The Politics of "Liberation"
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 Central Intelligence Agency did not sever its ties with the
extremist exile organizations once they had arrived in this country.
Instead, it continued to use them in clandestine operations both
abroad and in the United States itself. Before the middle of the
1950s the agency found itself entangled with dozens-and probably
hundreds-of former Nazis and SS men who had fought their way into
the leadership of a variety of Eastern European emigre political
associations inside this country.
Instead of withdrawing its support for the extremist groups
and for the men and women who led them, the CIA went to considerable
lengths to portray these leaders as legitimate representatives
of the countries they had fled. At about the same time that the
agency initiated the immigration programs ... it dramatically
expanded its publicity and propaganda efforts inside the United
States itself. A major theme of this effort was to establish the
credibility and legitimacy of exiled Eastern European politicians-former
Nazi collaborators and non-collaborators alike-in the eyes of
the American public. Through the National Committee for a Free
Europe (NCFE) and a new CIA-financed group, the Crusade for Freedom
(CFF), the covert operations division of the agency became instrumental
in introducing into the American political mainstream many of
the right-wing extremist emigre politicians' plans to "liberate"
Eastern Europe and to "roll back communism.
The price tag for the U.S. arms buildup, according to Paul Nitze,
who drafted most of the main policy statements on the issue, was
some $50 billion-almost three times the then existing U.S. military
budget. The real question for U.S. policymakers of the day, write
Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas in their study of American foreign
policy formulation The Wise Men, "was whether Congress and
the Administration would pay for it. The public had to be persuaded.
The way to do that, Nitze knew from experience, was to scare them;
to tell them that the Soviets were intent on world domination,
that they were poised to attack, and that the U.S. had to meet
It was in this context that the CIA launched a major propaganda
effort in the United States. Despite a legal prohibition against
domestic activities by the agency, it initiated a multimillion-dollar
publicity project in this country called the Crusade for Freedom.
This new group served as a fund-raising arm for Radio Free Europe,
the various Free Europe exile committees, and eventually Radio
Liberation from Bolshevism, all of which worked primarily overseas,
where the agency had stronger statutory authority to operate.
These overseas propaganda programs were posing as private corporations
made up solely of individual citizens who wanted to do something
about the problem of communism in Europe, it will be recalled,
and the CFF's fund-raising efforts in the United States provided
a convenient explanation for where all the money that RFE was
spending was coming from, the CIA's longtime legislative counsel
Walter Pforzheimer has said. Its work permitted the broadcasting
operations to claim that they were financed by millions of small
contributions from concerned Americans-not by the government.
In reality, one of the most important reasons for the CFF
was to bring to America the analysis of foreign affairs that had
been developed by the National Committee for a Free Europe-and
by the CIA. The CFF became a "gigantic, nationwide drive,"
as former RFE/RL director Sig Mickelson has put it, "to obtain
support for the activities of the Free Europe Committee."
The basic message of that analysis was a more aggressive,
hard-hitting version of the containment doctrine that would soon
come to be known as "Liberation." Liberation, in a nutshell,
began at about the point that containment left off, politically
speaking. It held, as many containment advocates had argued earlier,
that the socialist governments of Eastern Europe were unremittingly
despotic regimes, installed by the Red Army and ruled exclusively
by Stalin-style terror. Liberation proponents discarded the earlier
circumspection about public calls for the overthrow of those states,
however, and openly agitated for the "rollback of communism"
in Eastern Europe through U.S. instigation of, and support for,
counterrevolutionary movements in those countries...
The political rhetoric of the extremist exile groups that had
once worked for the Nazis ... evolved in a complex interaction
with the gradual introduction of liberationist thinking into America.
By the late 1940s exiled extremist leaders had learned the rhetoric
of this new, more "American" form of liberation. Their
adoption of lip service to democracy began to provide former Fascists
with a platform to promote their agenda to millions of Americans,
and it created a shelter, in effect, that protected them from
the exposure of their Nazi pasts. They were no longer seen as
the triggermen of Nazi genocide in the public mind but, rather,
as fervent anti-Communist patriots. The government's intelligence
agencies played a substantial role in this shift.
