Camp Confidential: America's Secret Nazis (2021) Movie Script

[somber music playing]
[interviewer] I think...
We're good? All righty.
I'm gonna give a brief introduction,
and we'll go ahead and get started.
We're here at the home of Dr. Henry Kolm.
We are here interviewing
Mr. Alfred Bomberg.
We are interviewing
Ambassador John Gunther Dean,
a veteran who served at PO Box 1142.
[George Frenkel] I don't know
to what extentit is still classified.
After all, this was a wartime situation.
I took it very seriously,
and I just didn't talk about it.
Certainly not to my family.
[Dieter Kober] We had to swear,
"Don't tell anybody
where you are or what you're doing."
"Not even your wife or your parents."
"The life of the nation
depended on you holding to that secrecy."
[Arno Mayer] The first memory that I have
is when we were told
that we were going to be taken
to what turned out to be 1142.
And they put us into a bus.
All the windows were covered with wood.
You couldn't see a blasted thing.
[Henry Kolm] They suddenly said,
"We're going to send you
to an assignment which is classified."
[Fred Michel]
Everybody expected to go to Europe,
but we were pulled out,
and nobody knew where we were going to go.
[Gerald Stoner]
We start south of Washington.
And I figure, "What's going on here?"
I mean, everything was
as if they were trying
to keep the information away from me.
So we're going along,
and I began to see
an opening in the trees.
And there was a...
I think there wasa dirt road, actually.
You know, what's...
Where are they taking me?
[Peter Weiss]
And then we got off the main parkway
and came to a small
military installation.
[Army veteran 1]
We finally got to this place,
and the commander said,
"This is it, guys.
You're not going overseas."
"You're staying right here."
[Peter Weiss] One of our guys
leaned out the window to the MP and said,
"What's the name of this place?"
And the MP came back with "Nothing!"
[Arno Mayer] I am not so sure
that the peoplewho set up this program
that they knew
what the hell we were doing.
There was no precedent
for this kind of shit.Was there?
[tense music playing]
[interviewer] Okay, we're gonna go ahead
and get started here this morning.
And, George, if you could just start off
with the most basic of basic information.
Could you give us your full name
and your place of birth?
My name is George Weidinger.
I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1923
and escaped to the United States
on the last ship out of Europe
in December of 1939.
It certainly was
very, very frightening to me.
Every synagogue in Vienna was burned.
Many, many were sent
to concentration camps.
It was Hitler's idea
to exterminate the Jews.
Completely get rid of us.
[dramatic music playing]
[Rudolph Fellner]
As soon as I came to this country,
I put in an application
for becoming a citizen,
which qualifies you to join the Army.
[Arno Mayer]
There were hundreds of us there.
Jews who had
just been called into the Army.
And the first question they would ask,
"Are you prepared to fight
for your new country, for America?"
And then you would say, "Yes, Your Honor!"
And I was all on the side of those
who were gonna beat
the shit out of the Germans.
An eye for an eye.
[John Gunther Dean]I don't think
anybody had any better reason
to join the Army than I had,
who knew what we were fighting about.
[George Weidinger]
We finished our training.
Everybody's name was called
except my name.
One step forward.
Turn left.
And all they marched off...
And I was the only guy left
on... on that field.
[Peter Weiss] So the colonel called me in.
Weiss, say something in German.
So I gave them a famous poem by Goethe.
[in German] "Who rides so late
through the night and wind?"
"It is the father..."
[in English] He said, "Okay. Enough."
"You're going to 1142."
[suspenseful music playing]
[Arno Mayer] The bus stopped.
And the first thing that I saw,
it was not a very military camp.
[birds chirping]
[Peter Weiss] It looked like a club.
There was a swimming pool
and tennis courts.
[Arno Mayer] I... I would say
it didn't seem real somehow.
We didn't know what the hell it was.
[Walter Schueman] I was immediately told,
"Here you have no rank, no titles."
"You can't tell anybody what you do."
This was a very big secret operation.
[interviewer] This was actually
a prison camp. Right?
