Nazis Were Given ‘Safe Haven’ in U.S., Report Says

From the NY Times by Eric Lichtblau

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades.

It describes the government’s posthumous pursuit of Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death at Auschwitz, part of whose scalp was kept in a Justice Department official’s drawer; the vigilante killing of a former Waffen SS soldier in New Jersey; and the government’s mistaken identification of the Treblinka concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.

The report catalogs both the successes and failures of the band of lawyers, historians and investigators at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis.

Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.

The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.

The report also documents divisions within the government over the effort and the legal pitfalls in relying on testimony from Holocaust survivors that was decades old. The report also concluded that the number of Nazis who made it into the United States was almost certainly much smaller than 10,000, the figure widely cited by government officials.

The Justice Department has resisted making the report public since 2006. Under the threat of a lawsuit, it turned over a heavily redacted version last month to a private research group, the National Security Archive, but even then many of the most legally and diplomatically sensitive portions were omitted. A complete version was obtained by The New York Times.

The Justice Department said the report, the product of six years of work, was never formally completed and did not represent its official findings. It cited “numerous factual errors and omissions,” but declined to say what they were.

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1 comment:

  1. A "perfect storm" of reasons led to the US offering safe haven for perpetrators of the Holocaust. The War Department and the State department had known anti-Semites in key leadership positions. To them, harboring German scientists was not a malicious act, even if they were known Nazis or Nazi sympathizers. FDR was aware of this, but he did little to prevent it. At the war's end, the US was very apprehensive about Nazi scientists falling into Russian hands. The War Department wanted to control as many of the world's nascent nuclear scientists as possible, especially German nuclear researchers. Ballistic missile technology was another key area of research and the US wanted as many German missile scientists as possible working for American armaments (and later the space program). Finally, America’s OAS wanted to incorporate accomplished Nazi spies into their own espionage program.

    It’s difficult to fault American leadership in terms of wanting to control as many Nazi spies, scientists and researchers as possible. These people would have otherwise been captured and reused by the Soviet Union, had not the US interceded. The thought of a Soviet-dominated world, by virtue of superior nuclear technology, would have devastating. And, the prospect of living in freedom in America was much brighter to former-Nazis than a sordid existence in Stalin’s gulag. Perhaps the issues left to explore include:

    1. Were former-Nazis complicit in acts of genocide or brutality against innocent victims?
    2. If so, were they given freedom in the US, or were they imprisoned?
    3. Did they have connections to perpetrators of genocide?
    4. Could they have helped America (and later Israel) capture perpetrators of genocide?

    No doubt many additional questions will arise as the facts become understood. The US had every right to fear the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. Preventing Soviet leadership from capturing key Nazi scientists and researchers was a valid goal. Using the Nazi accumulated research and talent for our own military and space programs made sense. But gaping questions remain. Were some of these scientists and researchers perpetrators of genocide? If so, were they given freedom and autonomy in the US? And, if so, who was responsible for these decisions.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage


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