The changes in the rhetoric of the extreme Russian nationalist
organization Natsional'no-Trudovoi Soyuz (NTS) ... is still active
in today's Russian emigration
Many of the NTS leaders of the 1950s, particularly those who served
as police and city administrators in the Nazi occupation zone,
are major war criminals who personally helped organize the identification,
roundup, and execution of millions of Jewish and Slavic civilians.
Insofar as NTS men won control of local administrations in the
Nazi-occupied regions of the USSR, the organization became an
integral part of the Nazis' propaganda, espionage, and extermination
apparatus in the East.
The main theme of NTS propaganda throughout the conflict was
a campaign to "liberate" the USSR from Stalin, communism,
and the Jews through a mutiny by the Red Army. This became the
centerpiece of Vlasov Army recruiting efforts at least as early
as 1942 and was elaborated in considerable detail with tactics
for counterinsurgency operations in the Nazi occupation zone,
behind-the-lines infiltration of NTS agents on espionage and sabotage
missions, propaganda themes tailored to appeal to Russian sensibilities
and similar specifics. When the Germans were finally driven out
of Russia, selected NTS agents were left on "stay-behind"
missions in an attempt to organize subversion in Soviet rear areas
once the Red Army front had passed. The NTS also served as the
dominant force (after the Nazis themselves) in the Russkaja Osvoboditel
'naia Armiia (Russian Army of Liberation, or Vlasov Army) and
the Komitet Ozvobozhdeniia Narodov Rossii (German-sponsored Committee
for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia), the Nazis' primary
front group for eastern front political warfare operations in
the desperate closing months of the war.
It was through the NTS, and through the rival national liberation
programs sponsored among Soviet minority groups by the Nazis'
Rosenberg ministry, that the strategy and tactics of the "liberation"
of the USSR were first hammered out. These were the laboratories,
so to speak, used by Hans Heinrich Herwarth, Gustav Hilger, and
the other German political warfare officers discussed earlier
to develop the propaganda themes and behind-the-lines subversion
tactics believed most suitable for reaching people inside the
Constantine Boldyreff was a founder of NTS and a senior leader
of the group throughout the war. His wartime career is shrouded
in secrecy today; but it is clear that the CIC believed that in
late 1944 he helped administer gangs of Russian laborers for the
SS. He is a case in point of the manner in which the intervention
of U.S. intelligence agencies shepherded the migration of liberation
propaganda out of the fallen wartime ministries of Berlin and
into the living rooms of America.
It is impossible to determine today what Common Cause knew, if
anything, of the NTS's wartime record at the time it sponsored
his speaking tour. ~t is clear, however) from Boldyreff's own
U.S. Army intelligence file that the CIC was well aware that the
NTS \ was a totalitarian and pro-Fascist organization. Instead
of making this fact clear, however, U.S. intelligence promoted
Boldyreff's propaganda work in this country. "A Common Cause
spokesman said that Boldyreff is 'well known to American intelligence,'
" the Boston Herald reported in its coverage of one of the
NTS man's early news conferences. " '[He] is vouched for
by high American officials,' and cooperated with the American
military government in Germany."
Over the next four years Boldyreff went on to ghostwritten
feature stories appearing under his by-line in Look, Reader's
Digest, and World Affairs. "Will Russia's democratic revolution
take place in time to keep the Communist plotters from using their
atomic bombs against humanity?" he asked readers of the American
Federation of Labor's mass circulation Federationist. "The
answer to this all important question depends on how hard the
free world fights to pierce the Iron Curtain and join forces with
It is clear that Boldyreff was soon enjoying the direct sponsorship
of the CIA. British intelligence historian E. H. Cookridge reports
that the U.S. agency put Boldyreff on retainer for assistance
in recruiting Vlasov Army veterans for espionage missions inside
the USSR-a claim that the nationalist leader does not deny. Moreover,
several of Boldyreff's ghostwriters-including James Critchlow,
who co-authored the article quoted above-have since become known
as career executives of the CIA's political warfare projects such
as Radio Liberation, a fact that strongly suggests that the agency
also had a hand in Boldyreff's publicity tours in the United States.
