When the song, “Fly Me to the Moon,” was popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1964, it quickly became closely associated with America’s Apollo moon landings and became the first music ever heard on the moon when astronaut Buzz Aldrin played it on a portable cassette player. Few fans of the song — or Sinatra for that matter — realized the tune rested on the backs of scientists who just two decades earlier, had been militantly supportive of Adolf Hitler’s dream of a master race.
At the heigh of the Cold War, American law enforcement and intelligence leaders went to great lengths to recruit former Nazis and use them as classified, anti-Soviet “assets.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s J. Edgar Hoover, along with the Central Intelligence Agency head, Allen Dulles, believed the ex-Nazis’ intel value against the Russians more than justified what was called a “moral lapse” in their service to the Third Reich.
Americans started to become aware of the American government’s link to Nazi spies in the 1970s. Since then, thousands of records from declassified files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show that the government’s Nazi recruitment went deeper than previously thought.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the American government would try to “turn” former enemties. What is terrifying is the fact that many of the assets hired by the American intelligene organizations had been senior Nazi members and were protected by the American government for decades.
Nikolaus ‘Klaus’ Barbie, aka the “Butcher of Lyon,” was given a pass by the United States intelligence services. Barbie was employed to help in America’s anti-Marxist efforts. When Barbie was fingered by the French, the American intelligene community helped Barbie relocate to the South American country of Bolivia. While in tk name of city, Barbie helped his colleagues in America’s Central Intelligence Agency to capture the revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. )
Barbie had been head of the Gestapo in Lyon, France, where he had been assigned in 1942 when he was 29. Barbie personally tortured prisons by breaking legs and arms, administering electroshock and sexually abusing the male, female and child inmates.
The U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps recruited Barbie in 1947. The CIC made use of Barbie, along with other Nazi Party members, to fight communist efforts in Europe.
In 1980, Barbie helped out in the Bolivian coup which had been put together by Luis Garcia Meza Tejada. When the dictatorship fell, and the newly elected government of Hernan Siles Suazo came to power, Barbie was arrested by the Bolivian police. Bolivia didn’t need the Butcher of Lyon any longer and he was sent to France where he died in prison of leukemia, cancer of the spine and prostate cancer.
Operation Paperclip was the program established by the Office of Strategic Services, OSS, to bring Germans with the desired background into the U.S. following World War II. Scientists, technicians and engineers from Nazi Germany were identified and recruitd for employment in the U.S. A secondary purpose of Operation Paperclip was to keep the the Soviet Union from having access to the expertise and knowledge developed by Nazi Germany.
The American President, Harry Truman, did not authorize the execution of Operation Paperclip until 1945. Even when he signed the executive order, Truman specifically ordered that anyone found to have “…been a member of the Nazi Party…or an active supporter of Nazi militarism…” be excluded from the program. The restrictions, if followed, would have made rocket scientists Wernher von Braun, Kurt Debus and Arthur Rudolph ineligible. Each of the men had been pervious idenfied as a “…menace to the security of the Allied Forces.”
As a work-around to Truman’s anti-Nazi order, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency created false biographies for the scientists. Not being content with just creating a new future for the valued scientists, the JIOA purged the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships. Once the Nazism was eliminated, the scientists were given security clearances by the U.S. government to work in America.
The operational name, “Paperclip” came from the ubiquitous paperclips to attached the scientists’ new resumes to their US Government personnel files.
Wernher von Braun
Few people in technology’s history create a reaction quite like that by Wernher von Braun. To some, von Braun was a visionary who realized the potential for human spaceflight. For others, von Braun is still seen as not being more than an arms merchant who developed brutal weapons of mass destruction for Hitler’s Germany.
The rocket scientist was a card-carrying Nazi who use slave labor from concentration camps to build the glboe’s first ballistic missile. With the Second World War winding down, von Braun surrendered to the Americans and moved his rocket building team, and talents, to the United States. Over time, von Braun became a leader in the U.S. space race. Von Braun’s crown jewel was his developing the Saturn V rocket that carried men to the moon.
