This was not the only address, however, for on another page one comes across two of the most infamous addresses on that part of the Ratline known as the “monastery route”: Via Albaro 38 in Genoa, and Via Tomacelli 132 in Rome. Both addresses are specifically linked in the diary to the name of Krunoslav Draganovic, the Roman Catholic monsignor who was the administrator of one of the most sinister operations of post-war Europe.

As we have seen in Chapter Three, Draganovic—a Croatian priest of the Catholic Church—was part of a larger group of Catholic clergy that included bishops and cardinals who were instrumental in assisting hundreds (if not thousands) of Nazi SS officers and other indictable war criminals to escape. In fact, underneath the Genoa address in Pöch’s diary is the one word “Vatican.”

In the antique Gabelsberger shorthand, there is found the following intriguing testimony:

“Short Description of the Individual Pursuit by the Allies and the Local Authority in the year 1946 in Salzburg. We both, my wife and I, in 1945 in Salzburg.”

This is consistent with information that Georg Anton Pöch was the medical officer of the Salzburg Gau. Hella Pöch was on the board of the Vienna Anthropological Society throughout the war until 1945, so it is possible that—after their Netherlands adventures—the Pöch couple wound up back in Austria if, indeed, they ever left. In Salzburg when the war ended they were eventually questioned by the CIC (the Counter Intelligence Corps of the US Army which was, at the time, the only military agency involved in actively hunting Nazi war criminals).

But the question remains: why? Why did the Pöch couple find it necessary to evade the Allied authorities in Salzburg and eventually flee to Italy and escape Europe altogether? The author has been unable to find their

names on any of the lists of wanted Nazis, war criminals, Nazi scientists, etc. that were in the hands of the CIC. Recourse to recently declassified CIA and FBI files from the war years similarly was fruitless. There is virtually no record at all of these two individuals, except in the annals of the Viennese anthropologists and “race scientists.” Among all their colleagues, the Pöchs were “unwanted.” Yet, there seems to be a wall of silence surrounding them in Europe. Even the Rudolf Pöch Institute in Vienna claims to know nothing more about his wife, Hella Pöch, even though she was a prominent member of the Vienna Anthropological Society and still bore her husband’s familiar and unmistakable surname, and even though they have it on record when she died (possibly for legal reasons; as the widow of Rudolf Pöch it is possible she had an interest in his estate; proving her death might have released her assets as well as those of Rudolf Pöch, but since the Institute does not respond to repeated inquiries we may never know the truth). And Georg Anton Pöch? If we trust the available records and archives, he might as well have never existed after April, 1945. In fact, he barely existed before then. It seems his only claim to fame in those days was his marriage to the indefatigable Hella.

A tantalizing clue follows in the next few sentences of the Pöch diary:

“My wife had to deal with the CIC a total of five times, sometimes at home and sometimes at CIC offices…. I was accused of falsifying information and of war crimes, concerning the death of Jews in Camp Macorr.”

Unfortunately, there is no record of a “Camp Macorr” anywhere in Europe and, indeed, the name appears to be a corruption of another name, the corruption perhaps due to the Glasberger shorthand that might have not been up to the task of recording foreign names. If the camp in question was in Poland or in one of the occupied territories there is every reason to believe that its name was garbled in translation. There were thousands of camps and sub-camps during the war, so it is entirely possible that further research will reveal the identity of this place.108

Why would the Pöchs be accused of war crimes and specifically of the death of Jews in a concentration or extermination camp? If they were anthropologists, how would they have been culpable of mass murder? Unfortunately, as we will see, many of their anthropologist colleagues were

capable of just such activities and several of them were arrested, charged, convicted and in some cases executed for them.

Further along in the diary we read:

“The thing that damned me and my wife were documents revealed by the government Chancellery office according to a report by Mr. Von Kruz, a despicable human being.”

