A REVIEW OF MY BACKGROUND AND QUALIFICATIONS
My name is Robert Wolfe. For thirty-four years I was an archivist
at the National Archives, functioning as its senior specialist for captured
German and related records. I served during World War II in both the Pacific and
European theaters, and was awarded a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple
Heart. I was also an official in
the U.S. Army occupying
I joined the National Archives in 1961, upon concluding
service as a member of the American Historical Association team microfilming
captured German records at the World War II Records Center in
I taught history at
As archival consultant to the Department of State for
the BDC from 1968 to 1994, I was the chief American negotiator for the return to
the West German government of original captured Nazi Party personnel and
person-related records assembled by the victors at the BDC. During that time, I wrote official
reports and presented and published papers concerning the history of those
records, specifically including reference to the discovery and capture of the
Nazi Party records found at the Freimann paper mill. One such publication was a Preface to
The Holdings of the Berlin Document Center: A Guide to the Collections
(BDC, Berlin, 1994). That preface
was entitled "A Short History of the
I am currently under contract as a historical consultant at the National Archives, advising the Interagency Working Group (IWG) implementing the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. My function is to advise the IWG regarding the historical context of Federal agency records currently under consideration for declassification.
My experience in postwar
I offer a brief summary of the evidence, both circumstantial and direct, that
leads me to believe that Michel Thomas was the first Allied soldier to
discover the NSDAP membership cards and related files awaiting pulping at a
paper mill in
A REVIEW OF THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
o Michel Thomas has ample documentation of his service as an Agent in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Regardless of his citizenship status, no reasonable person could question that Thomas served as a bona fide CIC Agent, based on the available documents, photos, and statements of his CIC colleagues as presented in his biography, Test of Courage. These have been further supplemented by sworn statements of CIC colleagues and additional documentary evidence offered in a defamation suit Thomas brought against the Los Angeles Times in October 2001.
Spring 1945, Thomas was one of about twenty Agents in the 45th Division
CIC. This unit was stationed in
o Separate U.S. Army reports from 1945 found at the National Archives confirm that it was an unnamed person or persons in the 45th Div. CIC who made the original discovery of the NSDAP Master Membership file at a paper mill in Freimann. The most detailed of these reports, written by Major William D. Browne of Third Army MG Special Branch in October 1945, mentions that Hans Huber was the manager of the mill, the Josef Wirth Papier‑Pappen und Wellpappenfabrik. That report states that Huber "reported the files to CIC officers and Military Government officers in early May and again in July" [emphasis added].
A Seventh Army G‑2 Historical Report dated 20 June 1945 states that in May "An estimated 68,000 kilos of Party records and documents of Reichsleitung SA were discovered by agents of the 45th CIC Detachment in a paper mill at Freimann ([map grid] X‑8763). Included among the papers were all Party membership cards with identification photos, documents relating to the Party, SA courts, and SA administration."
o The 45th
Div. CIC Agent credited by the official History of the CIC with the
discovery of the documents, Francesco Quaranta, could not speak or read German
according to his widow, who was recently interviewed. She also said that he never mentioned to
her finding the files, during or after the war. The date on which the CIC history places
o Walter Wimer, a surviving member of the 45th Division CIC who filed a sworn Declaration on behalf of Michel Thomas in his case against the Los Angeles Times, states in his Declaration that of the roughly twenty members of the unit, perhaps five or six spoke German, including himself and Thomas. No other member of the 45th Division CIC ever claimed to have discovered the Master file at the paper mill.
A REVIEW OF THE DIRECT EVIDENCE
o Michel Thomas has in his possession today an original decree (Erlaß) signed by Heinrich Himmler that is demonstrably from the same set of correspondence known to have been found originally at the paper mill in May 1945. Contemporaneous US Army records list the files of the Reichsstatthalter in Bayern (Bavarian State Government) as sent to the BDC sometime during December-January 1945/6. Between 1965 and 1994 the entire collection was microfilmed at the BDC for deposit in the United States National Archives.
There is no plausible scenario by which Thomas could
have come into possession of this original document other than having found it
himself at the mill. The letter is
itself unimportant‑‑a piece of routine ministerial correspondence appointing one
Ludwig Dittmar to a government position in the State of
The Abschrift's authenticity is further validated by the signed annotation on its obverse of Himmler's Under Secretary at the Reich Ministry of the Interior, Dr. Hans Stuckart, who was responsible for the Reich civil service system. Stuckart's annotation states that the true copies are intended for deposit in the files of the Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior, so that Dittmar might retain for his personal file the originals adorned with Hitler's and Himmler's signatures. It is the Himmler original that Michel Thomas took with him from the paper mill in 1945 and has in his possession to this day.
