CIA

The CIA Used Nazis (and Lots of Them) to Fight Commies

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This 1939 movie was a warning, not a suggestion.
Warner Bros.

The New York Times has a reminder today that our federal agencies tend to be largely amoral when it comes to pursuing whatever it determines to be in its interests. Fighting a cold war against those evil Communists? You know who else hates the Russkies? Nazis! So the CIA employed at least 1,000 known Nazis as spies and informants during the Cold War. And the agency helped conceal their ties to protect them from possible prosecution by the Department of Justice as late as the 1990s. Info had been leaking out for decades, but now we know a lot more about what happened, and as is typical, what the government was doing secretly was much more extensive than the public realized:

Evidence of the government's links to Nazi spies began emerging publicly in the 1970s. But thousands of records from declassified files, Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, together with interviews with scores of current and former government officials, show that the government's recruitment of Nazis ran far deeper than previously known and that officials sought to conceal those ties for at least a half-century after the war.

In 1980, F.B.I. officials refused to tell even the Justice Department's own Nazi hunters what they knew about 16 suspected Nazis living in the United States.

The bureau balked at a request from prosecutors for internal records on the Nazi suspects, memos show, because the 16 men had all worked as F.B.I. informants, providing leads on Communist "sympathizers." Five of the men were still active informants.

Refusing to turn over the records, a bureau official in a memo stressed the need for "protecting the confidentiality of such sources of information to the fullest possible extent."

The Times tells the tale of Otto von Bolschwing, a member of the SS and an aide to Adolf Eichmann, the man behind the "Final Solution." The CIA hired Bolschwing in the 1950s and relocated his family to New York City. When Eichmann was captured in Argentina, the CIA helped protect Bolschwing's identity and prevented his ties from being exposed. Prosecutors didn't figure out who he was until the 1980s. He surrendered his American citizenship months before he died.

In retrospect, the Nazis often didn't prove to be that helpful (no, really!):

[M]any Nazi spies proved inept or worse, declassified security reviews show. Some were deemed habitual liars, confidence men or embezzlers, and a few even turned out to be Soviet double agents, the records show.

[Holocaust scholar Richard] Breitman said the morality of recruiting ex-Nazis was rarely considered. "This all stemmed from a kind of panic, a fear that the Communists were terribly powerful and we had so few assets," he said.

Read more here. The effort appears to be completely disconnected from Operation Paperclip, which brought over German scientists and engineers after the war to employ them and keep them out of the hands of Germany and Russia.

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  1. “You know who else hates the Russkies?”

    The Poles?

    1. The wolverines?

  2. Now we’re using the Nazicommies to fight the baggers.

  3. ” M]any Nazi spies proved inept or worse, declassified security reviews show. Some were deemed habitual liars, confidence men or embezzlers, and a few even turned out to be Soviet double agents, the records show.”

    It takes an awful lot of stupid to believe that Nazis were trustworthy. Good thing we had the right Top Men who were up for the job I guess.

    1. Especially Nazis whose every incentive was not being uncloaked.

  4. You know who else used Nazis to fight Commies…

    1. The Baron in “Cabaret”?

    2. WWF?

  5. Fighting a cold war against those evil Communists

    Given the tone of the previous sentence, So the Communists were not evil?

    1. Of course not, and the evil they did was America’s fault anyways.

      / Cosmo

    2. ISIS is also evil. Doesn’t mean we should encourage recruiting and (the most important part) subsequently protecting rival terrorists from the consequences of their own violent behavior in order to gather information about ISIS.

      1. In fairness to the United States when has arming and funding one terrorist group to topple another ever come back to bite us?

        1. Pretty rarely, and when it has *supposedly* happened it was completely worth it.

          1. It is amazing how much time you find to post here while laying your life on the line for the cause you believe so dearly.

            1. …what? Is this comment of yours supposed to be profound? Because it’s really just retarded and pathetic.

              1. Other people’s lives are your playtoys. You have no shame about it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be called out on it. You constantly talk about what “should” be done and in this case about how something was “completely worth it” yet you are unwilling to risk your own life for the cause. You’re a chickenhawk who doesn’t understand that just because there are bad people in the world doesn’t mean you get to throw other people’s lives around to fight them.

