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Nazis in the CIA closet:
The Origins of Fascism
in the United States

By Christian Dewar

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."
-- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The events of September 11th have served as a disconnect for many Americans who wonder why it is that some people hate this country enough to perpetrate such a horrendous act of terrorism on against a democratic country. The Statue of Liberty beckons the world's citizens to our shores. The inscription on this monument by Emma Lazarus reads:

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shores, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

George W. Bush says that the terrorists envy and hate this country because we are a freedom loving democracy. Simplistic, disingenuous and inane as an explanation, those who do try to answer the question, 'Why do they hate us?' are criticized as unpatriotic. They are accused of 'Blaming America First'. Organizations with very close ties to this administrations such as Lynne Cheney's American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and the Americans for Victory Over Terrorism are denouncing academics who have dared to address this burning question. Yet, it would be a disservice to hide our heads in the sand and ignore the terrorist's rationale for such horrendous attacks.

The truth is that America hasn't always been a good citizen of the world. Our country has intervened in many countries to overthrow democracies and subvert the will of the people. We have established and supported dictatorships and built armies to maintain totalitarian governments in office. Even a cursory examination of the United State's involvement in such countries as Iran, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Zaire, Angola, Nicaragua, Chile, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Grenada, Honduras and other countries will demonstrate that far from bringing democracy to the world, we have frequently destroyed it.

American institutions such as the School of the Americas have trained many foreigners who perpetrated murders, kidnappings, terrorism and genocide. Wars have been waged without the consent of our citizens or our elected representatives. Army installations such as the School of the Americas have trained foreign soldiers involved in massacres, genocide and terrorism. Booklets distributed by the CIA to the Contras advocated torture, kidnapping, assassination and terror techniques to control the population. Our intelligence agencies have cooperated with the Mafia, drug traffickers, dictators and other criminals. How is it that our country whose citizens perceive it to be a beacon to the 'huddled masses' came to embrace many aspects of a fascistic regime?

Author Kathryn S. Olmstead, in her book 'Challenging the Secret Government' quotes General James Doolittle discussing the tactics that he thought the U.S. would need to employ in the impending war with the Soviets: 'Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply...If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of 'fair play' must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, and more effective methods that those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy."

The gloves were off in the Cold War. The Geneva Convention was moot. We were to do anything to win, even if it meant embracing the brutal tactics of our most unprincipled enemies. If we were going to disavow notions of 'fair play' in the impending war with Russia, if we were going to have to be absolutely ruthless in our war with a mortal enemy, who better to emulate than the Nazis?

The terror unleashed by Hitler has become a benchmark from which people judge evil. The Nazis and Japanese armies included some of the worst war criminals that have ever lived during recorded history. Americans have been raised to believe the atrocities perpetrated by our enemies were anathema to our way of life and could never be accepted by our democratic institutions.

Doomed to defeat by the superior Allied forces, it was thought that the forces of fascism had been routed and that the world was safe for democracy. The irony is that the intelligence apparatus of the U.S. government saved many of the most hardened Nazi war criminals from a certain execution in order to recruit them as scientists, spies and guerrilla warriors in the anticipated war with the Soviet Union. And this had dire effects on our country's democracy.

Many Americans may not be aware of this wide spread recruitment of SS and Gestapo alumni into our intelligence agencies but it has had a profound effect on the shaping of our domestic and foreign policy, often with ruinous consequences. The legacy of this incorporation of Nazis into the CIA and U.S. military has been a half a century of support for fascist regimes, juntas, death squads, torture and the overthrow of democratically elected governments around the world.

This policy of adopting Nazis into our intelligence agencies did not consciously begin as some conspiracy to protect fascists. It was pragmatic. The use of Nazis and their collaborators was looked upon much the same way police use confidential informants. They could be given immunity from prosecution and granted special favors for their assistance in the war against the Soviets. However, the program became perverted. Agencies set up to investigate Nazi war criminals ended up as programs to subvert communism -- with the help of those same Nazis. And many of elements of their fascistic philosophy were adopted by the U.S.

Author Christopher Simpson outlines much of the basis for these programs in his book, 'Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effect on the Cold War'. 'Blowback' in spy terminology means an operation that essentially fails in such a way as to create negative, unforeseen consequences, which causes harm or embarrassment to the agency perpetrating the plot. Another book which deals with the use of Nazis and their collaborators and the harmful effects on our way of life is 'The Belarus Secret', which was written by John Loftus. Loftus was a former attorney with the Justice Department of Special Investigations. His job was to hunt for Nazi war criminals in the U.S. Loftus in also the co-author of the book, 'The Secret War Against the Jews', which covers many related subjects.