REGARDING THOMAS' DISCOVERY OF THE NSDAP MASTER FILE
most important contribution to history and justice is unquestionably his
discovery, identification, and preservation of the Nazi Party personnel card
files and related records awaiting pulping at the Josef Wirth Papier‑Pappen‑
Wellpappenfabrik (paper, cardboard, and corrugated-paper mill) located in
the Munich suburb of Freimann.
Whatever success the victors had in the punishment of war criminals and the
As noted above, I wrote the Preface to The Holdings of the Berlin Document Center: A Guide to the Collections (BDC, Berlin, 1994). Michel Thomas' account of his discovery of the files accurately fits the context I described in that Preface, but his name does not appear in the initial CIC report because his extra official status required a
signature by an American citizen, a function apparently performed by Thomas' CIC colleague, Francesco Quaranta.
At the time of
his discovery of the Nazi Party card files in early May, when Thomas persuaded a
Recently, I was given the opportunity to examine that document still in Mr. Thomas' possession. Its letterhead, paper stock, type fonts, and physical condition are precisely compatible with the Reichsführer SS/Reichsminister des Innern letterhead on documents of the period at one time in National Archives custody prior to transfer to the Federal German Archives in 1962. Himmler's pen and ink signature, unlike a photographic or electrographic copy, raised a palpable track on the obverse, which along with its type fonts, assures that this is indubitably a ribbon copy.
external characteristics, the internal content comports with the context of
authenticated related Third Reich documentation. To centralize civil government
authority stringently in the dictator of the Third Reich, all state and local
governments were headed by governors selected by Hitler and appointed by the
Reich Minister of Interior. This was emphatically the case in
State governors had little real authority in the Third Reich, merely carrying out Der Führer's instructions for civil administration under the supervision of the Reich Ministry of Interior. Actual regional and local authority was exercised by the Nazi Party Gauleiter, early Party members steeped in Nazi ideology who could be trusted to carry out its brutal suppression of all opposition and its extreme racial policies.
Ritter Franz von
Epp was the governor Hitler selected for
Dr. Ludwig Dittmar had served the Bavarian state administration at a progression of hierarchical levels when Himmler (who had succeeded Wilhelm Frick as Minister of Interior in August 1943), citing a certificate (Urkunde) signed by Hitler, promoted Dittmar to the rank of Ministerialdirektor in the Bavarian Government. The letterhead on Dittmar's promotion flaunts Himmler's capacity as Reichsführer SS and Chief of German Police--a commingled Party and government post--above his title of Minister of Interior--a mere central government cabinet position.
In his capacity as Under Secretary at the Reich Ministry of Interior, Dr. Hans Stuckart directed the preparation of two contemporaneous true copies (Abschriften) of the Dittmar appointment letter. These copies bore only a typed Himmler signature. Along with the (Urkunde) signed by Hitler and the ribbon copy (Erlaß) signed by Himmler, Stuckart sent the two Abschriften to the Reichsstatthalter in Bayern for deposit in Bavarian State Ministry files, so that the Urkunde and Erlaß could be given to Dittmar for his personnel file. Thomas found the Urkunde among the Bavarian officials' personnel files awaiting pulping at Freimann.
papers and correspondence, dating mainly before his 1933 appointment as Bavarian
governor, were retrieved from his
‑‑ Thomas' Attempts to Secure and Preserve the Files
On or about
Some days after his initial discovery, Thomas was asked when the records would be removed from the Freimann site so the guard unit could be relieved. He "advised" his fellow CIC Agent Francesco S. Quaranta‑‑unlike Agent Thomas an American citizen but lacking knowledge of German‑‑about the records at the Freimann site. Quaranta signed an official report--so detailed, knowledgeable, and precise that it was indubitably drafted by Thomas--in order to justify the massive transportation effort required to remove the records to a secure location for processing.
that he asked a Major Baer and a Sergeant Buss of the Munich Military Government
to take custody of the tons of what Thomas remembers as reasonably intact and
arranged records at the time of his discovery. Beginning just one week after
Quaranta signed Agent Thomas' CIC report, on May 27 books and files, on May 30
NSDAP membership cards, and on June 7 Blutorden lists, were brought into
On June 18/19, the newly-arrived 3rd Army Intelligence Center Documents Section discovered in the Nazi Party administration buildings (NSDAP Verwaltungsgebäude, Arcisstrasse Nrs. 8-10) membership cards for that part of the alphabet from T to Z covering most of the Gaue occupied by British and Soviet forces, It is not clear whether these files had ever been sent to or retrieved from the Freimann paper mill.
