Files show CIA gave jobs to Nazi criminals

The British and US governments used known Nazi war criminals after the Second World War as spies, going to elaborate lengths to protect their identities. Previously classified documents yesterday confirmed that some were even granted American citizenship.

The newly released CIA, FBI and Army records show that at least five associates of the notorious Gestapo leader, Adolf Eichmann, worked for the CIA. In addition, the records show that 23 war criminals or Nazis were approached by the CIA for recruitment.

In other cases, the CIA, and other agencies who saw former Nazi war criminals and sympathisers as useful in fighting the rise of Communism across Europe, thwarted US immigration authorities from deporting or identifying Nazis living in America.

The documents provide an insight into the Cold War obsession with communism and the willingness to take at face value information provided by war criminals. The one thing that stood between them and a war crimes prosecution was their perceived usefulness.

Although the use of Nazis by the US was far more widespread than the British, one UK case revealed yesterday concerned a Gestapo official named Horst Kopkow. He was captured and interrogated by the British, and supplied information about Heinrich Himmler's movements in the final days of the war.

According to CIA records, he played up the value of his knowledge of Soviet and communist espionage. The records suggest that British intelligence faked Kopkow's death from illness, in order to use him as a spy. He died in Germany in 1996.

Another Gestapo official, Otto von Bolschwing, was hired by the CIA in late 1949.

He had worked with Eichmann before the war planning the expropriation of Jewish property in Austria and later served as the SS consultant to the forces that staged the bloody pogrom of Bucharest in 1941.

In early 1950, the Austrian police began asking questions about von Bolschwing.

His personnel file had been among those captured at the end of the war by the US.

To protect this agent from a war crimes trial, the CIA decided that any prosecutors who asked for it should be told, according to a secret CIA memo, "no files available".

In 1953, in recognition of von Bolschwing's work for US intelligence, the CIA pressured the US immigration service to let him enter the country. He later became a US citizen. In the 1970s he was exposed and stripped of his citizenship, but he was never arrested. He died in 1982.

Theodor Saevecke was hired by the CIA in Berlin as agent "Cabanjo" in the late 1940s. A senior SS officer in Milan in 1943, he had participated in the forced deportation of Jews in North Africa. In Italy he rounded up and killed members of the Italian resistance. By the early 1950s, he was an agent for the US in the West German criminal police service. When some Italian partisans sought his arrest in 1954 for his war crimes, the CIA sought to protect him.

A CIA document dated July 12, 1954, lists his offences: "Attended and managed hostage execution in Italian village; doubtless role in North Africa supervising deportation Jews to Germany." The memo then shows the CIA's intention to set Saevecke up as a private detective if the West German Government decided to drop him. He worked for West German police throughout the 1960s, retired on a full pension and died in 1988.

The hundreds of thousands of papers were released by the US National Archives.

They have been pored over recently by historians of the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Record Interagency Working Group, and assimilated into a book: US Intelligence and the Nazis.

Another case involved Viorel Trifa, an alleged student leader in Romania's fascist Iron Guard movement. He became bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the US and once led prayers in Congress. The FBI knew of his background, according to the US government historian Norman Goda. But, Dr Goda said, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered him a "very desirable part of the landscape during the Cold War.

Men like him kept emigre communities from being sympathetic to communist governments back home".

Mykola Lebed, a Ukrainian accused of aiding German stormtroopers in the suppression of wartime resistance, was also protected by the CIA. He was hired by the US Army Counter Intelligence Corps and later by the CIA. In 1953, the US immigration service wanted to investigate Lebed but called off the investigation after the CIA intervention.

Dr Goda said the documents show that US Immigration was not, as long thought, "asleep at the switch" during the years when many Nazi sympathisers entered America. They were often thwarted by the CIA, he added.

The records also shed new light on how the Nazi Government raised more than $ 20 million in foreign exchange between 1936 and 1941 with the help of US banks, particularly Chase National Bank (now JP Morgan Chase). US banks made more than $ 1.2 million in commissions.

[Source: By Tim Reid in Washington, The Times, London, UK, 14May04]

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