The Costa del Sol runs for about 200 kilometers. In that narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean and the mountains, dotted with hundreds of urbanizations and scattered homes, some Nazi criminals, wanted to be held accountable for heinous crimes, found accommodation, tolerance and sunshine. It was not the only sanctuary for Nazis on Spanish soil, not even the only Andalusian refuge, but it was one that was especially significant, due to the quantity and “quality” of those who hid here: Hitler’s head of security, the so-called “Doctor Death ”, a high diplomat or the son the Führer would have liked to have. Nazis on the Costa del Sol, a recently published essay by José Manuel Portero (Editorial Almuzara, 2021) compiles some of those well-known stories and investigates new details of the stable and fruitful presence (for them) of dozens of Nazi criminals in Malaga. The subject also stars in a recently released series on Netflix.
Nazi fugitives on the Spanish coast: the Netflix series ‘Jaguar’ recalls Franco’s dark collaboration
With the defeat of Germany in World War II, thousands of Nazi leaders were tried by the created courts ad hoc by the allies. Many were convicted, some executed and others subjected to “denazification” processes. Others fled, pursued by the allies, by Israel or by Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal: to South America, but also to Spain, thanks to the good relationship between Hitler and Franco. In addition to serving as ratline To facilitate the escape, different points of the Mediterranean coast, such as the Empuriabrava urbanization of Roses (Girona), Denia, Cádiz or Málaga, became a refuge. “Malaga had some unbeatable characteristics: excellent weather conditions, gastronomy, the ideal terrain to hide in and the proximity to the coasts of Africa, which made it possible to easily flee if there were problems,” explains Portero.
The friendly presence in Fuengirola of José Antonio Girón de Velasco, Minister of Labor, gives them peace of mind. And finally there is a call effect. In this way, and like many of their compatriots, dozens of Nazis spent their retirement enjoying the Malaga sun.
Leon Degrelle, denier interviewed
Some of them lived for decades undisturbed, without their neighbors knowing about their past. José Manuel Portero, a Benalmádena resident for decades, says that he came to share a table and tablecloth with Gerd honsik, whom he knew as Don Gerardo, without knowing that he was with one of the ideologues of Austrian Nazism, fled from the justice of his country. “A man who conversed in Spanish in a pleasant way.”
Portero, a retired professor, is also a writer of crime novels. In 2018, while documenting himself for a new work, he learned about the case of Violeta Friedmann, a survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp who initiated a judicial process against Leon degrelle and the magazine Weather on account of an interview in which the Belgian Nazi, settled for years between the Costa del Sol and Constantina (Seville), denied the reality of the Holocaust and gave free rein to his anti-Semitic opinions. After losing in all instances, he had to go to the Constitutional Court for it to declare, in 1991, that his right to honor was above Degrelle’s freedom to spill his lies. The sentence served as the basis for a future reform of the Penal Code.
Degrelle did not miss an opportunity to comment to his interlocutors what Hitler supposedly once said to him: “If I had a son, I would like him to be like you.” Sentenced to death in absentia for high treason and war crimes, the Belgian justice never stopped claiming him. But Degrelle had a good protector in Spain: Girón de Velasco. After landing seriously wounded in San Sebastián, Girón provided him with a doctor and shelter. Spain repeatedly denied his extradition, protected him by mounting a false escape and even granted him Spanish nationality and name: José León Ramírez Reina.
For a time, he found shelter in a fisherman’s cabin in Torremolinos, then in Fuengirola and Benalmádena, until he moved to a farm in Constantina, a small town in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla. Degrelle boasted that Arias Navarro had ordered to protect him. “Neighbors there say that there was always a couple from the Civil Guard in the area,” says Portero. Until his death, Degrelle lived between Constantina, the Costa del Sol and Madrid, without hiding too much his ideology.
A doctor, a diplomat and an adventurer
Marbella brings together some of the most important fleeing Nazis in Spain. There he settled Otto remer, in charge of putting down Operation Valkyrie, with which some military commanders tried to end Hitler’s life. The National Court denied his extradition to Germany because the crime of Holocaust denial did not exist in Spain. OR Aribert Heim, nicknamed Doctor Death. Heim was stationed in the Mauthausen infirmary, where he was noted for his extreme cruelty. For example, he administered benzene injections to prisoners, many of them Spanish Republicans. After obtaining the protection of Nasser in Egypt, he fled to Uruguay after being detected by the Mossad, and from there to the Costa del Sol. Located by a German commissioner, he fled forever when he was to be arrested in Marbella.
Otto Skozerny, Scarface, Nor was he just anybody: a specialist in special operations for the Waffen-SS, Hitler personally entrusted him with the Operation Oak, which concluded with the rescue of Benito Mussolini on the Gran Sasso. After escaping from the allies, he fled to Spain, where he was a key part of the organization Odessa who supported the escaped Nazis and founded CEDADE, an organization that served as the seed and inspiration for future neo-Nazi groups. Although he had his main home in Madrid, he spent time in a villa that he acquired in Marbella.
Some of them even became respected characters. The Hohenlohe were decisive in the take-off of elite tourism on the Costa del Sol. Hans hoffmann, affectionately known as Juanito, he was honorary consul of Germany in Malaga, without apparently anyone giving importance to the important role he played (as a translator for Hitler) in meetings of the highest level.
Hoffman was among the first to jump on the bandwagon of the real estate business on the Costa del Sol. In 2004, his last name returned to the media: his son was convicted in Operation Malaya against real estate corruption. Before entering prison, he fled and is still missing today. His father even gave a name to a school in Ojén, until it was revealed that his name appeared on the list of 104 Nazi agents claimed by the allies and sheltered in Spain. “I have never had to disguise myself, hide or change my personality,” he replied to José María Irujo, the El País journalist who revealed the list of 104: “Do you think that if there had been any of this, they would have appointed me consul general? ”.
The list of 104
The publication of the list, in 1997, produced a small scandal, but little else. During the Franco regime, the Nazis fled to Spain had the more or less explicit support of the regime. Allied pressure waned with the Cold War. And by the time democracy arrived, many had already died or no one remembered them. “Democracy does nothing, because nobody demands anything. The theme is only taken up when some novel event, due to some collateral event, ”says Portero.
However, their presence was a Trojan horse in which anti-Semitic ideas were introduced into the country. Gerd Honsik boasted of having printed 80,000 copies of his work from Barcelona. Degrelle gave lectures and had no problem publishing his memoirs. Personalities with a Nazi past frequently visited their colleagues in Spain. Erik Norling, Degrelle’s friend, estimated that some 15,000 Nazi sympathizers were able to visit him or listen to his rallies in these years.
“That in Spain they had the facility to sell their ideology during the Franco regime and later without excessive complications, with the publication, dissemination of events, interviews, books of Nazi ideology for the whole world, is the germ of small groups and political parties that are born in Spain and they are evolving towards what may exist now ”, concludes Portero. Many Nazis introduced the seed of their ideas into Spanish society while living their golden retreat in full sun.