When the CIA Bankrolled a Nazi Spy Chief

As Hitler’s Third Reich crumbled underneath the relentless strain of the advancing Allies in Could 1945, Reinhard Gehlen, the top of Nazi intelligence for the Jap Entrance, noticed the writing on the wall and grabbed his information.

Because the outdated saying goes, in the event you can’t beat ‘em, be part of ‘em.

Gehlen had a trove of intelligence on the Soviets, which, in keeping with his 1972 memoir, The Service, he hid in metal instances in Bavaria. Then, the previous Nazi intelligence officer rapidly surrendered to Counter Intelligence Corps of the U.S. Military.

He brokered a deal that as a substitute of being prosecuted for battle crimes, he and a choose group of his males would set up a secret intelligence service for the occupation forces and hand over the service information that they had on the Soviets.

With the Soviet menace looming—British Prime Minister Winston Churchill purportedly needed to proceed on and push towards the Soviet Union—it grew to become obvious that the Individuals had been wholly unprepared for this rising menace and agreed to work with the Nazi with a purpose to glean intelligence.

So Gehlen did what he did finest: spy.

Gehlen in 1945. (U.S. Military Sign Corps)

Given autonomous command by the U.S. occupation forces, Gehlen personally selected his German employees to arrange what was often known as the “Gehlen Group,” or “the Org” for brief.

In line with the Institute for Coverage Research, Gehlen proceeded to enlist hundreds of Gestapo, Wehrmacht and SS veterans. Even the vilest of the vile–the senior bureaucrats who ran the central administrative equipment of the Holocaust–had been invited into the Org, together with Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s chief deputy.

“Evidently within the Gehlen headquarters, one SS man paved the way in which for the subsequent and Himmler’s elite had been having pleased reunion ceremonies,” the German newspaper the Frankfurter Rundschau reported within the early Nineteen Fifties.

Returning to West Germany underneath the U.S. Military’s G-2 (Intelligence) department in 1946, Gehlen and the Org had been quickly transferred, underneath the aegis of the CIA and bankrolled with tens of millions of U.S. {dollars}.

The Org was primed for the onset of the Chilly Warfare in ways in which the U.S. was not. It has been estimated, in keeping with the Washington Submit, that Gehlen “and the hundreds whom he employed in his counterespionage group supplied this nation’s Central Intelligence Company and the Pentagon with 70 p.c of its intelligence on the usS.R. and Jap Europe.”

This uncooked intelligence, nonetheless, blinded many throughout the CIA, permitting a lot of Gehlen’s males to maneuver and peddle knowledge–a lot of it false or exaggerated–in return for money and security.

The Gehlen Group had a vested curiosity in making the Chilly Warfare loads colder.

It additionally had a vested curiosity in taking care of its personal, with many members throughout the Org enjoying an instrumental function in serving to hundreds of Nazis escape through “ratlines” to secure havens overseas.

Greater than 75 years after battle’s finish, debate nonetheless continued as as to whether Gehlen himself was an ardent Nazi. In line with a 2001 CIA affidavit, the group acknowledged that “Normal Gehlen himself is just not thought-about an alleged Nazi battle prison.”

James H. Critchfield, a CIA officer assigned to the Gehlen group from 1949 to 1956, instructed the Washington Submit: “I’ve lived with this for 50 years. … Nearly every little thing unfavourable that has been written about Gehlen, wherein he has been described as an ardent ex-Nazi, one in all Hitler’s battle criminals—that is all removed from the actual fact.”

America’s eagerness for intelligence laid naked a mortal flaw: human greed.

Reinhard Gehlen (center) and staff of the Wermacht’s Counter Intelligence Unit. (Getty Images)
Reinhard Gehlen (middle) and employees of the Wermacht’s Counter Intelligence Unit. (Getty Photographs)

“By bankrolling Gehlen,” writes the Institute for Coverage Research, “the CIA unknowingly laid itself open to manipulation by a international intelligence service that was riddled with Soviet spies. Gehlen’s behavior of using compromised ex-Nazis–and the CIA’s willingness to sanction this follow–enabled the us to penetrate West Germany’s secret service by blackmailing quite a few brokers.”

For probably the most half, nonetheless, Gehlen remained untouched by scandal, along with his group reworking into the present-day Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German counterpart to the CIA, in 1956. Gehlen retired in 1968 and lived in quiet retirement, protected by each the Individuals and Germans till his dying in 1979.

The German newspaper Der Spiegel famous many years after Gehlen’s dying: “If there was ignorance on the matter, it was solely as a result of nobody needed to know.”


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