This is “Manhunt In Heidelburg” in the May 1948 Volume of True Police Cases. It tells part of the story of Aaron Tilton of Milwaukee in his own words...
Assigned to "Project Safe Haven," OSS trained experts Aaron Tilton, a Milwaukee attorney, and Eric Meyer, an accountant, were flown to Germany to ferret out Karl von Krauch, the man behind Hitler and the brain of the Farben empire.
And now, suddenly, came the shocking realization of truth, like a stiletto pressed against our weary heads. We had been duped. These sly Germans, who had "cooperated" in helping us gather Farben records, had outfoxed us. For the documents most vital to us were missing. Somebody had anticipated our intentions and our moves.
I pushed back the chair and got to my feet, glowering. "I can't stand it, Eric," I said. "I'm going for a walk."
He looked up at me, his warm brown eyes impish behind his rimless glasses. "Karl Von Krauch on your brain again?"
"Well, why not? He's the chairman of the Farben board of directors, the only Farben bigwig not yet in custody. The mysterious disappearance of important papers, the way we've been shadowed and spied upon these past few weeks, the polite runaround we've been getting from Farben employees - all indicate that I. G. Farbenindustrie is far from dead. Somebody is holding the organization together. Somebody is giving orders. And it could just as well be Von Krauch."
Eric leaned back, stretching his long, wiry body. He said dryly, "Maybe you ought to run out and pick him up - something the Seventh Army has been trying to do for weeks."
It wasn't a bad idea. Dr. von Krauch undoubtedly had the answers to most of the questions that had been puzzling us. But my absorbing interest in the top Farben executive went a step beyond that.
I recalled the briefing our O.S.S. chief had given us when we were assigned to Project Safe-Haven. "Von Krauch is the key man in the Farben network. He is ruthless and cunning with astounding energy and the ability to whip his associates into a frenzy of work. He is one of the most feared men in Germany - and he won't be caught easily. Watch out for him."
Enroute to Germany, Eric and I had memorized every detail of Von Krauch's description and habits. Tall and well-built, he had a strong nose, steely eyes and brutal, coarse features. Except for a nervous shoulder irritation, his health was excellent. He was a heavy drinker, although never visibly affected by spirits. He spoke some English. So crafty was he that our Military Intelligence had been unable to obtain a single photograph of him.
As I poured over Farben documents in the Heidelberg library hour after hour, Dr. Karl von Krauch became a living, vibrant personality to me. Between the lines of the manifold Farben cartel agreements, directives and minutes I could send the Von Krauch whip-lash, his lust for power, his cruel domination over his associates, his stone heart and utterly lack of conscience in condoning human experiments on displaced persons, his tacit approval of plans to make soap and fertilizer out of thousands of humans who had been murdered in concentration camps by poison gases produced in his own plants.
Do you wonder why I was caught on fire with hatred for the man, why I longed to shove my fist through his pugnacious face?
I left Eric and walked out into the warm sunshine of Old Heidelberg in the Spring.
The University city was beautiful. Scarcely touched by the ravages of war, its picturesque, friendly buildings outlined by the lovely, rolling hills in the background framed a picture of nostalgic beauty. It was hard to believe that this oasis of warmth and charm was the birthplace of the most ruthless and powerful trust of modern times, I.G. Farbenindustrie.
Across the Neckar River bridge I strolled into a remote section of Heidelberg. The conglomeration of facts we had gathered during past weeks was filtering through my mind, subconsciously trying to arrange itself into orderly sequence.
But the key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were still missing.
I stopped in front of a shop and absent-mindedly gazed at the merchandise in the window. Suddenly, I was aware of a reflection in the highly polished glass. Somebody was watching me from across the street!
I whirled, reaching for my gun. There was that lithe, catlike man again. Several times before I had observed him trailing me.
Across the street I hurtled, shouting. "Stop!"
He leaped around the corner of a building, away from my view. When I reached the sidewalk, he was gone. Racing down the lane, I tore open door after door, shouting, "Come out or I'll shoot!"
Utter silence. The slippery shadow had done a Houdini again.
At the far end of the lane stood a tavern. Its nameplate, the golden figure of a lamb, swayed from the arched doorway. The legend read, "Das Goldene Lamm." Could my quarry have slipped into the bary?
