Author Christopher Simpson discusses his book entitled Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effect on the Cold War. Simpson's interest in the topic started during the deportation trial of Otto Van Bolschwing, who argued against his deportation from the US by noting that the CIA had brought him into the US. Simpson has attained information through the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits that the United States sought any and all operatives to combat Soviet "expansionism" at the end of World War II. The foreign service began recruitment during POW debriefings, and helped many criminals avoid war crimes trials. The foreign service, Simpson concludes, created the Cold War to insure the Pentagon budget following the end of World War II
Alan Fong Good day, I'm Alan Fong for KPFK News and Public Affairs. Our guest is Christopher Simpson, and he's the author of a new book called Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effect on the Cold War. I want to ask you, Christopher, just begin with, this story of America's recruitment of Nazis is one that comes in bits and pieces to those of us on the West Coast, 3,000 miles away from the center of information, basically.
But, it comes to us in bits [00:00:30] and pieces, and we were first made aware of the subject, at least I was, through the Iran-Contra hearings and some background material there I received on the Reinhard Gehlen Organization; an intelligence network that got lifted, if you will, out of the German Republic, into the American service in 1945 and eventually became the key to a lot of America's intelligence information [00:01:00] concerning the Soviets in the Cold War period. Where did the story begin, for you, about America's recruitment of Nazis?
Chris Simpson Well, some of the first research has stemmed from a case that was here in California. The Department of Justice was attempting to deport a man by the name of Otto von Bolschwing; this is maybe six, eight years ago. Von Bolschwing was a SS veteran, Nazi party veteran, and he had been involved in a pogram in Bucharest, Romania, in which about 600 [00:01:30] people had been murdered. In von Bolschwing's defense against the attempt to deport him was, essentially, "You can't deport me, the CIA brought me to America." This caught my attention, and when I began to look into this case, I discovered that there were a number of other similar cases.
Alan Fong How easy has been your access to this kind of information? You've discovered there have been a number of similar cases; [00:02:00] has the FOIA been central to this?
Chris Simpson The FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, is a very important law. It's an imperfect law, but nonetheless has been very helpful in this. The access has been, I guess, by world standards, pretty easy. It's certainly easier to get this type of information in the United States than in most other countries. However, no, the government didn't didn't make it easy to do this. Many of the government [00:02:30] files had been purged; many remain classified. Some of the government files, you can tell, were created in the first place to be cover stories and CYA memorandum; in bureaucratese, it's 'cover your butt' type memorandums. The most effective research technique for coming to understand how the Nazi recruitment programs worked, and their effect on America, was almost [00:03:00] like a mosaic, or assembly of a jigsaw puzzle, in which you are not sure even what the picture of the jigsaw puzzle is.
But, basically, one technique that worked very well is, you take the State Department documentation on a given subject, and then you compare it with the Pentagon's documentation, then you compare it with the Army's documentation, and so on down the line. And, [00:03:30] if you do this carefully and systematically, after a while, a picture starts to emerge.
Alan Fong Were you in California at the time of the von Bolschwing case?
Chris Simpson In part, yes, yes. I came out here and I did some interviewing, and some research, and so forth.
Alan Fong How did you become interested in the subject, generally, if that was one of the catalysts?
Chris Simpson I'm a child of my generation. I was born and they had the McCarthy hearings while I was in my cradle, and in grade school, there was a Kennedy [00:04:00] assassination; in high school, it was Vietnam, a little bit later, there was Watergate. The issues of intelligence, and the role of intelligence in our society is a central theme of American politics for the last 30 years.
Alan Fong So, you went back to look at some of the roots of this, the National Security Act of 1947, of course, creates the Central Intelligence Agency out of the ashes of the old Office of Strategic Services. You went back to look [00:04:30] at the roots of this, and the book begins with a marvelous press conference, held by the Department of Justice concerning Klaus Barbie. But what I would like to do, if you will, is start back with the German invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).
Chris Simpson Sure, sure. It's necessary to, at least, start that at that phase, if not earlier, in understanding what transpired here. The Nazis [00:05:00] declared war on the USSR and there was a blitzkrieg type invasion. Their original plan was to conquer the USSR in literally a matter of months, and for a time, it looked like they might actually succeed at it. In the areas that the Germans occupied, they set up a variety of different types of Quisling governments that were staffed by the local collaborators in those areas. They came complete with mayors, chiefs of police, policemen, militia [00:05:30] forces and so forth; all of whom played a very important role in stabilizing,, or temporarily stabilizing, Nazi power in the occupied areas.
