"What you were made to feel was that the country was in desperate peril and we had to do whatever it took to save it." - Hugh Cunningham, CIA Official1
As the Western Theater of World War II came to a close, there was a mad rush between the Soviet Union and the United States to be the first army to enter and secure Germany. It was not for consideration of land; that would be meted out later during the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Nor was it to capture the Nazi leadership and bring them to trial for their heinous crimes against humanity.
In fact, the goal was the opposite. The rush to secure Germany was much more about securing Germany's infrastructure: their leadership and the best minds in intelligence, science and industry. NationalArchives.gov hosts a list of over 1,500 Nazis that were transferred into America, many of them rampant war criminals.2 It has been released to the public only recently thanks to the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. The project that oversaw this endeavor is known as Operation Paperclip and was undertaken by the Office Of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA.
President Harry Truman formally ordered the Operation in August 1945, but it had covertly began months earlier, in May. Truman's orders expressly forbid the transfer of any person known "to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism".3
This directive was not followed, for it would have prevented the acquisition of a lot of prominent Nazis such as Arthur Rudolph, who endorsed the usage of slave labor from concentration camps for the building of the V2 rocket4 and later became a prominent figure in NASA.5 More people would die building the V2 rocket- a number estimated at 60,000- than were killed by it in combat.6
The dossiers of prominent Nazis brought into the United States such as Wernher von Braun cannot be found on the National Archives sheet; we can conclude that either identities were faked and whitewashed during the process, or the 1,500 names is an incomplete tally. Regardless, we can conclude that the order of Truman was not heeded, and many former Nazis became entrenched within the United States science, intelligence and industrial industries, undoubtedly contributing to a web of psychopathic conditioning.
There are many interesting profiles of war criminals who found employment in the United States after the war. Krunoslav Draganovic, for example, was a Franciscan priest who actively served the Nazi satellite regime in Croatia, where they were responsible for over 350,000 deaths. He also facilitated the escape of numerous Croatian war criminals through the assets of the clergy. After the war, he was hired as a U.S. spy.7
Kurt Blome was the director of the Nazi Biological Warfare program and former SS officer. He oversaw Nerve Gas experimentation on prisoners at Auschwitz, and established the bioweapons research center for Heinrich Himmler. One of his experiments involved inoculating prisoners with the plague and recording its progression.8 He was hired by the US Army Chemical Corps in 1951 to work on chemical warfare research.9
The most interesting case study is that of Reinhard Gehlen, a Major General in the German Wehrmacht, close confidant of Hitler, and head of the German Army Intelligence on the Eastern Front. The OSS found that Gehlen's knowledge of the Soviets that he had gained during World War II was so important that not only did they let him keep his job, he was able to maintain a vast majority of his infrastructure. What became known as the Gehlen organization functioned as a semi-autonomous intelligence unit for the United States and West Berlin, and employed over 100 former Gestapo and SS officers.10
“The Gehlen Organization was the one group that did have networks inside Eastern Europe, and that is why we hired them... Hiring Gehlen was the biggest mistake the US ever made. Our allies said, 'You are putting Nazis at the senior levels of your intelligence', and they were right. The Gehlen organization was the primary source of intelligence that claimed that, 'The Soviets were about to attack West Germany' …that was the biggest bunch of baloney then and it is still a bunch of baloney today. Gehlen had to make his money by creating a threat that we were afraid of, so we would give him more money to tell us about it. In my opinion, the Gehlen Organization provided nothing worthwhile for understanding or estimating Soviet military or political capabilities in Eastern Europe or anywhere else. The Gehlen organization had been penetrated by Soviet intelligence and many of the US Nazi assets were now double agents, taking CIA wages and turning around and selling information to the enemy.” - Victor Marchetti, CIA Veteran and former Chief of Soviet Strategic War Plans11
The lack of internal security in the Gehlen Organization was egregious. One former Army Counter-Intelligence Corps officer lamented:
“Recruiting methods then employed were so loose that former German Officers and noncoms were blindly being approached to work for American Intelligence in espionage activity directed against the USSR.”12
Not only did this mean that the Gehlen Organization became saturated with radical Nazis and other fascist elements, it also served as an easy entry of infiltration by the Soviet Union. The organization functioned semi-autonomously so strict controls over their operations was impossible.