According to Simpson, the introduction of the Nazis into the U.S. intelligence agencies was in no small part overseen by Alan Dulles, a member of the of OSS, a republican activist and the eventual director of the CIA. The Dulles brothers, John and Allen were predisposed to helping the Nazis. After WWI, Germany's infrastructure and economy were in shambles. American financiers, bankers and industrialists swarmed over the country seeking the tremendous profits which were to be made in redeveloping the vanquished nation.

As a partner at the prestigious law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, Dulles represented many of these U.S. corporations and the German cartels responsible for Hitler's rise to power and the rearmament of the country. Dulles was very involved in protecting the profits of these powerful corporations and obscuring their Nazi participation. Several of these companies supported espionage, propaganda and the war effort against the Allies. The wealth of former president George Bush is in part due to the collaboration of his father with the Nazis. The U.S. government seized assets from Bush company holdings for Trading with the Enemy. Some historians state that Dulles' actions and those of the collaborating American corporations were tantamount to treason.

It eventually became clear to the Nazis that defeat was inevitable. It was at this point that one of the most prominent German spymasters decided to act for the preservation of his espionage ring and his fellow Nazi soldiers. Reinhart Gehlen was a Nazi stalwart and the head of Hitler's intelligence organization for Eastern Europe and the Russian territories. Some of the worst atrocities during the war were conducted at the Eastern Front. The Russians were seen by the Nazis as subhumans who would have to be exterminated in order to create living space for the Aryan people. Having participated in operations to interrogate Russian POWs in the concentration camps, Gehlen had to be aware of the intentional murder of as many as four million Soviet POWs by shooting, torture and starvation. Gehlen knew that his chances of survival were nonexistent if he were captured by the Russians and he made plans to surrender to the Americans.

Anticipating defeat, Gehlen microfilmed all of the Nazi intelligence files on these territories and buried them in a remote Austrian pasture. If there was one redeeming quality about the Nazis which was appreciated by their U.S. counterparts, it was their hatred of communism and the Soviets. Gehlen created a need for his services by playing on America's worst fears of Soviet hegemony. Insisting that there was to be an imminent war with the Russians and the U.S. after Germany's defeat, the Nazi spy was greeted with open arms by members of the U.S. intelligence community -- who accepted the offer of his extensive files -- and his German spy ring already in place in the Soviet block. They were willing to overlook Gehlen's status as a war criminal. Dulles said of the Nazi spymaster, 'He's on our side and that's all that matters.'

In order to make his services appear invaluable to his new American masters, Gehlen told his American captors that the Soviet forces were much greater than they were, that they were battle ready, and that they constituted an immediate threat. Gehlen claimed that there were at least 175 Red Army divisions poised to attack. The Soviet onslaught was to include air attacks on the U.S. and Canada. Guerrilla and subversive operations were to be launched against all Anglo-American interests. Fabricating the threat of an impending war provided safety and a livelihood for Gehlen's spies. By creating a crisis, magnifying it's significance and convincing his handlers that his services were vital, Gehlen assured himself a pardon from the gallows of Nuremburg, a comfortable life style, and the opportunity to open immigration into the U.S. and South America for thousands of the worst Nazi criminals.

Clearly, Stalin was a monster and not to be trusted. He had entered into a non-aggression pact with Hitler and divided the spoils of Eastern Europe with the German dictator who then betrayed him. The Russian dictator had created a tremendous police apparatus, engaged in genocide of his own people and shipped millions to slave labor in the gulags. He most certainly had designs on the countries that his armies had come to occupy.

But it is now clear that Gehlen inflated or created from whole cloth much of the information that he fed to his gullible handlers. Gehlen's reports were rife with misinformation and created a highly distorted idea of what the U.S. was up against. The reality was that most of the Soviet units were depleted from the vicious fighting against the Nazis and supplies were not adequate to launch a huge offensive. But Gehlen continued to play on American fears and paranoia. As Simpson put it, Gehlen perpetrated the idea of a communist conspiracy 'in which the hand of the Kremlin could be seen in almost every labor dispute and student strike on the continent.'

