Reinhard Gehlen persuaded the U.S. Army and then the CIA to
sponsor his intelligence network even though he employed numerous
former Nazis and known war criminals.
CIA and Nazi War Criminals
Security Archive Posts Secret CIA History
Released Under Nazi War
Crimes Disclosure Act
Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 146
by Tamara Feinstein
Washington D.C., February 4, 2005 - Today
the National Security Archive posted the CIA's secret documentary
history of the U.S government's relationship with General Reinhard
Gehlen, the German army's intelligence chief for the Eastern Front
during World War II. At the end of the war, Gehlen established
a close relationship with the U.S. and successfully maintained
his intelligence network (it ultimately became the West German
BND) even though he employed numerous former Nazis and known war
criminals. The use of Gehlen's group, according to the CIA history,
Forging an Intelligence Partnership: CIA and the Origins of
the BND, 1945-49, was a "double edged sword" that
"boosted the Warsaw Pact's propaganda efforts" and "suffered
devastating penetrations by the KGB." [See Volume
1: Introduction, p. xxix]
The declassified "SECRET RelGER" two-volume
history was compiled by CIA historian Kevin Ruffner and presented
in 1999 by CIA Deputy Director for Operations Jack Downing to
the German intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst) in remembrance
of "the new and close ties" formed during post-war Germany
to mark the fiftieth year of CIA-West German cooperation. This
history was declassified in 2002 as a result of the work of The
Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency
Working Group (IWG) and contains 97 key documents from various
This posting comes in the wake of public grievances
lodged by members of the IWG that the CIA has not fully complied
with the mandate of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act and is
continuing to withhold hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation
related to their work. (Note 1) In interviews
with the New York Times, three public members of the
- "I think that the CIA has defied the law, and in so
doing has also trivialized the Holocaust, thumbed its nose
at the survivors of the Holocaust and also at the Americans
who gave their lives in the effort to defeat the Nazis in
World War II." - Former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman
- "I can only say that the posture the CIA has taken
differs from all the other agencies that have been involved,
and that's not a position we can accept." - Washington
lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste
- "Too much has been secret for too long. The CIA has
not complied with the statute." - Former federal prosecutor
Thomas H. Baer
IWG was established in January 11, 1999 and has overseen the
declassification of about eight million pages of documents from
multiple government agencies. Its mandate expires at the end of
The documentation unearthed by the IWG reveals extensive relationships
between former Nazi war criminals and American intelligence organizations,
including the CIA. For example, current records show that at least
five associates of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann worked for
the CIA, 23 other Nazis were approached by the CIA for recruitment,
and at least 100 officers within the Gehlen organization were
former SD or Gestapo officers. (Note 2)
IWG enlisted the help of key academic scholars to consult during
the declassification process, and these historians released their
own interpretation of the declassified material last May (2004)
in a publication called US
Intelligence and the Nazis. The introduction to this
book emphasizes the dilemma of using former Nazis as assets:
"The notion that they [CIA, Army Counterintelligence Corp,
Gehlen organization] employed only a few bad apples will not
stand up to the new documentation. Some American intelligence
officials could not or did not want to see how many German intelligence
officials, SS officers, police, or non-German collaborators
with the Nazis were compromised or incriminated by their past
service… Hindsight allows us to see that American use
of actual or alleged war criminals was a blunder in several
respects…there was no compelling reason to begin the postwar
era with the assistance of some of those associated with the
worst crimes of the war. Lack of sufficient attention to history-and,
on a personal level, to character and morality-established a
bad precedent, especially for new intelligence agencies. It
also brought into intelligence organizations men and women previously
incapable of distinguishing between their political/ideological
beliefs and reality. As a result, such individuals could not
and did not deliver good intelligence. Finally, because their
new, professed 'democratic convictions' were at best insecure
and their pasts could be used against them (some could be blackmailed),
these recruits represented a potential security problem."
The Gehlen organization profiled in the newly posted CIA history
represents one of the most telling examples of these pitfalls.
Timothy Naftali, a University of Virginia professor and consulting
historian to the IWG who focused heavily on the declassified
CIA material, highlighted the problems posed by our relationship
with Gehlen: "Reinhard Gehlen was able to use U.S. funds
to create a large intelligence bureaucracy that not only undermined
the Western critique of the Soviet Union by protecting and promoting
war criminals but also was arguably the least effective and
secure in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As many in
U.S. intelligence in the late 1940s had feared would happen,
the Gehlen Organization proved to be the back door by which
the Soviets penetrated the Western alliance." (Note
The documents annexed in the CIA history posted today by the
Archive echo the observations of Professor Naftali. While placing
much of the blame on the Army Counterintelligence Corps' initial
approach to Gehlen, this history emphasizes the CIA's own reluctance
to adopt responsibility for Gehlen's organization, yet the documents
show the CIA ultimately embracing Gehlen.
