Brunner and von Bolschwing
excerpted from the book
America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy
by Christopher Simpson
Collier / Macmillan, 1988
The tough-guy ethos of most professional intelligence officers
has always militated against letting conventional ethical considerations
stand in the way of collecting information or carrying out special
operations. "We're not in the Boy Scouts," as latter-day
CIA Director Riehard Helms often said. "lf we'd wanted to
be in the Boy Scouts we would have joined the Boy Scouts.'
By the time Allen Dulles became CIA director in 1953, almost
all resistance within the CIA to using Nazi criminals to accomplish
the agency's mission seems to have evaporated...
... Nazis were never employed or protected for their own sake,
but only as a means to achieve some other goal that was presumably
in the interests of U.S. national security. Conversely, the fact
that a man might have been a mass murderer did not by itself disqualify
~ him from working for the agency if he was believed to be useful.
And once such a person had worked for U.S. intelligence, there
was inevitably pressure to protect him, if only to keep out of
the public eye the operations he had been involved in.
There were occasional internal purges of former Fascists for public
relations reasons from time to time during the 1950s. A series
of r Soviet propaganda broadsides exposing Nazis at RFE and RL
in 1954 led to the dismissals or reassignments of thirteen employees.
And Eberhardt Taubert, a former Goebbels ministry propagandist
with anti-Semitic credentials stretching back to the 1920s, was
forced to resign from the directorship of the CIA- and German
government-financed Peoples League for Peace and Freedom in 1955
under public pressure, even though Taubert himself claimed to
have abandoned Nazi thinking. A handful of other examples along
these same lines cropped up in the course of the decade.
But the fundamental decision to exploit anyone who might have
something to offer to the struggle against Moscow remained untouched.
This is precisely because such "pragmatism" is at the
very heart of contemporary clandestine practice. Using Nazis (or
the Mafia or, conversely, a church-sponsored organization of college
students) was never an aberration in the minds of most intelligence
operatives. This is simply the way clandestine wars are fought,
they say, whether the general public likes it or not.
Still, public opinion does remain a factor, at least in the
West. Gehlen's organization benefited greatly from that fact because
the CIA often turned to Gehlen when it wished to bury certain
very sensitive operations even more deeply than usual. At those
times his contacts among former SS and Gestapo men could be uniquely
valuable. One such occasion took place in Egypt in late 1953,
shortly after Solarium's renewed approval of large-scale CIA countermeasures
aimed at offsetting Soviet influence in the Mideast. There the
Central Intelligence Agency bankrolled the activities of SS Sturmbannfuhrer
Alois Brunner, a man considered by many to be the most depraved
Nazi killer still at large.
Brunner had once been Eichmann's top deportations expert for
the entire Reich. He was a skilled administrator who specialized
in driving Jews into ghettos, then systematically deporting them
to the extermination camps. This was a difficult job, requiring
a keen sense of the exact types of terror and psychological manipulation
necessary to disarm his victims.
Brunner did not simply administer the deportations. He was
a troubleshooter who rushed from Berlin to Gestapo offices throughout
occupied Europe to train local Nazi satraps in how to carry out
the destruction of Jews quickly and thoroughly. He did not neglect
the murder of children because (as he told Berlin lawyer Kurt
Schendel, who was pleading on behalf of a group of French orphans)
they were "future terrorists." Brunner studied hard
for his assignment and is said to have eventually become an expert
on the railway systems of Europe so that he could locate enough
boxcars to carry out his mission for the fatherland. "He's
one of my best men," Eichmann said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that Brunner is personally
implicated in the murder of 128,500 people. The French government
eventually convicted him in absentia of crimes against humanity
and sentenced him to death. Instead of facing trial, however,
Brunner was in Damascus, Syria, where he had become Gehlen's "resident"-a
post similar in authority to the CIA chief of station-shortly
after the contract for the Org had been picked up by the Americans
in 1946, keeping him safe from the French. His alias was "Georg
Fischer." Brunner/Fischer eventually became an important
part of a CIA-financed program to train Egyptian security forces...
The story of U.S. intelligence relations with criminals such as
Brunner is of necessity fragmentary, for both the CIA and Brunner
himself have taken extensive measures to keep such affairs hidden.
It is clear, however, that Brunner was not an exception to the
rule who managed to ingratiate himself with the Americans through
guile or through an oversight. There is, in fact, at least one
other known case of U.S. recruitment of another SS veteran of
Adolf Eichmann's "Jewish Affairs" office, the elite
committee that served as the central administrative apparatus
of the Nazis' campaign to exterminate the Jews.
That recruit's name is Baron Otto von Bolschwing. Supremely
opportunist, von Bolschwing succeeded in traversing the whole
evolution of U.S. policy toward Nazi criminals. He had profited
during the war from the Nazi confiscation of Jewish property,
then later from the defeat of Nazi Germany itself. Von Bolschwing
enlisted as a CIC informer for the Americans in the spring of
1945, and before two years were out, CIA agents in Vienna, Austria,
recognized his skills and recruited him for special work on
some of the most sensitive missions the agency has ever undertaken.
These included running secret agents behind the Iron Curtain and
even spying on Gehlen himself on behalf of the Americans.
Von Bolschwing was deeply involved in intelligence work-and
in the persecution of innocent people-for most of his adult life.
He had joined the Nazi party at the age of twenty-three, in 1932,
and had become an SD (party security service) informer almost
immediately. In the years leading up to 1939, von Bolschwing became
a leading Nazi intelligence agent in the Middle East, where he
worked under cover as an importer in Jerusalem. One of his first
brushes with Nazi espionage work, according to captured SS records,
was a role in creating a covert agreement between the Nazis and
Fieval Polkes, a commander of the militant Zionist organization
Haganah, whom von Bolschwing had met through business associates
in the Mideast. Under the arrangement the Haganah was permitted
to run recruiting and training camps for Jewish youth inside Germany.
These young people, as well as certain other Jews driven out of
Germany by the Nazis, were encouraged to emigrate to Palestine.
Polkes and the Haganah, in return, agreed to provide the SS with
intelligence about British affairs in Palestine. Captured German
records claim that Polkes believed the increasingly brutal Nazi
persecution of the Jews could be turned to Zionist advantage-at
least temporarily-by compelling Jewish immigration to Palestine,
and that the Haganah commander's sole source of income, moreover,
was secret funds from the SS.
The cases of SS veterans like Alois Brunner and Otto von Bolschwing
provide a small but documented glimpse into a broad trend of events
in U.S. intelligence relations with the former "assets"
of Nazi Germany's intelligence services. By the time von Bolschwing
entered the United States in 1954, his former patron, Reinhard
Gehlen, had parlayed his American backing into de facto recognition
as the official intelligence service of the emerging Federal Republic
of Germany. CIA Director Allen Dulles liked Gehlen for the simple
reason that he seemed to produce useful results. Gehlen's intelligence
assets in Eastern Europe appeared to be solid, and his contacts
in the German-speaking enclaves in South America, the Middle East,
and Africa were second to none. His Org also helped the United
States collect signals intelligence, though his work in that area
was still not up to the British standard. All these services and
more, and all at what seemed a reasonable price.
If there were former SS and Gestapo men at Gehlen's Pullach
headquarters, senior members of the American intelligence community
didn't want to know enough about them to be forced to do something
about it. "I don't know if he's a rascal," Dulles said
of Gehlen. "There are few archbishops in espionage.... Besides,
one needn't ask him to one's club."