Putting perceived security concerns before conscience, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies likely employed over 1,000 Nazis as spies during the Cold War, sometimes ignoring or concealing their war crimes and helping them immigrate to the United States, the author of a soon-to be released book wrote in an article published Monday.
“At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI and Allen Dulles at the CIA aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet ‘assets,’ declassified records show,” Eric Lichtblau wrote in The New York Times, ahead of the Tuesday release of his book “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men.”
“They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called ‘moral lapses’ in their service to the Third Reich,” he wrote.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel that US officials’ willingness to work with former Nazis was already well known, though the book might provide new details.
“I’m not at all shocked by the story,” he said Monday morning. “The principle of it is not new.”
Zuroff pointed to well known case of Wernher von Braun, a Nazi rocket scientist who helped found NASA.
For “The Nazis Next Door,” Lichtblau pored through newly disclosed records and interviewed witnesses to uncover the extent of the US employment of Nazis.
The report comes just a week after an Associated Press investigation revealed that millions of dollars in social security benefits have been paid to war-crimes suspects and former SS guards who left the US for Europe.
Richard Breitman, a Holocaust scholar at American University who served on a government-appointed team that oversaw the declassification of war-crime records, put the number of Nazi spies working for the CIA at at least 1,000, though there are none known that are still living, according to the New York Times report.
Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian and member of the declassification team, told Lichtblau that US officials had no reason not to know about the ex-Nazis’ past. “Information was readily available that these were compromised men,” he was quoted as saying.
One high-profile example of the US policy was Aleksandras Lileikis, the former commander of the Lithuanian Secret Police Vilnius branch, who emigrated to the US in 1955, but was later stripped of his citizenship after a Boston federal court determined that “tens of thousands died under his command” of the outfit.
According to Lichtblau, the CIA paid Lileikis $1,700 a year and two cartons of cigarettes per month to spy for the US in East Germany before helping him move to Boston, even though files indicate US officials were well aware of his ties to the massacres of 60,000 Jews in Lithuania during World War II.
When prosecutors discovered Lileikis’ ties to the atrocities and began seeking his deportation, the CIA tried to get them to drop the case out of fear that the agency would be outed for working with Lileikis, Eli Rosenbaum, who was then a lawyer at the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting division, told Lichtblau.
The CIA did not immediately respond to the report.
Lichtblau has written for The New York Times since 2002 and, along with fellow NYT reporter James Risen, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for their story on the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program.
He subsequently authored a 2008 book on the Bush administration’s post-9/11 warrant-less wiretapping program entitled “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice.”