappear shortly after levying the charges.
Or consider the series of declassified FBI telegrams from August 1945 reporting of local police activity investigating the presence of Hitler in Villa Gessel, Argentina – a German colony in a country whose political power class had become agents of influence of Berlin.
Or, perhaps, claims of former sailors of the Admiral Graf Spee – a German cruiser scuttled off the Argentine coast whose crew had been stranded in that nation – that they had assisted in securing the scene of Hitler’s coastal landing from a Kriegsmarine U-Boat and had personally interacted with the Führer.
While some gaps of time and evidence are accounted for by deductive assumption, these are mostly excusable given the uniqueness of the subject matter and the obvious dearth of primary sources from which the authors had to draw. Grey Wolf is not a court case ready for presentation. It’s a musing on the probability of a What If scenario and, when taken in that sense, will withstand many of the most pointed examinations of the book’s conclusive accuracy. If there is one flaw in Grey Wolf it is the several chapters of filler text that occupies the first third of the book in which Dunstan and Williams fete the reader with a parade of horribles perpetrated by the National Socialist government to establish, apparently, the villainous nature of the title character; what we assume the authors believe to be an obligatory gesture to avoid being dismissed as revisionists. Despite this minor annoyance we’re able to give Grey Wolf an enthusiastic five stars.
Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler is available now.