January 2, 1935 Nazis of the Amazon

In 1935, the third Reich reached out to the Amazon basin, in search of ‘lebensraum’.  Living space.  3 SS officers bankrolled by the Nazi government, came with dozens of helpers to explore the region bordering French Guyana, with an eye toward colonizing the area for the ‘thousand-year’ Reich.

In 1978, the British-American science fiction thriller “The Boys from Brazil”  told the story of a bizarre plot to clone Adolf  Hitler, hatched by the “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele in his Brazilian jungle hideout.

In the film, Mengele met his fate at the jaws of a pack of vengeful Dobermans, under orders from one of his 94 ‘baby dictators’.

A story as squirrelly is this one could only come from the minds of Hollywood, but parts of it were closer to reality, than anyone knew at the time.

In the years following WW2, thousands of Nazi officers, senior party members and Nazi collaborators escaped across the Atlantic to find refuge in South America, especially Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

Though widely believed to be dead, Mengele himself was very much alive at the time of the film, living under an assumed identity in Bertioga, São Paulo.  The Angel of Death would escape the noose he so richly deserved, succumbing to a stroke while swimming in 1979, and drowning.

Long before there were Nazis, before there was even a Germany, ethnically German people have been emigrating in search of a better life.  In the United States, some 57 million people identify as being of full or part German ancestry, forming the largest single ethnic group, in the country.  I am one of them.

Outside of Germany itself,  The second largest German population in the world, resides in Brazil.

Mention Oktoberfest, and you’re speaking of an annual celebration of Germanic traditions, in Munich.  The second-largest Oktoberfest is a two-way tie, between the one held in Waterloo, Canada, and the city of Blumenau, in Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Oktoberfest Blumenau
Outside of Munich, Oktoberfest Blumenau in Brazil is one of the two largest celebrations of the original festival, in the world.

Outside of Europe, descendants of German immigrant ancestors have largely assimilated into their host societies, adopting local languages and adapting Germanic-sounding surnames to spellings and sounds more familiar to their adopted cultures.

Brazilians of German ancestry are in every sense Brazilian, except to the racially obsessed mind, of a Nazi.

In 1935, the third Reich reached out to the Amazon basin, in search of ‘lebensraum’.  Living space.  3 SS officers bankrolled by the Nazi government, came with dozens of helpers to explore the region bordering French Guyana, with an eye toward colonizing the area for the ‘thousand-year’ Reich.

Talk about squirrelly ideas.  The hardships of life in the Amazon jungle made this a strange choice of destination, but the idea made sense to these people.  With over 1 million ethnic Germans already living in the country, the pieces were already in place.  Or so they believed.

SS officer Joseph Greiner died of a ‘fever’ while on the expedition, most likely yellow fever or malaria. Expedition leader Schulz Kampfhenkel returned to the Fatherland with glowing reports of “The Guyana Projekt”.  “The two largest scantly populated, but rich in resources, areas on earth” Kampfhenkel wrote to his boss, the failed chicken farmer turned Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, “are in Siberia and South America”.

article-1080071-0238C02C000005DC-732_468x623As befitting a man who completely buys into Nazi ideas of racial superiority, the SS officer wrote “For the more advanced white race it offers outstanding possibilities for exploitation”, adding that the people who lived there “cannot be measured in civilised terms as we know them in Germany”.

A propaganda film was made of Greiner’s work in the jungle, but Himmler showed ‘scant interest’ in such grandiose plans.  “Given time”, the bloodless bureaucrat wrote to his jungle emissary, “the plan may be submitted again”.

So it is, that there is a Nazi graveyard by a tributary of the River Jary,  in the Amazon jungle. There you will find a 9-ft. cross, bearing this inscription: “Joseph Greiner died here on 2.1.1936“.

Author: Cape Cod Curmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a father, a son and a grandfather. A widowed history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. I started "Today in History" back in 2013, thinking I’d learn a thing or two. I told myself I’d publish 365. The leap year changed that to 366. As I write this, I‘m well over a thousand. I do this because I want to. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but I'm as good at being wrong, as anyone else. I offer these "Today in History" stories in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Thank you for your interest in the history we all share. Rick Long, the “Cape Cod Curmudgeon”

2 thoughts on “January 2, 1935 Nazis of the Amazon”

  1. Interesting information. I’m inclined to think that there was more to the story than just finding “living space.” The nazis were more than likely looking for a “space” to hide and what better place than deep in the jungle, as they began sensing their upcoming defeat. When the jungle proved too wild for them, they settled for the mountains in the south of Argentina, a setting that would enable them to feel at home for the similarities in landscape and climate. They happily paid Perón for fake identification and the promise of immunity. And that’s how there’s a huge German community there of descendants of the nazis.


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