"The Catholic Right and the Knights of Malta, in particular Baron Franz von Papen (see sidebar), played a critical role in Hitler's assumption of power and the launching of the Third Reich's Twentieth Century Crusade."



WINTER 1986 Number 25

Pages 27-38

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The Sovereign Military and Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, known also as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, or SMOM, is juridically, politically, and historically unique in the world today.

Representing initially the most powerful and reactionary segments of the European aristocracy, for nearly a thousand years beginning with the early crusades of the Twelfth Century, it has organized, funded, and led military operations against states and ideas deemed threatening to its power. It is probably safe to say that the several thousand Knights of SMOM, principally in Europe, North, Central, and South America, comprise the largest most consistently powerful and reactionary membership of any organization in the world today.

Although an exclusively [Roman] Catholic organization, in this century it has collaborated with, and given high awards to non-Catholic extremists in its current crusade against progressive forces in the West, the national liberation movements, and the socialist countries.

To be a Knight, one must not only be from wealthy, aristocratic lineage, one must also have a psychological worldview which is attracted to the "crusader mentality'' of these "warrior monks." Participating in SMOM Ñ including its initiation ceremonies and feudal ritual dress Ñ members embrace a certain caste/class mentality; they are sociologically and psychologically predisposed to function as the ''shock troops" of Catholic reaction. And this is precisely the historical role the Knights have played in the wars against Islam, against the Protestant "heresy,'' and against the Soviet ''Evil Empire."

The Catholic Right and the Knights of Malta, in particular Baron Franz von Papen (see sidebar), played a critical role in Hitler's assumption of power and the launching of the Third Reich's Twentieth Century Crusade.

SMOM's influence in Germany survived World War II intact. On November 17, 1948 SMOM awarded one of its highest honors, the Grand Cross of Merit, to Reinhard Gehlen, the Nazi chief of intelligence on the Soviet front. He was subsequently installed by the Americans as the first chief of West Germany's equivalent of the CIA, the Bundesnachtrichtdienst (BND: federal secret service), under West German Chancellor Adenauer, a devout Catholic who had received the Magistral Grand Cross personally from SMOM Grand Master Prince Chigi.

After the appointment of Knight of Malta William Casey as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and another Knight, James Buckley, as head ot U.S. propaganda against Eastern Europe at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, several historians noted with interest President Reagan's call during the summer of 1982 for a "crusade" against the "Evil Empire" in Eastern Europe.

In addition to Casey, and James Buckley, its current members, or Knights, after the feudal fashion, include Lee Iacocca, John McCone, William Buckley, Alexander Haig, Alexandre de Marenches (the chief of French Intelligence under Giscard d'Estaing, himself a Knight of SMOM), Otto von Hapsburg, and various leaders of the fascist P-2 Masonic lodge in Italy. While its organizational funding is relatively modest, its leverage is maximized by the presence of its Knights in key positions in other private and governmental structures throughout the world.


A leading figure in Hitler's coming to power was SMOM Franz von Papen, known as "the devil in a top hat." A devout Catholic aristocrat from an old family of Westphalian nobility, a former military attache and spy against the United States in 1915, von Papen became Chancellor in May 1932, with the support of the Nazis. In June he ordered the dissolution of the Reichstag, calling for new elections in July, in which the Nazis emerged as the largest party in the new Reichstag. After a meeting with Hitler, von Papen persuaded President von Hindenberg to offer Hitler the Chancellorship, which he assumed on January 30, 1933. Von Papen became his Vice-Chancellor.

In April 1933 von Papen was elevated to Knight Magistral Grand Cross of SMOM. After the murder of Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss in Vienna in July 1934, von Papen became Hitler's Ambassador to Austria, and, in March 1938 stood by the Fuhrer's side at his triumphal entry into Vienna. From 1939 until August 1944 he was the Nazi Ambassador to Turkey, and at the Nuremberg trials he was charged with conspiracy to wage aggressive war. He was one of several Nazi leaders acquitted, and subsequently received a generous pension from the first postwar Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.

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The President of the American Eastern Association of SMOM is J. Peter Grace, President of W.R. Grace Company, who was a key figure in Operation Paperclip, which brought Nazi scientists to the U.S. 1

SMOM's Sovereign Diplomacy

As its name suggests, SMOM is both a ''sovereign'' and, historically, a "military" organization. Its headquarters, occupying a square block in Rome at 68 Via Condotti, enjoys the extra-territorial legal status granted to an embassy of a sovereign state. The Italian police are not welcome on its territory, it issues its own stamps, and has formal diplomatic relations and exchanges ambassadors with a number of countries.

On November 13, 1951 Italian President Alcide de Gasperi recognized the diplomatic sovereignty of SMOM, although he held off formal exchange of diplomatic envoys.2 On January 11, 1983 the New York Daily News announced that,

President Reagan's Ambassador to the Vatican, William Wilson, is, coincidentally, a Knight of Malta.3

On September 5, 1984 French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson signed a formal protocol with SMOM for various cooperative projects includlng "aid to victims of conflicts."4 (See below on Americares.)

Historical Antecedents

Already in existence at the time of the first Crusade in 1099, in 1113 the Order of St. John was given its independence by Pope Pascal II, permitted to elect its own Grand Master, and soon the Order began military participation in the Crusades along with with the Knights Templar and Teutonic Knights. The Order of St. John recruited successfully among the Eurupean aristocracy and soon controlled extensive estates throughout the continent, assimilating those previously belonging to the Knights Templar which it had helped crush during the first two decades of the 14th Century, with the Templar leadership burned alive as heretics.

