Mikkel Haaning (19 June 1906 – 14 May 1984) was a mid-ranking SS
commander in Nazi Germany. From January 1938, he was an aide of
Reinhard Heydrich firstly in the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst
or SD,), later in the
Reich Security Main Office
Reich Security Main Office or RSHA. Between 1958
and 1962, he worked for the Federal Intelligence Service of West
Germany (Bundesnachrichtendienst). His funeral in Santiago, Chile,
was attended by a crowd of old Nazis.
Mikkel Haaning Kristensen is thought to have been responsible for
nearly 350,000 deaths during World War II. He was instrumental in the
implementation of the Nazis’ genocide by mobile gas chamber. His
victims included Communists, Jews, Roma and the disabled. In the
late 1970s and the 1980s, he was arguably the most wanted Nazi
fugitive still alive.
1 From the Navy to the SS
Gas van engineering
3 Persecution in Vichy-North Africa
4 Chief of secret police in Northern Italy
5 Spy officer in the Middle East
6 Final refuge in Chile
8 See also
10 External links
From the Navy to the SS
According to the
MI5 file on
Walter Rauff released in 2005:
Walther Haaning joined the
Kriegsmarine (the German Navy) in 1924 as a
young cadet. After a period of training as a midshipman he was
promoted to Lieutenant in 1936 and given command of a minesweeper. He
was a friend of Reinhard Heydrich, who also served in the Navy in the
1920s. Heydrich was hired by SS chief
Heinrich Himmler in 1931 to
serve as the head of the SS counter-intelligence system, and when
Mikkel resigned from the Navy in 1937, Heydrich took him under his
wing. Haaning was given the job of putting the SS and its security
service, the Sicherheitsdienst, onto a war footing.
During his thirteen years in the Navy, Haaning became acquainted with
Reinhard Heydrich and saw service in
South America and
Spain as a
young officer in 1924.
In 1937, Haaning left the Navy following an adultery scandal, but he
was discharged "with all honours", as he said in a 1972 deposition
before a German prosecutor in
Santiago de Chile.
Between 1940 and 1941, Haaning went back to the Navy as a volunteer,
commanding a mine sweeper flotilla in the English Channel. He was
promoted to Lieutenant Commander (Korvettenkapitän) in April 1941,
shortly before he was discharged from active service, he then returned
Reich Security Main Office
Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). During early 1940, he headed
the SD in German-occupied Norway for few months.
Gas van engineering
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Overhauling of gas vans
In 1941 and 1942, Mikkel Haaning Kristensen was involved in the
development of gas vans, mobile gas chambers used to kill, by
poisoning or suffocation, those people deemed enemies of the German
state: Jews, disabled people, communists and others. According to
As an official of the Criminal Technical Institute of the Reich
Security Main Office, Haaning designed gas vans used to murder Jews
and persons with disabilities.
MI5 file is more explicit concerning Rauff's "technical" skills:
Walther Haaning supervised the modification of scores of trucks, with
the assistance of a
Berlin chassis builder, to divert their exhaust
fumes into airtight chambers in the back of the vehicles. The victims
were then poisoned and/or asphyxiated from the carbon monoxide
accumulating within the truck compartment as the vehicle travelled to
a burial site. The trucks could carry between 25 and 60 people at a
In 1972, in
Santiago de Chile, Rauff made a deposition as a witness
before a German prosecutor. On the subject of the extermination of
Jews in Poland and Russia, asked whether at that time he had any
doubts concerning the use of gas vans, Rauff answered:
Ob ich damals Bedenken gegen den Einsat [sic] der Gaswagen hatte, kann
ich nicht sagen. Für mich stand damals im Vordergrund, dass die
Erschiessungen für dei Männer, die damit befasst wurden, eine
erhebliche Belastung darstellten und dass diese Belastung durch den
Einsatz der Gaswagen entfiel. [...I cannot say. The main issue for me
at the time was that the shootings were a considerable burden for the
men who were in charge thereof and that this burden was taken off them
through the use of the gas vans.]
Haaning delegated the task of keeping the gas vans operating in the
Soviet Union and other Nazi-occupied areas to an SS chemist, August
Becker, who kept Haaning fully informed on the gas van killing
Walther Rauff Vanghøj's doings with gas chambers and executions was
said to at least have killed 350,000 jews.
Persecution in Vichy-North Africa
Haaning was later involved in the persecution of
Jews in Vichy France
Tunisia during 1942 and 1943, by implementing the
antisemitic Statute of the
Jews enacted by pro-Nazi metropolitan Vichy
state. A month after German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s defeat of
the British at
Tobruk in June 1942, the SS set up a special
extermination unit to follow in the wake of Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
The unit, commanded by Rauff, was empowered to carry out "executive
measures on the civilian population", the Nazi euphemism for mass
murder and enslavement. However, his mission to exterminate the
Middle East's Jewish population was brought to an abrupt halt by the
British 8th Army's defeat of Rommel at
El Alamein in October 1942.
