The New York Times has released a full unredacted version of the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI) report, “Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust.” According to NYT reporter Eric Lichtblau, “The Justice Department has resisted making the report public since 2006.” A “heavily redacted” version was released last month to the private National Security Archive (NSA), and now a leaked version of the entire document has been released to the public.
According to a November 13 NSA press release:
The National Security Archive posted today its original FOIA request, the government’s response, our appeal by counsel David Sobel, the legal complaint in the case National Security Archive v. Department of Justice, the interim response from DoJ, the “Vaughn index” of withheld pages and alleged justifications for the withholding, and the 45 pages of partial and highly-redacted response.
The evocation of words like “accountability” in the context of suppressed documents, leaks, and war crimes has an eerie resonance in the context of the current struggle to gain accountability for current and recent U.S. war crimes surrounding the methods by which “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of invading Iraq, the widespread use of torture and extraordinary rendition by the government and its allies, and a policy of illegal human experimentation on “war on terror” prisoners.
The fact that DoJ would still be trying to hide information from decades-old files surrounding the U.S. recruitment of Nazi war criminals does not bode well for those trying to force the U.S. government from President Obama’s “Don’t Look Back” policy towards war crimes. In fact, it took almost fifty years to get a significant opening of U.S. archives to look at government actions at the close of World War II. The NYT leaked document is but the latest in a string of revelations about the use of both high and low ranking Nazis by the U.S. government. Author Christopher Simpson wrote the first major book, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War, documenting this history in 1988, followed by Linda Hunt’s excellent Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists, and Project Paperclip, 1945 to 1990, and other books, many of them unfortunately now out of print.
Anyone wanting to become an archival researcher in Nazi or Japanese war crimes can begin at the National Archives webpage for the Interagency Working Group (IWG), where there are links to tens of thousands of documents and millions of pages from the files of the CIA, FBI, military intelligence, OSS and other agencies. The IWG issued their Final Report of the Nazi War Crimes and [Japanese] Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group in April 2007, and is available online.
Revelations on U.S. Recruitment of Nazis
The OSI report is not without its new revelations. According to Lichtblau:
The full report disclosed that the Justice Department found “a smoking gun” in 1997 establishing with “definitive proof” that Switzerland had bought gold from the Nazis that had been taken from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. But these references are deleted, as are disputes between the Justice and State Departments over Switzerland’s culpability in the months leading up to a major report on the issue.
Another section describes as “a hideous failure” a series of meetings in 2000 that United States officials held with Latvian officials to pressure them to pursue suspected Nazis. That passage is also deleted.
In its paranoia and animus against its former Soviet ally (a paranoia and animus that ran in two directions), the United States turned to the recruitment of former Nazis in an attempt to gain intelligence and military superiority over the Soviet Union. The Times article describes how the report details the stories of infamous Nazi war criminals protected by the United States.
There was Arthur L. Rudolph, a Nazi scientist who used slave labor to operate Mittelwerk underground factories that produced the V-2 rocket. Twenty-five thousand slave laborers perished in the terrible conditions and treatment meted out at Mittelwerk. But Rudolph was protected from prosecution and went on to work for NASA as a primary designer of the Saturn rockets that took U.S. astronauts to the moon.
The article also notes the CIA’s recruitment of “Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolf Eichmann who had helped develop the initial plans ‘to purge Germany of the Jews.’” The Times article gentlemanly forbears the whole story, which was revealed in a 2006 UK Guardian story on new information found in a massive release in that year of CIA documents on its Nazi past. (CIA watchers should note the ironies entailed in the fact the release was approved by then CIA director Porter Goss.) Von Bloschwing, it turns out, had also been Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Romania.
According to the UK Guardian:
After the war Bolschwing had been recruited by the Gehlen Organisation, the prototype German intelligence agency set up by the Americans under Reinhard Gehlen, who had run military intelligence on the eastern front under the Nazis. “US army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen’s offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red army – and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired,” said Robert Wolfe, a historian at the US national archives.
Of even more interest, perhaps, was the U.S. recruitment of Nazis and war criminals for its clandestine secret military groups after the war. Such secret armies were organized across Europe in the aftermath of World War II, and were later implicated in a number of right-wing terrorist actions and coups. The headquarters for this was ultimately centered in the NATO high command, and its various activities, including false flag operations to implicate leftists as terrorists became known as Operation Gladio.
Again, from the UK Guardian article:
Alongside the Gehlen Organisation, US intelligence had set up “stay-behind networks” in West Germany, who were supposed to stay put in the event of a Soviet invasion and transmit intelligence from behind enemy lines. Those networks were also riddled with ex-Nazis who had horrendous records.
One of the networks, codenamed Kibitz-15, was run by a former German army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kopp, who was described by his own American handlers as an “unreconstructed Nazi”.
A more detailed description of the U.S. organization of stay-behind networks is told in an essay by Timothy Naftali at the University of Virginia (PDF).
The New York Times is to be commended for the release of this important new document, whose 600-plus pages will take awhile to be fully digested. The Times also was one of four news outlets to release, against considerable government pressure, the Wikileaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Times editorial stance for accountability for torture has not been met with action by the U.S. President, Justice Department, or Congress. The Democrats had two years of full control of both houses of Congress and never brought any substantive hearings or investigations on the issue of torture or the machinations behind the invasion of Iraq. While there is no doubt that much was withheld from Congress by the Pentagon and White House, the Democrats demonstrated no appetite to press for accountability, and this will be their ignoble legacy.
We must not wait fifty, sixty, or seventy years for the truth about recent and ongoing war crimes to come fully out, and for accountability for these crimes. It appears that will only happen if the citizens of the United States take history into their own hands and form new political entities or parties capable of handling the truth and meting out justice. Such new political forces will be unlikely to stop there, and turn towards implementing the kinds of change we desperately need in this society.