The door was locked. Peering through the lacy curtain, I caught a glimpse of a buxom woman disappearing into the back room. I pounded hard. No answer.
I strode around to the side and back of the building, trying each of the two other doors without success. My eyes skipped to the suite of rooms above the tavern. Several books were on one of the windowsills, and I thought I saw the corner of a steel filing cabinet. That called for further investigation.
After I banged on the side door for fully five minutes, I heard a bolt slide out and the well-fed woman filled the doorway.
"Why didn't you answer before?" I demanded.
Her manner was meek and submissive. "Her Soldat, 'we have nothing more to drink. We are all sold out."
"I'm not interested in drinking. I'm looking for a thin, little man who disappeared a moment ago. Are you hiding him?"
"Ach, nein," she said incredulously. "Search my rooms if you don't believe me."
"Good idea," Locking the doors and taking the keys with me, I examined the basement and first floor thoroughly. All I found was a cache of various German wines.
"What's upstairs?" I demanded.
A flicker of apprehension crossed her eyes. "Nothing, Her Soldat, nothing at all."
"Take me upstairs."
After stalling for a few minutes, she finally located the key and led me up the outside stairs to the upper quarters.
The room was obviously a library - well stocked and meticulously kept in the German tradition. A cursory examination convinced me that I had stumbled upon more Farben records. One entire section was lined with volumes of Von Werk zu Werk, the official Farben magazine. Eric Meye and I had been itching to get our hands on this invaluable material, but had almost despaired of locating it.
"Who's in charge here?" I asked.
"Fraulein Weber. But she's-"
"Get her," I said.
"But, Herr Soldat, I don't know where to-"
"Get her!" I said.
She turned sullenly and lumbered down the steps. Then I went to work.
Obviously, the Farben interests had not expected us to locate this remote library. From a brief examination, it was apparent that these shelves would yield a bonanza of information. Several volumes were devoted to a complete official history of I.G. Farbenindustrie from its inception to 1945; they were profusely illustrated with photos of all the Farben plants. More than that, I found photos and articles directly tying top Farben management to the Nazi regime, including a picture of Hitler shaking hands with bull-necked Dr. Hermann Schmitz, the Farben president.
But nowhere was there a likeness of Dr. Karl von Krauch.
Presently the buxom female bartender returned with a pretty German fraulein in tow. The girl was in her early twenties; luxurious brown hair rippled in waves to her shoulders and she had a pert little nose that reminded me of an American college girl.
But I soon learned that Fraulein Katherine Weber was spun of tough Nazi fiber. She had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the art of skillful evasion. She answered my questions courteously but told me nothing. No, she hadn't been ordered to keep the library open and she wasn't being paid a salary. As a good Farben employee, she merely assumed that she was expected to stay on the job until otherwise instructed.
At my request she began to prepare an inventory of all the books in the library. Meanwhile, I busied myself rummaging through her desk and private file. I found what I was looking for - a list of recent withdrawals jotted down in one of her notebooks.
"Do all these people who borrowed books live in Heideberg?" I asked.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I intend to interview them and I wouldn't want to make a liar of you."
She hesitated, eying me curiously. "As a matter of fact, a few of them living in Ludwig schafen and Oppau. I've been gettin requests from Farben employees in those cities for reading material."
She had talked herself into a trap. "Don't you know it's verboten to send or receive any kind of messages?" I demanded. "How have you been getting these requests?"
Reluctantly she confrmed what Eric Meyer and I suspected for some weeks. An intricate network was operating between I.G. Farben employees. Messages were transferred from person to person until they reached their destination. What Fraulein Weber left unsaid was that American investigators were also being spied upon, and their actvities channeled to Farben headquarters.
But where was headquarters located? Who had done the organizing and who was issuing the orders?
As I spoke to her, leafing through her notebooks, a folded slip of paper fluttered to the floor. She reached down to pick it up, but I grabbed it before she had a chance. Poker faced, she stared at me as I read the note.
It contained a list of books by Roosevelt, Darrow, Chamberlin and De Kruif. The words, "Prof. von Krauch" were scrawled across the top of the sheet.
I fought an inner battle to control my excitement. "Who's Professor von Krauch?" I asked as casually as I could.