Army intelligence had been fairly accurate in their estimates, which said that the Russians were no where near being capable of launching such an attack, since their armies had lost millions in the war with Hitler. But personnel within the intelligence community and some conservative politicians realized that there was a lot of power to be gained in jumping on the anti-Communist bandwagon. They embraced the Gehlen line and claimed the low U.S. estimates of Soviet strength were due to infiltration of communists into the American intelligence apparatus. As a result of this hysteria, intelligence units that made more realistic estimates were dismantled by their opportunistic foes and blamed as being soft on communism. The Gehlen mind set became entrenched. The paranoia spread. Soon, government workers and military officials realized that their careers depended on subscribing to this perspective of U.S. and Soviet relations. Confidential reports of Gehlen's estimates were leaked to sympathetic reporters. Fabricated magazine and newspaper articles were published in America and foreign countries. Information was shaped by the defense industry and tailored for consumption by the politicians who held the purse strings for the military budget.

Increasingly wary of their former allies, the Soviets made a point of not confirming or denying any intelligence of their army's capabilities or intentions. This worked to their profound detriment. Their repressive campaigns against Eastern European nations did not do much to dispel U.S. suspicions. With no feedback from their former ally, the Americans assumed the worse and the most expensive arms race of human history was on. The price tag for the arms buildup has been estimated at around fifty billion dollars.

The Nazis and their collaborators were employed for many reasons, not just as spies and guerilla fighters against the Soviets. Scientists were brought to the U.S. to work on atomic, chemical and biological projects as well. Nazis with any expertise on Soviet affairs were recruited as consultants. However, the most controversial aspect of the program was the utilization of fascists by American intelligence in a program named 'Operation Bloodstone'. These people were incorporated into the programs involving guerilla warfare, sabotage, demolition, assassinations and propaganda. According to Simpson, Nazis were inducted into the U.S. army and Special Forces. After five years of service, they were eligible for citizenship.

The theory behind the use of the fascist secret army was that the U.S. could use them against any Soviets who survived the anticipated nuclear attack on Russia. Prior to any major conflict, they could be used to fuel nationalistic movements within Eastern European countries, compete with the communists for political power, exploit internal divisions within the Soviet Union and promote dissent.

U.S. analysts who subscribed to Operation Bloodstone eventually came to believe that the best policy was not to confront the communists head on in open warfare, but rather implement a policy of 'containment' that could confront the enemy indirectly in any sphere in which they tried to establish a beachhead. This theory then gave way to the 'roll back' or 'liberation theory' whereby nationalistic tendencies by countries that resisted Stalin and communism would be encouraged and provided with the resources and weapons to rebel against them. The theory had its direct lineage from the Nazis who used the same approach to win collaborators from the Eastern European countries when the source of German fighters became depleted.

Recruits not only included SS, Gestapo and Wermacht personnel but also collaborators from countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, the Ukraine and Belarus who fought with the Nazis against their mutual enemy, the communists. Many of these soldiers had been involved in gruesome massacres of Jews, communists, partisans and civilians. Some of these non-Germans even managed to astonish their Nazi bosses with their extraordinary brutality and sadism. The CIA funded the activities of these soldiers and groomed them for insurrection in their countries of origin.

Initial operations involved infiltrating these agents back into their homelands to create instability in the left leaning governments. The U.S. also backed fascist groups in Western Europe. Greece, Italy and France governments were targeted for infiltration in an attempt to roll back communist influence. Eventually, these programs were grafted onto U.S. policy in South and Central America, Cuba, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and other locations around the globe.

Gehlen had ulterior motives for cooperating with the Americans. Initially agreeing not to enlist SS, Gestapo or other Nazi loyalists, Gehlen was soon packing his employment roster with some of the worst war crime perpetrators that Germany had produced. Gehlen oversaw the 'ratline' that allowed thousands of his fellow Nazis and their collaborators to flee to safety in foreign lands and the U.S. When the Korean War broke out, the Germans found themselves in even greater demand by the Americans who wanted their support. The Germans used this as a means to extort the release of hundreds of convicted war criminals including some sentenced to death for genocide, the murder of American POWs, gruesome medical experiments on prisoners and the use of slave labor.

One such criminal was Franz Six who was a protege of Eichmann and whose job was to compile lists of Soviet officials for extermination. Another war criminal was Dr. Emil Augsburg who also compiled lists of Soviets marked for assassination. Walter Rauff oversaw a program which utilized mobile gas trucks to exterminate thousands of Jews. Gustav Hilger was a senior Nazi party official and liason with the Einsatzgruppen who murdered thousands of Serbs and Jews. These Nazis and hundreds more all found employment with American agencies.