They also played a very important role in a variety of mass murder campaigns, most particularly directed at Jews, but also directed at other nationality groups and other political criminals, or so-called criminals, in the Nazi's eyes, in the Soviet Union. These people, these collaborators were [00:06:00] responsible for really, quite extraordinary crimes, involving massacring a million people in a matter of months. This is a pretty difficult thing to do, just from a simply logistic standpoint, not considering the ethics involved.
What happened is, that the Germans were, themselves, divided over how to use these Quislings [Quisling became synonymous with the word "traitor" or "collaborator" in the years after World War 2] and collaborators. There were different arguments [00:06:30] among the Nazis as to the best way to make use of these people, so there were much comings and goings, and factional struggles over the types of relationship between the collaborationist groups and Berlin. And those factional struggles, incidentally, became important later.
I'll give you an example: say, for example, a Ukrainian nationalist organization, OUN. Now, during the opening months of the [00:07:00] Nazi invasion of the USSR there was open collaboration between the OUN and the Nazis. The Ukraine is a part of the Soviet Union, which is ethnically distinct, and there's been a long history of resistance and discontent, both during the Czarist period, and during the post-1917 period, between the Ukraine, on the one hand, and the central government in Moscow on the other hand.
[00:07:30] During the opening months of the invasion, the Nazis had the OUN activists on their payroll, and they set them up as policeman, and governors, and mayors and so forth inside the occupation zone. The OUN saw itself as the government of an independent Axis, fascist country that would be equal with Germany, in the same sense that Hungary was allied with Germany, or Italy. Well, the Nazis [00:08:00] had a racial view of the world in which Slavic peoples, Ukrainians, are a Slavic nationality group, are only about a half a step higher than Jewish people; and certainly underneath the Nazis, at least as the Nazi Aryans would have it.
Once the utility of the OUN for illustrating to the world that [00:08:30] the people the Soviet Union had, supposedly, warmly welcomed the German invasion, because the OUN was there with bread and salt and so forth, to welcome the Nazis in. Once that phase had passed, then the Nazis double crossed the OUN. It's because they had no intention of letting them be an independent, fascist country. The OUN was, to a certain degree, driven underground; and at that stage, there was a more complicated relationship between the Germans and the [00:09:00] OUN
The point here is, that there were very intricate and changing relationships between the imperial, the dominant country, Nazi Germany, and its various minor allies, who would sometimes be in favor, sometimes out of favor. At the end of the war, the collaborators retreated back to Nazi Germany with the retreating German forces. At the end of the war, the [00:09:30] Americans looked at many of these collaborationist groups and concluded that, "Well, they're of Soviet nationality, or one of the Soviet nationalities; they speak the language, they have a certain amount of expertise about life in the Soviet Union, they have intelligence information," so forth and so on. "We'll get them on our team. We'll hire them, we'll protect them and so forth," the same groups that had collaborated with Berlin. The rationale [00:10:00] was to use these people as psychological warfare operatives in different types of covert operations; sabotage, guerrilla warfare and so forth, aimed at the Soviets.
Alan Fong We'll get to that. It's clear that the British, the United States, the French, and the Russians all view a lot of these Slavic peoples as "assets." I'll use that word in the CIA view of native peoples. But, we learn in the [00:10:30] chapter that you've done, called "Slaughter On the Eastern Front"; we learn about a group called the Alsace Raiding Team. It is charged, among other things, with extracting both assets, in terms of human expertise, and minerals, and valuable papers; it's charged with extracting elements of the German atomic program to United States. I want to look at that, because this is the view- [00:11:00] this is where, if people are aware of America's recruitment of Nazis, this is perhaps where the general knowledge begins: the recruitment of the figures like Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger into America's rocket program, so, if you will.
Chris Simpson Okay. The business with the German scientists is reasonably well known; there's a whole popular consciousness about it. One important thing to understand about how this worked is that [00:11:30] there's different kinds of Nazis, there's different degrees of responsibility for the Nazi's crimes that people have. Now, Wernher von Braun always presented himself as being, "Oh, well I'm just a technician. I had no responsibility for the Holocaust; I had no responsibility for the more terrible Nazi crimes." There is a certain measure of truth in his claim, but there's also another side to the von Braun story, that it's important to understand [00:12:00] in order to get a full picture.
