An article by Carl Oglesby
William Shirer closed his 1960 masterpiece, The Rise
and Fall of the Third Reich, with the judgment that
the Nazi regime “had passed into history,”1 but we
cannot be so confident today. On the contrary, the
evidence as of 1990 is that World War II did not end
as Shirer believed it did, That Nazism did not
surrender unconditionally and disappear, that indeed
it finessed a limited but crucial victory over the
Allies, a victory no less significant for having been
kept a secret from all but the few Americans who were
The Odessa and its Mission Hitler continued to rant of
victory, but after Germany’s massive defeat in the
battle of Stalingrad in mid-January 1943, the realists
of the German General Staff (OKW) were all agreed that
their game was lost. Defeat at Stalingrad meant, at a
minimum, that Germany could not win the war in the
East that year. This in turn means that the Nazis
would have to keep the great preponderance of their
military forces tied down on the eastern front and
could not redeploy them to the West, where the
Anglo-American invasion of Italy would occur that
summer. Apparently inspired by the Soviet victory,
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister
Winston Churchill announced at Casablanca, on January
24, 1943, their demand for Germany’s unconditional
surrender and the complete de-Nazification of Europe.2
Within the German general staff two competing groups
formed around the question of what to do: one led by
Himmler was chief of the SS (Schutzstaffel,
“protective echelon“), the blackshirted core of the
Nazi party that emerged as Hitler’s bodyguard in the
late 1920s and grew into the most powerful of the Nazi political institutions. After the failure of the attempted military coup of July 20, 1944, which wounded but did not kill Hitler, the SS seized all power and imposed a furious blood purge of the armed services in which some seven thousand were arrested and nearly five thousand.4 The SS was at that point the only organ of the Nazi state.
Himmler’s plan for dealing with the grim situation
facing Nazism found its premise in Hitler’s belief
that the alliance between “the ultra-capitalists” of
the U.S. and “the ultra-Marxists” of the Soviet Union
was politically unstable. “Even now they are at
loggerheads,” said Hitler. “If we can now deliver a
few more blows, this artificially bolstered common
front may suddenly collapse with a gigantic clap of
thunder.”5 Himmler believed that this collapse would
occur and that the U.S. would then consider the
formation of a new anti-soviet alliance with Nazi
Germany. The Nazis Would then negotiate “a separate
peace” with the United States, separate from any peace
with the USSR, with which Germany would remain at war,
now joined against the Soviets by the United States.
But Martin Bormann, who was even more powerful than
Himmler, did not accept the premise of the
separate-peace idea. Bormann was an intimate of
Hitler’s, the deputy fuhrer and the head of the Nazi
Party, thus superior to Himmler in rank. Bormann
wielded additional power as Hitler’s link to the
industrial and financial cartels that ran the Nazi
economy and was particularly close to Hermann Schmitz,
chief executive of I.G. Farben, the giant chemical
firm that was Nazi Germany’s greatest industrial
With the support of Schmitz, Bormann rejected
Himmler’s separate-peace strategy on the ground that
it was far too optioptimistic.6 The Allied military
advantage was too great, Bormann believed, for
Roosevelt to be talked into a separate peace.
Roosevelt, after all, had taken the lead in
proclaiming the Allies’ demand for Germany’s
unconditional surrender and total de-Nazification.
Bormann reasoned, rather, that the Nazi’s best hope of surviving military defeat lay within their own resources, chief of which was the cohesion of tens of thousands of SS men for whom the prospect of surrender could offer only the gallows.
Bormann and Schmitz developed a more aggressive
self-contained approach to the problem of the looming
military defeat. the central concept of which was that
large numbers of Nazis would have to leave Europe and
at least for a time, find places in the world in which
to recover their strength. There were several
possibilities in Latin America, most notably Argentina
and Paraguay; South Africa, Egypt, and Indonesia were
also attractive rear areas in which to retreat.7
After the German defeat in the battle of Normandy in
June 1944, Bormann took the First external steps
toward implementing concrete plans for the Nazis’
An enormous amount of Nazi treasure had to be moved
out of Europe and made safe. This treasure was
apparently divided into several caches, of which the
one at the Reichsbank in Berlin included almost three
tons of gold (much of it the so-called tooth-gold from
the slaughter camps) as well as silver, platinum, tens
of thousands of carats of precious stones, and perhaps
a billion dollars in various currencies.8
There were industrial assets to be expatriated,
including large tonnages of specialty steel and
certain industrial machinery as well as blue-prints
critical to the domination of certain areas of
Key Nazi companies needed to be relicensed outside
Germany in order to escape the reach of
war-reparations claims. And tens of thousands of Nazi war criminals, almost all of them members of the SS, needed help to escape Germany and safely regroup in foreign colonies capable of providing security and livelihoods.
For help with the first three of these tasks, Bormann
convened a secret meeting of key German industrialists
on August 10, 1944, at the Hotel Maison Rouge in
Strasbourg.9 One part of the minutes of this meeting
The [Nazi] Party is ready to supply large amounts of
money to those industrialists who contribute to the
post-war organization abroad. In return, the Party
demands all financial reserves which have already been transferred abroad or may later be transferred, so that after the defeat a strong new Reich can be built.10
The Nazi expert in this area was Hitter’s one-time
financial genius and Minister of the Economy, Dr.
Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, available to Bormann
even though he was in prison on suspicion of
involvement in the anti-Hitler coup of 1944. According
to a U.S. Treasury Department report of 1945, at least
750 enterprises financed by the Nazi Party had been
set up outside Germany by the end of the war. These
firms were capable of generating an annual income of approximately $30 million, all of it available to Nazi causes.11 It was Schacht’s ability to finesse the legalities of licensing and ownership that brought this situation about.12
Organizing the physical removal of the Nazis’ material
assets and the escape of SS personnel were the tasks
of the hulking Otto Skorzeny, simultaneously an
officer of the SS, the Gestapo and the Waffen SS as
well as Hitler’s “favorite commando.”13 Skorzeny
worked closely with Bormann and Schacht in
transporting the Nazi assets to safety outside Europe
and in creating a network of SS escape routes (“rat
lines”) that led from all over Germany to the Bavarian
city of Memmingen, then to Rome, then by sea to a
number of Nazi retreat colonies set up in the global
The international organization created to accommodate
Bormann’s plans is most often called “The Odessa,” a
German acronym for “Organization of Veterans of the
SS.” It has remained active as a shadowy presence
since the war and may indeed constitute Nazism’s most
notable organizational achievement. But we must
understand that none of Bormann’s, Skorzeny’s, and
Schacht’s well-laid plans would have stood the least
chance of success had it not been for a final
component of their organization, one not usually
associated with the Odessa at all but very possibly
the linchpin of the entire project.
This final element of the Odessa was the so-called
Gehlen Organization (the Org), the Nazi intelligence
system that sold itself to the U.S. at the end of the
war. It was by far the most audacious, most critical,
and most essential part of the entire Odessa
undertaking. The literature on the Odessa and that on
the Gehlen Organization, however, are two different
things. No writer in the field Of Nazi studies has yet explicitly associated the two, despite the fact that General Reinhard Gehlen was tied politically as well as personally with Skorzeny and Schacht. Moreover, Gehlen’s fabled post-war organzation was in large part staffed by SS Nazis who are positively identified with the Odessa, men such as the infamous Franz Alfred Six and Emil Augsburg of the Wannsee Institute. An even more compelling reason for associating Gehlen with the Odessa is that, withought his organization as a screen, the various Odessa projects would have been directly exposed to American intelligence. If the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had not been neutralized by the Gehlen ploy, the Odessa’s great escape scheme would have been discovered and broken up.
At 43, Brigadier General Reinhard Gehlen was a stiff, unprepossessing man of pounds when he presented himself for surrender at the U.S. command center in Fischhausen. But there was nothing small about his ego. “I am head of the section Foreign Armies East in German Army Headquarters,” he announced to the GI at the desk. “I have information to give of the highest importance to your government.” The GI was not impressed, however, and Gehlen spent weeks stewing in a POW compound before an evident Soviet eagerness to find him finally aroused the Americans’ attention.14
Gehlen became chief of the Third Reich’s Foreign
Armies East (FHO), on April 1, 1942. He was thus
responsible for Germany’s military intelligence
operations throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet
Union. His FHO was connected in this role with a
number of secret fascist organizations in the
countries to Germany’s east. These included Stepan
Bandera’s “B Faction” of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN/B),15 Romania’s Iron Guard,16 the Ustachis of Yugoslavia,17 the Vanagis of Latvia18 and, after the summer of 1942, “Vlassov’s Army,”19 the band of defectors from Soviet Communism marching behind former Red hero General Andrey Vlassov. Later on in the war, Gehlen placed one of his top men in control of Foreign Armies West, which broadened his power; and then after Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was purged and his Abwehr intelligence service cannibalized by the SS, Gehlen became in effect Nazi Germany’s over-all top intelligence chief.
The Great Escape
In December 1943, at the latest,
Gehlen reached the same conclusion about the war that
had come upon Bormann, Schacht, Skorzeny, and Himmler.
Germany was losing and could do nothing about it.
Several months later, Gehlen says, he began quietly
discussing the impending loss with a few close
associates. As he writes in his memoir: “Early
in-October 1944 I told my more intimate colleagues
that I considered the war was lost and we must begin
thinking of the future. We had to think ahead and plan
for the approaching catastrophe.”21
Gehlen’s strategic response to Gotterdammerung was a
kind of fusion of Himmler’s philosophy with Bormann’s
more pessimistic Odessa line: “My view,” he writes,
“was that there would be a place even for Germany in a
Europe rearmed for defense against Communism.
Therefore we must set our sights on the Western
powers, and give ourselves two objectives: to help
defend against Communist expansion and to recover and
reunify Germany’s lost territories.”22
Just as Bormann, Skorzeny, and Schacht were beginning
to execute their escape plans, so too was Gehlen:
“Setting his sights on the Western powers,” and in
particular on the United States, Gehlen pursued the
following strategic rationale: When the alliance
between the United States and the USSR collapsed, as
it was bound to do upon Germany’s defeat, the United
States would discover a piercing need for a
top-quality intelligence service in Eastern Europe and
inside the Soviet Union. It did not have such a
service of its own, and the pressures of erupting
East-West conflict would not give it time to develop
one from scratch. Let the United States therefore
leave the assets assembled by Gehlen and the FHO
intact. Let the United States not break up Gehlen’s relationship with East European fascist groups. Let the United States pick up Gehlen’s organization and put it to work for the West, the better to prevail in its coming struggle against a Soviet Union soon to become its ex-ally.