From that time,
more than two months elapsed--including a muffed opportunity in July when Huber
claims he again reported the records still at Freimann to American
authorities--until the day in mid-September when a cleaning woman brought the
card files in "a
On September 20,
four bags containing approximately twenty to thirty thousand membership cards
were found by 3rd Army MG Munich city detachment E-201 Special Branch in its
rooms on Cuvillierstrasse. These had been retrieved from the
Reichsfinanzhof where they had been "abandoned by 7th Army Headquarters
CIC." Further investigation in the latter building disclosed approximately
million cards, all of which
had been retrieved from "a paper mill near
would require approximately 15 2 1/2 ton trucks to transport.
If these had been "abandoned" by 7th Army G5 in mid-June as Major Browne assumed, then his own MG detachment was even more culpable for neglecting from June through July until September those Nazi Party files
already assembled by 7th Army MG in
It is astonishing
that Third Army Military Government in Munich was either unaware or gave no
priority to the records stored in "a warehouse under its control"--presumably
sometime in September 1945, when the charlady recognized the nature of those
documents, and brought them to the attention of Major Browne. He then took action to round up Nazi
records still in or already brought back to
Evidently, because of the characteristic slippage attending changes of command, more than two months elapsed between Michel Thomas' coup of May 2 and the charlady's discovery in September, although he had exerted himself beyond the call of duty to assure exploitation of his momentous windfall.
‑‑ George Leaman's Curbstone Evaluation
Roy Rivenburg cites as authoritative George Leaman's unfounded derogation of Michel Thomas' competence to identify the Nazi Party documents. On the face of it, Leaman was insufficiently informed to offer such a curbstone opinion. His competent inventory of the well ordered BDC files is the above mentioned The Holdings of the Berlin Document Center: A Guide to the Collections, for which I wrote the Preface. Leaman's inventory was compiled in the 1990s, and benefited
much from previous US intelligence analyses, descriptions and re‑descriptions which were based primarily on the initial interrogations of several arrested Nazi Party record‑keepers.
made little attempt to explore the odyssey of the files between April 1945 and
December 1945, before they arrived at the BDC in
suggestion that Michel Thomas could not have identified the cards as Nazi Party
records is absurd. True, only the application form for
Party membership bears the full official party title as a heading in bold print,
but both central and regional membership cards in both their pre‑ and post‑1937
forms bear the words Mitglieds Nr. (Members Number) or
Mitgliedskarte (Membership Card), plus the word Ortsgruppe (Local
Group). More obvious were the letterheads on the voluminous Nazi Party
correspondence and memoranda also awaiting pulping at Freimann. Thomas' previous
had been active for weeks in targeting Third Reich files including card files, coupled with his knowledge of German, would have provided more than enough background knowledge for him to quickly recognize that the cards he was scrutinizing were important Party membership cards. The volume of cards would also have made their significance apparent.
Rivenburg's nitpicking point that Thomas' could not recall the color of the cards is also absurd: people obviously recall only some details but not others of events they experienced nearly six decades before. In fact, the cards are color-coded in at least eight pastel shades or borders, which Thomas need not have bothered to note, let alone recall, in order to evaluate on the spot the importance of his find.
‑‑Leaman's Endorsement of Stefan Heym's Account As Authoritative
recognized the need to support his supposition, but he offered only the
secondhand reporting and subsequent fictional embroidery of Stefan Heym as more
"on the mark" than Thomas’ account. This was a poor choice indeed. Heym's accounts do not even address what
happened to the cards in the spring of 1945, other than a passing reference to
Huber's early May report to CIC agents which at any rate supports Thomas'
version of events. From Heym's
unpublished account deposited in the Cambridge University Library,
and in its fictional sequel, "A True Story," published in The Cannibals and
Other Stories (
personal experience of Heym's attitude towards the
Süddeutsche Mitteilungen, published in
Heym was seconded
one and only issue he edited, drafted a virulent attack on American occupation policy. This violated a Four Power agreement that any criticism of one anothers’ occupation policies was to be conducted confidentially rather than ventilated before the German public. Unable to persuade Heym to accept my objections‑‑based strictly on military regulations regardless of possible validity of some of his criticism‑‑we pulled the switch on the presses until the offending lines were purged.
travel in the
REGARDING THOMAS' SERVICE AS A BONA FIDE CIC AGENT
I dwell only
briefly on a few instances where cogent evidence was furnished Roy
Rivenburg‑‑and obdurately ignored by him. The official "History of the
Counterintelligence Corps" registers that "Agents Thomas and [Frederick J.]
