At least 1,000 ex-Nazis were recruited by the CIA and FBI as spies and informants in the decades following World War II, according to new records obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests.
The New York Times reported
that former Nazis of varying rank — including one of Hitler's top advisers — were placed across Europe as well as here in the U.S. on varying assignments during the Cold War.
Many former SS officers based in Germany helped infiltrate Russian-controlled territory with surveillance cables. Across the Atlantic, an ex-Nazi guard in Connecticut helped study Soviet-bloc postage stamps for hidden meanings. Hitler's former adviser gave classified briefings on Soviet affairs in Virginia, and some ex-Nazi officers were even trained in paramilitary warfare in Maryland for possible deployment in Russia.
CIA director Allen Dulles thought some of the men could "be useful" to America.
"They used him, and he used them," said the son of one of the ex-Nazi recruits, Gus von Bolschwing, 75, in an interview. "It shouldn’t have happened. [My father] never should have been admitted to the United States. It wasn’t consistent with our values as a country."
Many of the ex-Nazis used by the U.S. agencies had committed war crimes, and some even turned out to be Soviet double agents, calling into question the wisdom of the overall program.
"U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes," said Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian on the declassification team. "Information was readily available that these were compromised men."
Another member of the government-appointed declassification team, Richard Breitman, a Holocaust scholar at American University, said that it appears the morality of hiring the men was an afterthought at best.
"This [recruitment] all stemmed from a kind of panic, a fear that the Communists were terribly powerful and we had so few assets," he said.
In some cases where the Justice Department discovered the men's Nazi ties and moved to prosecute them, the CIA tried to stop it.
In 1994, for example, Aleksandras Lileikis — linked to machine-gun massacres of 60,000 Jews in Lithuania — was deported after living quietly in Boston for nearly 40 years. Before he was deported, records show that a CIA lawyer called Eli Rosenbaum at the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit and told him "you can't file this case" because it would divulge classified records.
The CIA went even further in 1995, attempting to hide the fact that it knew of Lileikis' link to the mass murders.
"There is no evidence that this Agency was aware of his wartime activities," the agency wrote to the House Intelligence Committee in a classified memo.
None of the spies in the revealed documents are known to be alive today.
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