Von Braun was given honorary membership in the SS for 10 years. He was an honorary member of the Nazi party. Perhaps more important, he would use these "honors," if being an SS man is an honor, to advance his career; to get funding for his projects, to rise higher in the bureaucracy. Now, here's a guy who worked as a technician and a scientist on a program who's, the [00:12:30] rockets were constructed by slave laborers that they were housed in the Nordhausen concentration camp. About 20,000 human beings were worked to death at Nordhausen, during the course of this rocket program. Von Braun or his defenders would insist that he had no control over these slave laborers; maybe so, that can be debated. But here, nonetheless, is a man who is willing to walk across a concentration camp full of corpses in order to advance his career, [00:13:00] in order to rise higher in the Nazi bureaucracy.
This doesn't make him a war criminal, perhaps; but it certainly doesn't make him a hero. After the war, von Braun was singled out as the kind of German that the Americans wanted to have on their team. And by the way, it's important to note that the other powers in the region, the British, the French, the Soviets were also systematically recruiting German specialists, German scientists of various types, [00:13:30] and many of the other German scientists had records, more or less, similar to von Braun's. The scientists became the point of a wedge that opened up a variety of bureaucratic procedures, secret bureaucratic procedures in the American intelligence agencies, and also psychological rationalizations, if you will, about why was in America's interest to supposedly use to [00:14:00] use Nazis for various intelligence projects. The scientists were less compromised by their service to Nazi Germany than certain other groups, and so they became the camel's nose in the tent.
Alan Fong Weidenfeld & Nicolson is the publisher of the new book called Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects On the Cold War. I'm Alan Fong with KPFK, and we're talking with Christopher Simpson, author of Blowback. This recruitment of scientists and experts [00:14:30] developed into a full-fledged, if you will, immigration program. I'm sorry, there were full-fledged immigration programs to follow, let's just call this a special immigration program. It first became known as Project Overcast, and then Project Paperclip, I think. Let's discuss, if you will, what role US agencies, military- largely Army agencies, had in developing these recruitment programs.
Chris Simpson Okay. Two things: first of all, [00:15:00] where they came from and where they went to. At the beginning, and beginning, here, I'm talking about 1944, 1945; these were basically an expanded form of interrogation of POW's. We had captured these German scientists and we were interrogating them as we might interrogate any other military POW. But gradually, they transformed themselves and changed, and it [00:15:30] became not so much interrogation of POW's, but recruitment of POW's, highly specialized German technicians for a variety of US military programs; chemical warfare, electronics, rockets, of course, are the best known, submarine warfare, different types of tank armor, and these types of technologies.
But, perhaps more important in the present context than these scientists, is [00:16:00] the step that this provided towards recruitment of intelligence agents. In Nazi Germany, most of the intelligence complex was run as part of the Schutzstaffel, or SS, which is the police structure of Nazi Germany. The people who were in charge of intelligence on the Soviet Union were the same people who had participated in the mass murder squads during the opening months of the invasion; [00:16:30] and in fact, the SS would send some of its "best" officers to the Eastern front, specifically to participate in mass murder missions as a means of hardening themselves against the bloodshed, which was, in the Nazi view, a particular form of virtue. So these same guys who had been involved in the mass murder programs became Nazi Germany's intelligence experts on the Soviet Union.
Those people were [00:17:00] scientists too, of a sort, at least in the eyes of some Western intelligence specialists. We wanted to recruit them in somewhat the same way that the more hard science types, the physicists, were being recruited. While the criminality of the scientists, of the rocket scientists is more open to debate and more complicated, the criminality of the people who took part in the mass murder missions is very clear cut. When we hired [00:17:30] the Nazi Germany's intelligence complex, we inevitably hired war criminals.
Alan Fong One of the people key to that, of course, is Reinhard Gehlen. But before we look at the Nazi intelligence network and Gehlen's offering to the United States, one of which was titled The Russian High Command and Its Concept of Strategy, I want to look with you, Christopher, at the definition of a war criminal. I think we have, here, a concept, which, in the popular mind, may be fairly clear [00:18:00] cut, which evolves into a different notion entirely; because as the use of Nazis becomes more widespread, the definition of war criminal, itself, changes. That's one of the concerns, the evolution of this definition, that we have to be concerned about.
