The second article, printed in the following issue of Der Spiegel, is a lot more interesting, since it gives more correct details on the circumstances of Wagner's arrest.
On the contents page (p.5), we read:
"A trap made by this Wiesenthal"
Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal was mistaken but was lucky all the same. On a photograph depicting a meeting of the "Deutschvölkischen Gemeinschaft" he thought he had recognized the former supervisor of the Sobibor extermination camp, Wagner. It was the wrong man. Despite this, the real Wagner handed himself over to the police voluntarily two days later.
This is accompanied by a photo of Wagner sitting in a chair, talking and smoking a cigarette:
The article, starting on page 128, bears the caption "We are not the last people of yesterday" How the supervisor of the Sobibor extermination camp was found
. The subcaption reads:
Gustav Franz Wagner, former supervisor of the Sobibor extermination camp, discovered that he had been found out through listening to the news broadcasts of Deutsche Welle [a radio broadcasting service for German speakers living abroad]. He then turned himself over to the Brazilian police. For almost 33 years, the intelligence and police of almost all European states as well as Israel had been searching for him, in vain.
I will next quote from the article, p.128:
Two cars stops in a way contrary to traffic regulations at a street corner, two men steps out and speaks to another who has been waiting for them. After a brief conversation the freezing passenger enter one of the cars. Both vehicles take off. At the side of the man in the car sits Silvio Pereira Machado and Clide Gaia da Costa, officers of "Dops", the Brazil secret service.
The name of the man who has been waiting in the cold at the street corner for almost half an hour is Gustav Franz Wagner, 66.
A manhunt which had taken almost 33 years and involved the intelligence services and highest police departments of almost European nations, was over. Gustav Wagner, former topkick of the extermination camp Sobibor, had handed himself over to the Brazilian police.
Next we are told about the meeting at Hotel Tyll. The hotel is (was) located in Itatiaia, a town 120 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro. At the bottom page 18, we are shown a photo of Wagner and his live-in partner, Hertha, standing in front of their home.
It is said in the caption to the photo that the home was located in Itaitaia, but this is probably incorrect (see below).
The meeting at Hotel Tyll was to start at April 21 1978 and last three days. The text of the letter of invitation is given, as well a list of the sixteen participants. Wagner is not among them. Listed is however, as number 9, a certain Günter Meindl from Mairipora. In the first article, it is claimed that Wagner when arrested first gave his name as "Günther Mendel". I will return to this later.
We are next told of how Alfredo and Adalgisa Winkelmann, the owners of the hotel, received the guests on April 21. At 18:00 the same day, officers from "Dops" knocked on the doors to the hotel. They had received an anonymous call claiming that a secret communist meeting was taking place at the hotel. The people who had gathered were held and the rooms of the building were searched. Instead the officers found pamphlets with order lists for national socialist literature, lyrics to Third Reich songs &c. It is recounted how Winkelmann told the police that "We are working to rebuild Germany and destroy the great lies of history." One of the participants was carrying a loaded gun in a brief case, which prompted body checks.
The Jornal do Brasil newspaper carried an article on the incident in its April 24 issue. A photograph showing Winkelmann, his wife and an unidentified man was released together with the article. A copy of this issue reached Mario Chimanovitch at the Jornal do Brazil correspondent office in Tel Aviv. Chimanovitch next showed the newspaper to Wiesenthal, who came to believe that the unidentified man was Wagner, due to the protruding ears.
The Jornal do Brazil photo was now reprinted in a number of Brazilian newspapers with the part showing the unidentified man enlarged adorned with the caption "Wanted: Gustav Franz Wagner".
From page 132:
May 21, 7 a.m. At the Farenda Sao Jorge in Sao Pedro, 15 kilometers from the small town of Atibaia, itself located some 80 kilometers from Sao Paulo, a tall man with grey hair was listening to the "Deutsche Welle": Gustav ("Gustl") Franz Wagner. The news began with the report that the Austrian war criminal Gustav Franz Wagner, who had been identified in a photograph, was hiding in Sao Paulo or its environs.
When the news broadcast was over Wagner packed a small trunk, took farewell of his still drowsy partner Hertha and left the house that his employer, Horacio Casal, and his young German wife Ulrike had provided for him. Wagner had lived there for 20 years under his own name. Next he took the bus to Sao Paulo.
Let me pause here for a brief moment. First we are told that intelligence and police had been hunting Wagner for 33 years. Next we are told that he had been living in the same place for 20 years using his own name. Who was chasing him? Austin Powers?
An hour later the press circled in on Atibaia and the surrounding Fazendas. Someone in the vicinity had recognized the man. Nonetheless: the picture supposedly showing him didn't. It showed other participants at the Nazi meeting at the Winkelmann's hotel. The name was correct, as was the man, but not the photograph.
So how exactly was he recognized? By mistake? This seems a bit odd.
Page 132-133, bolds mine:
Horacio and Ulrike Casal, for whom Wagner worked at a wage of 2500 cruzeiros (about 300 Deutsche Mark) per month, making concrete posts for fences, were at this time at their flat in Sao Paulo. At Sunday evening, the telephone on the Sao Paulo connection 247 -34 13, belonging to Mrs. Karin Milz, the mother of Ulrike Milz, married Casal, rang.
It was 9 p.m. The caller was Gustav Franz Wagner. He asked Mrs. Milz for a police office where he could report himself. He did not want to fall in the hands of "any small officer who is a Jew to boot."
