Did the Japanese once love Nazi Germany?

German girls in the city

Juan Alberto Cedillo had actually researched the murder of Leon Trotsky, who fled to Mexico before Stalin. He came across something completely different: Nazis.

From Wolf-Dieter Vogel

When people talk about Mexico's role during the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany today, the Latin American state usually gets off very well. It is considered the exile home of German opponents of the Nazis and a refuge for anti-fascist politics. Writers like Anna Seghers or reporters like Egon Erwin Kisch sought protection there, and Mexico was the only country that had officially protested against the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany in 1938. But beyond that, the topic has no meaning in the Mexican public to this day. Only a few works, mostly published in the USA, deal with the influence of National Socialism in Mexico.

Between the lines

But the German fascists were very present there: Nazis frequented high-ranking political circles, members of the Abwehr and the Gestapo (Secret State Police) were involved in an attempted coup against President Manuel Ávila Camacho in 1942, the Association of German Girls (BDM) and the Hitler Youth (HJ ) were able to mobilize young Germans abroad undisturbed. “For political reasons, they didn't want too much research to be carried out in this direction,” says the Jewish historian Daniela Gleizer.

The book “Los Nazis en México” by the author Juan Alberto Cedillo has now made the subject present. The popular scientific work was awarded the “Reportage Prize 2007” and excerpts were published in the renowned weekly newspaper “Proceso”. Cedillo shows how the Nazis expanded their influence in the country to guarantee supplies of Mexican oil and other raw materials. The Wehrmacht needed the brown gold as fuel for the Blitzkrieg.

Mexico's left-wing President Lázaro Cárdenas, who was in office between 1934 and 1940, found himself in a contradicting situation at the time. As a late consequence of the revolution that lasted until 1929, he nationalized oil resources in 1938, thereby negotiating a boycott of the US and British governments. So the oil was exported to Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan. "Oil was Mexico's only source of income," explains historian Gleizer. The head of state had unsuccessfully asked US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lift the boycott. Later, after the USA entered the war and Mexico came under pressure, a clandestine network established by the Nazis provided the necessary oil supplies.

The fact that the government traded with the Germans helped Nazi groups move around freely, even though Mexico was also aggressively defending the Spanish republic. "Organizations like the Hitler Youth acted completely unpunished in the German School," writes Cedillo, "they beat up and insulted 'reserved' Germans who did not want to join the Nazis."

The German-Mexican Ellen Griffhorn-Koll also remembers those times. «The Nazis marched with their uniforms, bandages and boots at our meeting point 'Deutsches Haus' in the center of Mexico City. And we always wore the BDM skirts, ”says the 82-year-old, who has lived in the Mexican capital all her life. Like her contemporaries living in Germany, she was a matter of course in the Hitler Youth and the BDM, who also adhered to their rituals abroad. The only thing was that people weren't allowed to march in Nazi costume through the streets. "It was a moving time, we played theater and raised funds for the German Winter Aid."

In the “German House”, Ellen Griffhorn-Koll also experienced the fascist culture from overseas on the canvas: the swastika flags, the marches, the Hitler speeches also reached Mexico via the newsreels. "Of course, when all the films about Hitler's successes were shown, we were very enthusiastic." The Germans were very popular. "In contrast to the USA, France or Spain, Germany never intervened militarily here." When Mexico entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1942, many Mexicans did not understand for or against whom one was fighting.

Cedillo's book is topical thanks to information that has never been discussed before: According to the US Navy, German and Japanese agents have smuggled opium, heroin and marijuana from Mexico into the USA on a massive scale. "In order to weaken the army's combat strength, the Axis agents have ensured that the US soldiers are supplied cheaply and in large quantities with drugs," explains Cedillo. This is how the first drug cartels came into being. The good relations of the secret services of the Axis powers have ensured that the deal has taken on the cartel character so typical of Mexico: those organized gangs of "capos", politicians, entrepreneurs and security forces, whose internal wars and fights with the state currently close to 3,000 deaths a year cause.

Goebbels mistress

Actress Hilda Krüger is one of the most dazzling figures who traveled to Mexico on behalf of the National Socialists. Once the lover of Joseph Goebbels, she came to the country with the help of the US oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty and became the lover of Interior Minister Miguel Alemán.

"If Krüger did not even directly influence politics, she at least had access to a lot of information," says the Mexican author Paco Ignacio Taibo II. In his novel "The Return of the Shadows", which is also published in German, he dealt with the activities of the Nazis employed in Mexico. Kruger also plays a role there. In view of Aleman's close contacts with the Nazi diva, Taibo II is not surprised that the case was not prosecuted. "Alemán had a lot to fear," he says of the politician, who was Mexico's president from 1946 to 1952. Krüger stayed in Mexico after the war, in 1958 she went back to Germany to take part in the film "A ride on the Rhine that is funny".

It was only by chance that he came across the Nazis, explains Cedillo. Actually, he had gone through US archives to investigate the murder of Leon Trotsky, who fled to Mexico before Joseph Stalin. He found archives that showed that Nazi organizations had supported the Stalinist henchmen in the first, unsuccessful assassination attempt against the Russians. The communist painter Diego Rivera had informed the US secret service about this.

The letters of the famous wall painter put Cedillo on the track, and he wrote the "history of intrigues, spies, corrupt politicians, treasonous military in the service of the Hitler regime". In view of the scarcity of resources, he was only able to view a small part of the material available in the USA. The author hopes that he will soon examine the German sources more intensively. He does not have high hopes for Mexico's archives: "There is little to be found here."

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