White . . . informed . . . that the
town for which they were heading was in German hands. . . . collected tactical
information about the situation ahead and forwarded it to Target Force
Headquarters, along with a report of initial security measures they had
instituted at Hersbruck." Mention of "Agent Thomas" by name in
such an active capacity in the CIC official history is all that is needed to
validate that he functioned as a recognized CIC agent in spite of his lack of
American forces in general, and CIC (Counterintelligence Corps) teams specifically, during their 1944-45 invasion and conquest of the
European Axis, were typically American in that their personnel lacked sufficient foreign language capacity to deal easily with the local populations, friend or enemy. Consequently there was widespread resort to information and assistance from friendly locals.
In my postwar military government capacity, I had many dealings with CIC agents. I learned thereby how dependent they and other American
occupation agencies were on the language talents of
Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution. The majority of these had reached the
REGARDING THOMAS' S PRESENCE AT THE LIBERATION OF
inconsiderable knowledge of the liberation of
Rivenburg offers no contrary evidence, only the liberating unit's commander Felix Sparks's recollection that there were no accompanying CIC agents, which under the chaotic circumstances he was unlikely to have noticed. Furthermore, there was a convergence of intelligence personnel‑‑to say nothing of war correspondents‑‑at every liberated concentration camp, particularly during the first day or so. Thomas does not claim that he arrived in the liberator's convoy, only sometime
during that day. This is not the only instance that Rivenburg carelessly raises suspicious conjecture. Mr. Thomas offers as further evidence his capture and interrogation of Emil Mahl, a former Dachau prisoner who was "promoted" to a job as hangman of the camp, and is referred to as "The Butcher of Dachau" in the History of the CIC, and was elsewhere dubbed "the Hangman of Dachau." Thomas' account of his arrest of Mahl conforms in date and organizational unit to the account in the CIC History that "On 7 May,
Agents of the 45th CIC Detachment arrested Mahl." Additional research has revealed that in
Mahl was tried and convicted for his crimes at a Dachau War Crimes trial, and originally received a death sentence, which was later commuted to ten years. He served his sentence in Landsberg prison, from which he wrote to Thomas in 1949, complaining of alleged theft of minor items of personal property. This was a devious attempt to exact revenge on Thomas, who Mahl had learned from a Stars & Stripes article was in the process of acquiring his U.S. citizenship.
In 1951 Mahl petitioned the Modification Board in Heidelberg to move back his prison release date based on his original arrest (by Thomas) on May 1, 1945. Mahl submitted the sworn statement of a witness to his arrest in this petition.
I believe it is appropriate to characterize Mr. Rivenburg's article as one of spiteful niggling. I find "niggling" an appropriate term in the face of all the evidence Mr. Rivenburg was provided, which he brushed aside although he has no such evidence to disprove Mr. Thomas' wartime experiences. Instead, he offers only suspicious conjecture of the most hateful sort.
While the style in which Test of Courage was written may not be one that appeals to scholars, it is after all a book written for a popular audience. Print journalism, especially opinion columns and feature stories‑‑to say nothing of television and radio programs‑‑is increasingly cavalier about facts in assuming entitlement to attack subjects of biographies and other nonfiction. In Rivenburg's wayward feature story on Michel Thomas, it is difficult to escape the inference that there is an underlying spite, if not outright malice, by an inactive sideline observer toward a courageous performer in a dangerous arena.
 Sometime during March 1945, as directed by Nazi Party Secretary Martin Bormann, Party Treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz ordered the pulping of Party personnel files and other records. Sent to several paper mills in the Munich area during March and April were several truckloads of Party finance records to Feinpapierwerk Gebrüder Schuster at Dachau; between 12-25 April five truckloads to Papierwerk Ismaning; from April 18 to 27, 65,815 tons to the Josef Wirth Papier‑Pappen und Wellpappenfabrik at Freimann (see, Major William D. Browne, Third Army OMG Special Branch, an undated comprehensive "Report Covering the Locating, Safeguarding, Collecting and Disposition of NSDAP Records During Period 19 September 1945 to 21 January 1946," Annex A, p.4, in National Archives Record Group 260: Records of Occupation Headquarters, World War II, 1923-72, AG File 1945-46); hereafter cited as "Browne Report."
 Gliederungen, such as SS, SA, HJ (Hitler Jugend).
 Angeschlossene Verbände, such as the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (Labor Front); NSD=Ärztebund (Physicians' Association); NS=Volkswohlfahrt (Peoples' Welfare foundation).
 Betreute Organisationen, such as Deutsches Frauenwerk (Women's Association); and Deutsches Studentenschaft (Students' Association).