Gehlen brought his top staff people into the planning
for this amazing proposal. Together, during the last
months of the war, while Hitler was first raging at
Gehlen for his “defeatist” intelligence reports, then
promoting him to the rank of brigadier general, then
at last firing him altogether (but promoting into the
FHO directorship one of Gehlen’s co-conspirators),
Gehlen and his staff carefully prepared their huge
files on East Europe and the Soviet Union and moved
them south into the Bavarian Alps and buried them. At
the same time, Gehlen began building the ranks of the
FHO intelligence agents. The FH0 in fact was the only organization in the whole of the Third Reich that was actually recruiting new members as the war was winding down.23 SS men who knew they would be in trouble when the Allied forces arrived now came flocking to the FHO, knowing that it was the most secure place for them to be when the war finally ended.24
When Gehlen’s plans were complete and his preparations
all concluded, he divided his top staff into three
separate groups and moved them (as Skorzeny was doing
at the same time) into prearranged positions in
Bavaria. Gehlen himself was in place before the German surrender on May 7, hiding comfortably in a well-stocked chalet in a mountain lea called Misery Meadow. Besides Gehlen, there were eight others in the Misery Meadow group, including two wounded men and three young women. For three weeks, maintaining radio contact with the two other groups, Gehlen and his colleagues stayed on the mountain, waiting for the American army to appear in the valley far below. “These days of living in the arms of nature were truly enchanting,” he wrote. “We had grown accustomed to the peace, and our ears were attuned to nature’s every sound.”25
Destruction of the OSS
Gehlen was still communing with nature when William Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), arrived in Nuremberg from Washington, dispatched by the new president to assist Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. Harry S. Truman had made Jackson the United States’s chief prosecutor with the International Military Tribunal (IMT),
established to try the Nazis’ principal military
leaders. Donovan’s OSS was to function as an
investigative arm of the IMT. By the last half of the war if not before, President Roosevelt and Donovan were convinced that the U.S. needed a permanent intelligence service and that this service, like the OSS, should be civilian rather than military. They were convinced too that the OSS should be its foundation. On October 31, 1944, Roosevelt directed Donovan to prepare a memo on how such a
service should be organized.26
Donovan consulted on this assignment with his
colleague Allen Dulles, a force unto himself as
wartime chief of OSS operations in Bern. Dulles
advised Donovan to placate the military by proposing
that the new agency be placed automatically under
military command in time of war.27 Donovan’s proposal incorporated this idea,28 but only in order to state all the more strongly the case for civilian control and for making the OSS the basis of the new organization. As he wrote in his memo to Roosevelt of November 18, 1944, “There are common-sense reasons why you may desire to lay the keel of the ship at once…. We now have [in the OSS] the trained and specialized personnel needed for such a task, and this talent should not be dispersed.”29
Donovan proposed establishment of a civilian
intelligence service responsible directly to the
President and the Secretary of State, the chief
mission of which would be to support the President in
foreign policy. Except for the civilian Secretaries of
War and the Navy, Donovan’s plan did not even include
a place for military representation on the advisory
board, and he was careful to specify that the advisory
board would merely advise and not control. The new
service was to be all-powerful in its field, being
responsible for “coordination of the functions of all intelligence agencies of the Government.” The Donovan intelligence service, in other words, would directly and explicitly dominate the Army’s G-2 and the Navy’s ONI.30
Naturally, therefore, the Donovan plan drew an intense
attack from the military. One G-2 officer called it
“cumbersome and Possibly dangerous.”31 Another
referred to the OSS as “a bunch of faggots.”32 Nor was
the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover silent. Hoover had fought
creation of the OSS perhaps more bitterly than the
military and had insisted throughout the war on
maintaining an FBI intelligence network in Latin
America despite the fact that this was supposed to be
Certain elements within Army intelligence were not
only opposed to Donovan’s plan but were also beginning
to formulate their own notions of what a post-war
intelligence system should be like.
Roosevelt sent the Joint Chiefs of Staff ultra-secret
copies of Donovan’s proposal along with Roosevelt’s
own draft executive order to implement it. On January
1, 1945, the Chiefs formally reported to Roosevelt
their extreme dissatisfaction with this scheme and
leaked Donovan’s memo to four right-wing newspapers,
which leapt to the attack with blaring headlines
accusing FDR and Donovan of conspiring to create “a
super Gestapo.” This attack put the Donovan plan on
hold, and the death of FDR on April 12, 1945 destroyed
In early May 1945, president for less than a month,
Truman made the OSS the American component of the
investigative arm of the IMT. It is one of the
fascinating conjunctions of this story that Donovan
should have left for Nuremberg just as Gehlen was
coming down from his mountain. It is one of its riper
ironies that Donovan would soon resign from Jackson’s
staff in a disagreement over trying German officers as
war criminals, which Donovan objected to but Jackson
and Truman sup- ported.35 Had Donovan lent his
energies to the trial of Nazis within the German
officer corps, he might have confronted the very
adversaries who would shortly take his place in the
American intelligence system, not only militarizing
it, but Nazifying it as well.
Gehlen Makes his Move
Gehlen had been on the mountain
for exactly three weeks and the war had been over for
almost two weeks when he decided on May 19 that it was
time to make contact. He left the three women and the
two wounded men at Misery Meadow and with his four
aides began the decent to the valley town of
Fischhausen on Lake Schliersee.
