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Georg Gärtner (German pronunciation: [ˈɡeːɔɐ̯k ˈɡɛɐ̯tnɐ]; December 18, 1920 – January 30, 2013) was a German soldier of World War II who escaped from a prisoner of war camp in the United States, took on a new identity, and was never recaptured, though he did reveal his true identity some 40 years later.
Gärtner came from Schweidnitz, Lower Silesia (now Świdnica, Poland). He served with the Afrika Korps. He was captured by Allied troops in Tunis in 1943 and was brought to America as a prisoner of war. He escaped from his prison camp in Deming, New Mexico, at the war's end because he was afraid of being turned over to the Soviets. He created a new identity as Dennis Whiles, marrying and leading a relatively quiet life. According to his book, an exception was taking part of the first ski rescue team to the City of San Francisco in January 1952, immediately after which Life magazine took his and the group's picture. Meanwhile, his FBI wanted posters were in most post offices.
Gärtner was never caught by the authorities, but came forward 40 years later in 1985, "surrendering" to Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show. He effectively became the last World War II German prisoner of war in America.
Gärtner was not an illegal immigrant, since he had been brought to the United States against his will. He had escaped from prison because he was due to be sent back to his hometown in Silesia, one of the German provinces that became part of Poland due to border changes promulgated under terms of the Potsdam Agreement, and from which nearly all Germans thereafter were expelled by the Poles acting according to the terms of the Potsdam Agreement. Because of this, he was not charged with any offenses. But until late 2009, he was not a United States citizen; he had only a residence permit. In November 2009 he was finally naturalized as a citizen of the U.S. in South Denver after it had been delayed several months. The government claims that his paperwork had been lost.
Gärtner lived in Boulder, Colorado until his death. He published a book about his experiences called Hitler's Last Soldier in America, available in both German and English. For 40 years Gärtner was listed as one of the FBI's most wanted persons.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (September 11, 1985). "EX-P.O.W. ENDS 40 YEARS OF HIDING". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- TVSchoenfilm: Georg Gärtner – Hitler’s Last Soldier
- New York Times issue of September 15, 1985
- 1952 Life article on rescue of the City of San Francisco train, which Gärtner mentions in his book