Nazis / Recruiting

"And do not forget the petty scoundrels in this regime; note their names, so that none will go free! They should not find it possible, having had their part in these abominable crimes, at the last minute to rally to another flag and then act as if nothing had happened!"

-- From the fourth leaflet of the White Rose Resistance in Germany, 1942. Five students and a professor who wrote and distributed the leaflets were executed in 1943.

"The CIA, the State Department, and U.S. Army intelligence each created special programs for the specific purpose of bringing selected former Nazis and collaborators to the United States.... The government employed these men and women for their expertise in propaganda and psychological warfare, for work in American laboratories, and even as special guerrilla troops for deployment inside the USSR in the midst of a nuclear war.... Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of such recruits were SS veterans; some had been officers of the bloody Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Nazi party's security service."

-- Christopher Simpson, Blowback, 1988.

Aarons, Mark and Loftus, John. Unholy Trinity: How the Vatican's Nazi Networks Betrayed Western Intelligence to the Soviets. New York: St.Martin's Press, 1992. 372 pages.

John Loftus is an attorney who worked for the Nazi-hunting unit of the Justice Department until he left in 1981 to write "The Belarus Secret," and Mark Aarons is an Australian investigative reporter whose work led to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in that country. In this book they present the most comprehensive account yet in two areas of immediate postwar history: the role of the Vatican "Ratlines" in Nazi smuggling, and the involvement of Soviet intelligence in manipulating these events.

Pope Pius XII and Giovanni Montini (later Pope Paul VI) were involved in a massive obstruction of justice, sheltered by U.S. intelligence officers who had plans to use ex-Nazis in the war against Communism. But everything always went wrong when the U.S. sent agents behind the Iron Curtain. Allen Dulles and James Angleton figured that Soviet mole Kim Philby was the problem, so after 1951 they started backing the rival fascist organizations that Philby had denounced. As the authors reveal for the first time, this simply meant that a different faction in Soviet intelligence was now pulling the strings. "By 1959, the United States had lost every courier, safehouse, and intelligence network behind the Iron Curtain. The intelligence scandal was swept quietly under the rug, just as the Vatican scandal before it."


Cookridge, E.H. Gehlen: Spy of the Century. New York: Random House, 1972. (Originally published in London by Hodder and Stoughton.) 402 pages.

Hoehne, Heinz and Zolling, Hermann. The General Was a Spy: The Truth About General Gehlen and His Spy Ring. New York: Bantam Books, 1972. 439 pages.

Reese, Mary Ellen. General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection. Fairfax VA: George Mason University Press, 1990. 231 pages.

Whiting, Charles. Gehlen: Germany's Master Spy. New York: Ballantine Books, 1972. 274 pages.

As Nazi Germany was collapsing, General Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler's chief of eastern front intelligence, buried his files and waited to be captured. He felt certain that access to his files was an offer the Americans couldn't refuse. He was right, of course, partly because the Cold War was already being planned, and partly because Gehlen's scientific collection and analysis methods were very effective. He and his staff cut a deal with the CIA and the Pentagon to absorb his networks and his expertise. As part of the deal, Gehlen transferred his organization (the "Gehlen Org") to West Germany in 1955. He directed the BND until his retirement in 1968, and died in 1979.

British journalist E.H. Cookridge has broad experience with both European politics and espionage reporting. For this book he obtained access to previously-classified documents of Gehlen's activities over 25 years. Of the 24 chapters, nine concern Gehlen as a loyal Nazi, one chapter describes the deal with the Americans in 1945-1946, and 14 follow Gehlen's career in West Germany. The Cold War years saw a lively game of espionage between Gehlen and his East German counterparts; each side had moles planted on the other. The East kept complaining about all the ex-Nazis on Gehlen's staff; in this book Cookridge shows convincingly that "this was not in fact far from the truth." (page 271)

Hoehne and Zolling's book is based on a series they wrote for Der Spiegel in 1971, which in turn prompted Gehlen to write his memoirs. The authors interviewed Org members and drew on personal papers and government documents. They include an introduction by H.R. Trevor-Roper and a preface by Andrew Tully, who quotes Allen Dulles on Gehlen: "I don't know if he's a rascal; there are few archbishops in espionage. He's on our side and that is all that matters. Besides, one needn't ask a Gehlen to one's club."