        2. Given that most are in third world shit-holes far away they likely could do nothing regardless if we armed them or not. The other question is what good has it done us – not much.

      2. That kind of thinking during WWII led to the policy of unconditional surrender and subsequently to the atomic bombing of Japan.

        The press was outraged that Eisenhower had made a deal with the Vichy French Nazi sympathizer Admiral Darlan that the French would stand down during Operation Torch. Ike thought that was a good deal rather than having to waste men and ammo fighting conquered allies. The stink raised about letting a Nazi off easily caused FDR to demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers to appease the press.

        That kind of moral stand has a tendency to bite you in the ass down the line.

  6. Anachronistic as it somewhat might be, what was the libertarian position towards international communism and the Soviets during the early Cold War?

    1. There are as many libertarian opinions about this as there are libertarians but IIRC, it tended to split into two main camps:

      The hawks, who percieved Communism to be the ultimate expression of everything evil in politics and who tended to emphasize the international and expansionist nature of the USSR. These libertarians supported a very hard line against the Soviets and their satellites, though they didn’t necessarily support all specific military commitments (e.g., Vietnam). Goldwater and Ayn Rand would fit in this paradigm.

      The pacifists, who tended to write apologia for the USSR’s foreign policy and (to some degree) domestic policy as well, in an effort to avoid conflict and promote trade with the USSR. Their perception was that the US government was a more present danger than the USSR, which at any rate came out of the same liberal politics that classical liberalism did in the 19th Century. Rothbard is a good example of this breed.

      1. None were more vociferous in their condemnation of Soviet domestic policy than Austrian school economists and libertarians. But it’s not even up for dispute that the US foreign policy was markedly more bloody than Soviet foreign policy, who simply couldn’t afford to expand and wage war on par with the American government.

        1. But it’s not even up for dispute that the US foreign policy was markedly more bloody than Soviet foreign policy, who simply couldn’t afford to expand and wage war on par with the American government.

          Indeed, it is not up for dispute, because it’s such a bald-faced lie that no one could possibly take it seriously.

          The former client states of the Soviet Union, spanning every continent, stand as a bold testament to the utter historical dishonesty of Austrian apologia for the violent imperialism of the USSR.

          You do your cause no service by repeating these tired falsehoods.

          1. Thank you. Rothbard and his ilk are a disgrace to the freedom movement.

            1. Thank you. Rothbard and his ilk are a disgrace to the freedom movement.

              I’d likewise call you a disgrace to liberty movement but you’d actually have to qualify as a representative of such a movement. Judging by your casual use of ad Hominem to argue for your flavor of state fellating nationalism, I can only reasonably consider you a disgrace to state fellating nationalists.

          2. The former client states of the Soviet Union, spanning every continent, stand as a bold testament to the utter historical dishonesty of Austrian apologia for the violent imperialism of the USSR.

            The muderous nature of Soviet domestic policy is not evidence of it’s foreign policy murders. The US was engaged in more foreign wars than the Soviets, by far. Containment policy was a policy of global, perpetual war if you weren’t aware.

            1. So, in other words, the US’s problem is that it didn’t violently annex every country it came across? Or are the client states of the Soviet Union just not true Scotsmen? Saying the USSR’s violent aggression was domestic rather than foreign is question begging of the highest order.

              1. So, in other words, the US’s problem is that it didn’t violently annex every country it came across?

                The Soviet’s Eastern European empire was a gift from FDR, whether from negligence or malice on FDRs part. The Soviets were in no position to cement their claims on eastern Europe in the face of American opposition.

                Or are the client states of the Soviet Union just not true Scotsmen? Saying the USSR’s violent aggression was domestic rather than foreign is question begging of the highest order.

                The Soviet Bloc countries weren’t annexed outright but they were effectively occupied puppets. An occupation stemming from their unmitigated gains from WW2, gains that the Americans let them have.

              2. Saying the USSR’s violent aggression was domestic rather than foreign is question begging of the highest order.

                What proportion of the USSR’s millions of victims do you think were the result of a foreign invasion? If you’re unaware that the vast majority of it’s victims were it’s own resident population you have indeed studied very little about the USSR. But don’t let that stop you from trying to belittle those who actually have taken the time.

                1. Your answer to a claim of question begging is to beg more questions?

                  Well, shit, if you can just redefine terms and shift moral responsibility, then yeah the Soviets had a practically blissful foreign policy.

                  What purpose that is supposed to serve, I haven’t the faintest idea.

  7. Fighting a cold war against those evil Communists? You know who else hates the Russkies? Nazis! So the CIA employed at least 1,000 known Nazis as spies and informants during the Cold War.

    …so? What is your point?

    You know, one of the common complaints about how the Iraq occupation was handled was the extent to which we demolished existing institutions to build our own — the Republican Guard and Saddam’s bureaucracy, in particular. Those guys were rat bastards — but we sure as hell shouldn’t have dismantled them, thus making them a ready source of recruitment for insurgent groups. Fact is, we did not create the Nazis and had no responsibility to throw away a good asset simply on account of the fact that the person was a former Nazi. In fact, if we had it would have been a dereliction of our government’s purpose, which is to protect us (not to castigate foreigners over war allegiances).

    1. Those guys were rat bastards — but we sure as hell shouldn’t have dismantled them, thus making them a ready source of recruitment for insurgent groups.

      They would have done that anyway. Those organizations were broken.

  8. Uh, what the fuck was the Gehlen organization? The one that became the German Federal Intelligence Agency? Was it run by a bunch of fucking boy scouts?

  9. ” a few even turned out to be Soviet double agents, the records show.”

    omg = COMMIE NAZIS?

  10. Nazis are inhuman, so it’s ok to hate them. Which is a relief, because otherwise this obsession would be creepy.

  11. I know this may shock the know-nothings at Reason, but the USSR really was a big threat to freedom around the world, which made post-WW2 pragmatism regarding Nazis rather expedient. Had the USG done otherwise I’m 100% sure Reason would bitch about it anyway.

    1. It should also be noted that we used Communists to fight Nazis during WWII, and many of them also turned out to be unreliable, etc. Such is the nature of realpolitik. Yes, we’d all prefer that the real world fit into nice and neat ideological and ethical boxes, but it doesn’t.

      1. SEAC used the Japanese to maintain control in former colonial nations after the French/Dutch/British had split… the Japs had surrendered, but the fear was that the ‘locals’ were going to rise up and insist on Self Rule (*can’t have that!), so… Japanese Ruthless Efficiency was preferred. If there were a few atrocities committed here and there, it was all in the name of ‘stability’.

    2. I know this may shock the know-nothings at Reason, but the USSR really was a big threat

      I know it may shock you, but the USSR had it’s Eastern European empire given to them by US government and Stalin’s friends in the state department. Whatever side the US was on after WW2, it wasn’t the side of freedom.

      1. It was not bright, shining ethical moment, but the alternative was going right into WWIII just as WWII ended.

  12. Holocaust scholar Richard] Breitman said the morality of recruiting ex-Nazis was rarely considered. “This all stemmed from a kind of panic, a fear that the Communists were terribly powerful and we had so few assets,” he said.

    The Soviets certainly had the edge in intelligence gathering in the post war period. Check out Angelo Codevilla’s Advice to War Presidents for discussion on this. The CIA never really managed to cultivate a single high level source inside the Kremlin in the almost fifty years of the Cold War. The Soviets, meanwhile, had dozens of people inside the US Government. Check out this list, for example:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..ted_States

    Thanks again, progressives! Your fine character and sound judgment in collaborating with Stalin, Brezhnev, Khrushchev, and the rest are an example to us all!

  13. Well, duh. Following WWII we didn’t have spies in position in Eastern Europe (it seems the Russians were *very* good at ferreting out our spy networks, which I am sure has nothing whatsoever to do with high level communist spies in the US government…).

    If we wanted to spy on the Russians it was take over Nazi spy networks (offered up by their former German handlers “Ja, we friends? You not hand me over to Russians now, right?)) or go home empty handed.

  14. One great allegory about this sort of thing is the Dashiell Hammet novel Red Harvest.

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