On the same day Soviet commissioners far to the north
at Flensburg demanded that the United States hand over
Gehlen as well as his files on the USSR. This was the
first the U.S. command had heard of Gehlen.36
Gehlen and company took their time, staying three days
with the parents of one of his aides and communicating
by radio with those who had remained at Misery Meadow.
On May 22, Gehlen at last decided the moment was
right. He and his aides marched into the Army command
center and represented themselves to the desk officer,
a Captain John Schwarzwalder, to whom Gehlen spoke his
“I am head of the Section Foreign Armies East in
German Army headquarters. I have information to give
of the highest importance to your government.”
Schwarzwalder had Gehlen and his group jeeped to
Miesbach where there was a[n] OSS detachment. There
Gehlen once again gave his speech, this time to a
Captain Marian Porter: “I have information of the
greatest importance for your supreme commander.”
Porter replied, “So have they all,” and shunted him
and his cohorts off to the prison camp at Salzburg.
Gehlen’s disappointment at this reception was keen and
his biographers all say he never forgot it, “lapsing,”
as one puts it, “into near despair” as he “presented
the strange paradox of a spy-master thirsting for
recognition by his captors.”37
Recognition was inevitable, however, since the CIC was
trying to find him. By mid June at the latest, his
name was recognized by a G-2 officer, Colonel William
H. Quinn, who had Gehlen brought to Augsburg for his
first serious interrogation. Quinn was the first
American to whom Gehlen presented his proposal and
told of his staff dispersed at several camps in the
mountains as well as the precious buried archives of
the FHO. Unlike Captain Porter, Colonel Quinn was
impressed. He promptly passed Gehlen up the command
chain to General Edwin L. Sibert.
Sibert later recalled, “I had a most excellent
impression of him at once.” Gehlen immediately began
educating him as to the actual aims of the Soviet
Union and its display of military might.” As Sibert
told a journalist years later, “With her present armed
forces potential, he [Gehlen] continued, Russia could
risk war with the West and the aim of such a war would
be the occupation of West Germany.”38
Acting without orders, Sibert listened to Gehlen for
several days before informing Eisenhower’s chief of
staff, General Walter Bedell Smith.39 Smith and Sibert
then continued to develop their relationship with
Gehlen secretly, choosing not to burden Eisenhower
with knowledge of what they were doing “in order not
to compromise him in his relations with the
Soviets.”40 Eisenhower in fact had strictly forbidden
U.S. fraternization with Germans.
Gehlen was encouraged to resume contact with his FHO
comrades who were still at large in Bavaria, releasing
them from their vow of silence. Gehlen was
sufficiently confident of his American relationships
by this time that he dug up his buried files and, in
special camps, put his FH0 experts to work preparing
detailed reports on the Red Army for his American
captors. Well before the end of June he and his
comrades were “discharged from prisoner of war status
so that we could move around at will.”42 They were
encouraged to form a unit termed a “general staff
cell” first within G-2’s Historical Research Section,
then later in the Seventh Army’s Intelligence Center
in Wiesbaden, where they worked in private quarters
and were treated as VIPs.43
Indeed, a partly declassified CIA document
recapitulated this story in the early 1970s, noting at
Gehlen met with Admiral Karl Dognitz, who had been
appointed by Hitler as his successor during the last
days of the Third Reich. Gehlen and the Admiral were
now in a U.S. Army VIP prison camp in Wiesbaden;
Gehlen sought and received approval from Doenitz
In other words, the German chain of command was still
in effect, and it approved of what Gehlen was doing
with the Americans.
Gehlen’s biographers are under the impression that it
took six weeks for someone in European G-2 to notice
and recognize Gehlen in the POW cage, that Sibert did
not tell Smith about finding him until the middle of
August, and that it was much later still before Sibert
and Smith conspired to circumvent Eisenhower to
communicate their excitement about Gehlen to someone
at the Pentagon presumably associated with the Joint
Chiefs of Staff.45 But documents released in the 1980s
show that this part of Gehlen’s story raced along much
more quickly. Already on June 29, in fact, the
Pentagon had informed Eisenhower’s European command
that the War Department wanted to see Gehlen in
It was a fast time. By no later than August 22, one of
Gehlen’s top associates, Hermann Baum was forming what
would become the intelligence and counterintelligence
sections of Gehlen’s new organization. Gehlen himself,
with retinue, was departing for Washington in General
Bedell Smith’s DC-3 for high-level talks with American
military and intelligence officials. And the whole
concept of the deal he was about to offer his
conquerors had been approved by a Nazi chain of
command that was still functioning despite what the
world thought and still does think was the Nazis’
Gehlen arrived in Washington on August 24 with six of
his top FHO aides and technical experts in tow.48
World War II had been over about a week, the war in
Europe about three and a half months.