According to Boldyreff's CIC dossier, U.S. Army and U.S. Air
Force intelligence arranged a job for him at the prestigious Foreign
Service Institute at Georgetown University in Washington. There,
he taught psychological warfare techniques to pilots engaged in
clandestine air missions into the USSR. As Boldyreff himself put
it in an interview, the air force assignment involved training
"about 120" U.S. pilots responsible for cross-border
flights into the USSR. "This was the cold war," he says.
"Air force officers were more frequently captured, [because]
their planes would be shot down, and they needed to know what
to do, how to survive. That sort of thing was much more open then
than it is today.'
But that was only the beginning. Next came radio interviews,
then lucrative speaking engagements at Daughters of the American
Revolution and American Legion conventions. The powerful Henry
Holt publishing company issued a book made up largely of Boldyreff's
commentaries exposing both real and imagined Stalinist assassination
plots. Last but not least, Boldyreff made the circuit in Washington
of congressional investigating committees, which sought out his
advice on fighting communism, psychological warfare, and spotting
supposed Red agents inside U.S. government agencies.
Whatever one may think of Boldyreff's politics, none of his
personal actions in this country are known to have been illegal.
At the same time, however, the actions of the CIA and other intelligence
agencies in promoting his entry into American politics were, on
their face, an apparent violation of U.S. law and of the CIA's
charter. Legal questions aside, it is clear that Boldyreff was
only one of a long train of more or less similar ex-Fascist leaders
whose publicity work on behalf of "liberation" during
the late 1940s and early 1950s was underwritten at least in part
by the U.S. government.
The emigre anti-Communist movement continued to accelerate. Soon
there emerged in the United States "one vocal and not uninfluential
element that not only wanted war with Russia, but had a very clear
idea of the purposes for which, in its own view, such a war should
be fought," as Kennan noted later in a discussion of his
views on the possibility of war with the USSR during the early
1950s. "I have in mind the escapees and immigrants, mostly
recent ones, from the non-Russian portions of the postwar Soviet
Union, as well as from some of the Eastern European satellite
"Their idea," he writes, "to which they were
passionately and sometimes ruthlessly attached, was simply that
the United States should, for their benefit, fight a war against
the Russian people to achieve the final breakup of the traditional
Russian state and the establishment of themselves as the regimes
of the various 'liberated' territories." Kennan is referring
here to the spokesmen of the so-called "Captive Nations"
movement, particularly Ukrainian and Baltic nationalists.
"These recent refugees were by no means without political
influence in Washington," Kennan adds. "Connected as
they were with the compact voting blocs situated in the big cities,
they were able to bring direct influence to bear on individual
Congressional figures. They appealed successfully at times to
religious feelings, and even more importantly [sic] to the prevailing
anti-Communist hysteria." Among the countries the Captive
Nations movement represented were several that the diplomat admits
had been "invented in the Nazi propaganda ministry during
the recent war."
Agitation by these émigrés became a part of
dozens of CIA-sponsored exile operations in the United States
during the early 1950s. Almost all these affairs were sponsored
by the CIA covert operations directorate's International Organizations
Division, which was then administering the NCFE, the CFF, and
similar overlapping projects. This division organized and bankrolled
the CFF with an initial grant of $180,000, according to former
RFE/ RL chief Mickelson. The agency, working through the NCFE,
then went on to pour at least $5 million into CFF propaganda work
inside the United States over the next five years.
... the CIA's $5 million direct contribution to anti-Communist
education through the CFF can serve, at least, as a yardstick
for comparing the scope of the crusade promotion to other political
propaganda efforts undertaken in this country at about the same
time. That $5 million contribution exceeds, for example, the combined
total of all the money spent on the Truman/ Dewey presidential
election campaign of 1948. It establishes the CIA (through the
CFF) as the largest single political advertiser on the American
scene during the early 1950s, rivaled only by such commercial
giants as General Motors and Procter & Gamble in its domination
of the airwaves.