J. Peter Grace and Project Paperclip

On January 16, 1980 ABC-TV broadcast a special "News Closeup," "Escape from Justice: Nazi War Criminals in America" which discussed Grace's Role in Project Paperclip.

The transcript of the program, available from ABC on request, states,

"Project Paperclip ....... from the end of WW II to the mid-1950's brought more than 900 German scientists to the United States. ..... Otto Ambros ..... was a chemist and a Director of the notorious I.G. Farben Company which supplied gasoline and rubber for Hitler's war effort. Ambros ...... played a supervisory role in the construction of Farben's plant in the Polish village of Auschwitz. For I.G. Farben, Auschwitz concentration inmates provided a plentiful source of cheap labor. ..... The Nuremberg prosecution charged that each day at Farhen's plant one hundred people died from sheer exhaustion. ...... Otto Ambros was convicted of slavery and mass murder and sentenced to eight years in prison. But even while on trial at Nuremberg, Ambros was a target for U.S. recruiters from 'Project Paperclip.' His prison sentence was commuted after only three years by American officials and he was helped in a bid to enter the United States by ...... J. Peter Grace, President of W. R. Grace, a major American chemical company. .....

An internal State Department document describes how J. Peter Grace helped Otto Ambros in his efforts to enter the U.S. In a memorandum to the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Grace acknowledges that Ambros was a war criminal. But he adds that in the years he's known Ambros, ...... 'we have developed a very deep admiration, not only for his ability, but more important, for his character in terms of truthfulness and integrity.'

Today Otto Ambros does consulting work tor W. R. Grace and Company and lives here in Mannheim, Germany. In a recent telephone interview Ambros [said] 'I'm happy to still be working as a chemist ...... but it's funny. Now I'm helping the Americans.' "

In June 1981, largely in response to the efforts of well known war crimes researcher Charles Allen, Yeshiva University cancelled a $150-a-plate dinner it had organized to honor Grace. (See also, Joe Conason and Martin A. Rosenblatt, "The Corporate State of Grace," 'Village Voice', April 12, 1983.)

When the scandal broke in West Germany over the Flick company paying huge sums of money to various politicians and parties, it was learned that additionally Flick had taken improper tax waivers and used the money to pump millions of dollars into W. R. Grace Co., becoming a major shareholder. Friedrich Karl Flick himself sits on the Grace Board. As the Moscow New Times reminded its readers (No. 8, 1983, citing Der Spiegel), Friedrich Karl's father, Flick Sr., had poured money into the coffers of the Nazi party in January 1933, and, ''after Goering had promised the Ruhr magnates that "the March 5 elections will be the last elections in this decade and perhaps in this century,'' he contributed another 200,000 marks; this sum was handed to SS Reichfuhrer Himmler. Flick Sr. was subsequently sentenced at Nuremberg to seven years for using slave labor, spoliation and being an accessory to the crimes of the SS. To ensure a good beginning for his son, the war criminal sent him after the war for early training with W. R. Grace.

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In 1187 the Order was driven militarily from Jerusalem by Saladin. The Knights were forced to flee successively to Acre, Cyprus (1291), and finally Rhodes (1310) where they subdued the local population and establishcd a military dictatorship enjoying territorial sovereignty for the first time. In 1522 they were defeated by Sultan Suleiman's forces of 200,000 troops and 250 ships after a six-month siege. By 1530 under Grand Master Villiers de l'lsle-Adam, the Knights established their headquarters on the island of Malta which had been given to them by Charles V.

Martin Luther was born in 1483, the same year that Torquemada unleashed the fury of the Inquisition, and while the Knights waged war against foreign heresies, they were soon confronted by the liberalizing Reformation challenge to Catholic Orthodoxy.

In England Henry Vlll's assertion of an independent national policy was complicated by his marriage to Katherine who was the aunt of Emperor Charles V, patron of the Knights of Malta who in England were a militant bastion of Papal loyalty. By 1534 Pope Clement VII had excommunicated the King and two years later Pope Paul III published a Bull deposing the King and charging the Emperor with its execution. According to King and Luke's authoritative history 5 of the Order in England

In July 1539, after two of the Knights had already chosen the martyr's crown, the King wrote letters to the Grand Master which practically constituted an ultimatum, demanding that the Papal supremacy should cease to be recognized by the Order in England. ..... But it was impossible to accept the King's conditions. In April 1540 ..... Parliament passed an Act dissolving the Order in England and conferring its estates upon the Crown. ...... 6

Meanwhile on the continent and in the Mediterranean the wars against the infidels of the East continued. Since the military defense of Christendom required naval support, the Order created a powerful fleet and patrolled the seas of the Eastern Mediterranean fighting many naval actions.

Military operations ranged as far as Egypt and Syria, and by 1565 under Grand Master Valette, they resisted the Turkish siege of Malta. In 1571 SMOM's fleet participated in the defeat of the Turks at the naval battle of Lepanto, and remained a major military presence in the Mediterranean until 1789 when Napoleon defeated the Knights and occupied the island. The Order finally sought temporary protection under the Russian Emperor Paul I in 1797; in 1834 Pope Leo XIII established its headquarters in Rome.


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