It is impossible to tell to what documents Pöch refers, but they were enough to implicate both Georg Anton and Hella Pöch in the murder of Jews in the camps. The name “von Kruz” is an unlikely one. There is no record of a von Kruz or a von Kurz or even a Kruze or Kruise with either the CIC or in any other capacity. Von Kruz means, literally, “of the Cross” and often is used in conjunction with Johann von Kruz or “John of the Cross,” a famous Catholic saint. The author has tried several different variations of the name and still comes up empty. It is entirely possible that the name was a kind of inside joke at someone else’s expense, perhaps a way of designating a particularly religious interrogator. It is also possible— and difficult to establish at this remove—that the “von Kruz” was not one of the Allied interrogators but someone who wrote a report for the Reich during the war, complaining about the Pöch couple. We will not be able to identify this person until more records are forthcoming from the Vienna Anthropological Society, the Rudolf Pöch Institute, and/ or the wartime files of the German government itself.

According to the diary, the Pöch couple survive the five CIC interrogations and eventually make their way to Graz where they wait for six weeks before going on to a place identified only as “J”. There is no indication as to how long they spent in Salzburg, except that it was from 1945 to—at least—1946.

The letter “J” is not the only enigmatic reference in the diary. The complete list of letter designations runs:


Dr Sosro believed that these letters stood for Berlin, Salzburg, Graz, Jugoslavia, Belgrade, Sarajevo and Rome, respectively. This is not entirely a fanciful conclusion, as it is clear from the diary that the Pöchs were first

in Salzburg and then in Graz109, and that they eventually wound up in Rome. That accounts for three of the seven letters in the proper order of the escape route. We may be tempted to assign the first “B” to Berlin or even Berchtesgaden (although there is no evidence that the Pöch couple was ever in either place), in which case we only have to identify the remaining three letters, and this is where the difficulty lies.

Jugoslavia (or Yugoslavia) was Communist-controlled territory in those days. Belgrade and Sarajevo both would have been deep within that zone. It sounds as if it would have been suicidal for any Nazi—let alone Hitler—to enter Yugoslavian territory at that time. Yet, even the notorious “Angel of Death” of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele, ventured into the Soviet zone for several weeks during his escape from the Allies “in the late summer and early fall of 1945” as described in the official OSI report on Mengele,110 an adventure that would have lead to certain death if he had been captured by the Russians, for it was the Russian Army that liberated Auschwitz and was witness to the horrors that were perpetrated there.

Strangely, however, a letter appeared in the declassified FBI files on Hitler that insists that the Fuhrer himself was in the same region as the Pöch couple, if we are to believe Dr. Sosro’s account.

The letter is dated “At the end of May, 1948” from Cavalesso (i.e., Cavalese), Italy.111 In it, the writer claims that Hitler was living in a small hamlet called Bobovo, which was located in the Ponikva region of Lower Styria (today, east central Slovenia), about 47 kilometers southwest of Maribor (Marburg). The directions in the letter for reaching the hamlet were quite specific, allowing for differences in spelling (“Ponikva pri Žalcu” was spelled “Ponikva pri Jelsah”, for instance). The writer claimed that Hitler was living there quietly, and that there was some rumor about him traveling to or from South America.

What makes the letter compelling is the fact that it was written in German but sent from Cavalese, Italy, which immediately brings the Ratline to mind. Cavalese is only a few kilometers south of Bolzano in the Italian Tyrol where major elements of the Ratline were located and through which many war criminals would pass.

The letter was originally addressed to the CIA, but it was forwarded for some reason to J. Edgar Hoover. It was translated into English, but the German original was also attached to the file. The unnamed forwarder of the letter remarked that the writer was either not German or not an

uneducated German due to several spelling errors; further, the fact that “Stati Uniti” was used for “United States” made the forwarder believe that the author was an Italian.

This was a case of over-analyzing the data. A person living in northern Italy in that particular place might well have been an Italian of German ancestry or an Austrian or even some other nationality who had a good working knowledge of German. It actually goes to support the provenance of the letter as having come from someone with an insider’s knowledge of the Ratline.

The letter does not seem to have been followed up, but for some reason the author of the letter did not think it strange that the most wanted man in Germany would have been hiding in Slovenia, in Communist-controlled Yugoslavia. This random letter from the FBI file may actually go a long way towards supporting Dr. Sosro’s contention that Pöch wound up in Yugoslavia for a while.