[Arno Mayer] Well, uh... [chuckles]
...if you wanna call it that.
They certainly didn't call it.
They called it PO Box 1142.
It took quite a few weeks for us
to be told that all these people
were gonna be there, these Nazis.
[birds chirping]
[somber music playing]
[Arno Mayer] At that time,
a Nazi was a Nazi.
A German was a Nazi,
and to bring them here, I mean, good God.
I mean, you shouldn't,
after you captured some German officers,
bring them to the United States.
I mean, you know, what's going on here?
[Rudolph Pins] These soldiers
came from all branches.
Artillery, Infantry, SS.
A lot of them were transferred directly
from the front where they were captured,
and without a change of clothes,
they arrived at 1142.
[Henry Kolm] It was not
the most comfortable feeling.
Some of them were real Nazis,
and they might have killed you
on the spot if they could.
You know, I'm Jewish.
And they knew it too.
[interviewer] What were you told
that your role was going to be there,
your job was gonna be?
[John Gunther Dean] Getting intelligence,
which will help the United States.
[newscaster 1] As the war
in Europe rageson,
theAllies face yet another threat.
Hitler's secret weapon, the V-2 rockets.
The V-2s have been
raining terror over London,
costing the lives of over 50,000.
Wernher von Braun,
Hitler's chief rocket developer,
intends the next generation of rockets
reach even greater distances.
[Bill Hess]
German rocketrywas at its peak.
And the major risk, of course,
was that Hitler would develop
a rocket powerful enough
to reach New York or Washington.
That would have changed
the whole course of the war.
[Walter Schueman]
We were toldto use our German
to interrogate the German prisoners.
Orders were,
"If anybody ever mentions rockets,
get everything they're saying."
[interrogator in German]What's your name?
[interrogator] Tell me
where the V-2s are hidden.
[Buller] Up my ass!
[Rudolph Pins in English] I remember
this one interrogationfrom September '44.
This prisoner says...
[in German] "I can't talk!"
"I'm an officer in the German Army."
"All I need to give you
is name and serial number."
[in English] Then I said,
"I happen to be a German Jew
who was pushed out of Germany."
"And if you don't talk,
we have methods of doing things
to you and your family."
[Arno Mayer] As a Jewish refugee
from Europe,
that's just about
as bizarre an assignment as you could get.
[dramatic music playing]
[Henry Kolm] On one occasion, there was
a Waffen-SS guy who wouldn't talk.
Rolf said, "I'll make him talk."
He put this guy in an ambulance
and drove him
around the base for about an hour.
"Are you ready to talk now?"
"Because if you're not,
we're gonna gas you."
But he didn't talk.
So they rammed the door shut,
and Rolf said, "Ivan, more gas."
Turned on a vacuum cleaner
and blew dust through the vent hole,
and he thought he was being gassed
because that's what the Germans did.
Rolf let him out after a while and said,
"Well, are you ready to talk to us now?"
And he talked.
[George Weidinger] One of
the great achievementsof PO Box 1142
was the fact that we discovered a site
where Hitler was building the V-2 rockets.
[Alfred Bomberg] Wernher von Braun
and his crew of scientists
operated from a secret underground factory
called "Peenemnde."
So we scanned theaerial photographs
and interrogated prisoners,
and they told us all about it.
[George Weidinger] Having found Peenemnde
created the bombing of the site.
I felt very good knowing that
that is one of the achievements
of PO Box 1142.
[victorious music playing]
[newscaster 2] Throughout the world,
throngs of peoplehail
the end of the war in Europe.
It is five years and more
since Hitler marched into Poland.
Years full of suffering and death.
Now the war against Germany is won.
In a symbolic gesture, American troops
destroy the Nazi party emblem.
[somber music playing]
[Henry Kolm] The sequence of events,
just to keep the chronology straight,
is that General Bissell
called us together at the Pentagon
and said, "Gentleman,
I need to... to take some action
which is illegal
and might wind me up in jail."
"There are hundreds of German scientists,
and if we don't bring them
into this country,
we will lose all of that technology."