The Secret Treaty of Fort Hunt
As Gehlen and his six men were en route from Germany to Washington,Donovan’s OSS troubles became critical. On August 23, Admiral William Leahy, chief of the JCS, the
President’s national security adviser and a man who
despised Donovan, advised Truman to order his budget
director Harold Smith to begin a study of the
intelligence question. Stating “this country wanted no
Gestapo under any guise or for any reason.”49 Truman
may not have known that the Gestapo’s Odessa heirs
were landing in the lap of the Pentagon even as he
spoke. Smith in any case responded to Truman’s
directive by asking Donovan for his OSS demobilization
plans. Now, too late. Donovan tried to fight. The
Gehlen party, “Group 6,” was checking out its very
comfortable accommodations at Fort Hunt at the very
moment at which Donovan, writing from a borrowed
Washington office, fired back a memo to Smith
defending the OSS and its right to live:
Among these assets [of the OSS] was establishment for
the first time in our nation’s history of a foreign
secret intelligence service which reported information
as seen through American eyes. As an integral and
inseparable part of this service, there is a group of specialists to analyze and evaluate the material for presentation to those who determine national policy.”50
Much more significant than the question of the
adequacy of U.S. intelligence on the Soviet Union,
however, was the question of civilian versus military
control of the intelligence mission. Germany and
England had fought this battle in the 19th century,
the military capturing the intelligence role in
Germany and the civilians maintaining a position in
England. Throughout the summer and fall of 1945, this
same battle raged in the U.S. government.51 The battle
for intelligence control was indeed the background for
the arrival of Gehlen and his six aides at Fort Hunt,
where Gehlen’s party was housed and Gehlen himself
provided with an NCO butler and several white-jacket
A momentous relationship was established at Fort Hunt,
one that had the profoundest effects on the subsequent evolution of United States foreign policy during an exceptionally difficult passage of world history. The period of the Cold War as a whole, and more especially its early, formative years – from Gehlen’s coming aboard the American intelligence service until he rejoined the West German republic in 1955 — was laden with the peril of nuclear war. On at least one occasion, in 1948,53 Gehlen almost convinced the United States that the Soviet Union was about to launch a war against the West and that it would be in the U.S. interest to preempt it.
Clearly it is important to know who made and
authorized the decisions that led to our national
dependency on a network of underground Nazis, yet
because the relevant documents are still classified
this central part of the Gehlen story still cannot be reconstructed.
From the handful of published books about the Gehlen
affair (none of which cite their sources on this
point) we can list only seven Americans who were said
to be involved with Gehlen at Fort Hunt:
Admiral William D. Leahy, chief of staff end Truman’s
national security advisor.
Allen Dulles, OSS station chief in Bern during the
Sherman Kent, head of OSS Research and Analysis Branch
and a Yale historian. General George V. Strong, head of Army G-2. Major General Alex H. Bolling of G-2.
Brigadier General John T. Magruder, first head of the
Army’s Strategic Services Unit, a vulture of OSS.
Loftus E. Becker, a lawyer assc. with G-2 and the
Nuremberg war-crimes operation; the CIA’s first deputy director.
We do not know if these people were involved as a
committee, if they talked with Gehlen and his six
aides a lot or a little, separately or all at once, or
if they sent their own aides to work out the details.
We do not know how a POW-interrogation was transformed
into a bargaining process. Above all, we do not know
what kind of communication the U.S. participants in
the Fort Hunt-Gehlen talks had with the political
authorities to whom they were responsible. Leahy is
the only one who had obvious contact with President
Truman. But there is nothing in the revealed record to
indicate that he ever discussed Gehlen or the Fort
Hunt deal with Truman, or took the least trouble to
explain to Truman the implications of hiring a Nazi
spy network. We have no idea, for that matter, how
Leahy himself saw it.
What we do know is the outlines of the Gehlen deal
itself, however it was hammered out and however it was
or was not ratified by legal, political authority.
That is because Gehlen himself laid out its terms in
his autobiography, The Service. Gehlen says in this
work (which has been attacked for its inaccuracies)
that the discussion ended with “a gentleman’s
agreement,” that the terms of his relationship with
the United States were “for a variety of reasons never
set down in black and white.” He continues, “Such was
the element of trust that had been built up between
the two sides during this year of intensive personal
contact that neither had the slightest hesitation in
founding the entire operation on a verbal agreement
and a handshake.”54
According Gehlen, this agreement consisted of the
following six basic points. His language is worth
savoring. “I remember the terms of the agreement
well,” he wrote:
“1. A clandestine German intelligence organization was
to be set up. using the existing potential to continue information gathering in the East just as we had been doing before. The basis for this was our common interest in a defense against communism.”
“2. This German organization was to work not ‘for’ or
‘under’ the Americans, but ‘jointly with the
“3. The organization would operate exclusively under
German leadership, which would receive its directives
and assignments from the Americans until a new
government was established in Germany.”
“4. The organization was to be financed by the
Americans with funds which were not to be part of the occupation costs, and in return the organization would supply all its intelligence reports to the Americans.” (The Gehlen Organization’s first annual budget is said have been $3.4 million.55)”
“5. As soon as a sovereign German government was
established, that government should decide whether the organization should continue to function or not. but that until such time the care and control (later referred to as ‘the trusteeship’) of the organization would remain in American hands.”
“6. Should the organization at any time find itself in
a position where the American and German interests
diverged, it was accepted that the organization would
consider the interests of Germany first.”56
Gehlen acknowledges that the last point especially
might “raise some eyebrows” and make some think that
the U.S. side “had one overboard in making concessions
to us.” He assures his readers that actually “this
point demonstrates better than any other Sibert’s
great vision: he recognized that for many years to
come the interests of the United States and West
Germany must run parallel.”57
Gehlen and his staff left Fort Hunt for Germany on
July 1, 1946, having been in the United States for
almost a year. They were temporarily based at
Oberursel then settled into a permanent base in a
walled-in, self-contained village at Pullach near
Munich. Gehlen set up his headquarters in an estate
originally built by Martin Bormann.58 There a start-up
group of 50 began to turn the “gentlemen’s agreement”
of Fort Hunt into reality. The first order of business
being staff, Gehlen’s recruiters were soon circulating
among the “unemployed mass” of “former” Nazi SS men,
the Odessa constituency, to find more evaluators,
couriers and informers.59 Gehlen had “solemnly
promised in Washington not to employ SS and Gestapo
men,”60 although it will be noted that Gehlen includes
no such provision in his list of terms. There is not
the least question that he did recruit such men,
supplying them with new names when necessary.
