|Gen. 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
The CIA and Nazi War Criminals
National Security Archive Posts Secret CIA
Released Under Nazi War Crimes Disclosure
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No.
Edited 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 agencies.
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 IWG said:
- "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
- "Too much has been secret for too long. The CIA has not
complied with the statute." - Former federal prosecutor Thomas
The 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 March 2005.
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
The 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
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."
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 6)
- 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 and 22)
- 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 59)
- A December 17, 1948 report outlining the problems with the
Gehlen organization, but ultimately recommending CIA
assumption of the project. (Document 72)
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
"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 values."
Many of the following documents are in PDF format.
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
Forging 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.
Volume 1: Part I - Firsthand
Document 1: Statement of Gerhard Wessel on
Development of the German Organization [undated]
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 Resistance)
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 [undated]
Document 8: Report of Interview with General
Edwin L. Sibert on the Gehlen Organization. March 26,
Document 9: Debriefing of Eric Waldman on the
US Army's Trusteeship of the Gehlen Organization during the
Years 1945-1949. September 30, 1969.
Volume 1: Part II - Stunde Null
Document 10: Seventh Army Interrogation
Center, "Notes on the Red Army-Intelligence and Security." June
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.
Volume 1: Part III - The Vandenberg
Document 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,
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,
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
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, 1946.
Document 25: Helms, Memorandum for the Record,
"Operation RUSTY." December 19, 1946.
Volume 1: Part IV - The Bossard
Document 26: Cable, Special Operations to
[excised]. January 31, 1947.
Document 27: Cable, SO to [excised]. February
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,
Document 30: Cable, Heidelberg to SO. March
Document 31: Report, "Operation KEYSTONE."
March 13, 1947.
Document 32: Cable, SO to Heidelberg. March
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
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,
Document 41: [Bossard] to [Galloway]. May 5,
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 29, 1947.
Document 44: Memorandum for [unspecified],
"Operation RUSTY," with attachment, [undated]
Document 45: DCI to Secretary of State, et al,
"Opertation Rusty," [undated], enclosing "Memorandum on
Operation RUSTY," June 6, 1947.
Document 46: Cable, Central Intelligence Group
to ACS, G-2, European Command, June 5, 1947.
Document 47: Cable, EUCOM to CIG, June 6,
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,
Document 53: Cable, SO to Heidelberg, June 27,
Document 54: Cable, Heidelberg to SO, July 25,
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 1, 1947.
Volume 2: Introduction
Volume 2: Part V - The Critchfield
Document 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,
Document 60: Chief, Foreign Broadcast
Information Branch to ADSO, "PRAVDA Report of US Spy Group in
USSR Zone of Occupied Germany." March 30, 1948.
Document 61: Chief, FBIB to ADSO, "PRAVDA
Report of US Spy Group in USSR Zone of Occupied Germany." March
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,
Document 65: Chief of Station, Karlsruhe to
Chief, FBM, "RUSTY." October 15, 1948.
Document 66: Cable, SO to Karlsruhe, October
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,
Document 70: Cable, SO to Karlsruhe, December
Document 71: Cable, Karlsruhe to SO, December
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 21, 1948.
Document 74: Cable, SO to Munich, Karlsruhe.
December 22, 1948.
Document 75: Chief, FBM to COS, Karlsruhe,
"Operation Rusty." December 24, 1948.
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,
Volume 2: Part VI - A Year of Decisions
Document 77: Maj. Gen. S. LeRoy Irwin to DCI,
"Operation 'RUSTY.'" January 19, 1949.
Document 78: Helms, Memorandum for the Files,
"Operation Rusty." February 1, 1949.
Document 79: Chief, FBM to COS, Karlsruhe,
"[Gehlen Organization]," February 2, 1949.
Document 80: Cable, SO to Karlsruhe. February
Document 81: Cable, SO to Karlsruhe. February
Document 82: Chief, FBM to COS, Karlsruhe,
"[Gehlen Organization]," February 9, 1949.
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,
Document 85: [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM,
"[Gehlen Organization]: Procedure for Handling Funds. March 14,
Document 86: Cable, SO to Karlsruhe, March 16,
Document 87: [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM,
"[Gehlen Organization]: Current Financial Situation." March 21,
Document 88: Executive Officer to Chief of
Operations and Chief, FBM, "[Gehlen Organization]," April 1,
Document 89: [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM,
"[Gehlen Organization]: Current Situation." April 18,
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 6, 1949.
Document 93: [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM,
"Basic Agreement with [Gehlen Organization]," June 13,
Document 94: [Critchfield] to Chief, FBM,
"[Gehlen Organization] General Policy," with enclosures, July 7,
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,
4. Ibid, 406.