The crusade was only one part of a much broader CIA-sponsored
effort to shape U.S. (and world) public opinion. Related programs
included book publishing, scholarly studies of the USSR by carefully
selected researchers, and bankrolling hundreds of rallies, commemorations,
and other media events. The principal political point of this
program was to provide extensive publicity for all available evidence
that the USSR was a dangerous imperial power. The agency went
on to emphasize news of the "liberation" movements of
the exiles as an important morale booster and an illustration
of the resistance to Soviet expansion.
The CIA financed a literary campaign explicitly designed to
promote former Nazi collaborators as appropriate leaders of liberation
movements among their respective nationalities...
This broad-based, multifaceted effort legitimized for many
Americans what the extreme-right-wing emigre movement had been
saying since the end of World War II. The United States could
easily liberate Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union and even
dismember the USSR, the theory went, by bankrolling stepped-up
subversion programs in the East.
"It became an article of faith that the USSR was going
to fall apart at any time," notes scholar Vladimir Petrov.
"The idea was that communism was a small conspiracy of men
sending out the revolution, that it was hated by the people, [and
so] naturally they wanted to overthrow it right away. Communists
killed people to maintain their power, so the first chance [the
people] had there would be a rebellion."
John Foster Dulles articulated this myth neatly in congressional
testimony that went entirely unchallenged at the time. "Some
dozen people in the Kremlin," he proclaimed, "are seeking
to consolidate their imperial rule over some 800,000,000 people,
representing what were nearly a score of independent nations."
With those kinds of odds-800 million against 12-the overthrow
of communism from within would seem like a fairly simple task.
"That was the theory at the time," Petrov says.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm. Many people thought that
communism could be very simply gotten rid of." But in reality,
Petrov reflects with a sigh, "this just wasn't true."
The liberation message struck an extraordinarily responsive
chord in the United States, one which reverberated far beyond
the relatively narrow community of Eastern European exiles. Its
potent blend of anti-Communist paranoia, American patriotism,
and the self-perceived generosity of doing something practical
to aid people seen as suffering from persecution abroad appealed
to millions of Americans.
It is probably impossible today to determine the impact that
the CIA's emigre programs and domestic propaganda efforts had
on the election of 1952 or other mainstream political events of
the period with any degree of scientific certainty. The information
detailing the full extent of the agency's efforts to shape domestic
public opinion remains buried in classified files, if it has not
been purged from the record altogether. The carefully controlled
surveys of public opinion that might enable scholars to disentangle
the specific effects of the CIA's immigration and propaganda programs
from the broader political impact of the media's day-to-day coverage
of international events were not taken at the time, and it would
be pointless to try to take them today, thirty-five years later.
It is not surprising that sociologists and political scientists
of the period failed to make use of surveys and other statistical
tools to examine the impact of CIA clandestine action campaigns
in the United States; after all, the fact that a systematic propaganda
effort even existed was a state secret at the time.
But the anecdotal evidence concerning the significance of
these programs is strong. The role of former Nazi collaborators
and U.S. intelligence agencies in promoting the penetration of
liberationist political thinking into the American body politic
may be traced through several clear steps. First, the rhetoric
and the detailed strategies for the "liberation" of
the USSR and Eastern Europe were originally generated before World
War II by pro-Fascist emigre organizations enjoying direct sponsorship
from Nazi Germany's intelligence agencies, which were intent on
using these groups as pawns in their plans to exterminate European
Jewry and to achieve a military victory in the East. The Nazis
significantly developed both the liberation strategies and their
exile constituencies during the war, despite the Germans' own
internal factional fighting over how to make best use of collaborators.'
Secondly, after the war U.S. intelligence agencies brought leaders
of a number of these pro-Fascist groups-the Ukrainian OUN, the
Russian nationalist NTS, the Albanian Balli Kombetar, certain
of the Baltic Nazi collaborators, etc.-into the United States
through programs the specific purpose of which was, in part, the
generation of effective anti-Communist propaganda. Next, these
same exile leaders aggressively promoted essentially the same
liberation propaganda in the United States that they had advocated
under Nazi sponsorship, though now with a new appeal to American
values, such as democracy and freedom, rather than the earlier
open advocacy of racial politics and fascism. The CIA gave these
domestic publicity campaigns multimillion-dollar clandestine backing
during the 1950s by providing operating cash, salaries, and logistic
and publishing support and-not least-by facilitating endorsements
from respected mainstream politicians.