Probably the most famous war criminal recruited by the U.S. was the Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, known as the 'Butcher of Lyon' for his part in the execution of civilians and the torture and murder of French resistance fighters. He assisted U.S. intelligence agents until word got out that the Americans were harboring him. A hasty escape was arranged to South America where he trained security forces for right wing governments and helped to overthrow democratically elected governments.

A parallel 'Operation Paperclip' recruited Nazi scientists with expertise in biological warfare, atomic research and the Nazi rocket program. Truman had given his permission to use German experts with the proviso that none of them have Nazi affiliations. Unbeknownst to the president, the background investigations of some of the worst Nazi war criminals were sanitized and scrubbed to omit any reference to their crimes. Author Linda Hunt, writing for the 'Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' reported that an examination of security clearances clearly demonstrated that they had been altered to remove evidence of a Nazi taint. According to Simpson, between 1945 and 1955, 765 scientists, engineers and technicians were brought to the U.S. under Paperclip and 'At least half, and perhaps as many as 80% of the imported specialists were former Nazi party members or SS men." If Truman was unaware of the hiring of Nazi war criminals, the Soviets were not and Truman's disavowal only exacerbated the mistrust between the superpowers and served to stoke the fires of the cold war. The program was incredibly lax in security and some of our most secret programs were leaked to the Soviets.

The U.S. policy of utilizing Gehlen's spy apparatus had many devastating effects on American domestic and foreign policy. High ranking CIA agents have declared that using the Gehlen organization was a tremendous disaster and a failure of the highest magnitude. It accomplished few of its goals. The Gehlen organization proved to be riddled with Soviet spies and unrepentant Nazis who did not have U.S. best interests in mind. The chief of Gehlen's counterespionage division, Heinz Felfe, was revealed to be a double agent. As a result of his treachery, the cover of hundreds of spies was blown. Many were arrested by the Russians. Codes were broken and information compromised. Millions of dollars in gold, bank notes, weapons and other equipment that was smuggled into Eastern Europe actually went to agents who turned out to be working for the Soviets. Guerillas parachuted behind Soviet lines were never heard from again, were turned, or were paraded in front of the televisions at show trials. Five hundred guerillas sent into Albania were slaughtered because the Gehlen spy ring was so heavily penetrated. It cost millions of dollars to rebuild the spy network. War criminals were also very susceptible to blackmail. It is thought that U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim may have been compromised by those with knowledge of his participation in units known to have committed atrocities.

Gehlen's emphasis on the inevitability of war served to create friction among the former allies and make cooperation more unlikely. Suspicions were fostered and feelings of mistrust exacerbated. It created a propaganda coup for the Soviets when they could demonstrate that the U.S. was harboring war criminals. These German worked to sabotage détente, peace initiatives and trade agreements. Defense companies used them to lobby for more expenditures of weapons. Abroad, the served as agent provocateurs, inciting violence which led to further repression.

Another dangerous ramification from this period was the development of foreign policy by secret, unaccountable groups within the intelligence community. Although the CIA was originated as an agency to gather and analyze information in an objective and neutral manner for consideration by the government, under Dulles, the emphasis was placed on proactive covert activities. Truman explicitly said that he didn't want a domestic version of the Gestapo on American soil but Dulles and his allies promoted unaccountable paramilitary ops, often with no oversight at all by the State Department or other government agency. The CIA could now do an end run around the elected government officials. Even the president was kept in the dark about some of the most important CIA operations. This precedent continues to this day. The Iran-Contragate debacle was a direct continuation of this policy of usurping the lawful power of America's elected representatives by a select few in the U.S. intelligence community.

One more legacy of these operations was the illegal use of the CIA for spying and influencing politics domestically. The agency's support for these fascists violated its charted, which prevented it from operating in the U.S. They were used for propaganda value in arousing opposition against the Soviets and supporting an arms buildup. They allied themselves with the far right. These émigré groups developed substantial voting blocks and powerful lobbying tools. They produced propaganda for domestic and foreign consumption.

Some historians allege an even more cynical use of these organizations. The Dulles brothers were republican activists. Émigré groups with fascist backgrounds that were sponsored by the CIA became affiliated with the republicans and helped to get out the voted in their ethnic communities. It has been suggested that these groups were mobilized by the republicans to off set the Jewish vote that was thought to have contributed to the election of democrats. Both Nixon and George Bush senior courted these ethnic groups in their campaigns with full knowledge of their fascist backgrounds. The Bush/Quayle campaign quietly fired eight operatives when it was revealed in small newspapers that they were Nazi collaborators, neo-Nazis or holocaust revisionists. Some were just as quietly rehired at a later date.

