An alleged Ukrainian war criminal was recruited, protected, and remained until his death in 1998 “one of the [C.I.A.’s] oldest contacts,” reveals a report on newly declassified C.I.A. files released Thursday.
Mykola Lebed led an Ukranian nationalist group that took part in the killing of Jews and Poles in Western Ukraine during World War II. After the war, according to the report, Lebed was recruited by U.S. intelligence to run guerrilla operations against the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the C.I.A. not only repeatedly protected him from other intelligence agencies hoping to prosecute him, but also relocated him to New York City in 1949.
The report, entitled Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence, and the Cold War, describes numerous examples of an emerging pattern in the years after the war, when, to intelligence agencies, “settling scores with Germans or German collaborators seemed less pressing; in some cases, it even appeared counterproductive.” Instead, according to the documents, resources were often spent in spying upon politically active Jews in displaced persons’ camps.
Also discussed in meticulous detail is the collaboration between Nazi officials and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini. The grand mufti was paid “an absolute fortune” of 600,000 marks a year (24 times that of a German field marshal) by the Nazis, and promised leadership of Palestine after the defeat of the British and elimination of the 350,000 Jews living there. Husseini, for his part, enthusiastically recruited Muslims for the SS.
The report also explored new details of the escapes of prominent Nazis after the war, and absolved the U.S. of responsibility in Adolf Eichmann’s escape to Argentina.