Chris Simpson Yeah. The basic articulation of this came in a particular law that was instituted by the Allies [00:18:30] in 1945 that's called Allied Control Council Law Number 10; and I'll read some parts of this to you. First of all, it talks about crimes against humanity, and that's defined is this: "Atrocities and offenses, including but not limited to, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, other inhuman acts committed against," and this is an important part, "a civilian population, [00:19:00] or persecutions on racial, political, or religious grounds." Then, there are other provisions. There's a term, war crimes, and that includes the many of the same types of things; but when they are committed by an army, an occupying army against a civilian population. And then, finally, there's something termed crimes against peace, which basically is that the waging of an aggressive war in violation of a treaty.
This may sound like [00:19:30] a lot of legal details, but the important thing to understand about it, is that there was a statutory basis for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the wake of the war. This is not simply a matter of revenge, or getting even with the Germans, or something like that; this was a civilized response to the extraordinary criminality of Nazi Germany.
Alan Fong I can't begin [00:20:00] to describe the atrocities that are put into words in Christopher Simpson's new book, Blowback; but it's very clear that, as he said just a few moments ago, that a lot of the information about the Soviet High Command came from top-notch German intelligence officers, who went to the Eastern front and debriefed prisoners of war, and [00:20:30] used that information to develop a sense of what the Russian High Command was like. In the process, of course, those POW's were starved to death. They were used as information sources, and just like the Jews, tossed away at the end. Or, I'm sorry, the Jews weren't even used in that capacity, they were just tossed away to begin with. Develop, if you will, the Gehlen organization.
Chris Simpson Sure. Who is Reinhard Gehlen, anyway? [00:21:00] Gehlen was the United States' main source of information on the USSR, and particularly on the Soviet Red Army throughout the Cold War. This puts him in an extraordinarily important and pivotal position, because here we are, really, learning about the Soviet Union from 1945 on; because we knew very little about the Soviet Union prior to that time. Our teacher during this time [00:21:30] is a man who has a clear ideological agenda of extreme hostility to the Soviet Union. And I'm not just talking about being an anti-Communist; I'm talking about a man who was personally involved in war crimes, and secondly, who considered it his own mission to eradicate the Soviet Union. And yet, this is the person that we relied upon for the large majority of our intelligence about the Soviet Union and the Red Army.
Now, what was Gehlen's role during the war? [00:22:00] Gehlen was a very successful intelligence officer during the war, to the degree that the Germans were successful, at all; the proof's in the pudding here. The Germans lost, so he couldn't have been all that successful. With that caveat, he was pretty good at his job. And what did he do for his job? Well, in the opening months of the war, the German army captured somewhere between three and four million [00:22:30] Soviet POWs. He had herded them into camps, and it, quite intentionally, and very systematically starved these people to death over a period of about two years.
Gehlen's role in this, is that he would go into these camps; his men were primarily interrogators who would gather information about the Soviet Union, about the position of the Red Army at the front, and how they were equipped, and which units were where, [00:23:00] and this type of information from these POW's. Torture was used at some times, but more commonly, frankly, was the systematic starvation in the camps. The people would, some people, anyway, would cooperate with the Nazis in the hopes of not being starved to death. Gehlen also ran a variety of covert missions against the Soviets, behind the lines missions, sabotage, and in [00:23:30] this type of thing, involving people who were recruited out of these camps.
But in this sense, his role in these starvation camps is important; it's because it's somewhat similar to the role of concentration camp doctors. You had the Josef Mengele's of the world who did supposed scientific research on how quickly it would take a human being to die if they were immersed in freezing seawater or something. What is that? That's [00:24:00] the extraction of data from the destruction of human beings. What is Gehlen doing? He's extracting data from the destruction of human beings, and on a mass scale. Yet, after the war, he was considered too valuable to simply be brought to trial as a war criminal, and still less, to be turned over to the Soviets.
Now, the Soviets wanted this guy really bad. It's because, in their eyes, he had been responsible for this starvation campaign; [00:24:30] but instead, we hired him and protected him. The Russians knew this was going on, even if the American people didn't, so you had the creation of a situation at the early conferences in the immediate wake of the war. The Potsdam Conference, and there was a variety of other, similar conferences, in which the diplomats on both sides, the Russian diplomats, American diplomats would sit at the table and they would make a variety of proposals to each other. [00:25:00] Both sides were trying to appraise, "How sincere is the other side? Are these people playing straight with us?" They would look beyond the table, and they would see that we were hiring Gehlen; a man who they considered to be a major war criminal, and who they considered, with some justification, to be very dangerous to them.