Reichsstatthalter system somewhat resembled the Spanish Viceroys in
 See his Nazi Party Membership (Series 3340, Roll G0050) and SS Officer (Series 3343, Roll 189) files in National Archives Record Group 242, BDC Microfilm Series, courtesy of Michel Thomas' discovery.
 See his Nazi Party Membership (Series 3340, Roll E0144) and SS Officer (Series 3343, Roll 155) files.
 In a way, this symbolizes the fact that the civil government of the Third Reich, like its Wehrmacht armed forces, was a tool of Nazi Party ideology entirely subservient to the will of Adolf Hitler.
 See his Nazi Party Membership (Series 3340, Roll R123) and SS Officer (Series 3343, Roll 168B) files.
 Stuckart designated their intended repositories as the files of the Bavarian Minister President and State Minister of Interior, respectively, but one Abschrift was filed by the Reichsstatthalter and the other filed by the Minister President (see NA BDC Series 3345, Roll B055, frame 0201).
Thomas still has the Erlaß he retrieved at Freimann on
Archives Record Group 242, Microfilm T-84, Roll 9. They were sent from
 Browne Report, p. 5.
 National Archives BDC Microfilm Series A3345, Roll B055, frames 201-222, cover the Dittmar promotion process from its initiation in March 1944 to its consummation and filing in January 1945; the Abschrift is reproduced on frame 0210, Stuckart's annotation on its obverse on frame 211. By 1994 the entire true Reichsstatthalter in Bayern series was among the records microfilmed at the BDC for deposit in the National Archives.
 Francesco Quaranta's widow stated in a recent interview that her husband did not speak or read German. Walter Wimer, another member of the 45th Division CIC, stated in a sworn Declaration that only about five or six of roughly twenty Agents of the 45th CIC spoke German, including himself and Michel Thomas. Quaranta's ignorance of the German language confirms that he could not have recognized the provenance or investigative importance of the card files on his own.
 History of the Counterintelligence Corps , Volume XXVI, "CIC in the Occupation of Germany," page 69, declassified 11 August 1976, footnote 108 cites "Rpt from 45th CIC Det to AC of S, G2, Seventh Army, Subjt: `Discovery of Party Documents in Freimann, dtd 20 May 45'. "
 7th Army G5 Detachment E1F3.
 Seventh Army G‑2 Document Center
Historical Report, dated
 Third Army G5's Bavarian Regional Detachment was designated E-205, and its Munich City Detachment, E-201.
 Browne Report, pp. 1-2.
 See the photos in Browne Report. Incidentally, Huber had paid the Party 5,643.03 RM, so he had not only a considerable investment, but given the woeful postwar paper shortage, a soaring cash asset to support a claim for reimbursement from an eventual German (if not American occupation) government.
 Browne Report, pages 1-2.
 Ibid., Appendix A, page 5, section 5.
 See the detailed series-by-series professional-quality archival inventory supplied in Appendix A of the Browne Report.
 "The bulk
of the documents in these collections were captured by US forces in and around
to house the captured Third Reich civil government records were some 70 of the
over 400 buildings of the Fabrik Hessisch‑Lichtenau, an explosives (some
were still on the premises) factory in the village of that same name. See,
Lester H. Born, The American Archivist, "The Ministerial Collecting
 Huber was more than anxious to impress any American soldier who appeared on the scene--whether Thomas, Browne, or Heym--with his anti-Nazi credentials. So he would presumably have stressed the irreplaceable value of the Party records he had preserved to the success of military government war crime prosecutions and political purges. Nor does Thomas necessarily contradict the claim of the mill manager to be an ardent anti-Nazi who disobeyed the order to pulp the records, although his motive is just as likely to have been to avert the suspicions of the new authorities. In either case, Huber's assertion that he made repeated attempts to get the disarrayed records remaining at his mill sorted and moved into military government custody dovetails with Thomas' several attempts during May to get such action from Seventh Army G5 Munich City Military Government Detachment E1F3, which he did with considerable success.
 Heym's "Die Wahre Geschichte der großen Kartothek der Nationalsozialistischen Partei" in Die Kannibalen und andere Erzählungen is the sole source on the capture of the Nazi Party records cited by Leaman in Holdings of the Berlin Document Center, p. 143, note 4.
example of Heym's lack of credibility is his assertion, page 2: "In the whole
area, one paper mill remained in German hands, Herr Huber's mill." In fact, Nazi
Party files were sent to two other paper mills in the region, at
 This is a translation of the original German Die Kannibalen und Andere Erzählungen.
 He was responding to an inquiry concerning his interview with Roy Rivenburg.
 CIC History, XX, 121.
 See the
 See the
.Robert WolfeNovember 16, 2002