Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Dr EMERY BARCS - 1954-7-28

We may not learn for some time the full story of the disappearance behind the Iron Curtain of Dr. Otto John (pronounced Yawn) with his bosom friend, Dr. Wolfgang Wohlgemuth

But whether the Russians kidnapped  Dr. John, or whether he went voluntarily, his departure for East Germany is a major calamity for the West.  As Chief of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Dr. John was really head of the West German intelligence service.

This office has its headquarters in No. 2 Ludwigstrasse, Cologne.  Its official task is to protect the Federal (West German) Republic from subversive elements - Communists and neo-Nazis.

In reality, however, the Office is the centre of West German intelligence. Its work (as far as as one can penetrate the secrecy which surrounds such organisations) includes the collection of information about East Germany, as well as counter espionage.

This means that the Office has had contacts with anti-Communists in East Germany, and that Dr, John, as head of the Office, probably knows everything about the organisation, members, and work of the Western intelligence service in the Communist-dominated part of Germany

SO whatever the reasons for Dr. John's disappearance behind the Iron Curtain, the fact that he is in Communist hands is enough to suppose that by now the Reds know the innermost secrets of the Western intelligence organisation in the "Democratic" Republic of East Germany. For if he doesn't want to talk the Communists have well-developed techniques to persuade him to talk.

There are Germans in Sydney who knew both John and Wohlgemuth at home. The picture they draw of the two men suggests that the Reds may find Dr. John a willing collaborationist.

Dr. John (his former acquaintances say) is a tall, smartly dressed, sharp-witted lawyer. Until the attempt on Hitler's life in July, 1944, he was syndicus (legal adviser) to the German civilian airline, the Lufthansa.

On the night of July 20, 1944, when John heard that the bomb plot against Hitler (in which his brother was involved) had failed. he used the permanent seat-reservation of Lufthansa big-shots to escape to Spain, whence he eventually went to Britain.

In Britain he worked for the Intelligence Service and the B.B.C. After the war he returned to Germany as a trusted friend of the British occupation forces.

It was this trust which procured him the job of Chief of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But neither Chancellor Adenauer nor other leaders of the West German Federal Republic liked him. He was also unpopular with his colleagues in the West German public service.

This aversion of Germans for him perhaps only assured the Western authorities that he was the right man in the right place. For he ascribed his unpopularity to the enmity and machinations of former nazisa who had wormed themselves into the West German Administration.

Whether this was true or not is difficult to know. Recently, however, many reliable German democrats have criticised Dr. John.  The Premier of the West German State of Baden-Wurttemberg, Dr. Reinhold Meier, for example, attacked him in an open letter addressed to Chancellor Adenauer.

Dr. Meier wrote that the hostility of Chancellor Adenauer towards him was based on false reports of Dr. John. The usually reliable West German weekly Die Zeit (The Time) also attacked Dr. John and questioned his reliability.

Possibly this hostility changed Dr. John's attitude towards the Communists. But it is equally possible that (unless he was kidnapped, which now seems unlikely) he has had intimate contacts with the Reds for some time.

Dr. Wolfgang Wohlgemuth, who accompanied Dr. John on his trip to the Eastern sector of Berlin, is a well-known personality in the former capital of the Reich.

His Sydney acquaintances describe him as a brilliant physician with an enormous gusto for night life, always spending much more than he earned, and constantly in debt.

He, like Dr. John, is In his late 40s. As a young man he was one of the most promising doctors at the famous Berlin hospital the Charite. For some time he was first assistant to the world-famous German physician, Professor Sauerbruch.

In the early '30s he developed a close friendship with one of the greatest stars of the silent films, Pola Negri. He also became a great jazz fan, and an accomplished jazz trumpeter.

Wowo (as his friends called him) was the darling of Berlin's film and theatre world. In 1939 he married a well-known Berlin actress, Charlotte Thiele. They stayed together three years.

During the war he became an assistant to Hitler's personal physician, professor Morell. This association with Morell saved Wohlgemuth from milltary service.

He remained in Berlin where he had a prosperous practice in the fashionable Kurfurstendamm.

In 1939 he married lovely film actress Ingrid Lutz who, however, left him after six months. Later he married a girl half his age, and abandoned her within a year.

DR. WOHLGEMUTH'S Sydney acquaintances say it is difficult to imagine that this excellent doctor-cum-nightclub-regular has become a Communist. He has always been cynical about politics, and never believed in anything "except pretty women, good champagne, and hot jazz music."

And he would do anything for a sizable bundle of banknotes. It is not impossible that when Dr. John met his old pal, "Wowo," the doctor made the Intelligence Chief thoroughly drunk and delivered him to East Berlin.  Police reports say that tho two were extremely "merry" when they crossed from West Berlin to East Berlin in Dr. Wohlgernuth's car.

But it is equally possible that both of them were hopelessly drunk, or that Dr. John had chosen this gay exit of his overt free will. The riddle may be explained some day.

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