Their perception of America's role in these negotiations was immediately undermined, there was immediate establishment of mistrust there. [00:25:30] This mistrust escalated and escalated, and became an important component of the Cold War.
Alan Fong While the rationale for recruiting people like Gehlen, and some of his cohorts, Franz Six and Emil Augsburg you mention in the book. While the recruitment of Gehlen and his cohorts was intended to provide good and solid information, with regard to the Red Army, the Soviet High Command, it's not at all clear that that was, indeed, [00:26:00] the result; and in the chapter called "Eyes and Ears", you discuss, in ironic detail- maybe I'll use those words- how the intelligence information provided by Gehlen and colleagues, in fact, "blows back". Maybe that's how I want to introduce the term, "blowback." It's covert operations abroad, which [00:26:30] have real effects on the home country. Let us take a look at how Gehlen's intelligence network shaped Cold War to our detriment.
Chris Simpson Right, right. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the United States undertook something called The Strategic Bombing Survey. What this was, was basically a survey of where American planes [00:27:00] had dropped bombs in Europe during the war, to see, what was the effect of these bombing missions. This survey was incidentally, and not entirely officially, used to collect information on what the Soviets were up to inside the Russian occupation zone. Fine. It discovered several different things that are of importance. First of all, they discovered that the Russians were tearing up the German rail network, that ran from the Russian occupation zone in the east, [00:27:30] to the Western occupation, the American and British occupation zone in the west.
The Soviets were tearing up these railroads and shipping them back to the Soviet Union as war reparations. It's because of the destruction that the Nazis had wrecked inside the USSR. This is important, because the Red Army, in 1945, was largely a horse-drawn army. They did not have a large motorized corps. When they moved their troops to the front, [00:28:00] they moved them on railroad trains. So, here you have the Red Army, not building railroad lines that would make it easier to move Russian troops to the West, for a blitzkrieg style attack or whatever, but actually tearing them up.
This is a pretty clear indication to the Americans that the Soviets had no intention of attacking Western Germany anytime soon. However, Gehlen had an ideological commitment [00:28:30] to a very aggressive portrayal of the Soviet Union. In less than 18 months after the conclusion that the Americans reached with their own resources, that the Soviets were not about to attack.
What had happened in the wake of that, is that some of the American troops had been demobilized; some of the Russian troops had also been demobilized at the same time. The defense budget in the United States was being cut. There was [00:29:00] a crisis at the Pentagon, they were concerned about their budget for 1948. The intelligence people at the Pentagon wired to General Clay, who was, at the time, the main US military officer in Western Germany, and said that we've got crisis on our hands; we need to scare the Congress out of their wits in order to get the necessary funding for next year's budget. Clay, in turn, [00:29:30] turned to Gehlen. The very same Soviet forces that Clay, himself, had agreed only months before were incapable of attacking West Germany, and were, in fact, completely tied down with the job of just maintaining civil order in the areas in the Russian occupation zone.
These very same forces were changed in their definitions. All of a sudden, these became fresh assault troops that were armed, and equipped, and ready to go to war; [00:30:00] and that the Soviets, at this stage, were supposedly right on the verge of attacking West Germany. Clay uses this information from Gehlen, sends a telegram back to Washington that says, in effect, "I'm afraid that a Soviet attack might come at any time." The telegram is, of course, promptly leaked to the press, where it becomes a big war scare in 1948. While most people are not aware of this today, [00:30:30] the fact is, is that this was a very important watershed and East-West relations. It's because it led to the final nails in the coffin, as far as the possibilities for, more or less, normal US-Soviet relations in Europe anytime during the next 30 years.
Alan Fong I want to deal with that piece by piece, and hope that I give myself enough time, and you enough time to do that. We're talking with Christopher Simpson, author of the new book called Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects On the Cold War. It's a publication of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a New York-based publisher.
Before we look at some more of the implications of what we've got here, there's an anecdote in that, or there's a well-developed story in that chapter called "Eyes and Ears", that looks at a figure named Grombach, an Army intelligence man named John Grombach, and [00:31:30] the remnants, if you will, of the Office of Strategic Service's information group called Research and Analysis, the R&A group.
There are techniques that Grombach uses against the OSS R&A group that are to be echoed in the years to come, most famously, of course, by Joe McCarthy. It's a well-known technique; describe it to us, and what its impact is.