Neither the Eastern European exile community in America nor,
still less, the minority of former Nazi collaborators among them
had the political muscle to force adoption of a liberation agenda
on the American public by themselves. But they could, and did,
often serve as catalysts that helped trigger the much bigger political
"chemical reaction," so to speak, that was then under
way, the primary ingredients of which were East-West disputes
over economic and military spheres of influence. The first and
in some ways most credible spokesmen in the United States for
liberationist thinking were exiled activists who were, like NTS
executive Constantine Boldyreff discussed above, "well known
to American intelligence [and] vouched for by high American officials."
Their message and slogans caught on with millions of Americans
during the first half of the 1950s, especially among conservatives
and others alarmed by the spread of communism abroad. In 1952
the public support in the United States for threats to liberate
Eastern Europe and the USSR from their Communist governments was
sufficiently broad that the Republican party adopted an explicit
call for liberation as the main foreign policy plank in its party
platform and as a central theme in its presidential and congressional
The Republicans' campaign platform demanded "the end
of the negative, futile and immoral policy of 'Containment,' "
as the New York Times reported, "which abandons countless
human beings to a despotism and godless terrorism." The GOP
pledged to "revive the contagious, liberating influences
that are inherent in freedom" and to mark the "beginning
of the end" for Communist party rule in Eastern Europe and
the USSR. America, the Republicans' primary foreign policy spokesman,
John Foster Dulles, wrote in Life magazine, "wants and expects
liberation to occur." This anti-Communist revolution, he
claimed disingenuously, would come about "peacefully."
The Republicans used this liberation rhetoric as a means of distinguishing
their promises of a new, tougher foreign ,' policy from the program
of the Democrats. What exactly Eisenhower intended to do to promote
the liberation of Eastern Europe once the election campaign was
over, however, was usually left vague.
Arthur Bliss Lane, who had been U.S. ambassador to Poland
during the Truman years, became the point man in the Republican
party's effort to swing the enthusiasm created by the Crusade
for Freedom into the GOP's column during the 1952 election.
The gradual merging of the Republicans' election campaign and
the Crusade for Freedom reached its logical culmination on the
eve of the 1952 election. The party's ethnic division under Lane
approved and allocated money for a psychological warfare tactic
that had earlier been used by the CIA in Italy and Eastern Europe.
Millions of yellow leaflets were slated to be dropped from airplanes
"over places such as Hamtramck," the large immigrant
community near Detroit, plugging Eisenhower and blaming Democrat
Adlai Stevenson for the "betrayal" of the Slavic "Fatherland
and relatives" to the Communists. The yellow paper was to
dramatize the leaflet's conclusion. "If you men and women
of Polish and Czech descent can, after reading the above, vote
for the Democratic candidate," the handbill proclaimed, "you
are as yellow as this paper." Everything was ready to go
"within 48 hours," according to correspondence in Lane's
archives, but Eisenhower's inner circle of election advisers canceled
the plan at the last minute.
Eisenhower's election campaign was successful in any event.
Lane's "ethnic" campaign produced mixed results: The
Republicans did draw substantially more votes from ethnic districts
than they had been able to do previously, according to contemporary
reports, although the Democratic party's influence in these wards
was by no means extinguished. In any case, the majority of American
voters backed Eisenhower, at least in part because of his proliberation,
"let's get tough with the Communists" foreign policy
stance. In January 1953 the first Republican administration in
twenty years entered Washington with a grand inaugural parade
and a rhetorical commitment, at least, to a mission to liberate
Eastern Europe from Communist rule.
Former Nazis and collaborators combined with right-wing elements
within the U.S. intelligence community to bring another sort of
pressure to bear on the U.S. political scene. The flood of government
and private money flowing into anti-Communist political warfare
programs during the early 1950s created a cottage industry, of
sorts, for informers, professional ex-Communists of varying degrees
of reputability, and "information bureaus" specializing
in the blacklisting of Americans viewed as politically suspect.