Some of the highlights from this secret CIA documentary history
- A May 1, 1952 report detailing how Gehlen and his network
were initially approached by U.S. army intelligence. (Document
- Two evaluations of the Gehlen operation from October 16
and 17, 1946, advising against the transfer of Gehlen's organization
to CIG hands and questioning the value of the operation as
a whole. (Documents 21
- A March 19, 1948 memorandum from Richard Helms, noting Army
pressure for the CIA to assume sponsorship of the Gehlen organization,
and continued concern over the security problems inherent
in the operation. (Document
- A December 17, 1948 report outlining the problems with the
Gehlen organization, but ultimately recommending CIA assumption
of the project. (Document
In answer to the question "Can we learn from history?",
the IWG's consulting historians noted "The real question
is not whether we will make use of our past to deal with the present,
but rather how well we will do so. To do it well, we need these
documents." (Note 5)
"This secret CIA history is full of documents we never would
have seen under the Freedom of Information Act, because Congress
in 1984 gave the CIA an exemption for its 'operational' files,
on the grounds that such files were too sensitive ever to be released,"
commented Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
"The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act has proven this assumption
false. Release of these files has done no damage to national security,
has provided information of enormous public interest and historical
importance, and however belatedly, has brought a measure of accountability
to government operations at variance with mainstream American
Note: Many of the following documents are in PDF
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
Note: The following CIA history has been split
into separate pdf files for each separate document or volume introduction,
due to its large size. It includes relevant documents from the
CIA, Army Intelligence, and CIA predecessor organizations.
and Intelligence Partnership: CIA and the Origins of the BND,
1945-49. Edited by Kevin C. Ruffner for
CIA History Staff, Center for the Study of Intelligence, and European
Division, Directorate of Operations. 1999. Released May 2002.
1: Part I - Firsthand Accounts
1: Statement of Gerhard Wessel on Development of the German
Document 2: Statement
of General Winder on the History of the Organization [undated]
Document 3: Statement
of Hans Hinrichs on Early History of the Organization [undated]
Document 4: Statement
of Heinz Danko Herre. April 8, 1953.
Document 5: Statement
of General Gehlen on Walter Schellenberg Story (Post Defeat
Document 6: Report of
Initial Contacts with General Gehlen's Organization by John
R. Boker, Jr. May 1, 1952.
Document 7: Statement
of Lt. Col. Gerald Duin on Early Contacts with the Gehlen Organization
Document 8: Report of
Interview with General Edwin L. Sibert on the Gehlen Organization.
March 26, 1970.
Document 9: Debriefing
of Eric Waldman on the US Army's Trusteeship of the Gehlen Organization
during the Years 1945-1949. September 30, 1969.
1: Part II - Stunde Null
10: Seventh Army Interrogation Center, "Notes on the
Red Army-Intelligence and Security." June 24, 1945.
Document 11: Headquarters,
Third Army Intelligence Center, Preliminary Interrogation Report,
Baun, Hermann. August 16, 1945.
Document 12: Captain
Owen C. Campbell, Evaluation Section, to Lt. Col. Parker, Enclosing
Interrogation Reports No. 5724 and 5725. August 29, 1945.
Document 13: Crosby
Lewis, Chief, German Mission. October 25, 1945.
1: Part III - The Vandenberg Report
14: SAINT, AMZON to SAINT, Washington, "Russian Experts
of German Intelligence Service." January 8, 1946.
Document 15: Headquarters,
US Forces European Theater (USFET), Military Intelligence Service
Center (MISC, "Operation of the Blue House Project."
May 11, 1946.
Document 16: Headquarters,
USFET, MISC, CI Consolidated Interrogation Report (CI-CIR) No.
16, "German Methods of Combating the Soviet Intelligence
Service." June 3, 1946.
Document 17: Headquarters,
USFET, MISC, Lt. Col. John R. Deane, Jr. to Assistant Chief
of Staff, G-2, USFET, "Plan for the Inclusion of the Bolero
Group in Operation Rusty." July 2, 1946.
Document 18: Lewis to
Chief, Foreign Branch M (FBM), "Operation KEYSTONE."
September 9, 1946, enclosing Lewis to Brigadier General Sibert,
G-2, September 6, 1946.
Document 19: Maj. Gen.