The Soviet press did not hesitate to use the Gehlen Organization as an effective propaganda tool, pointing out that the West had maintained the very intelligence unit that was responsible for a long series of crimes against humanity along the Eastern Front of the War. Future Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms stated that:
“The reports in the Soviet-dominated press in Germany concerning the use of former German staff and intelligence is such that there is no question that the Russians know this operation is going on even though they got some of the details wrong... Certainly the fact that so much publicity has been given to this indicates serious flaws in the Operation.”13
One official CIA document titled “Forging an Intelligence Partnership: The CIA and the Origins of the BND, 1945-49”, noted that the Gehlen Organization would take CIA assets that they received and then sell them on the black market for more funds.14 The reference is vague but likely refers to selling arms and ammunition to various underground right wing elements.
Consider this: At the end of the War, the Office of Strategic Services was a small organization of 13,000 members15, and the Gehlen organization consisted of at least 4,000 members by the year 1949.16 Can we accurately say that United States intelligence absorbed the Nazi infrastructure without considering how much of an influence it had on the beginnings of these clandestine institutions?
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Although the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act has been a wealth of information regarding the early relationships between the CIA and former Nazi's, there is still a lot that we do not know.
“The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to provide hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sought by a government working group under a 1998 law that requires full disclosure of classified records related to Nazi war criminals, say Congressional officials from both parties.” - New York Times17
The New York Times article goes on to describe how the CIA has interpreted the Nazi War Crimes Act in an exceptionally narrow fashion, refusing to release many more documents.
“Historians who have studied the documents made public so far have said that at least five associates of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's campaign to exterminate Jews, had worked for the CIA.”
Though we can only speculate, it is possible that some of these suppressed files contain collaboration with other elements who assisted in protecting Nazis during and after the fall of the Third Reich. For example, the Red Cross and the Vatican collaborated to smuggle thousands of war criminals to safety immediately after the fall of Nazi Germany.18 They used underground passages known as 'ratlines' to keep the men out of sight. The Red Cross issued legitimate travel documents to many Nazi members: it is estimated that over 8,000 SS members ended up in Britain and Canada alone. These revelations shed light on how prominent Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Dr. Josef Mengele were able to escape from Germany and hide from Allied authorities and hide out for decades.
Food for Thought:
What effect did the influx of Nazis have on the agenda of the CIA and other institutions that they inhabited?
Why was OSS leadership so interested in providing safety for high profile Nazi's, despite the wishes of the President?
Is it possible that the friendly post-war relationship between the Gehlen Organization and the CIA indicates a form of relationship during and before the war as well?
What type of influence has the Gehlen Organization had on the development of Western Germany?
1John Marks, “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control” 1979. Despite the sensationalist title, John Marks' book is a model of academic integrity and a treasure trove of information. The book is derived from information taken from 16,000 CIA files received through the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with the few officials who would agree to talk. PDF available here.
2Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Record Group 330), NationalArchives.gov
5New York Times, “NASA Refuses to Comment on it's Former Official”, October 18 1984. “Mr. Rudolph directed the building of the Saturn 5 rocket that carried the Apollo astronauts to the moon and managed other space and missile programs... He was awarded the Exceptional Service Medal in 1968 and the Distinguished Service Medal, the agency's highest honor, the following year.”
7From the Federation of American Scientists, information uncovered from the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2002/05/nara050802.html
8Robert Kirkconnel, “American Heart of Darkness.” Excerpt available here.
10This information comes from the National Security Archives, a fantastic resource run by George Washington University. They are a leader in hosting important documents and declassifying more through Freedom of Information Act requests. They will be linked to many times throughout this book. The specific information on Reinhard Gehlen can be found here.
11Christopher Simpson, “Blowback.” Excerpt available here.
12CIA History Staff, “Forging an Intelligence Partnership: The CIA and the Origins of the BND, 1945-49” (1999). (PDF Warning)
16CIA History Staff
17New York Times, “C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files,” January 30, 2005
18The Guardian, “Red Cross and Vatican helped thousands of Nazis to escape,” May 25, 2011