[interviewer] So they weren't
on the booksor registered or anything?
[Henry Kolm] They were enemy aliens
who were not allowed
to come in in time of war.
General Bissell said, "We will take over
an island in Boston harbor,
and we will import
these scientists illegally
and take them to the island
before the immigration people
see the boat."
So these people came over on troopships.
We imported several hundred people
illegally to the island.
I distinctly remember
the time we picked up Wernher von Braun
and the first of his 300-people crew
from Peenemnde. There was a storm.
In the pouring rain and the howling gale,
they were lowered on the ladder in a storm
that was too bad for the pilot boat.
They got off the ship,
and they came to the island.
Everybody stared
at these funny-looking guys
with the leather coats
and their funny-looking hats. [chuckles]
[Arno Mayer] If you wanna see
the stereotype of the Prussian,
tall, blonde hair, blue-eyes,
goddamn it,it was Wernher von Braun!
[Alfred Bomberg] They were an echelon
of peoplethat we thought well of,
and I don't know how far advanced we were,
but from what I understand,
we had very little information
about rocketry.
There was no doubt about it.
[Peter Weiss] Rocket scientists
who were essential to the Nazi war effort,
now becoming essential to our war effort.
[Alfred Bomberg] All of a sudden,
this whole aspect
of what I was to do changed,
and then we got into,
what I think, the real purpose
of my being there was,
sort of an escort, public relations guy.
Make it comfortable for these people.
[Arno Mayer] A decision was made
to make me the morale officer,
which is a ridiculous title to have.
But somebody thought
that it could serve a purpose
to be nice to them.
And then the question came up
because I hated Germans so much.
Could I really do it
with sensitivity and so on and so forth
and not just blindly do my stuff?
At which point I answered,
"I can't answer that question
because I've never done it before."
[jazz music playing]
[Henry Kolm] We were told
that we were to interrogate people
in the friendly pretext of a chess game,
or a ping-pong game, or a tennis game.
Playing volleyball... They loved volleyball.
Horseshoes were not known in Germany.
I showed them how to play horseshoes,
and we had fun with horseshoes.
[Arno Mayer] There was a regular routine
that I brought them
newspapers, magazines, some whiskey.
What the hell?I didn't think
that I would be fighting the Germans,
whom I hated with every gut that I had,
that I would wind up that way.
[chuckles] I mean, it was crazy.
[interviewer] What was it like for you
to speak with a German prisoner?
[Army veteran 1] Well,
I would laugh with them, joke with them.
I wanted them to feel I was on their side
because Iwas born in Germany,
and you know,
that maybe I lean towards Germans.
But I was only trying to soften them up.
[John Gunther Dean] Heinz Schlicke, when
he came,he was young, sports-oriented,
so somebody had to go
and do things with him, so I did.
He was a Nazi? Yes, he was a Nazi.
He was at Peenemnde, so what?
But my job was to see
what he could do for the United States.
[Army veteran 2] Well,
we had a confidential fund.
When I was scheduled
to entertain the scientists,
I would go to Colonel Dean
and pick up 50 or 100 dollars,
and that would pay the way.
We'd use one of the military buses
to go to some nightclubs, dinner,
and I would pay for everything.
At the time, they were showing movies,
and those people who cooperated
were allowed to go see them.
And I guess they probably
appreciated the opportunity
of seeing an American film.
They liked to learn about America,
and they asked about America.
We wanted them
to get to know American culture.
[interviewer] Was your job more
to get intelligence from them,
or was it more to escort them around
and keep them happy?
[Alfred Bomberg] Both. Both.
[slow jazz music playing]
[Arno Mayer] That December,
Wernher von Braun said,
"Look, the winter is going to be
very, very tough in Europe,
and we would like
to send packages to our families
for the holidays."
I said, "I'll see what I can do,"
and I went to see the camp commander.
He called the Pentagon,
came back out, and said,
"We're to keep them happy."
So the following morning, they showed up
dressed in long leather coats
that German wear in the winter.
They also had on aTyrolese hat,
and in one of them,
there was a little feather.