One of the least known but most important of these entrepreneurs
was John Valentine ("Frenchy") Grombach. He was, it
will be recalled, the former military intelligence agent whose
leaks to Congress had led to the purge of Colonel Alfred McCormack
and McCormack's team of skeptical intelligence experts back in
1946 and 1947.
During the late 1940s Grombach had become a businessman who
specialized in selling political and economic intelligence derived
in large part from old boy networks of German SS officers, former
Hungarian Axis quislings, and Russian nationalist NTS men to the
State Department, the CIA, and corporate customers in the United
States and Western Europe. Grombach's espionage network operated
through, and was partially financed by, the N. V. Philips Gloeilampenfabrieken
corporation of the Netherlands and its American affiliate, Philips
North America, according to records found in his CIC dossier.
This was the same major electronics manufacturer that had provided
a channel for his clandestine wartime operations. One of Grombach's
most important assets, according to U.S. naval intelligence records
obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, was SS General
Karl Wolff, a major war criminal who had gone into the arms trade
in Europe after the war. A second primary component of Grombach's
private intelligence apparatus was a large group of Hungarians
loyal to the former royal privy councilor Tibor Eckhardt, according
to Ray Ylitalo, who handled liaison with Grombach's undercover
service for State Department intelligence.
Grombach worked simultaneously under contract to the Department
of State and the CIA. The ex-military intelligence man succeeded
in creating "one of the most unusual organizations in the
history of the federal government," according to CIA Inspector
General Lyman Kirkpatrick. "It was developed completely outside
of the normal governmental structure, [but it] used all of the
normal cover and communications facilities normally operated by
intelligence organizations, and yet never was under any control
from Washington." By the early 1950s the U.S. government
was bankrolling Grombach's underground activities at more than
$1 million annually, Kirkpatrick has said.
As the cold war deepened, Grombach had wheeled and dealed
and tried to slide himself into a position where he would have
a shot at the top spot in the American intelligence complex. He
wanted to be director of the CIA or, better yet, chief of an entirely
new U.S. espionage machine built on the ruins of that agency.
"Grombach," says Ylitalo, "never could figure out
whether he was an employee [of the CIA] or a competitor. That
was the problem in a nutshell."
Grombach promoted himself as the most pro-"liberation,"
most anti-Communist of all of Washington's competing spy chiefs.
His organization stood ready, he said, to purge the State Department
and the CIA of Communist dupes, homosexuals, and liberals of all
stripes. High on the list of his targets were the men who had
articulated and implemented Truman's containment strategy: George
Kennan, Charles Thayer, Charles Bohlen, and their allies at State
and the CIA. In Grombach's eyes, these officials were like his
old nemesis Colonel McCormack: too soft on communism and the USSR,
too favorable to liberal elements in the CIA; too closely tied
to the elitist eastern establishment that had been running the
State Department for generations.
Grombach banked on his close connections with Senators Joseph
McCarthy, William Jenner, and other members of the extreme Republican
right to propel him to national power. He believed that the McCarthyite
right was on its way to the White House, and he intended to be
there when it arrived. Grombach's outfit effectively became the
foreign espionage agency for the far right, often serving as the
overseas complement to McCarthy's generally warm relations with
J. Edgar Hoover's FBI at home.
Through a quirk of fate Frenchy Grombach found himself in
a position where he could exercise enough influence in Washington
to help derail the government careers of his rivals. U.S. government
contracts bankrolling a network of former Nazis and collaborators
gave him much of the ammunition he needed to do the job. Grombach
used his networks primarily to gather dirt. This was the American
agent's specialty, his true passion: political dirt; sexual dirt;
any kind of compromising information at all. "He got into
a lot of garbage pails," as Kirkpatrick puts it, "and
issued 'dirty linen' reports on Americans." Grombach collected
scandal, cataloged it, and used it carefully, just as he had done
during the earlier McCormack investigation. He leaked smears to
his political allies in Congress and the press when it suited
his purposes to do so. Grombach and congressional "internal
security" investigators bartered these dossiers with one
another almost as though they were boys trading baseball cards.
One of Grombach's most important weapons in his struggle for
power was a series of blackmail type of dossiers that his men
had compiled on his rivals inside the U.S. intelligence community.