Von Braun died in 1977 at age 65.
1,000 Nazis. Otto von Bolschwing
Otto von Bolschwing was a mentor and key aide to Adolf Eichmann. America hired Bolschwing to spy the U.S. government in Europe and gave him a residence in New York City in 1954. In 1960, Eichmann was captured in Buenos Aires by Israeli MOSSAD agents. Officials from the CIA worked overtime to hide von Bolschwing’s connection to Eichmann resulting in von Bolschwing being shielded from prosectuion. CIA officials were concerned that von Bolschwing would be connected to Eichmann as a “…collaborator and fellow conspirator…and the…publicity could prove embarrassing to the US.”
When word about von Bolschwing’s involvement reached the US Justice Department in 1981, the Justice Department wanted to deport him. Death beat them to it as Bolschwing died later that same year
Aleksandras Lileikis had been linked to the machine gun massacre of 60,000 Jews in Lithuania. Lileikis’ CIA file noted that he was connected with the shooting of the Jews in Vilna. Despite the known connection, Kileikis was hired by the CIA in East Germany in 1952. Lileikis finally immigrated to the U.S. in 1956 where he livved quietly for almost 40 years. His Nazi past was discovered by prosecutors and Lileikis was deported in 1994.
Lileikis wasn’t the only Nazi spi which worked for American organizations in the 50s and 60s, he’s only the best known.
Other former Nazis were used by American intelligence agencies:
1. U.S. Army officials trained several Nazi officers in Maryland in paramilitary warfare with an eye towards a possible invasion of Russia.
2. In Virginia, a top advisor to Hitler gave classified brings on Soviet affairs.
3. An ex-Nazi guard was used in Connecticut to study Soviet bloc postage stamps looking for hidden messages.
The thinking that percolated throughout the American intelligence community started from the top. CIA’s Dulles firmly believed that “moderate” Nazis could be useful to America and the FBI’s Hoover personally approved ex-Nazis as informants. Both men, Dulles and Hoover, blew off any accusations of the ex-Nazis’ war crimes as “Soviet propaganda.”
Not Just Scientists and Informants
Nazis heading into the U.S. isn’t limited to scientists and spies. Others came into America as well. Some of them lied on their travel documents and others, well, the American government just looked the other way.
John Demanjuk is one example and Johann Breyer is another. Demjanjuk, who died in 2012, was a retired Ukrainian-American auto worker. Demjanjuk was convicted in 2011, in Germany, for war crimes which included the murder of 27,900 Jews while he was a guard at the extermination camp near Sobibor.
Breyer, whose mother was American, enlisted in the German army when he was 17. Assigned to Auschwitz during the war, Breyer ultimately emigrated to America and was granted citizenship in 1957.
The Office of Special Investigations, OSI, identified him as a Nazi soldier during a routine cross-check of released German records and U.S. immigration records.
In 2013, Germany granted a warrant for Breyer’s arrest and accused him of helping in the slaughter of over 215,000 Jews. Arrested at his home in Philadelphia in 2014, Breyer was held without bail while he waited on a hearing to extradite him to Germany. His already frail health deteriorated rapidly while he was in custody. Breyer died in July 2014, a month before his August 21, 2014 scheduled hearing.
Breyer is considered by many researchers to possibly be the last former Nazi where extradition to Germany is sought by prosecutors.
The full scope and scale of the American intelligence operation may never be known.
According to Richard Breitman, a Holocaust scholar at the American University, estimates the CIA, FBI and other agencies made use of over 1000 ex-Nazis as spies, informants and scientists after the war. Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian, feels the final county may be much higher.
Regardless of the final tally, if it is ever known, there is one reality that is soberingly clear.
American agencies hired many ex-Nazi police officials, scientists and collaborators who were guilty of war crimes. Information was available that the men utilized by American agencies were flawed and compromised men.
Note: Bukhglobal contributed to this article.