W.A. Burress, G-2, to Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Director
of Central Intelligence, "Operation RUSTY - Use of the
Eastern Branch of the former German Intelligence Service."
With attachments. October 1, 1946.
Document 20: Lewis to
Richard Helms, Acting Chief of FBM, October 8, 1946, enclosing
Lewis to Donald H. Galloway, Assistant Director for Special
Operations, September 22, 1946.
Document 21: Draft to
Deputy A, "Operation Rusty." October 16, 1946.
Document 22: Galloway
to DCI, "Operation Rusty," October 17, 1946, enclosing
Heidelberg Field Base to Chief, IB, "Agent Net Operating
in the Bamberg Area," with attachment, September 17, 1946.
Document 23: DCI to
Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, Director of Intelligence, War
Department, "Operation Rusty-Use of the Eastern Branch
of the Former German Intelligence Service," November 20,
1946, enclosing Burress to Vandenberg, "Operation RUSTY-Use
of the Eastern Branch of the Former German Intelligence Service,"
October 1, 1946.
Document 24: Col. W.W.
Quinn to Galloway, "Operation RUSTY," December 19,
Document 25: Helms,
Memorandum for the Record, "Operation RUSTY." December
1: Part IV - The Bossard Report
26: Cable, Special Operations to [excised]. January 31,
Document 27: Cable,
SO to [excised]. February 10, 1947.
Document 28: Lt. Col.
Deane to the German Chief of Operation RUSTY, "Assignment
of Responsibilities," February 25, 1947.
Document 29: Cable,
SO to Frankfurt. March 6, 1947.
Document 30: Cable,
Heidelberg to SO. March 11, 1947.
Document 31: Report,
"Operation KEYSTONE." March 13, 1947.
Document 32: Cable,
SO to Heidelberg. March 14, 1947.
Document 33: Samuel
Bossard to [Galloway]. March 17, 1947.
Document 34: Memorandum
to Helms, "American Intelligence Network," with attachment.
March 18, 1947.
Document 35: Bossard
to [excised] Chief, German Mission. March 20, 1947.
Document 36: Cable,
Heidelberg to SO, March 21, 1947.
Document 37: Report,
"American Intelligence in Bavaria." March 29, 1947.
Document 38: SC, AMZON
to FBM for SC, Washington, "KEYSTONE: LESHCINSKY."
March 31, 1947.
Document 39: Memorandum
to [Galloway] and Bossard, "Evaluation of RUSTY CI Reports,"
with attachments. April 1, 1947.
Document 40: Cable,
Heidelberg to SO. April 8, 1947.
Document 41: [Bossard]
to [Galloway]. May 5, 1947.
Document 42: Bossard
to DCI, "Operation Rusty." May 29, 1947.
Document 43: Galloway
to DCI, "Operation RUSTY," June 3, 1947, enclosing
Bossard to DCI, "Operation Rusty," with annexes, May
Document 44: Memorandum
for [unspecified], "Operation RUSTY," with attachment,
Document 45: DCI to
Secretary of State, et al, "Opertation Rusty," [undated],
enclosing "Memorandum on Operation RUSTY," June 6,
Document 46: Cable,
Central Intelligence Group to ACS, G-2, European Command, June
Document 47: Cable,
EUCOM to CIG, June 6, 1947.
Document 48: Galloway,
Bossard, Memorandum for the Record, June 20, 1947.
Document 49: Brig. Gen.
E.K. Wright, Memorandum for the Record, June 20, 1947.
Document 50: Galloway,
Bossard, Helms, "Report of Meeting at War Department 26
June 1947." June 26, 1947.
Document 51: Bossard,
"Recommendations drawn up at request of Gen. Chamberlin
for the attention of Gen. Walsh." June 27, 1947.
Document 52: Cable,
SO to Heidelberg, June 27, 1947.
Document 53: Cable,
SO to Heidelberg, June 27, 1947.
Document 54: Cable,
Heidelberg to SO, July 25, 1947.
Document 55: Chief of
Station, Heidelberg to FBM, "RUSTY." October 1, 1947.
Document 56: Headquarters,
First Military District, US Army, General Orders Number 54,
"Organization of 7821st Composite Group." December
2: Part V - The Critchfield Report
57: Chief of Station; Heidelberg to Chief, FBM, "Russian
Newspaper Attack on American Intelligence Activities,"
with attachment. February 6, 1948.
Document 58: Memorandum
to Helms, "Operation RUSTY," March 18, 1948.
Document 59: Helms to
ADSO, "Rusty," March 19, 1948.
