lot of events are frequently ignored by History books’ authors. Certainly, we cannot blame those authors for this, since it shouldn’t be easy to sum up millennia of battles, wars and political struggles. Therefore, choices must be made about what to include or exclude from History books. Of course, the most important and determinant events can easily find their place, but it is wrong to think that whatever we can’t find is insignificant.
For some time I’ve been writing about anecdotes and peculiar details of History which, although ignored by historians, are capable of leading us to a different reading of the course of events. I refer, for instance, to the WWII’s battle fought by the Americans and the Germans side-by-side; or to Germany’s and Russia’s military alliance signed at the dawn of WWII. However, in this new passage I’d like to talk about an episode which is particularly interesting not only as it is an anecdote, but also because this very episode, actually, never took place. It might look like a contradiction, or even a nonsense, but it’s not.
This story had begun long before its salient facts took place. On March 12, 1938, at 3 a.m. Heinrich Himmler landed at Aspern, Vienna’s airport. The Nazi SS had already took control of Austria and the Anschluss had just been realized. Himmler, who was then entitled as Reichsführer-SS, the highest rank of the SS, was greeted by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the leader of the Austrian SS. Since that moment, Kaltenbrunner would have climbed up the National-Socialist Party ranks till when he eventually became Director of Reich Main Security Office on January 1943, following Heydrich’s death. His duty was to lead the activities of this secret police by fighting all “enemies of the Reich” both inside and outside the borders of Nazi Germany.
A Different Path
After the Battle of Stalingrad, the Allied Forces were about to start their counter-offensive against the Axis Powers. In particular, Hitler’s defeats in Stalingrad and Kursk (Summer 1943) and the previous American victory against Japan in the Battle of Midway had made Hitler realize that he could not count on his overwhelming military force anymore. Sooner or later, the Nazi leaders thought, the Allied Forces would enter Europe. Once they realized this, the Nazis started to think about moving the conflict on a different path. That is, to kill the three Allied leaders: Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
Operation Long Jump
There are not many documents about this plot; hence, it is quite difficult to explain it in an accurate way. However, its existence (even though questioned by some scholars) is commonly acknowledged. It all began when the German military intelligence discovered, after breaking a US Navy code, that a major conference would have been held in Tehran in mid-October 1943. Based on this information, Hitler approved the planning of an operation to go there and to kill his main opponents. Operational control was passed to the Reich Main Security Office and, hence, to its chief, Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
Kaltenbrunner grounded this plot on a simple assumption: at that time, Tehran was full of Europeans. Boris Tikhomolov, the Soviet pilot who flew Stalin to Iran, recalled that: “Well-dressed Europeans either drove in chic limousines or simply sauntered along the sidewalks. They were wealthy refugees from war-torn Europe who had managed to transfer their capital to Tehran in good time and lived comfortably there. Of course, there were fascist agents among this crowd”. Kaltenbrunner planned to make use of those very fascist agents to reach the conference location and murder the three Allied leaders. The Operation was called Weitsprung; in English: Operation Long Jump. The Operation was to be led by Otto Skorzeny, lieutenant colonel in the Waffen-SS. Skorzeny was also the man who led the rescue mission that freed Benito Mussolini from captivity on September 12, 1943.
The Failure of the Plan
Gevork Vartanian, a nineteen-year-old Soviet spy, had recruited a small unit of agents in Iran. Vartanian’s team had anticipated every German move, and it also located the landing site of six Nazi radio operators near Qom (sixty kilometers away from Tehran). Vartanian’s team succeeded in tailing them until they reached Tehran, where they eventually shook off the Soviet agents. With the help of British forces, the Soviets found out the Nazis’ hideout. Once there, Vartanian was able to intercept and decode the plotters’ communications and, in particular, he came to know that the Nazi had plans for the coming of a second command, led by Skorzeny, for the actual attack to the “Big Three”. When the plan was about to be put in practice, a German radio operator realized that the radio lines used for communicating from Tehran to Berlin were under control. He sent an encrypted message to the headquarters in Berlin in order to inform them about this and the operation was cancelled.
Although there are several doubts about the existence of Operation Long Jump, there is still some important evidence about its reality. The most important one comes from Skorzeny himself, who, in 1966, for the first time confirmed of having been trained to kill Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Anyway, you might wonder what’s the point in telling a story that, actually, didn’t take place.
The one we’ve been reading is purely an anecdotal information, which has in no way changed the course of History. However, is it right to read History as if it was a novel? Is it right to perceive human kind’s History as a straight line that has never been able to take a different direction? It might be just an intellectual exercise, but let us ask ourselves a question: what would we be, today, if that plan had been carried out?
History, Politics & Economics – A place for uncomfortable truths.