Chris Simpson It's basically the smear technique. It's an old [00:32:00] story. Grombach is a fascinating character, in a fascinating story. I was able to get his Army intelligence dossier through the Freedom of Information Act, plus a variety of other material on Grombach. And by the way, the CIA hates Mr. Grombach to this day, and is one of the few people that they're willing to criticize. Anyway, here's the story: during the war, there was a conflict. [00:32:30] There's this myth that the intelligence agencies, American or somebody else's, are monolithic wholes; that they operate as single, monolithic conspiracies, that have a single point of view, and so forth.
This is not really true. What you see inside of an intelligence agency is a very politicized organization, with different factions that fight amongst themselves for the authority to lead the organization, and also over political analysis. [00:33:00] In the immediate postwar period, you had a particularly intense fight. It's because the Pentagon's intelligence agency, and particularly intelligence analysis, in which Mr. Grombach was quite influential, was in conflict with the OSS's intelligence analysis group. The OSS's intelligence analysis group was somewhat better informed than the Pentagon's, and [00:33:30] had a somewhat more objective interpretation of what the Soviets were up to.
What Grombach did, was he began collecting dirt about this R&A, research and analysis section of the OSS. These were the people who specialized in making sense out of all the hundreds, and even thousands of intelligence reports that flow into Washington each day. Grombach didn't like R&A. They were too liberal for him, [00:34:00] as he saw it, so he started collecting dirt on these people. When it came to a showdown, in the months leading up to the formal establishment of the CIA, Grombach leaked derogatory information about the R&A analysts to a variety of right wing Congressman on Capitol Hill, and also to some newspapers, which led them to take the OSS's capability to analyze [00:34:30] what the Soviets were up to, and break it up into 17 different committees and spread them all over Washington. Anyone who's dealt with the Washington bureaucracy will tell you this, that when you break up an agency like that, it's the kiss of death; they are unable to function together.
This was happening at exactly the same time that Gehlen was coming into his own over in Europe. You have these two parallel motions: one, we're hiring Gehlen in Europe, we're [00:35:00] relying on him for better than 70% of all the information that we had on the Soviet Union during this crucial period. Meanwhile, in Washington there is a purge going on within the intelligence agencies themselves, in which anybody who was, heaven forbid, a liberal, was being booted out of these organizations. And Mr. Grombach was pushing his particular guys forward. The net result of this, is that there emerged, [00:35:30] in the early years of the Truman administration, a consensus, a Cold War consensus, and an understanding that hardcore anti-communism was the only orthodoxy that would be acceptable in Washington; and that if you had different ideas, you would either lose your job, or there was no point in applying for a job in the first place.
Mr. Grombach remained around [00:36:00] for some time, and became involved in some, really, quite extraordinary stuff. Several years after this episode, this purge episode that we were just discussing, the CIA, which by then had been established, hired Grombach in a network that he continued to maintain as a source of information about Europe. Some of the people in Grombach's network included to Russian extreme right wing elements, who [00:36:30] collaborated with the Nazis during the war; some Hungarians, who had been part of the Axis government of Hungary; and a German SS general by the name of Karl Wolff, who's a major war criminal, who was eventually convicted in West German courts of the leading a murder program that took the lives of almost 300,000 people. These were the guys who were on Grombach's payroll.
Grombach, in turn, was on the CIA's payroll. The CIA was paying him about $1 million a year to get information. Well [00:37:00] Grombach was a very ambitious guy, and he wanted to be director of the CIA. He favored an even more aggressive and hostile approach to dealing with the Soviets than the CIA did. Grombach went to the CIA and he wanted more money from them; he wanted more power. When the agency would not give him what he wanted, he began collecting dirt on the CIA, and on various CIA [00:37:30] officials and State Department officials who were, for the most part, connected to what is typically known as the eastern liberal establishment. The Harvard group, Yale, the Princeton type experts, who were very influential, in both the CIA and the State Department in that period.
Grombach didn't like them; neither did Joe McCarthy. When the CIA wouldn't give Grombach as much money and power as he wanted, he took these files to Joe McCarthy, leaked them to Joe McCarthy; [00:38:00] and at that point, McCarthy used them to purge a variety of liberals who were definitely Cold War liberals, who didn't like the Soviets one bit, but who were not as right wing is McCarthy. McCarthy used the data to purge these people from the administration. I think this is an example of blowback, and how blowback works. Because here, you have the very people who were picking up the tab for Grombach's activities, ended up getting it in the neck from Joe McCarthy.
