The document was among 20 files released Friday by U.S. intelligence officials on suspected Nazi war criminals and their relationships with foreign governments, a move that could shed light on what Western governments knew about the Jewish Holocaust and when they knew it.
The Central Intelligence Agency was compelled to open the 18,000 pages of documents to the public under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act passed by Congress three years ago, a result of a seven-year crusade by New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney. The records are redacted photocopied paper documents stored in the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md.
"If opening access to these documents helps us to resolve even some of the unanswered questions surrounding the Holocaust, then this effort will have made an invaluable contribution to history," Maloney said.
Maloney became interested in the documents after controversy erupted over revelations that former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, elected to the post in 1971, had served in the Nazi-occupied Balkans as an intelligence officer. Waldheim was banned from entering the United States while he served as president of Austria in the 1980s after his past became suspect.
A congressional bill introduced by Maloney and passed in 1998 formed the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group comprised of U.S. intelligence officials and historians, which was charged with examining the records in preparation for declassification.
Giuliana Bullard, spokeswoman for the IWG, said that National Security Agency, FBI and the CIA worked closely with historians from the National Archives and National Holocaust Museum to determine which documents were relevant enough to be made public and which should be declassified.
The CIA rarely releases files containing information on individuals they considered "significant," but the files are the first of several hundred related to war crimes or suspected Nazi war criminals - including those of Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi regime - implicated in the genocide of more than 6 million Jews.
According to IWG researchers, the CIA's file on Hitler contains only one significant new document: an assessment of Hitler's personality by Dr. Ferdinand Sauerbruch, a famous German surgeon, who spoke candidly with a man named Hans Bie about Hitler's growing megalomania in 1937. According to Bie, Sauerbruch predicted that Hitler would end up as the craziest criminal the world had ever seen. That information was transmitted to the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, in 1944.
The IWG also found that Waldheim was not an intelligence resource for the United States, and the CIA could not conclude that the Soviet Union used or blackmailed Waldheim with information about his Nazi past.
The file on Josef Mengele, who performed cruel medical experiments on Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp, was examined by Dr. Richard Breitman, an American University history professor and IWG director of historical research.
Breitman wrote that he found published articles about Mengele and his postwar hideouts in South America, mistaken sightings of him, information of unknown reliability about his associates in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, and information about events from 1984 to 1985, when his tracks finally emerged.
Believing that Mengele was still alive, the U.S. Marshals Service proposed a covert operation in 1985 to locate and apprehend him in Paraguay. Mengele died in Brazil in 1979, IWG historians concluded.
And on Heinrich Mueller, chief of Hitler's Gestapo and a major Nazi war criminal, historian Timothy Naftali of Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, along with two historical experts, said the documents shed important new light on U.S. and international efforts to find Mueller after his disappearance in May 1945.
Though inconclusive on Mueller's ultimate fate, the file is clear on one point: The CIA and its predecessors did not know Mueller's whereabouts at any point after the war, and the notion that Mueller became an intelligence resource for the United States would not survive scruitiny.
Another suspected war criminal, Guido Zimmer, was a midlevel S.S. officer involved in the Holocaust in Italy and in Nazi espionage. His notebooks, which are translated in the CIA's file, offer insight into Nazi intelligence activities in the last year of World War II, particularly Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) efforts either to negotiate a separate peace with the West or to divide the Allies, Breitman said in his analysis.
"Another significant element of Zimmer's file is that he was able to escape prosecution as a war criminal partly through exploiting his wartime intelligence contacts and dealings with OSS officials, who spoke up for him after the war. In that sense, his history mirrors the experience of some other Nazi officials," Breitman wrote.
Some records document suspected Nazi association with the Gehlen Organization, a postwar intelligence operation that provided the CIA with reports on Soviet missile developments, supposedly based on contacts with German scientists captured by the Russians at the end of the war.
Many lesser-known Nazis committed serious crimes, but in the postwar period received light punishment, no punishment at all, or received compensation because Western intelligence agencies considered them useful assets in the Cold War, the panel found.
So far, U.S. government agencies have declassified more than 3 million pages, an effort recently expanded to include records relating to the Japanese and Far East.
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