Saturday, March 18, 2000

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS
Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff

Operation SUNRISE

In February 1945, SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff secretly sent word to the Allies that he wished to arrange a German surrender in that country. Luigi Parrilli, an Italian baron, carried Wolff's message to Bern, Switzerland where, acting via the Swiss intelligence service, he made contact with Allen W. Dulles, head of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in Europe and the future director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1953-1961). In March 1945, Wolff traveled to Switzerland where he met with Dulles in Zurich and offered to surrender all German and Italian troops in Italy under a plan codenamed Operation SUNRISE. The negotiations bogged down when the Soviets learned of the talks and demanded to be included, a demand the Western Allies initially refused. The negotiations ended on 9 April 1945, when the Allies launched their spring offensive into the Italian Po Valley. Also, Dulles later received word from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to end all contact with the Germans. Meanwhile, Wolff's plan came to the attention of Adolf Hitler and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler both of whom, surprisingly, gave Wolff permission to continue his dialogue with the Allies and stall for time. On 29 April 1945, German emissaries signed the instrument of surrender at Allied headquarters in Caserta (in the presence of a Soviet delegation) with effect from noon on 2 May 1945. World War II in Italy thus ended six days earlier than in the rest of Europe. On 13 May 1945, Wolff was taken into captivity when U.S. troops of the 88th Infantry Division arrested him at his private villa in Bolzano.

Postwar Prosecution

After the war, Karl Wolff appeared as a witness at Nuremberg for the prosecution in trials of Nazi criminals. He was tried by a German court and sentenced to four years' imprisonment with hard labour in 1946, but was released a week later. Following his release, Wolff worked in Germany as a successful public relations man. In 1961, during the trial of former SS officer Karl Adolf Eichmann in Israel, Wolff drew attention to himself with an interview that he gave to a popular German magazine in May of that year. Arrested in January 1962, he was charged with the murder of Jews, and with direct responsibility for the deportation of 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka concentration camp during the summer of 1942. On 30 September 1964, Wolff was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and 10 years' loss of civil rights. However, he was released in 1971 for good behavior.

Decorations & Awards:

German Cross in Gold: 9 December 1944, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS, Supreme SS and Police Leader "Italien."

Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class (1914) with 1939 Bar

Prussian Iron Cross, 2nd Class (1914) with 1939 Bar

War Merit Cross, 1st Class with Swords

War Merit Cross, 2nd Class with Swords

Cross of Honor for Combatants 1914-1918

SS-Long Service Award, 2nd Class (12-years' service)

NSDAP Long Service Award in Bronze (10-years' service): 30 January 1941

German Social Welfare Decoration, 1st Class: 28 May 1940

German Olympic Games Decoration, 1st Class: 29 October 1936

Commemorative Medal of 13 March 1938

Commemorative Medal of 1 October 1938 with Castle Prague Bar

Commemorative Medal for the Return of the Memel District

Golden Party Badge: 30 January 1939

German National Sports Badge in Silver

SA-Sports Badge in Bronze

"Old Campaigner's" Chevron

Italian Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus, Grand Officer

Order of the Crown of Italy, Grand Cross: 21 December 1938

Trevor-Roper, H.R. Twice Through The Lines: The autobiography of Otto John. Macmillan 1972

"...the only one in camp still permitted to wear his badges of rank was S.S. -Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Wolff ("little Karl"), Himmler's ex-Chief Of Staff; this concession had been promised him by Field Marshal [Sir Harold R.L.G.] Alexander [Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre] as a reward for his early surrender with the German forces in Italy. The badges of rank and decorations of the others were deposited in cardboard boxes in the camp headquarters."

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