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The Evil Masterminds in Exile Club

Friday, 4th January, 2002

Idi Amin is alive and well and living in Saudi Arabia.

I only discovered this fact last night while trawling the news; and it was certainly news to me. If I ever had really thought about it, I suppose I thought he was assassinated way back when in the manner of deposed despots and dictators everywhere. Somehow it seems right when wiping the slate clean to actually wipe the slate clean. Hitler didn't survive that Berlin bunker and freed people tend to turn to lamp posts, from Italy to Bolivia, when they get a window of opportunity to string up their former leaders.

Not only did Idi Amin survive the chop and the lamp post, but now his son is now standing for Mayor of Njeru, not that far from the Ugandan capital. Ali Amin says that 'the people don't have any problem with my father', blames the media for giving him a bad press, and accepts advice from his exiled father. Given that this very same exiled father was ultimately responsible for the deaths of a reputed half a million Ugandan citizens during his reign of terror, this wouldn't ring particularly true if it hadn't happened before.

George Bush isn't the only son to emulate his father, not even the first in the few centuries that constitute American history. Don't forget Allesandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Il Duce himself, who was narrowly defeated for mayor of Naples a few years back and subsequently got elected as a deputy in the Italian Parliament. A book entitled My Father's Keeper, followed the lives of children of leading Nazis, finding that some, like Gudrun Himmler and Wolf-Rediger Hess, have thoroughly embraced their Nazi heritage, while others like Martin Bormann Jr have entirely discarded it. The junior Bormann in fact has become a Catholic missionary. I haven't read the book, merely an article about it in the Times last year, so I did a quick search on Google to find out the latest.

It seems that there's plenty of interest in this issue. On an online forum at Third Reich Factbook, I found an intriguing discussion about Gudrun Himmler, daughter of Heinrich. Not only had she worked for an organisation called Stille Hilfe, or Silent Help, that provides food and help for Nazis, but people wanted to get in touch with her. When someone pointed out that she has had a daughter of tender years another member replied 'Interesting! I'd love to go out with Himmler's granddaughter! Can you email me a picture of her?' Maybe there's an underground equivalent to those Russian adopt-a-bride companies, trading in offspring of leading Nazis keen to exploit their family name in any way possible.

I find all this quite odd. Certainly these family names must hold a mystique to those of like minds, but this ought to be a pretty small and reticent crowd. What sort of Italian would elect Mussolini's granddaughter, knowing full well that she's quite happy to acknowledge her father's achievements? What sort of Ugandan, little more than twenty years after the end of Idi Amin's regime, would vote in his son?

More interesting to me though is how these exiles live. After all, Hollywood every now and again shows us how those living under the Witness Protection Scheme are given new lives and identities, but must always be on their guard just in case those bad guys come back. Here in the UK, we are deluged with calls for Sarah's Law, a British equivalent to the American Megan's Law that provides means for people to be notified if there are previously convicted paedophiles living in their neighbourhood. There are solid arguments for and against this, but those against tend to focus on retribution against the paedophiles who have, after all, served their time and who are still watched by police. If someone who has raped a couple of kids is at risk from relatives of their victims or from general vigilante attacks, how must some dictator with half a million deaths to his name be at risk?

How can you escape your name? I can't help but think of times when someone falls in love and starts opening up the secrets of their past to their loved one. How can you point out to your girlfriend that you've killed half a million people, but you're better now? How can Idi Amin's ex-wife in London explain who she was previously married to? How do all those bin Ladens in Boston explain to the vigilantes that they financed buildings at Harvard? What if Charles Manson's many lovechildren track their roots back and discover who their real father is? The adopted children I know often have a mix of curiosity and reluctance. Now I understand why.

Maybe my joke idea about the underground Nazi dating service has validity. Maybe Idi Amin is an anomaly. After all, Elizabeth Nietzsche, the philosopher's sister, founded a colony called New Germany with her husband back in Paraguay in 1886 and it proved to be a convenient shelter for many a Nazi war criminal after the fall of the Third Reich. Maybe this colony still exists, probably moved a little to avoid the eyes of the historians. Maybe if you found this secret hidden cul de sac, you'd find Osama bin Laden playing beach volleyball with Josef Mengele's grandchildren.

With current western opinion and military might arrayed firmly against terrorists worldwide, maybe many of them will count their blessings that they've lived this long and head on down to join them on that South American beach. The little cul de sac could grow into a small town, populated entirely by deposed despots on the run. I can see the underground brochures now. Enjoy the company of fellow exiles in their South American paradise while finding security through a shared secret! Shop in peace as all our shops are guaranteed free of Simon Wiesenthal spies! No extradition agreement with Israel will ever be signed! Play the Six Degrees of Carlos the Jackal without raising eyebrows! All this and more in the jungle version of Escape from New York!

The only difficult bit would be working out who would stand as Mayor. It's well known that you can't trust politicians but if the choice was Gerry Adams or Louis Farrakhan, who would you choose? Yasser Arafat or Ariel Sharon? Winnie Mandela or Pol Pot? Who would sell ice cream at the 7-11, and who would end up on the centrefold of the local edition of Playboy?

Enquiring minds want to know.

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