Document 60: Chief,
Foreign Broadcast Information Branch to ADSO, "PRAVDA Report
of US Spy Group in USSR Zone of Occupied Germany." March
Document 61: Chief,
FBIB to ADSO, "PRAVDA Report of US Spy Group in USSR Zone
of Occupied Germany." March 31, 1948.
Document 62: Chief,
Munich Operations Base to Acting Chief of Station, Karlsruhe,
"Rusty." July 7, 1948.
Document 63: Acting
Chief, Karlsruhe Operations Base to Chief, FBM, "RUSTY."
August 19, 1948.
Document 64: DCI to
Chamberlin, August, 31, 1948.
Document 65: Chief of
Station, Karlsruhe to Chief, FBM, "RUSTY." October
Document 66: Cable,
SO to Karlsruhe, October 27, 1948.
Document 67: [Helms]
to COS, Karlsruhe, "RUSTY." November 2, 1948.
Document 68: [excised]
to COS, Karlsruhe, "RUSTY." November 18, 1948.
Document 69: Chief,
MOB [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM, "Bi-Weekly Letter,"
(excerpts), December 4, 1948.
Document 70: Cable,
SO to Karlsruhe, December 14, 1948.
Document 71: Cable,
Karlsruhe to SO, December 17, 1948.
Document 72: Chief,
MOB [Critchfield] to Chief, OSO, "Report of Investigation-RUSTY,"
with annexes, (excerpts), December 17, 1948.
Document 73: Galloway
to DCI, "Recommendations in re Operation Rusty." December
Document 74: Cable,
SO to Munich, Karlsruhe. December 22, 1948.
Document 75: Chief,
FBM to COS, Karlsruhe, "Operation Rusty." December
Document 76: Chief,
FBM to COS, Karlsruhe, "Operation Rusty," December
28, 1948, enclosing DCI to Maj. Gen. William E. Hall, USAF,
"Operation Rusty." December 22, 1948.
2: Part VI - A Year of Decisions
77: Maj. Gen. S. LeRoy Irwin to DCI, "Operation 'RUSTY.'"
January 19, 1949.
Document 78: Helms,
Memorandum for the Files, "Operation Rusty." February
Document 79: Chief,
FBM to COS, Karlsruhe, "[Gehlen Organization]," February
Document 80: Cable,
SO to Karlsruhe. February 8, 1949.
Document 81: Cable,
SO to Karlsruhe. February 9, 1949.
Document 82: Chief,
FBM to COS, Karlsruhe, "[Gehlen Organization]," February
Document 83: Chief,
FBM to COS, Karlsruhe, [untitled], February 10, 1949, enclosing
Alan R McCracken, ADSO, to Irwin, "Operation Rusty."
February 9, 1949.
Document 84: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "Letter to General Hall," with enclosures,
February 10, 1949.
Document 85: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization]: Procedure for Handling
Funds. March 14, 1949.
Document 86: Cable,
SO to Karlsruhe, March 16, 1949.
Document 87: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization]: Current Financial
Situation." March 21, 1949.
Document 88: Executive
Officer to Chief of Operations and Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen
Organization]," April 1, 1949.
Document 89: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization]: Current Situation."
April 18, 1949.
Document 90: Robert
A. Schow, ADSO to Director, CIA, "EUCOM Support for the
7821 Composite Group (Operation Rusty)," April 21, 1949.
Document 91: [Critchfield]
to COS, Karlsruhe, "Organization and Individual Security
Problems [Gehlen Organization] Staff," May 4, 1949.
Document 92: Headquarters,
EUCOM to Chief of Staff, US Army Director of Intelligence, June
Document 93: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "Basic Agreement with [Gehlen Organization],"
June 13, 1949.
Document 94: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization] General Policy,"
with enclosures, July 7, 1949.
Document 95: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "Basic Considerations in Reviewing the Concept
and Mission of [Gehlen Organization]," September 21, 1949.
Document 96: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization] - Schneider's Negotiations
with Third Parties," September 22, 1949, enclosing [Critchfield]
to Dr. Schneider, "The Coordination and Control of Negotiations
with German Political and Economic Circles and Representatives
of Western European Intelligence Services," September 20,
Document 97: [Critchfield]
to Chief, FBM, "Dr. Schneider's Reply to Recent Policy
Guidance Letters," with enclosures, October 12, 1949.
1. Douglas Jehl, "CIA Said to Rebuff Congress
on Nazi Files," New York Times, January 30, 2005.
2. Richard Breitman, Norman Goda, Timothy Naftali,
and Robert Wolfe, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, (Washington,
DC: National Archive Trust Fund Board, 2004), 377.
4. Ibid, 406.
5. Ibid, 8.