Adolph Hitler’s suicide did not end the Nazi threat. Operation Wehrwolf went into motion the day Germany surrendered, with the former leaders of the Hitler Youth setting the stage for a Fourth Reich to rise in occupied Germany.The true espionage story is told for the first time in “The Axmann Conspiracy, the Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It.” In the chaotic setting of post-war Germany author Scott Andrew Selby follows the American spies who discovered and foiled the plot.
One member of this Counter Intelligence Corps special task force was Timothy Reis, a Lewiston hardware store salesman who spoke fluent German. Reis was using his linguistic abilities to ferret out German leaders, officers and soldiers hiding in the civilian post-war population.
He played a key role in discovering the underground movement ultimately led by Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, who escaped Berlin after witnessing the Fuhrer’s suicide. Axmann was widely believed to be dead. His war crimes included sending children into battle and rounding up the Swing Kids, German youth who rebelled against Nazism by listening to American swing music.
Using military documents and memos Selby follows the team’s trail of discoveries. It begins with a former S.S. officer named Siegfried Kulas, who comes forward contending he is sick of suffering and wants to switch sides. Hindsight gives added dimension to the tale. CIC agents, Selby writes, do not appear to have known that their new informant was a member of the Einsatzgruppe, one of the mobile killing squads that followed the Nazi advance through Eastern Europe. Using methods like gas vans they killed 2 million people. Women and children were told the curtained vans would take them to resettlement camps to be reunited with husbands and fathers. Once sealed the van’s interior was flooded with carbon monoxide gas from the engine.
The American agents must carefully weigh their trust to unravel the plot to its ultimate prize, Axmann’s arrest. Axmann was such a controversial public figure that when he died in 1996 he was buried in a secret location so his grave would not become a neo-Nazi shrine, the book notes.
Dressed in civilian clothes Reis was awarded the Legion of Merit in February 1947 at the Lewiston Elk’s Temple. His story ran on the Lewiston Tribune’s front page but details were left out and faces cut from photos to protect people still embroiled in the war’s aftermath.
Reis operated Gamble Hardware stores in Lewiston, Orofino and Kamiah with his wife of 42 years, Melva Twogood, who he married before the war. He died in 2007 in Cottonwood, where he spent the last nine years of his life.
Selby is co-author of “Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History.” He has a law degree from Harvard Law School and a master’s degree in human rights and intellectual property from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute at Sweden’s Lund University.
“The Axmann Conspiracy, the Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It”
by Scott Andrew Selby
295 pages, $26.95