Monday, May 11, 2015

Operation Sunrise

The secret negotiations that brought about the unconditional surrender of German forces in northern Italy in 1945, Operation Sunrise received its name from Allen Dulles, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) station chief in Bern. His main German counterpart was Karl Wolff, the senior SS officer in Italy. In early March, at their first meeting at an OSS safe house in Zurich, Wolff maintained that he was acting on his own initiative and making no demands for personal immunity.

His stated purpose was “to end useless human and material destruction.” On the Allied side, however, the Soviet Union objected vehemently, fearing betrayal by the Americans and the British through the conclusion of a separate peace, while Wolff encountered strong opposition from his SS superiors, Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Heinrich Himmler, who were engineering their own exit strategy. Meeting with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, he successfully pretended his aim was to persuade the Americans to join with the Germans against the Soviets.

Although Dulles had initially been instructed to terminate discussions with Wolff, the order was reversed on 26 April; three days later, surrender documents were signed at Allied headquarters in Caserta. The SS general also received special protection from Dulles’s aide, Gero von Schulze-Gaevernitz, in face of the threat posed by Italian partisans. This bold operation had particular significance, for not only was a costly last-ditch stand by German forces averted, but these troops were prevented from finding sanctuary in a rumored Alpine fortress and waging a guerrilla campaign.

MAX WAIBEL, (1901–1971).
A key liaison in Operation sunrise, Max Waibel was the head of Swiss army intelligence during World War II and a confidant of Allen Dulles, the Bern station chief for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. It was Waibel who, in February 1945, alerted Dulles to the possibility of achieving a negotiated cease-fire with German forces in northern Italy under the command of Karl Wolff. Waibel initially came under sharp criticism for his unauthorized role in helping to bring about this capitulation but was posthumously honored by the Swiss government for obeying his conscience and thereby preventing further wartime destruction. After the war, Waibel was instrumental in establishing a working relationship between Swiss authorities and the Organisation Gehlen, particularly regarding communist subversion. His account of sunrise—1945: Kapitulation in Norditalien (Capitulation in Northern Italy)— appeared in 1981.

Gero von Schulze-Gaevernitz and Allan Welsh Dulles

An assistant to Allen Dulles of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Gero von Schulze-Gaevernitz was born on 27 September 1901, the son of a distinguished political scientist and liberal politician. During his early years, he traveled to Russia and worked in the United States, lured by the stock market boom of the 1920s. Through his American mother, a daughter of the wealthy financier Otto Kahn, U.S. citizenship proved easy to obtain. At the outbreak of World War II, possessing little experience in diplomacy, Gaevernitz offered his services to American authorities in Bern, Switzerland, in the struggle against Adolf Hitler. His initial assignment was as a liaison to German exiles in the U.S. legation, where he was a friend of military attach√© Barnwell Legge. He also made numerous trips between Germany and Switzerland prior to Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States.

The arrival of Dulles in Bern marked the beginning of an unusually fruitful wartime collaboration. At their first meeting in November 1942, Gaevernitz impressed Dulles (who had earlier known his father) by his serious commitment to the German resistance to Hitler. Known as 476 according to the OSS rolls, he became a fulltime executive officer, unlike most of the other numbered sources. An attempt to provide him with cover as an attach√© for the Office of Economic Warfare met with the stern disapproval of the State Department, and Gaevernitz therefore remained outwardly a private citizen engaging in diverse business activities. His chief function was to screen individuals desiring an audience with Dulles, as neutral Switzerland teemed with exiles, spies, Nazis, anti-Nazis, and sheer curiosity-seekers. Particularly noteworthy was Gaevernitz’s role in bringing Hans Bernd Gisevius of the Abwehr to his chief’s attention. Gaevernitz also coordinated the efforts of an informal group of exiled politicians calling themselves “Das demokratische Deutschland” (Democratic Germany), who were concerned about the postwar configuration of the country.

The official Allied policy of “unconditional surrender” adopted at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 severely complicated the work of Gaevernitz and Dulles. While bound to respect its provisions, they nevertheless gave a measure of “quiet encouragement” to the German resistance, especially those involved in the plot of 20 July 1944 to assassinate Hitler. Gaevernitz figured prominently as well in Operation sunrise, the secret negotiations that resulted in an early surrender of German forces in northern Italy. Yet his plan to have captured German officers accompany advancing Allied armies as an advisory force was rejected by the staff of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
With the military defeat of Germany, Gaevernitz, along with Dulles, advocated a lenient and less categorical occupation policy. Remaining in Switzerland, he attempted to rehabilitate the German contacts he had brought to the OSS and compiled a card file of Germans who should and should not be consulted by occupation authorities. His last major cooperative effort with Dulles was a written account of Operation sunrise, The Secret Surrender (1966). Two years later, Gaevernitz revised a motion picture script based on the book. He died on 6 April 1971 in the Canary Islands.

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