Karin Milz asked Wagner for his location. Wagner: "At the corner of Barao de Jaceguai and Jesuino Maciel - in the district of Campo Belo". Mrs. Milz told him to stay where he were and then contacted a high rank "Dops" officer she knew.
A few minutes past 10 p.m. Wagner was already at the "Dops" headquarters in the Sao Paulo district of Luz.
He at once admitted that he was Gustav Franz Wagner. All his papers were in his own name. Furthermore, already during the first questioning he admitted to having been an Oberscharführer in the SS. He denied however, that he knew the man in the photo that had put Wiesenthal on the trail. He also said that he had never been to Itaitaia, and that he had never known Winkelmann or the other participants at the ominous meeting at Hotel Tyll.
Finally he was asked whether it was possible that there had been another Wagner at Sobibor, the place where Wagner was said to have commited war crimes. Wagner denied this also.
The Brazilian police would not readily believe that a man, who lived under his own name , who did not try to hide his identity for them, and who did not match the wanted man in the picture, was a searched-after war criminal.
What Sobibor was concerned, Wagner maintained that no Jews had been killed there, whether by himself or by others. At Sobibor he had only had the task of carrying out the construction of barracks. The conclusion: the police believed that they had not yet caught the real Wagner, and that the one who had been arrested possibly had the same name.
In the city of Goiania, 900 kilometers from Sao Paulo, Stanislaw Szjmazjner, 50, saw the real photo in the newspapers. He took the next flight to Sao Paulo.
Szmajzner, a Polish Jew, had spent one and a half years in Sobibor as a 14 year old. He was one of the few Sobibor inmates who had survived the war.
"How are you Gustl?" Szmajzner greeted the former camp topkick Wagner at their confrontation. Wagner would not recognize him at first, then thought things over [überlegte dann aber] and made one of his biggest mistakes: "Yes, yes, I remember you. I took you out of the transport together with your two friends who were also goldsmiths, and saved your lives."
"Then," Szmajzner said, "what about my sister, my mother and my brothers? When you say, that you saved my life, you must also have known that others were to die." Wagner did not reply.
On the top of page 134, we are shown a photo of Szmajzner together with Wagner. A reporter is seen holding up a microphone towards Wagner, who is holding a lit cigarette in his left hand, seemingly relaxed and in command of himself. The photograph is stated to have been taken at their confrontation in Sao Paulo.
I will next quote the last lines on page 133 as well as the remainder of the article on the following page:
After this confrontation in front of the press the Brazilian authorities had to take Wagner into custody awaiting extradition [Auslieferungshaft]. Wagner: "I have lost, and as a good looser I accept my fate."
On the question why he had turned himself over, Wagner answered: "It would be worse to be taken by the Israelis". He still denied the charges made against him.
Also Karin Milz, the stepmother of Wagner's employer Casal, said that she could not believe the allegations about Wagner. She also commented: "He has not made any attempt to live in hiding. He speaks such a terrible Portuguese."
Karin Milz also voiced doubts about history: "How is it in the first place technically possible to kill six million Jews?"
Her daughter Ulrike Casal, born Milz: "It is unbelievable. He was a friendly, good man who always laughed. He was a prankster and friendly with children. He told them the story of Snow White and the seven dwarfs."
Meanwhile, the identity of the man whose picture for days had been identified in newspapers the world over as that of Wagner, had become known: his name is Hans-Werner Schütte, a German citizen from northern Germany.
He had been of the meeting of "the not last of yesterday, but the first of tomorrow" in Itaitaia and is now back in Germany. Schütte: "All of this was a trap laid by that baleful Wiesenthal who got to Wagner. The journalists helped him in the operation. However, our friends in Brazil have already taken measures. So it wont last. Mr. Winkelmann has told me, that he will write a letter to Colonel Rulem, the press chief of President Geisel. Winkelmann has important friends in the government."
Especially unbelievable Schütte finds the fact that he was mistaken for Wagner: "That's not just possible. I'm just 1,74 tall, while Wagner is almost 2 meters. That poor man has a clear conscience. He is innocent, I'm certainly sure of that."
Meanwhile, Wagner was transferred to the Brazilian capital Brasilia. He is sitting in a building belonging to the Superintendecia Regional de Policia Federal in the city quarter of Do Sul.
He dows not feel as well as he did the first days after his arrest. The heart specialist Dr. Geraldo Hideu Osanai has ordered bed rest for him and prescribed a daily dose 100 mg Aldomet and 50 mg Higroton against heart problems.
The above account leaves some questions:
- Why did the first article claim that the man arrested gave his name as Günther Mendel, similar/identical to the name of one of the participants at the Tyll meeting, while the second article states that the man with protruding ears in the photo was Hans-Werner Schütte, who is also on the reproduced participant list?
- Why does Rashke in his book claim that the man with protruding ears was quickly "eliminated by the Germans" in Brazil shortly after the publication of the Wiesenthal interview, while the Der Spiegel article blatantly contradicts this and in fact interviews the man in Germany weeks after he was supposedly killed.
- Who "recognized" Wagner in Atibaia? This may perhaps be explained by the anonymous caller recognizing the name of Wagner, not the man depicted in the newspapers.
- Was the press present throughout the Wagner-Szmajzner confrontation? Is it on record? What was really said? What more exactly did Wagner say about Sobibor? I guess the best chance to find out is to look for reports in Brazilian media.
- Is Wagner's behavior (not living in hiding, living under his own name, turning himself in &c) really consistent with the image of Wagner presented by "eyewitnesses" and court historians, that of a sly, psychopathic massmurderer.