Two of the worst of them were Franz Six and Emil
Augsburg. Six was a key Nazi intellectual, and both
Six and Augsburg were associated with the Wannsee
Institute, the Nazi think-tank in Berlin where SS
leader Reinhard Heydrich, in January 1942, announced
“the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” Both of
them had commanded extermination squads roving in East
Europe in pursuit of Jews and communists. and both had
gone underground with the Odessa when the Third Reich
crumbled. Augsburg hid in Italy, then returned in
disguise when Gehlen called. Six was actually captured
by Allied intelligence, tried at Nuremberg and
imprisoned, only to be sprung to work with Augsburg
running Gehlen’s networks of East European Nazis.61
From the edge of total defeat Gehlen now moved into
his vintage years, more powerful, influential and
independent than he had been even in the heyday of the
Third Reich. Minimally supervised first by the War
Department’s Strategic Services Unit under Fort Hunt
figure Major General John Magruder, and then by the
SSU’s follow-on organization, the Central Intelligence
Group under Rear Admiral Sidney Souers,62 the Org grew
to dominate the entire West German intelligence
service. Through his close ties to Chancellor Konrad
Adenauer’s chief minister, Hans Globke, Gehlen was
able to place his men in positions of control in West
Germany’s military intelligence and the internal counterintelligence arm. When NATO was established he came to dominate it too. By one estimate “some 70 percent” of the total intelligence take flowing into NATO’S military committee and Allied headquarters (SHAPE) on the Soviet Union, the countries of East Europe, the rest of Europe, and indeed the rest of the world was generated at Pullach.63
Not even the establishment of the CIA in 1947 and the
official transfer of the Pullach operation into the
West German government in 1955 (when it was retitled
the Federal Intelligence Service, BND) lessened the
reliance of American intelligence on Gehlen’s
product.64 From the beginning days of the Cold War
through the 1970s and beyond, the United State’s, West Germany’s, and NATO’s most positive beliefs about the nature and intentions of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, and world communism would be supplied by an international network of utterly unreconstructed SS Nazis whose primary purposes were to cover the escape of the Odessa and make the world safe for Naziism.
The Cost of the Fort Hunt Treaty
Gehlen’s story has may branchings beyond this point. These include several spy scandals that exposed his operation as dangerously vulnerable to Soviet penetration. They include the pitiful spectacle of U.S. CIC agents pursuing Nazi fugitives on war-crimes charges only to see them summarily pardoned and hired by Gehlen. They include the dark saga of Klaus Barbie, the SS “Butcher of Lyon” who worked with the Gehlen Organization and boasted of being a member of the Odessa. They include assets of Operation Paperclip, in which right-wing forces in the U.S. military once again savaged the concept of de-Nazification in order to smuggle scores of SS rocket scientists into the United States. They include continuation of the civilian-vs.-military conflict over the institution of secret intelligence and the question of politically motivated covert action within the domestic interior. They include above all the story of the enormous victory of the Odessa in planting powerful Nazi colonies around the world — in such countries as South Africa where the enactment of apartheid laws followed; or several countries in Latin America that then became breeding grounds for the Death Squads of the current day; and indeed even in the United States where it now appears that thousands of wanted Nazis were able to escape justice and grow old in peace.
In making the Gehlen deal, the United States did not
acquire for itself an intelligence service. That is
not what the Gehlen group was or was trying to be. The
military intelligence historian Colonel William Corson
put it most succinctly, “Gehlen’s organization was
designed to protect the Odessa Nazis. It amounts to an exceptionally well-orchestrated diversion.”65 The only intelligence provided by the Gehlen net to the United States was intelligence selected specifically to worsen East-West tensions and increase the possibility of military conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It was exactly as the right-wing pairs had warned in 1945 when they were aroused by Donovan’s proposal for a permanent intelligence corps, warning their readers that a “super spy unit” could “determine American foreign policy by weeding out, withholding or coloring information gathered at his direction.”66 It was exactly as Truman had warned when he demobilized the OSS with the observation that the U.S. had no interest in “Gestapolike measures.” The fact that this lively concern for a police-state apparatus should have been focused on the relatively innocuous OSS while at the same time the red carpet was being rolled out for Gehlen’s gang of SS men must surely count as one of the supreme wrenching ironies of the modern period.
Another dimension of the cost the Gehlen deal is the
stress it induced within American institutions,
weakening them incalculably. The Gehlen Organization
was the antithesis of the Allied cause, its sinister
emergence on the scene of post-war Europe the very
opposite of what the western democracies thought they
had been fighting for.
Perhaps at least we can say that, despite Gehlen and
despite the military, the United States did after all
finally wind up with a civilian intelligence service.
The National Security Act of 1947 did embody Donovan’s
central point in creating a CIA outside the military.
But in fact the Gehlen Org substantially pre-empted
the CIA’s civilian character before it was ever born.
The CIA was born to be rocked in Gehlen’s cradle. It
remained dependent on the Org even when the Org turned
into the BND. Thus, whatever the CIA was from the
standpoint of the law, it remained from the standpoint
of practical intelligence collection a front for a
house of Nazi spies.
The Org was not merely military, which is bad, not
merely foreign, which is much worse, and not merely
Nazi, which is intolerable; it was not even
professionally committed to the security of the U.S.
and Western Europe. It was committed exclusively to
the security of the Odessa. All the Gehlen Org ever
wanted the U.S. to be was anti-communist, the more
militantly so the better. It never cared in the least
for the security of the United States, its
Constitution or its democratic tradition.
It is not the point of this essay that there would
have been no Cold War if the Odessa had not wanted it
and had not been able, through the naive collaboration
of the American military Right to place Gehlen and his
network in a position that ought to have been occupied
by a descendant of the OSS. But it was precisely
because the world was so volatile and confusing as of
the transition from World War II to peacetime that the
U.S. needed to see it, as Donovan put it in his
plaintive appeal to Truman in the summer of 1945,
“through American eyes.” No Nazi eyes, however bright,
could see it for us without deceiving us and leading
us to the betrayal of our own national character.
Second, there was no way to avoid the Cold War once we
had taken the desperate step of opening our doors to
Gehlen. From that moment on, from the summer of 1945
when the Army brought him into the United States and
made a secret deal with him, the Cold War was locked
in. A number of Cold War historians on the left (for
example D.F. Fleming and Gabriel Kolko) have made
cogent arguments that from the Soviet point of view
the Cold War was thrust upon us by an irrational and belligerent Stalin. The story of the secret treaty of Fort Hunt exposes this “history” as a self-serving political illusion. On the contrary, the war in the Pacific was still raging and the United States was still trying to get the Soviet Union into the war against Japan when General Sibert was already deep into his relation ship with Gehlen.
The key point that comes crashing through the
practical and moral confusion about this matter, once
one sees that Gehlen’s Organization was an arm of the
Odessa, is that, whether it was ethical or not, the
U.S. did not pick up a Gift Horse in Gehlen at all; it
picked up a Trojan Horse.
The unconditional surrender the Germans made to the
Allied command at the little red schoolhouse in Reims
was the surrender only of the German armed services.
It was not the surrender of the hard SS core of the
Nazi Party. The SS did not surrender, unconditionally
or otherwise, and thus Nazism itself did not
surrender. The SS chose rather, to seek other means of continuing the war while the right wing of the United States military establishment, through fears and secret passions and a naivete of its own, chose to facilitate that choice. The history that we have lived through since then stands witness to the consequences.
Carl Oglesby is the author of several books,
notably The Yankee and Cowboy War. He has published a
variety of articles on political themes. In 1965 he
was the President of Students for a Democratic
Society. He is the director of The Institute for
Continuing de-Nazification. For information on the
Institute write to: 294 Harvard Street, #3, Cambridge.
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), p. 1140.
Ibid., p. 1033 fn. Enunciation of this policy
surprised and upset some U.S. military leaders who
feared it would prolong the war. See, for example,
William R. Corson (USMC ret.), The Armies of
Ignorance: The Rite of the American Intelligence
Empire (New York: Dial Press, 1977), pp. 8-10.
William Stevenson, The Bormann Brotherhood: A New
Investigation of the Escape and Survival of Nazi War
Criminals (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).
Op. cit. n. 1, p. 1072.
Ibid., pp. 1091-92
This discussion of Bormann’s strategy is based mainly
on Glenn B. Infield, Skorzeny: Hitler’s Commando (New
York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981); and op. cit., n. 3.
My summary of the Nazi survival plan is based on op.
cit., n. 3; Infield, op. cit., n. 6; Ladislas Farago,
Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 1974); Charles Higham,
American Swastika (New York: Doubleday, 1985); Brian
Bunting, The Rise of the South African Reich (New
York: Penguin, 1964); and Simon Wiesenthal, The
Murderers Among Us (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967). On
“neo-Nazi” colonies in the Near and Middle East and
South America, see Wiesenthal, pp. 78-95.
Infield, op. cit., n. 6. p. 192.
Ibid., p. 179; and Wiesenthal, op. cit., n. 7. pp.
Wiesenthal, op. cit., n. 7, p. 88. Also quoted in
Infield, op. cit., n. 6, p. 183.
Infield, op. cit., n. 6, p. 183.
Schacht, who had lost favor with Hitler in 1938, was
acquitted of war-crimes charges by the Nuremberg
Tribunal. He was later convicted of being a “chief
Nazi offender” by the German de-Nazification court at Baden-Wurttemberg, but his conviction was overturned and his eight-year sentence lifted on September 2, 1948. Infield, op cit., n. 6.
Infield, op cit., n. 6, p. 16.
Heinz Hohne and Hermann Zolling, The General Was A Spy
(New York: Richard Barry, Coward McCann & Geoghegan,
1973), p. 54; and E.H. Cookridge, Gehlen, Spy of the
Century (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 120.
Christopher Simpson, Blowback (New York: Weidenfeld
and Nicolson, 1988), p. 160 ff. Simpson’s is the best
book on the Gehlen matter so far published.
Ibid., pp. 254-55.
Ibid., pp. 180, 193.
Ibid., pp. 10, 207-08.
Ibid., pp. 18-22. Also see Hohne and Zolling, op.
cit., n. 14, pp. 35-37; Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14,
Cookridge op. cit., n. 14, p. 79.
Reinhard Gehlen, The Service (New York: World, 1972),
Ibid., p. 107.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, pp. 103, 106.
I do not know of an estimate of the size of the
Foreign Armies East (FHO) as of the end of the war.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 161, says that by 1948,
when the Gehlen Organization was probably back up to
war-time speed, its key agents “exceeded four
thousand.” Each agent typically ran a net of about six informants, Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 167. Thus, the total Gehlen net might have numbered in the range of 20,000 individuals
Op. cit., n. 21, p. 115.
Corson, op. cit., n. 2, pp. 6, 20; Anthony Cave Brown,
The Last Hero, Wild Bill Donovan (N.Y.: Vintage Books,
1982), p. 625; U.S. Senate, “Final Report of the
Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with
Respect to Intelligence Activities,” Book IV,
Supplementary Staff Reports on Foreign and Military Intelligence (known as, The Church Report), p. 5.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p.130.
Brown, op. cit., n. 26, p. 626.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 131.
William M. Leary, ed., The Central Intelligence
Agency: History and Documents (Atlanta: University of
Atlanta Press, 1984), pp. 123-25; Corson, op cit., n.
2, pp. 214-17; Brown, op. cit., n. 26, p. 625.
Brown, op. cit., n. 26, p. 627.
Ibid., p. 170.
Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard
Helms and the CIA (New York: Pocket Books, 1981), p.
Brown, op. cit., n. 26, p. 744.
This account of Gehlen’s surrender is based on Hohne
and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, pp. 52-56; Cookridge, op
cit., n. 14, pp. 118-21; op. cit., 3, pp. 89-90; op
cit., n. 15, pp. 41-43; and the BBC documentary,
Superspy: The Story of Reinhard Gehlen, 1974. There
are many trivial discrepancies in these four accounts
but they are in perfect agreement as to the main
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 120.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 58.
As to breaking orders, Gehlen is effusive in his
praise of “Sibert’s great vision…. I stand in
admiration of Sibert as a general who this this bold
step — in a situation fraught with political pitfalls
— of taking over the intelligence experts of a former
enemy for his own country…. The political risk to
which Sibert was exposed was very great. Anti-German
feeling was running high, and he had created our
organizations without any authority from Washington
and without the knowledge of the War Department.” Op.
cit., n. 21, p. 123.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 58.
Ibid., pp. 58-59.
Op. cit., n. 21, p. 120.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 58.
Undated CIA fragment with head, “Recent Books,”
apparently published circa 1972, partly declassified
and released in 1986 in response to a Freedom of
Information (FOIA) suit.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, pp. 56, 58-59.
U.S. Army document SHAEF D-95096, September 15, 1946, declassified FOIA release. The routing of this cable through SHAEF HQ raises a question as to whether Eisenhower was really kept in the dark about Gehlen.
As Gehlen was about to leave for the United States, he
left a message for Baun with another of his top aides,
Gerhard Wessel: “I am to tell you from Gehlen that he
has discussed with [Hitler’s successor Admiral Karl]
Doenitz and [Gehlen’s superior and chief of staff
General Franz] Halder the question of continuing his
work with the Americans. Both were in agreement.”
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 61.
There is variance in the literature concerning how
many assistants Gehlen took with him toWashington.
John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the
CIA (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 92;
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 125; and op. cit., n.
15, p. 42, say it was three while Hohne and Zolling,
op. cit., n. 14, p. 61, say four. A U.S. Army note of
August 28, 1945 (a 1986 FOIA release) refers to “the 7
shipped by air last week” and that no doubt is the
correct number. Another FOIA release, an unnumbered
Military Intelligence Division document dated
September 30, 1945, originated at Fort Hunt, labels
the Gehlen party as “Group 6” and names seven
members: Gehlen, Major Alberg Schoeller, Major Horst
Hiemenz, Colonel Heinz Herre, Colonel Konrad
Stephanus, and two others whose rank is not given,
Franz Hinrichs and Herbert Feukner. The number is
important for what it says about the nature of
Gehlen’s trip, Three might be thought of as
co-defendants but six constitute a staff. Cookridge,
op. cit., n. 14, p. 125, says Gehlen made the trip
disguised in the uniform of a one-star American
general, his aides disguised as U.S. captains. Hohne
and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, pp. 60-61, inflate the
rank to two stars but then call the story spurious.
Gehlen’s memoir says nothing about it.
Corson, op. cit., n. 2, p. 239.
Ibid., p. 240.
Ranelagh, op. cit., n. 48, p. 102ff.
BBC documentary, Superspy, op. cit., n. 36. Corson, in
an interview with the author, said the butler and the
orderlies must have been CIC agents. Still, the detail
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, 203; op. cit., n. 15. p.
Op. cit., n. 21, p. 121. Hohne and Zolling, op. cit.,
n. 14. p. 64, say that the details of this
“gentlemen’s agreement” were put into writing by the
CIA in 1949.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 65.
Op. cit., n. 21, p. 122.
Ibid., pp. 122-23.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 119; Cookridge,
op. cit., n. 14, p. 155, BBC documentary, Superspy,
op. cit., n. 36.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 67.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 144.
Op. cit., n. 15, pp. 17, 46-47, 166, 225; Cookridge,
op. cit., n. 14, pp. 242-43.
Hohne and Zolling, op. cit., n. 14, p. 133.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 218.
Ibid., p. 128.
Author’s interview with Corson, May, 1986.
Cookridge, op. cit., n. 14, p. 131.
(This article was originally from CovertAction
Information Bulletin, Fall, 1990)
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