I said, "For God's sakes,
nobody is supposed to know you're here."
"So would you please go back
and get dressed differently?"
The answer was,
"We have no other clothing."
"We will wear what we wear."
And I go to the commander,
and he said, "Okay. Take them."
[mellow music playing]
[Arno Mayer]
I'd been given a thousand dollars,
and we were driven to Lansburgh Brothers.
Lansburgh Brothers
was the largest department store
in Washington D.C.,
and I knew it was Jewish.
So it gave me
some sort of a nasty pleasure
to take these guys
to a Jewish department store.
So what do we start with?
Coffee, tea, chocolate for the children.
I said, "What now?"
[in German] Underwear!
[in English] I was 17 or whatever.
I had never bought anyUnterwsche.
And here were these four German guys
now ordering panties for their wives.
Finally, the woman came out
and held up a dainty nylon pantie.
I still only remember
Wernher von Braun, and he said,
[in German] "No! Made out of wool
and with long legs."
[in English] And people, of course,
looking like crazyfor these four guys,
speaking German, dressed in a funny way.
I asked them, "What next?"
Well, I never bought
any brassieres, you see.
So we were in the midst
of going after the brassieres.
By now, there were
certain gestures being made and so on.
[police siren wailing]
[Arno Mayer] The military police arrived,
arrested us...
and we were driven back in full glory
to PO Box 1142.
[Arno Mayer laughing]
I mean, what the hell?
You couldn't forget it,
and you couldn't make it up.
[John Gunther Dean] You took them out
for a spinand have a normal life.
Go to town,
have a piece of cake and coffee.
Make it normal.
They're not prisoners
and being given corporal punishment.
On the contrary,
we tried to win over people.
[Peter Weiss]Wernher von Braun
developed the V-2 rocket,
which killed countless numbers of people.
And now he's gonna work for us.
He was treated almost as a hero.
[Henry Kolm] Wernher himself
was a visionary,and was he a Nazi? I... I...
He did what the Nazis wanted to do,
and it was in his great favor.
You know, ideologically he was interested
in rockets and going to the moon.
He wasn't interested in warfare, really.
Yeah, he... he made the V-2s
that bombed London and all that, but...
[interviewer] Did he seem apologetic
or anythingfor the V-1s and V-2s?
[Henry Kolm] Uh, his attitude was
that this was important progress
from the viewpoint of us going into space.
[Arno Mayer] In one of the factories
in which they developed
some of these weapons,
they used Jews
who had been arrested by the Gestapo.
He knew what was going on.
Wernher von Braun
knew that there was an Auschwitz.
[dramatic music playing]
[newscaster 3] For the first time,
America can believe
what they thought
was impossible propaganda.
Here is documentary evidence
of sheer mass murder.
General Eisenhower, a man hardened
by the blood and shock of war
seems appalled
at these unbelievable sights.
Most dreadful of all the camps
was at Buchenwald,
where only 20,000
of the original 80,000 were found alive.
Slave laborers worked on the V-2 bomb,
serial numbers tattooed on their stomachs.
Sheer mass murder.
Murder that will blacken
the name of Germany
for the rest of recorded history.
[somber music playing]
[Peter Weiss] We were not yet fully aware
of the enormity of what had happened
under the Nazi regime.
I didn't know that at the time,
but my grandfather, and uncle, and aunt,
cousin, and other relatives
all died in the Holocaust.
Like so many others.
[Rudolph Pins] We were all shocked
at what happened, you know.
After you hear what happened in Auschwitz,
there isn't anything
that can shock you much more.
I don't think it would've helped
if I'd told everybody about my feelings,
and moaned and cried.
It certainly wouldn't have
helped my parents.
[Peter Weiss] Almost all of us
were refugees from Nazis.
We would have preferred to treat them
as the war criminals that they were,
but when you are in the Army,
you follow orders.
I tried to suppress the rage
because I wouldn't have been
very effective
if I had acted
as if I wanted to kill them.
[lighter clicks]
[Arno Mayer] It was unpleasant,
to put it mildly.