Mary Ellen Reese offers the first book about Gehlen that concentrates on the American connection. She interviewed former CIA and Army Intelligence officers, and received "hundreds" of documents under FOIA from various agencies. But her claim that this is the first undistorted "full" picture, drawing on "wholly new information," seems unrealistic, as the CIA wouldn't cooperate with her. We also know that PIR advisor Carl Oglesby has been trying for years to sue for Gehlen records that the government considers too sensitive.

Charles Whiting's book is somewhat sensational in tone and doesn't cite sources. The author has written numerous World War II military histories of the same type, judging from their titles. There are altogether too many exclamation points, along with direct quotes that appear to be added for effect rather than accuracy. Most of the book concerns Gehlen's career in Germany, particularly after the war, rather than his associations with U.S. intelligence.


Hunt, Linda. Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990. New York: St.Martin's Press, 1991. 340 pages, including 60 pages of notes.

As World War II was winding down in Europe, the U.S. began looking for Nazi scientists and intelligence officers. They didn't want them for war crimes, although some were guilty of these, but rather to recruit them for the Cold War against the Soviets. President Truman had directed that no Nazis be allowed to immigrate. Nevertheless at least 1600 scientists and their dependents were brought in under Operation Paperclip, and hundreds more under related programs.

Although most of the publicity has concerned NASA's use of rocket scientists such as Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, Nazi scientists also conducted chemical warfare experiments on 7000 U.S. soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland from 1955-1975. The CIA and Army intelligence even paid the scientists to experiment with LSD and other psychochemicals, as the search continued for the ultimate mind-control weapon.

To gather material for this book, Hunt had to plow through the records of numerous government agencies, archives, and libraries, spend years on Freedom of Information Act requests, and threaten the Army with an FOIA lawsuit. It was worth it.


Loftus, John. The Belarus Secret. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. 197 pages. Edited by Nathan Miller.

For over two years, John Loftus was a prosecutor in the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, where he investigated the war crimes and subsequent activities of the Belorussian Nazis. In this capacity he coordinated a highly-classified inquiry called the "Belarus Project." This book describes what Loftus uncovered from the files of several U.S. government agencies.

In 1948 a secret section of the State Department began recruiting Belorussian war criminals for guerrilla warfare inside the Soviet bloc. When the operations failed, these Nazi collaborators were allowed to settle in the U.S. As recently as 1978, government departments were lying to Congress in an effort to cover up this history. Loftus blew the whistle on CBS's "60 Minutes" in May 1982, drawing headlines across the nation.

The use of former Nazis by U.S. intelligence is also covered comprehensively in "Blowback" by Christopher Simpson (1988). In another twist to this curious history, Mark Aaron teams up with Loftus to examine the Vatican's Nazi-smuggling and its probable infiltration by Soviet intelligence in "Unholy Trinity" (1992).


Simpson, Christopher. Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. 398 pages.

At the confirmation hearings for Robert Gates as CIA director, Senator Bradley exposed the CIA's manipulation of intelligence data to produce exaggerated estimates of Soviet economic and military strength -- estimates that produced the Reagan-era extravaganza of military spending. However, the Bradley-Gates colloquy did not explore the historical roots of such exaggerations. Simpson fills in the void left by the Senate's lack of historical perspective.

He traces the post-World War II recruitment by the U.S. of defeated Nazi chief of intelligence for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Reinhard Gehlen, and the increasing reliance of U.S. intelligence on the Gehlen organization's estimates of Soviet strengths and intentions.

In the critical period from 1945 to 1948, the correct assessments by U.S. military intelligence that the Soviet occupation forces in Eastern Europe were worn out and posed no threat, were supplanted with the Gehlen organization's lie that these same forces were a major military threat posed to invade Germany. The rest is our history, known as the Cold War.

-- Lanny Sinkin


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