"I really don't know, she lied boldly, "I found the note under the door one day. Nobody has called for the books."
"I see." Quickly I turned the conversation to another subject. But before I left the library I searched for the books on the list. All were missing - strong evidence that they had been delivered to Professor von Krauch.
That could mean only one thing: Von Krauch probably was still in the vicinity of Heidelberg. And I was ready to wager a furlough that he was the guiding spirit behind the forces that were thwarting us.
Yet, I couldn't risk direct questions about Von Krauch. If Froulein Weber knew that I suspected he was in Heidelberg, the Farben chief would be whisked away to another retreat. I had to proceed surrpetitiously, questioning by inference.
Padlocking the library, I instructed Fraulein Weber to return the following day to complete her inventory. Then I high-tailed it back to the Seventh army Document Center in the library of Heidelberg University. I immediately went into a huddle with Eric Meyer and Lt. Herman Eilts, one of the officers in charge of the Document Center.
Eilts was elated over my information on Von Krauch. "Twenty Intelligence men have been assigned to running that man down and this is the first scrap of evidence we've had that he is in this area."
The lieutenant emphasized that henceforth it would be necessary to double our pace. Valuable documents were still scattered all over Heidelberg and its environs. Assuming that Krauch was master-minding the activities of Farben employees, instructions undoubtedly had been given to destroy all key evidence linking Krauch and Farben, with its vast web of foreign interests, to the Nazi regime.
"We'll post guards at Farben's legal, patent and personnel offices," Eilts suggested. Those records can wait until later. Right now we ought to concentrate on digging out the confidential data which undoubtedly has been hidden by trusted Farben employees all over the Heidelberg countryside."
Document headquarters had been set up in Heidelberg for several reasons. Since the city was a university center and housed practically no war plants, German officials rightfully reasoned that it would not be bombed. That meant Farben records would be comparatively safe. More important, Heidelberg was the home of I.G. Farbenindustrie and many of its trusted and faithful employees. Since many vital documents were missing, it was logical to assume that some of these Farben trustees had been given records to hide in their homes or on their land.
Eilts had prepared a list of targets. That night our raids began earnest.
For two weeks Eric and I worked at top spped often sleeping only a few hours a night.
Assisted by ten Security and Exchange Commission men, recently assigned to "Project Safe-Haven," we swooped down on house after house, recovering highly important documents from wine cellars, craftily concealed hiding places in homes, holes in the ground, ships, cloisters, caves, and a hundred other caches.
In the personnel office of I.G. Farben we found a detailed life history of every employee. The case card consisted of more than just vital statistics. It listed the man's indiscretions, the dates of his business and pleasure trips, the amount of money he had in the bank and how much he reputedly had hidden away. Farben had its thumb on its employees at all times. Its espionage agents had done a grand job.
Let's take the case of a typical loyal Farben employee, whom we'll call Frederik Schumann. While we had no proof he was concealing evidence, we reasoned that he was one of those likely to be entrusted with valuable data.
One night we burst into his living quarters with the desired dramatic effect. "We're not going to waste time with you, Schumann," I said brusquely, "We know you're hiding Farben documents. If you don't want to face serious consequences, produce those papers at once."
Schumann offered the usual protests, his voice trembling. "There must be some mistake. I have no Farben documents. I swear it."
I pulled up a chair and sat down opposite Schumann. "Listen carefully, Schumann," I said intently, "You started to work in the Heidelberg legal office on August 4, 1930, having been transferred from the Essen plant where you were carrying on an illicit romance with a married woman. Shall I go on?"
Schumann's eyes were incredulous, "I - I - "
"All right, then, shall I tell why you never obtained your lay certificate, why you were suddenly forced to flee from Berlin in the fall of 1944?"
Glistening beads of perspiration had popped out on the man's forehead,. "Where - where did you get all this information?"
"United States Military Intelligence," I lied. "Now are you ready to talk?"
Schumann knew when his goose was cooked. He led us across the field to a cave, well-concealed in the side of a hill. Silently he pointed to a steel box, jammed with part of the technological information we had sought so long.
Making certain that Schumann was not holding out additional records, we moved on to our next target. Everywhere we went, every Farbenite we interviewed, every home we searched, we sought traces of our No. 1 quarry- Dr. Karl von Krauch.