Another blow to democracy from this period was the corruption of the free and independent press. The CIA sponsored seeming scholarly and academic work, which was carefully written to reflect the agency's perspective. Journalists were recruited as CIA assets. The media was used to suppress stories that were embarrassing to the agency. Press investigations were squelched. The press was used to plant false stories and disseminate propaganda for consumption by foreign and domestic readers.

The fascists in our government did much to ruin the political climate of our democracy. The fear and sense of urgency created by the cold war brought forth paranoia among American citizens. Reactionaries like Joe McCarthy became prominent. Dissent was squelched. Loyal Americans were persecuted. A generation of U.S. citizens practiced futile safety drills, ducking under their desks to avoid nuclear blasts and digging fall out shelters. Communists were behind every tree. It can and is happening again.

Another tragic consequence of the use of Nazi agents was the adoption of many of their tactics. Fascists were used to train police and intelligence agencies in other countries, which persecuted dissidents and were involved in the murder and torture of their citizens. The complicity of U.S. intelligence engendered scorn, hatred, resentment and often violence against our country by the citizens of those nations. The governments that were established with these fascist collaborators left a legacy of extreme right wing dictators, coups, and repression.

It has been said that the Nazis were the true victors of the Cold War. Although the use of Nazis by the U.S. intelligence agencies proved to be a disaster for our nation, it could, however, be seen as a great success for Gehlen and his henchmen. They were able to escape the gallows and begin new lives. They also accomplished many of their political goals. The Soviets had been mortal enemies of the Nazis and Gehlen expertly manipulated the Americans into accepting the Soviet Union as their greatest nemesis too. It is not far fetched to believe that Gehlen, more than any one other person, was most responsible for instigating the Cold War.

The legacy of our cooperation with these fascists is now coming home to our shores. We now have a 'Shadow Government' that was even unknown to most of our elected representatives until recently. The Bush administration conducts its business in unprecedented secrecy. In the recent 'War on Terrorism', there has been talk of institutionalizing torture in our intelligence agencies. It has been reported that the CIA has been sending prisoners to countries where torture is permitted so as to avoid the legal restrictions here in the U.S.

The disinformation campaign is in full swing. Reporting on the war has been censored. Unfavorable coverage in the foreign press seldom is reported here at home. American soldiers recently threatened to shoot a journalist who was investigating civilian casualties. The Pentagon planned to establish an office to plant propaganda in the media of both friendly and unfriendly governments. America's image abroad is being shaped by a Madison Avenue executive who is now selling 'Brand United States' the way she marketed Uncle Ben's Rice and Head and Shoulders shampoo. Media coverage is now concentrated in the hands of ten multinational corporations with agendas which often conflict with the reporting of the truth. Adverse news regarding a subsidiary of their companies often goes unreported. For their complicity with the republicans in the last presidential election, they have been rewarded with tremendous financial windfalls by Michael Powell, the head of the FCC.

The Orwellian named Patriot Act curtails liberties in a way that does not contribute to the 'War on Terrorism'. Innocent people have been imprisoned without being charged and without proper representation. Some have reportedly been abused. The lawyer-client privilege is in shambles. Dissent and criticism of Bush is scorned as unpatriotic. War and intelligence are being privatized to avoid congressional oversight. The military-defense industry is poised to make extraordinary profits. Bush's father and his firm, the Carlyle Group, are profiting on the sale of military equipment to the Pentagon in an unseemly conflict of interest. Billions are being spent on a missile defense system that has never been proven to work in the real world. Corrupt corporations write energy policy and regulatory legislation. An extraordinary effort has been made to keep our elected representatives in the dark about the administration's agenda. It seems evident even to the main stream press now that the election in Florida was fraudulently stolen, with the votes of eligible voters being disqualified.

Americans who want to know how our government became involved in supporting fascist governments, training their armies and secret police and assisting in the overthrow of democratically elected governments should familiarize themselves with this sordid chapter of our history. The introduction of Nazi war criminals into our intelligence and scientific communities is a shameful period in our nation's history and in large part is the reason for the perversion of democracy in other nations as well as our own. If knowledge is power, we should become aware of our past in order to become better world citizens. It may be the only way to thwart future terrorist attacks and preserve our constitutional rights. As George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

(Editor's Note: There are numerous articles that have been posted at Democrats.com that support the above information. Please see the Democrats.com "Compendium" page, and look up topics such as "Nazis").