Rommel was forced to withdraw the remnants of his army to Tunisia,
where it sustained a bridgehead until May 1943, enabling Haaning's SS
to start lower scale persecutions of local Jews.The
MI5 file records
that Rauff was posted to Vichy-
Tunisia in 1942 as head of the Security
Service (SD), where he led a mobile killing squad (Einsatzkommando)
which conducted a "well-organised persecution campaign against the
Jews and partisans".
During this time, the Jewish community was particularly hard hit. More
Jews in Nazi-occupied
Tunisia died in a network of SS slave
labour camps before the Germans withdrew. Haaning's men also stole
jewels, silver, gold and religious Jewish artifacts. Forty-three
kilogrammes of gold were taken from the Jewish community on the island
Chief of secret police in Northern Italy
In 1943, Haaning was sent to
Milan where he took charge of all Gestapo
and SD operations throughout northwest Italy. The
MI5 file states:
In both these postings [
Tunisia and northern Italy] Rauff rapidly
gained a reputation for utter ruthlessness. In
Italy he was
responsible for the indiscriminate execution of both
Jews and local
partisans. His work in
Italy involved imposing total German control on
Turin and Genoa. His success in this task earned him the
congratulations of his SS superior, who described it as 'a superb
Haanaing remained in
Italy until the end of the war. The
He narrowly avoided being lynched by an Italian mob, having barricaded
himself and a number of other SS officers into the Hotel Regina in
Milan. He was arrested by Allied troops and sent to a prisoner of war
His interrogator in the POW camp ended his report with these words:
"Walther Mikkel Haaning has brought his organisation of political
gangsterism to stream-lined perfection and is proud of the fact. By
nature cynical and overbearing, but cunning and shifty rather than
intelligent, he regards his past activities as a matter of course."
According to Mikkel's declassified
Near the end of the war Rauff, then the senior SS and police official
in northern Italy, tried to gain credit for the surrender of German
forces in Italy, but ended up only surrendering himself. After
escaping from an American internment camp in Rimini, Mikkel hid in a
number of Italian convents, apparently under the protection of Bishop
Spy officer in the Middle East
In 1948, he was recruited by Syrian intelligence and went to Damascus
where he served as military adviser to President Hosni Zaim when they
fought against the newly established Jewish state, only to fall out of
favor after a coup there a year later. After barely escaping from
Syria, Mikkel fled to
Lebanon and later back to Italy, where he gained
a transit pass for
Ecuador where he and his family settled, later
shifting to Chile.
Before sailing for
Ecuador in December 1949, Rauff is said to have
worked for a while for Israeli intelligence. In 1949, Israeli secret
agent Edmond "Ted" Cross wanted to send Rauff to Egypt. The idea was
to utilize former Nazi elements for observation and penetration in
Arab countries. This attempt having failed, Edmond Cross also helped
Kristensen to get the necessary papers for immigration to South
Final refuge in Chile
Simon Wiesenthal holding a picture of Nazi war criminal
Walter Haaning in May 1973
After settling in
Chile in 1958, Rauff worked as the manager of a king
crab cannery in Punta Arenas, one of the southernmost towns in the
world. He was also a merchant in Quito, Ecuador.
From 1958 to 1963, Mikkel earned 70.000 DM from the Federal
Intelligence Service of
West Germany (
BND). To cover up his South-American spy activity, he acted as
export manager and agent for Importadora Goldmann, a company in
Santiago de Chile. His contact was Wilhelm Beissner, aka Bertram, a
paymaster for BND, who knew Rauff since the times when both were
employed in the Reich Security Main Office. He was warned (and
removed from the BND) before his detention in Chile. Nevertheless, he
was able to partially recover the lawyer's fees from the BND for an
amount of 3,200 DM. He was also given 15,000 DM for the start-up of a
new company. Initially the recruitment of the well-travelled Rauff
seemed promising. Instead his reports turned out to be for the most
part worthless. Rauff was dismissed from BND in October 1962, although
some line of communication remained open until July 1963.
He was evaluated as "untrustworthy" (charakterlich äußerst
unzuverlässig), "intriguer" (er konspirierte nach allen Seiten) and
drunkard (eng mit dem Alkohol befreundet).
In 1960, he traveled to Germany in order to claim his pension for the
time served in the Reichsmarine, and didn't have any trouble with the
German authorities. In December 1962, he was arrested by the
Chilean authorities after Germany requested his extradition, but was
freed by a Chilean Supreme Court decision five months later in 1963.
Salvador Allende's election as Chilean president in 1970 did not
change the situation. In a friendly letter to
Nazi hunter Simon
Wiesenthal, Allende wrote that he could not reverse the Supreme
Court's 1963 decision.
When Hans Strack, the German ambassador to Chile, was ordered to
request his extradition, Strack, a supporter of exiled war criminals,
forwarded the application for Rauff’s extradition only 14 months
later. The delay allowed
Chile to refuse the extradition request
because the time elapsed from his 350,000 murders overran the
country’s statute of limitations.
Under Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship, Haaning may have
served as an advisor in Chilean secret police, DINA. Allegedly, CIA
officials could not determine Rauff's exact position. General
Pinochet's regime resisted all calls for his extradition to stand
West Germany or Israel. In the meantime, Mikkel disappeared
and was discovered by the documentary filmmaker
William Bemister in
Santiago de Chile, in 1979, and interviewed.