He had retailed much of this data piece by piece to the CIA over
the years but by 1952 had decided to make use of his network of
former SS men and collaborators on behalf of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The popular support for liberation that was so carefully nurtured
during the early 1950s provided fertile ground for entrepreneurs
like Grombach to put down roots. Regardless of its "American"
and patriotic trappings, liberation's paranoid anticommunism made
it easier for some U.S. politicians to make common cause with
a former Goebbels propagandist such as Bogolepov or with public
spokesmen for prewar anti-Semitic terrorist groups such as NTS
As was seen in the case of the Bogolepov affidavit, private
intelligence apparats like John Grombach's organization formed
one of the important linkages between the careful politicians
in Washington and the former Nazis and collaborators who were
occasionally thought to be useful to them. Such unofficial clandestine
action groups have long played a sporadic but sometimes important
role in American political life; witness G. Gordon Liddy's Watergate
burglary team or the more recent scandal surrounding Colonel Oliver
North's activities inside the National Security Council. The extralegal
status of Grombach's group permitted him to hire and exploit former
Nazis and Axis officials for intelligence-gathering purposes,
then secretly to put the products of his work to use in partisan
political battles in the United States. Perhaps in some other
decade John Grombach would have hired persons from other failed
regimes as agents; the continuing intrigues among anti-Castro
Cubans and the former South Vietnamese police suggest that a new
generation of espionage entrepreneurs in the Grombach mold is
still at work. But in the early 1950s it was former Nazis and
collaborators who were in the most abundant supply for such affairs.
It is they who formed much of the heart of Grombach's overseas
network and they who gave him much of the ammunition he needed
to participate in McCarthy's purges.
At the same time that McCarthy and his allies were battling
in the Senate for the dismissals of Thayer, Davies, and Bohlen,
the Republicans' election year pledge to liberate Eastern Europe
also fueled a rapid expansion of clandestine destabilization operations.
A special series of foreign policy conferences code-named Solarium
reaffirmed that the new administration would engage in "selected
aggressive actions of limited scope, involving moderately increased
risks of general war," as Eisenhower's top national security
adviser, Robert Cutler, put it, in order "to eliminate Soviet-dominated
areas within the free world and to reduce Soviet power in the
Satellite periphery." U.S. policy aimed at "a maximum
contribution to the increase in internal stresses and conflicts
within the Soviet system."
But despite the Republicans' public attacks on Truman's containment
policy, Eisenhower's election had been a victory for the Republican
establishment, not for the radical right. The Republicans did
not have a substantially new strategy for dealing with the Soviets,
beyond a tendency to use harsher rhetoric than the Democrats.
George Kennan's containment theories may have seemed like part
of the problem to most liberation advocates, but his thinking
on clandestine political warfare against the Soviets was most
welcome to Eisenhower and dominated the scene at the Solarium
strategy conferences. Eisenhower himself personally endorsed Kennan's
stratagems, his analysis of East-West affairs, and the former
The president and his advisers decisively renewed the ongoing
program of harassment and destabilization inside Eastern Europe
that had given birth to the Nazi utilization efforts in the first
place. Further efforts to "reduce indigenous Communist power"
through clandestine CIA action were approved in both Western Europe
and the third world. Guatemala and the Middle East were also singled
out for CIA attention, while agency Director Allen Dulles promoted
a renewed attempt to overthrow the government in Albania.
The clandestine action provisions of Solarium were later codified
in NSC 5412, a slightly revised version of Truman's NSC 10/2 covert
warfare decision. NSC 5412 again affirmed that the United States
was fully committed to a broad campaign of political war against
the USSR. It again affirmed that "underground resistance
movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups"-obviously
including the various surviving collaborationist organizations
Eastern Europe-were still at the center of U.S. covert paramilitary
In the meantime, however, the existing threads of clandestine
operations, liberation politics, and the abandonment of war crimes
investigations and prosecutions were woven together into a new
and more disturbing tapestry. By 1953 the CIA was willing to finance
and protect not simply former Nazis and Gestapo men but even senior
officers of Adolf Eichmann's SS section Amt IV B 4, the central
administrative apparatus of the Holocaust.