I mean, I'd almost feel like vomiting
for the very simple reason
I had to be nice to these guys.
And the only question
that I asked myself is,
"What did they do during the war?"
[interviewer] Could we just talk
a littlebit more
about your role as a morale officer?
[Arno Mayer] Only the morale officer
would translate sermons at Christmas.
[people praying indistinctly]
[Arno Mayer] They said, "It is Christmas,
and we'd like to have a Christmas mass."
They got a room which was very private.
They all showed up.
Then there was first the Catholic sermon,
and after that, the Protestant one.
And then it fell to me
to translate these two fucking sermons
from English into German.
They were very pleased.
In fact, they were so pleased
that they invited me
to come have a drink with them.
It drove me absolutely crazy.
I... I couldn't have anything humane
with them. I couldn't.
Behind my back, they referred to me
as "Der kleine Judenbube,"
the little Jew boy.
You know,
in your best dreams or nightmares,
you couldn't have expected
to become the morale officer
of these high animals.
I mean, the hatred within mewas so strong
I couldn't... I couldn't resist it.
Because as far as I'm concerned,
they were sons of bitches,
and I wanted them dead.
[interviewer] What did you think
was gonna happento these people?
[Peter Weiss]
If they sent us to Washington
to buy Christmas presents
for their relatives,
they were not likely
to be charged with crimes.
I occasionally went to bed
and found myself thinking,
"What... What am I doing here?"
I did wonder whether I could go
to the colonel in charge and say,
"I really can't do this."
Well, you didn't do things like that
when you were in the Army. [chuckles]
And also, you didn't do things like that
when you were a recent refugee.
[tense music playing]
[John Gunther Dean] We were trying to help
the US government obtain intelligence,
and it came in various forms.
Maybe 1142 was the beginning
of a diplomatic approach
to obtaining intelligence.
I'm gonna say something which,
up to you whether you want
to keep it in there.
We were not only interested
in what the Germans were able to do,
but we were also interested
in knowing about our ally at the time,
the Soviet Union.
And that became an important element.
The mutual suspicion
among the Western world
and the Russian world
predated even the second World War.
[Peter Weiss] The new policy
coming out of Washington
was to keep people who were useful
from falling into the hands
of the Soviet Union.
[Robert Kloss] It was a battle
between Russia and the United States
who could get the most German scientists.
We got Wernher von Braun, you know,
which was very good to have.
[Arno Mayer] When my parents asked me,
"What are you doing?"
The phrase that I kept using
over and over and over again,
was always, "I'm preparing World WarIII."
In my judgment...
I would say...
that the...
Cold War started a hell of a lot earlier
than anybody thinks these days.
What I was doing without knowing it,
that's really what it was all about.
[somber music playing]
[Alfred Bomberg] We were told
they were not prisoners of war.
They were actually in our employment.
In fact, they were on a per diem.
[Arno Mayer] They were promised
a fairly rapid naturalization,
and then also, they were promised
that their families could follow them.
[Army veteran 2]
We took care of their families.
And in many cases,
they were encouraged to immigrate.
That is to say, become American citizens.
We offered them the future.
But a lot of them
had strong Nazi backgrounds,
and we were a little disturbed
that they would be given
tremendous opportunities
to do well in the United States.
Probably better
than a lot of other people.
[NASA tech 1] T-15 seconds,
guidance is internal.
Twelve, eleven, ten, nine...
[Army veteran 1] A lot of these people
were then shipped off to Texas,
where they were going to work
on the rocketry program.
And that turned into the Apollo project,
leading America
to land the first man on the moon.
[NASA tech 2] Ignition sequence starts.
Six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.
All engine running.
Lift-off! We have a lift-off,
32 minutes past the hour.
Lift-off on Apollo 11.
Tower clear.
[Peter Weiss] It goes back to the question
of whether you can do bad things
to achieve good ends.
And I would say that if you do that,
then the end that you achieve
is not worthwhile.
With your continued support,
I will see you back in orbit
with that new space station.
And maybe one day
we'll have a man on Mars. Thank you.
[melancholy music playing]