The author can only conjecture as to the reasons for the Pöchs to go to Yugoslavia (if, in fact, that is what the letters represent). Belgrade (also known as Beograd) is in Serbia and Sarajevo in Bosnia. There seems no logical reason for a Nazi fleeing from the frying pan to dive into the fire, for Serbia was the enemy of Croatia; the former were largely Eastern Orthodox and the Croatians were Catholics who— when they were in a position of power during the war—forced many Serbians to convert to Catholicism before shipping them to the death camps or actually slaughtering them outside the very churches where they had been forced to convert. Fr. Draganovic would have been no help to the Nazis in Serbia, unless he had underground contacts there from the war (which, of course, he claimed he did to the CIC)…but why would they go to such hostile territory in the Communist East when Italy was much safer and so close, across the Tyrolean Alps where the rest of the fleeing Nazis would find themselves?

Yet, the evidence does seem to point in that direction. To go from Salzburg to Graz was definitely counter-intuitive for someone escaping the Allied forces. Graz was close to the border of Slovenia, one of the states that made up the former Yugoslavia, and far to the east of the Tyrol where most of the escaping criminals were hiding, waiting for their false identity papers. The mysterious letter to the CIA concerning a Hitler sighting in the Ponikva region of Slovenia reinforces this idea. The Pöchs were going in the opposite direction from safety and if they did, indeed, wind up in

Belgrad and Sarajevo they were headed not towards Genoa and a boat to Argentina, but towards Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. The hard way, through Communist controlled Serbia and Bosnia.

Bosnia is at least partly understandable, as during the war it was part of the Croatian Independent State, which was a Nazi puppet regime. Draganovic was a Croatian priest and was helping many of his countrymen escape the Communists by sending them to South America. And there was a large Muslim presence in Bosnia, which, due to the recruiting efforts of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, had fielded a Muslim SS Division during the war, the famous Handschar Division also known as the 13th Waffen Mountain Division-SS and the 1st Croatian Division-SS. But after the war, the directionality of flight for the Nazis was from Bosnia and Croatia to the west; not the other way around. Had the Pöchs continued on their way south and east, they would have had a much longer and much more dangerous excursion ahead of them before they reached sanctuary somewhere in Syria, Palestine or Egypt. They would have had to deal first with Yugoslav partisans who were fierce opponents of the Nazi regime; then, as Yugoslavia was declared a Socialist Republic in January of 1946, they would have had to deal with a government that was similarly hostile. While the Allies in the west—the British, French and Americans—were just as eager to imprison Nazi war criminals, the general consensus among the Nazis themselves was that it was far better to be captured by those enemies than by the Soviets who would show them no mercy whatsoever.

There would have had to have been a compelling reason for the Pöchs to decide on the eastern route to safety rather than follow their compatriots to the west, to the Tyrolean Alps and from there to Verona and on to Bari or Genoa. The situation on the Italian border was ridiculous: in some towns, Nazi troops and even SS officers still wore their uniforms in the street and in some cases were charged with keeping order. There was a huge influx of displaced persons to northern Italy from Austria, and the prison camps and DP camps could not accommodate the large numbers of refugees. It was easy to escape these makeshift camps once apprehended, and there was a flourishing market in the border towns in forged identification papers… made even easier for the SS who had contacts in an underground network of safe houses and sympathetic ethnic Germans.

However, things were not that easy for the Pöchs in Salzburg. Pöch writes that things were relatively quiet for most of 1945 and 1946, until a

“Jew” insulted his wife by coming to their apartment and telling her that they should have left Salzburg long ago, that there was an article in the local Communist newspaper112 that attracted the attention of the CIC to their case. It was then that the CIC accused Pöch of lying about his Nazi Party membership. What is intriguing is the question of how there came to be an article in a local newspaper that would have implicated the Pöchs in anything, particularly exposing their possible membership in the Party. Further, if the article was in a “Communist” newspaper, then it makes even less sense for the Pöchs to escape to Communist-controlled Yugoslavia, of all places.