After WWII, the United States used “Nazi hunters” to track down former members of the totalitarian regime. Really, the title “hunter” is a misnomer — once these ex-Nazis were found, many were offered employment rather than brought to justice.
Records, uncovered two years ago, show that over one thousand Nazis worked for the U.S. military, FBI, and CIA as spies and informants during the Cold War. The tactic came from the Cold War mentality that the Soviet Union should be feared above all else, and defeated at any cost. Top intelligence officials like FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and CIA director Allen Dulles concluded that the threat of communism was so great that the “moral lapses” of the Nazis should be overlooked.
Some of the men recruited were far more than Nazi foot soldiers, like Otto von Bolschwing. Bolschwing was a mentor and top aide to Adolf Eichmann, and helped him design the “Final Solution.” He also wrote papers on how to successfully terrorize the Jews and rob them of their “sense of security” by inciting riots. The CIA relocated him and his family to New York City in 1954 as “a reward for his loyal postwar service and in view of the innocuousness of his [Nazi] party activities.”
Some of these Nazis were used to track and turn in American “communist sympathizers” to U.S. intelligence agencies. And, the logic went, who better than the Nazis to hunt down and persecute a minority group. But how these Nazi spies were utilized is not as despicable as the constant protection they were provided.
In 1969, Hoover ordered the FBI to wiretap Charles Allen, a journalist who wrote critical articles about Nazis being harbored in America. He was branded a potential threat to national security. In 1980, the CIA refused to reveal any information to the Justice Department about 16 potential Nazis living in the US. As the Justice Department continued to pursue Nazis in the U.S., Pat Buchanan, a top aide to Ronald Reagan, dismissed it as “revenge obsessed” and claimed they were being duped by the Soviet Union.
As recently as 1994, the CIA tried to prevent the prosecution of Aleksandras Lileikis, an ex-spy living in the Boston area. Lileikis was the head of a “Gestapo-like force” in occupied Lithuania that would track down Jews and send them to Nazi execution camps. He has been implicated in the death of 60,000 Jews.
U.S. spy agencies took a detestable gamble by ignoring the war crimes committed by these men, and it often didn’t pay off. Many of the spies proved to be extremely inept. Some were embezzlers and habitual liars, and others were revealed to be Soviet double agents.
We know about thousands of these Nazi spies, and there were likely many more, according to University of Florida historian Norman Goda, who was on a government-appointed team that declassified war-crime records.
Spy agencies were not the only American employers of Nazis during the Cold War. For example, a program named Operation Paperclip sought out German scientists, engineers, and technicians. The program brought 1,600 scientists to the US, some of whom had developed chemicals for the gas chambers or conducted experiments on concentration camp prisoners. For a complete, infuriating history of Nazis living harbored in the US, I would recommend The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, by Eric Lichtblau, who played a critical role in bringing this information to light.