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CIA Recruited Nazis as Spies During Cold War

New book says U.S. intelligence agencies used 1,000 Nazis in the 1950s

Stephanie Butnick
October 27, 2014
CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. (

If last week’s revelation that the United States government has been paying millions of dollars in social security to suspected former Nazis over the past 50 years wasn’t enough to rile you up about the cozy relationship between the U.S. and the former S.S. (don’t worry, legislation has been proposed to end the practice), a new book alleges far more surprising U.S. activity after World War II. An excerpt of Eric Lichtblau’s new book, The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, published in the New York Times Monday, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies turned to an unlikely demographic for help during the Cold War: Nazis.

“At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the F.B.I. and Allen Dulles at the C.I.A. aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet ‘assets,’ declassified records show,” Lichtblau writes. “They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called ‘moral lapses’ in their service to the Third Reich.

Their plan, alas, wasn’t airtight: Nazis, apparently, don’t make the best spies.

But many Nazi spies proved inept or worse, declassified security reviews show. Some were deemed habitual liars, confidence men or embezzlers, and a few even turned out to be Soviet double agents, the records show.

Still, not only were Nazis—real, actual Nazis—being employed and paid by the U.S. less than a decade after the Holocaust, their intelligence agency benefactors protected them fiercely, often interfering with investigations into suspected war criminals. According to newly available documents, there’s evidence that requests for information on former Nazis living in the U.S. were routinely evaded by the CIA and FBI into the 1990s.

You can read the full excerpt here.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.