|Georg Gaertner, also known |
as Dennis Whiles, in 2009
As the war neared its end, Gaertner learned that his home town in Germany had been taken by the Russian army. Russian revenge against the German population in such towns was brutal, and most are now part of Poland. To avoid being sent back there and face Russian wrath, Gaertner decided to try to remain in America. On September 21, 1945, he escaped from a prison camp in New Mexico and hopped onto a freight train that took him to California.
Gaertner could speak English and had served as a prison translator, and that skill would serve him well. He took a series of odd jobs, working as a dishwasher and farm laborer and keeping a low profile as he moved from town to town to avoid attention. As he improved his English-language skills, he also learned how to fit into American life. He carried a Social Security card under the name of Dennis Whiles, married an American woman with two kids in the 1960s, and took on higher-paying jobs in construction and sales, and even as a ski instructor and tennis instructor. In the early 1980s, Gaertner’s wife – whom knew nothing of his past – became suspicious when he refused good job opportunities that would have required background checks. When she threatened to leave him, he told her the truth and decided to come clean.
Gaertner knew that he had been mentioned in a book titled Nazi Prisoners of War in America, so in November 1983 he called the author – Texas A&M University professor Arnold Krammer.
"The caller identified himself as Dennis Whiles and commented that he had enjoyed reading my book," Krammer was quoted in a 1985 Houston Chronicle article. "He also said that it was very accurate, admitting that he had once been a German prisoner of war." The men spoke for a long time, and eventually Gaertner told Krammer who he really is.
Krammer and Gaertner collaborated to write another book, titled Hitler's Last Soldier in America, published in 1985. Gaertner reportedly obtained U.S. citizenship in 1989 and lives today in Colorado.