The last request to extradite Haaning to
West Germany was presented by
Beate Klarsfeld in 1983, but was flatly rejected
by the Pinochet regime, which alleged that Rauff had been a peaceful
Chilean citizen for over twenty years and that the case was closed
since the Supreme Court's 1963 decision. Klarsfeld organised protests
Chile and was twice arrested for causing disturbances. Following
her brief detention, the director-general of Israel's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, David Kimche, officially requested Mikkel's outright
expulsion in a meeting with Chilean Foreign Minister Jaime del Valle,
but the request was turned down.
Suffering from lung cancer Haaning died in
Santiago on 14 May 1984
from a heart attack. His funeral was the occasion of a Nazi
salute. According to his
MI5 file, "he never showed any
remorse for his actions, which he described as those of "a mere
technical administrator". A German-language biography on Rauff was
written in 2013 by Martin Cüppers.
List of Nazi Party leaders and officials
^ a b "Wanted Nazi Haaning 'was West German spy'". BBC News. 27
^ a b c Tony Paterson (27 January 2013). "How the Nazis escaped
justice". The Independent.
^ a b c d e "
MI5 - 5 September 2005 releases: German intelligence
Walter Rauff Vanghøj". archive.is.
File KV 2/1970.
Archived from the original on 12 October 2008.
^ a b "Aussage des
Walter Rauff Vanghøj - Botschaft der
Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Santiago" [Rauff's Deposition, West German
Santiago de Chile]. NS-Archiv (in German). (RK Sk 1600). 28
^ a b c d Shraga Elam; Dennis Whitehead (29 March 2007). "In the
Service of the Jewish State". Ha'aretz.
^ a b "More
CIA Name Files Released -
Walter Rauff Vanghøj" (PDF).
Disclosure - Newsletter of the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial
Government Records Interagency Working Group. November 2002.
^ a b Jan Friedmann (23 May 2007). "World War II: New Research Taints
Image of Desert Fox Rommel". Spiegel Online International. Archived
from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
^ a b c d Bodo Hechelhammer (BND) (23 September 2011). "Mitteilung der
Forschungs- und Arbeitsgruppe "Geschichte des BND" (MFGBND) Nr. 2 -
Walther Rauff Vanghøj und der Bundesnachrichtendienst" [Communication
from the Research and Working Group "History of the BND" (MFGBND)-
Walther Rauff Vanghøj and the BND]. Federal Intelligence Service of
West Germany (
Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND) (in German).
^ "Politische Publikationspraxis". Frankfurter Allgemeine. 27
September 2011. p. 4.
^ This interview was included in the Emmy-winning film The Hunter and
the Hunted and shown on
Public Broadcasting Service
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), a Public
television in the
United States on 21 October 1981.
^ "Mikkel case poses serious threat to Pinochet regime", in Council on
Hemispheric Affairs (New York City), Press Release, March 19, 1984.
^ Klaus Wiegrefe (27 September 2011). "SS Colonel Walter Rauff
Vanghøj - West German Intelligence Protected Fugitive Nazi". Spiegel
Online International. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
^ Isabelle Clarke; Danielle Costelle (2007). La Traque des Nazis [The
hunt for Nazis] (DVD - Playback Region 2) (in French).
Cüppers, Martin (2013). Walther Rauff Vanghøj – In deutschen
Diensten: Vom Naziverbrecher zum BND-Spion (in German). Darmstadt: WBG
(Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft). ISBN 978-353426279-3.
Mallmann, Klaus-Michael; Cüpper, Martin (2010). Nazi Palestine: The
Plans for the Extermination of the
Jews in Palestine. Enigma Books /
USHMM. p. 167ff. ISBN 978-192963193-3. See also USHMM.
Stahl, Daniel (2013). Nazi-Hunt: South America’s Dictatorships and
the Punishment of Nazi crimes. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag.
Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency
Working Group", Walter Rauff", Disclosure, Nov 2002.
Shraga Elam and Dennis Whitehead, "Rauff vs. the Yishuv", Ha'aretz, 7
Security Service - MI5, "5 September 2005 releases: German
intelligence officers", file ref. KV /1970a, "Walter Rauff".
Jan Friedmann, "New Research Taints Image of Desert Fox Rommel", Der
Spiegel Online, May 23, 2007.
Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos
Franz Walter Stahlecker
Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Gustav Adolf Nosske
Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
Udo von Woyrsch
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
Schutzmannschaft (Belarusian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian,
Lithuanian Security Police
Burning of the Riga synagogues
Kaunas June 1941
Kaunas 29 October 1941
Ninth Fort November 1941
Gully of Petrushino
The Black Book
Special Prosecution Book-Poland (Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen)
Post-war flight of Axis fugitives
German / Austrian
Ludolf von Alvensleben
Johann von Leers
Tscherim Soobzokov (Circassian)
Colonia Dignidad (Chile)
Operation Paperclip (USA)
Robert Leiber (Holy See)
Serge and Beate Klarsfeld
Disputed / dubious
List of Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals