Nazis, the Birth of the CIA, And the Secret Origins of Cold War Hysteria
The recent civil war in Ukraine has brought to world attention the willingness of the United States and it’s NATO allies to employ Nazi’s if it serves their interests. What a terrible century we seem to be living in where outrage after outrage has become normalized. Torture, assassination, mass surveillance, now Nazism have all apparently become acceptable tools of statecraft. Fascism is on the rise in Europe the oligarchs who are looting Europe hope that as standards of living plummet discontent can be channeled towards immigrant’s and away from the ruling classes. Those who are poorest and hence most powerless to exercise any economic control are blamed for the state of the economy. In Ukraine we have the bloody conclusion to this type of thinking the corrupt Poreshenko regime doubtless hopes that by directing his supporters in Western Ukraine against the East and South of the Country and Russia they will forget the real reason for Ukraine’s economic problems which is the 20 plus years of rule by thieving Billionaires. Perhaps they will not pay attention when the effects of the IMF structural adjustments destroy Ukraine’s already ailing economy. Of course the slaughter also serves US strategic interests as they hope it will weaken Putin politically at home or tempt him to interfere which will help the US in it’s quest to reduce the already servile European rulers into abject slavery. However just as this second cold war has begun with the west allying itself with Nazi Paramilitaries so too did the first Cold War. America’s alliance with Nazis was vital in shaping both the CIA and the Cold War itself.
This article is a sequel to an article I wrote in March called America the CIA and Fascism. It is an expansion on a paragraph that discussed Operation Paperclip. Since then I’ve learned a great deal more thanks to Christopher Simpson’s classic «Blowback» so if you’re interested in the topic I’d highly recommend this book combining scholarly caution with relentless curiosity. It’s difficult to say when exactly our story truly begins American corporations and elements of the government had relations with Nazi’s before during and after the war. Instead I’ll begin before the end of the war as german armies and their collaborators retreat before the relentless advance of the Red Army. These collaborators included regiments of the Waffen SS. The german’s had hoped to use nationalism against the Soviet Union. They encouraged the rise of fascist movements in all the eastern countries which they controlled. This policy of encouraging nationalism to destabilize eastern Europe predated the Nazi’s and was part of Long term German Strategic planning. In fact it was not abandoned after the war as Diana Johnstone documents in her «Fools Crusade» Germany played a key role in the early stages of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. After the World War II as we will see America hired many of the planners behind this policy to plan American foreign policy in Eastern Europe.
Today in Ukraine we see an egregious example of this «nationals Policy». So let’s use Ukraine during World War II as a sample of the types of people who were fleeing the Soviet Red Army. During the war Ukrainian Fascists were trained by what Simpson call’s Germanys special forces the SS just like the American special forces today they trained death squads. Some Ukrainians served directly in the Waffen SS. Others joined the Ukrainian nationalist Guerrilla army OUN. They engaged in massacring leftists, Poles, Jews, and Russians. In every country in Eastern Europe locals were incorporated into the waffen ss while others formed their own fascist movements. The German’s also managed to recruit an army of Russian’s from their many Russian prisoners captured in the initial year of the invasion of the USSR. Prisoner’s could either join or starve. The invasion of the Soviet Union was one of the most brutal attempted conquests in history Professor Daniel Ganser Quotes historian Andrew Wilson’s figures: 7 million Soviet troops died 15 million Civilians died 14 million people wounded. America to give a comparison lost 300,000 troops with 600,000 wounded no civilians were killed. Despite their tremendous losses the Soviet’s managed to turn the tide and it was only once the German forced were being steadily pushed back that the western powers launched the Normandy landing finally opening a Western Front. Members of German intelligence made plans to insure their future usefulness to the western Powers most famously Gehlen buried an enormous Cache of intelligence files that he used as a bargaining chip. Meanwhile those who had committed brutal war crimes on the Eastern Front all sought to be captured by the British, French, or Americans, so they could avoid punishment at the hands of the at ruthless Soviet intelligence agency the NKVD. Most likely they faced a bullet in the back of the head.
Meanwhile as soon as the war neared it’s end all the victorious powers began a competition to capture as many German scientists as possible for future recruitment. The Nazi regime had pinned it’s hopes on what it called wonder weapons but despite successfully developing an offensive long range rocket program and jet aircraft it was to late to change the course of the war. At Nordhausen where the V2 Rockets were constructed thousands of unfed salve laborers died. Despite this fact America recruited top Scientist’s from this facility as well as many others. Most Famous were Werner Von Braun and General Walter Dornberger. Both were top Scientists at Nordhausen and since officially the US was not supposed to recruit scientists that had been involved in war crimes their records were simply whitewashed and they were brought to the United States where both had long and successful careers. Werner von Braun became a key NASA scientist while Dornberger fittingly had a long career in the US military industrial complex including a long stint at Bell. This pattern would be repeated again and again any attempt to screen potential recruits to exclude active Nazis or known war criminals would be sabotaged by those supposedly doing the vetting merely whitewashing the potential recruits record. Thus even scientists that had tested biological and chemical weapons on human subjects were recruited.
But the US did not just recruit scientists. Even before wars end Alan Dulles and other members of the OSS the wartime precursor to the CIA were making deals with high ranking SS members. The early CIA was made up of wall street lawyers of which Dulles was a prime example. Dulles managed to the defection of a High ranking SS member that led him to the capture of a massive amount of Wealth looted by the germans. The money would be used to finance off the books CIA operations for decades. For example the CIA used some of these funds it to subvert the Italian elections keeping the Popular Front made up of the Italian Communist party and the Italian Socialist party from winning the postwar elections. The most important recruitment the US made was Reinhard Gehlen he had been in charge of German intelligence on the Eastern Front. He still had thousands of contacts in Soviet occupied Eastern Europe and had buried a treasure trove of intelligence. He was recruited secretly at first by an Army intelligence officer who didn’t want to risk being turned down by his superior by asking permission. He had Gehlen secretly retrieve the files. Soon however Gehlen had met with the head of Army intelligence General Edwin Siberd. Not only was he Recruited but he was immediately put in charge of reconstituting his network of spies. Prisoner of war camps became massive recruitment centers. Gehlen would go on to become the head of Western German Intelligence the BND. Historians estimated he provided 70% of the CIA’s intelligence on the Eastern Bloc and the soviet Union. Back in Washington he was greatly trusted with dangerous consequences. Gehlen provided a completely alarmist and false picture to his American patrons. Most famously in 1948 he played a major role in increasing cold war tensions when he falsely predicted an imminent soviet Invasion. His intelligence proved to be the exact opposite of what was actually going on in Eastern Europe where the Red Army was demobilizing instead he claimed that they were massing for an invasion. He adopted the paranoid mentality of Nazi propaganda in which everywhere there was a disciplined communist conspiracy behind everything. Thus he would continuously feed the Cold War Paranoia of the west reinforcing cold war myths of a Soviet Union bent on world conquest and an international communist conspiracy behind every type of dissent or demand for progress or peace. Not only did he become the CIA’s major source of intel he also supplied a little remembered man named Colonel John V. Grombach. As the cold war dawned Grombach who was head of the pentagon’s Military Intelligence Service was locked in a bureaucratic turf war with the OSS RA division headed by Alfred Mcormack the OSS team was made up of respectable academics the experts in their field. Grombach on the other hand promoted the most paranoid theories as intelligence. Using dirt some from fascists he smeared the OSS RA division as being dominated by communists. They were dismissed and cold war hysteria became rampant. Grombach would go on to form his own private intelligence agency supplied mostly by Gehlen. He would go on to be the source for much of Joseph McCarthy’s false accusations that would create hysterical witch hunts for communists in all areas of American life. Of course there were real soviet spies. One of them Heinze Felfe rose to be head of the Gehlen Org’s (their nickname was the Org) Counter Intelligence where for decades he gave the Soviets everything he knew helping them to capture more and more of Gehlen’s spy network, while at the same time sowing mistrust by falsely implicating loyal nazis as communists. Meanwhile british spy Kim Philby secretly working for the soviets had weekly lunches with the anglophile James Jesus Angleton head of the CIA counterintelligence division who accidentally gave away most of America’s secrets. Western intelligence agencies are much better at organizing death squads and arranging coups then actually catching spies.
More insidiously the US recruited Nazi’s who would come to be dominant in Academia secretly they would also work as top CIA analysts. This was known as Operation bloodstone and intellectuals including top SS researchers would be brought to the United States, along with experts in propaganda, and fascist politicians that would be rebranded in America as Freedom Fighters. For example Nicholas N. Poppe a german ethnographer and SS member became America’s leading expert on central Asia. Midhat Frasheri a high level Albanian war Criminal became active in US politics. Many former Fascists would come to participate in what was called the captured nations movement. In the 50’s the captive Nations Movement were part of a massive CIA PR campaign aimed (in blatant violation of it’s charter) at the American Public. War criminals could be met with cheering crowds of ignorant americans. Largely forgotten now the CIA’s campaign had a major effect on public opinion at the time and the CIA was able to promote the idea that containment was not enough all of Eastern Europe must be «liberated» in reality a cynical attempt to get more funding for their covert war on the Eastern Bloc and the USSSR. The press remained silent about the fascist background of these Freedom Fighters and as late as the 80’s (Perhaps later my source was published in the late 80’s) former fascists were active in the republican party. For example the GOP’s Nationalities council was run by Hungarian fascist Laszlo Pasztor. The captives Nations Movement became an important pressure group opposing any easing of Cold War tensions.
Undoubtedly the most dramatic use the CIA made of former fascists was the recruitment of Guerrilla armies made up of former fascists who waged a now forgotten war on the communist east. The remnants of the former fascist proxy armies and Waffen SS divisions that had managed to escape west were secretly reorganized and trained to serve as guerrilla armies. They were organized under the cover of so called labor service companies. Thanks to television the image we have of the end of the war is cheering crowds on Paris streets welcoming american troops or perhaps a sailor kissing a beautiful woman amidst cheering crowds in times square New York. Thus it is easy to forget that Much of Europe lay in complete ruins starvation and disease were rampant. Prisoners of war were let loose merely to start cleaning up some of the rubble. Others were recruited to act as a temporary police force. All of the victorious allies used them. They provided the cover for the US to train and assemble armies of exiles. Some went on to form part of the first batch of recruits for US special forces, Some were maintained for future use, while others were sent back to their home countries to spy or wage a covert war. Back in Washington a national security council resolution 10/2 had been passed which authorized the beginning of a covert war on the soviet union and anything they branded communist (which could be anything they didn’t like) anywhere in the world. According to the CIA this resolution is what puts them above all foreign and domestic laws. It was the brainchild of the architect of containment George Kennan who was a smart but also strange and sinister man. His writings are full of fascist sympathies, an obsession with Eugenics, and a hatred of democracy of which he once said should be compared to «One of those prehistoric monsters the size of this room with the brain the size of a pin.» He was the architect of both the official policy of containment and the secret policy of covert war that led to the creation of the CIA and it’s endless covert war on the planet. Ironically he would later be forced out of direct power by the domestic influence of the captive nations movement for whom containment was not enough. Under his Supervision Frank Wisner formed the OPC to carry out covert war. After being trained Guerrilla armies were sent back to their home countries to conduct a campaign of assassination and terrorism. Ukraine would prove the bloodiest example a CIA officer would brag that Ukrainian guerrillas killed over 35,000 people. They also made a failed attempt at a coup in Romania and waged a failed rebellion in Albania and a terror Campaign in Poland to name just some of their activities. They had even more sinister uses in mind for the Guerrillas a 1949 plan declassified in the 80’s revealed that the American’s planned to Air Drop these guerrilla forces into the Soviet Union after a month long nuclear attack that involved dropping 70 atomic bombs. The planners with typical understatement observed that this would lead to «resentment» among the populace who would fight back. Thus they planned to drop these Guerrilla armies in by plane in order to take control before the people could organize a resistance since the government would have been wiped out. Thus it is a myth that stay behind networks like Gladio were created for defensive purposes.
In addition to launching covert war the US also recruited fascists for their information war. Radio Free Europe and Radio liberty were filled with former fascist propagandists now working for the CIA. This often had counterproductive results as with good reason the American propaganda sounded a lot like the war time propaganda of Nazi Germany since it was produced by the same people. This actually served to increase peoples support for their socialist governments. The Eastern Bloc was also able to expose the fascist nature of the terror campaign the west was waging, further legitimizing them in the eyes of their citizens.
I’ll conclude with an account of 3 famous Nazis the US employed. First there is Former SS Sturmbannfuhrer Alois Brunner he was put in charge of deporting jews to ghettoes and then concentration camps. He was an expert in psychological warfare brought in to terrify the target population into submission so that it would meekly obey orders to relocate. He even murdered children telling a german lawyer pleading on behalf of a group of french orphans that they were future terrorists. However instead of being tried at Nuremberg after the war he instead became head of the Gehlen org in the Middle East. With CIA Knowledge and encouragement Gehlen would also recruit Otto Skorzeny known to history as «Hitler’s favorite commando». Most famously he once rescued Mussolini in a daring Commando raid. After the war Skorzeny led a band of mercenary commandos made up of fellow Nazis with experience in special operations. He was involved in a network to help nazis escape justice. He would perform all sorts of missions for the CIA and it’s western allies he trained security services in Egypt, was involved in the uranium industry, would aid the biaffran rebels, perform assassinations, and deal arms. In the 70’s Skorzeny would be a consultant to spanish dictator Francisco Franco on his own version of Operation condor where his opponents were attacked and killed all over the world. Truth really is stranger then fiction some times. It sounds like something out of a bad movie. Lastly there is Otto von Bolschwing, stationed in jerusalem he managed to cut a deal with a haganah (the militia that would form the core of the future israeli army) commander Fieval Polkes that in exchange for allowing jewish youth to train in Germany before moving to Israel, Polkes forces would spy on the british and give the information to the Germans. Pre-State Israel had a shifting attitude to Nazi Germany embarrassingly enough, depending on their relations with the british and the balance of power during the war I’ll leave it at that. (see David Hirst’s «Gun and the Olive Branch») Next Von Bolschwing would design a plan to strip jews of their assets which was implemented robbing untold numbers. Because of his experience as a spy stationed in Jerusalem he would go on to serve as the Notorious Adolf Eichman’s adviser on jewish affairs. Then he would help organize a fascist coup in Romania and after which Local Fascists killed hundreds and engaged in the literal butchery of 70 local jews at a meat packing plant, who were skinned and hung up on meat hooks. He would be stationed in Romania but in the spring of 1945 he defected to the americans first giving them intel on German troop movements and the location of their rocket scientists. After the war he was put in charge of infiltrating agents into Hungary and Rumania for espionage and Covert war. The American’s rewarded him for his service by whitewashing his record and allowing him into the US where he lived out his days. Thus thanks to the CIA major war criminals managed to escape justice, and «Hitler’s commando» with his band of Nazi’s were used in all sorts of shadowy operations many still unknown.
Clearly the US alliance with Nazis is nothing new nor is a simple oddity of history. The recruitment of Nazis had an impact on the formation of the CIA and special forces. Managing fascists was also extremely good for your Career in the CIA. A number of future CIA directors were involved with recruiting nazis or managing the covert armies made up of former fascists. Allen Dulles, Richard Helms and Bill Colby were all involved, and all rose to become future CIA directors and war criminals in their own right. Not only that but with a few adjustments fascist propaganda was used to instill cold war paranoia in the American public. The Gehlen organization would both feed the paranoia of the establishment and the McCarthyism of more extreme elements in America. Most dangerously the US would adopt Nazi foreign policy experts to help it design it’s cold war strategies. In a word the recruitment of the Nazis contributed to the cold war hysteria that could have ended in nuclear war. Today in Ukraine the results could be equally disastrous. Already the fascist butchery is well under way with hundreds already dead. Only now we may be asked to fight a world war on behalf of Nazis instead of against them. At the very least the US rulers demand a new cold war on the behalf of Ukraine’s fascist infested government. Fortunately in the internet age we are able to expose these attempts to disguise fascists as freedom fighters.
I definitely recommend Christopher Simpson’s information packed «Blowback» I was barely able to scratch the surface of the pervasive recruitment of Nazis and it’s affects in America. He also provides great insights into the origins of the cold war.