Alan Fong [00:38:30] Well said. I want to look at this Cold War consensus that's building in the Truman administration. There's an essential figure, who remains alive to this day: George Kennan, who developed the containment policy. It's clear that part of the containment policy, with regard to the Soviet Socialist Republics, includes the use of covert operators to harass the Soviets on their home [00:39:00] front. It is under a series of programs that are developed to train and organize these nationalistic groups from the Soviet Union, it's under a series of programs to organize and train these folk, that the containment policy, at least as far as Christopher Simpson's description of it, is implemented. What happens there, Chris?
Chris Simpson Another way to ask this same question [00:39:30] is to say, and for example, on some other radio stations I've been asked this very directly. The question is, well, we really hated Nazis, didn't we? What we hiring these guys for? Didn't we know who they were? This is how it worked. Nazis didn't kinda come into the room with a swastika on, I'm talking about after the war now, with a swastika on their sleeve; and you have some government officials saying, "Oh gee, let's hire us a bunch of Nazis [00:40:00] and go to war against the Russians." Didn't work like that. Here's how it worked: in mid 1948, there was a decision of the National Security Council, and it's known by the code number and NSC 10/2; it's just a code number. And in it, this was a secret declaration of war against the USSR, and it says, quite explicitly, that the United States will undertake guerrilla war against the Soviet Union, sabotage, covert [00:40:30] operations, economic sabotage of various types.
This was unknown to the public at the time, and in fact, the very existence of this decision would be unknown to this day, except for some of the scandals that came out of Watergate were so profound that the existence of this decision was finally pushed into the public domain. That's point number one. There was this declaration of covert warfare. Point number two is, there was a second [00:41:00] decision that happened shortly thereafter, and the code number of that is NSC 20. What that was, it's known as the Containment Doctrine; it's a description of what was the basic strategy of the Americans for dealing with the Soviets during that period.
It says a couple interesting things. First of all, it says that they wanted to avoid an all out war. They wanted to avoid a military type shooting war. What they wanted to do instead, was to contain [00:41:30] the Soviet Union, to ring it around with hostile states, and to restrict the Soviets to the maximum degree possible, and to contribute to the internal stresses and strains inside the Soviet Union; and most particularly to the ethnic stresses and strains inside the Soviet Union, which at times are quite profound. And to boil them in this pot, so to speak until, the Soviets either agreed to cooperate [00:42:00] with the American agenda for international affairs, or collapsed into an internal civil war inside their own country.
And in that context, there's a very interesting passage. It says there's a number of different émigré groups, émigré political groups who wish to return to power in the Soviet Union, any one of which, we, in other words: the Americans, would prefer to be in power than the present government; "But," they continued, " [00:42:30] We're not going to favor one of these groups over the other. We're going to support all of these groups that seek to overthrow Stalin, and support them, more or less, equally with money, political influence, contacts, guns if necessary, so forth."
That decision, in the world of 1948, had a very clear meaning. It meant that these same collaborators that had worked with Berlin during the war, the same people who had been mayors, and police chiefs, and newspaper publishers, as quislings to [00:43:00] the Nazis during the war, who had fled back to Germany with the retreating German Army at the end of the war. That's who these people were who wanted to return to power in the Soviet Union. That's who they were talking about. The names of some of these organizations are the Ukrainian OUN, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Among the people of the Russian ethnic heritage, there's an extremist organization called the NTS, which is roughly translated as the [00:43:30] National Union of Solidarists. This is the way they like to translate it today. During the Nazi period, the translation was much closer to National Socialist Union. Also, among these groups are SS squadrons, particularly from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. These are Baltic countries, to the northern part of the Soviet Union.
[00:44:00] In our decision-making process, we didn't sit down, particularly at the high levels, we didn't sit down and frankly say what was underway. What we did is, developed a series of rationales and a kind of verbal smokescreens, really, that permitted us to sponsor these people without admitting who exactly they were.
Alan Fong These émigré groups are dealt with extensively in a new book [00:44:30] called Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War by Christopher Simpson, who is an investigative reporter and consultant, I think; if I remember the dust jacket, a consultant on some script work that was done in this area, some creative work that was done in this area. We don't have time to look at- We've barely been able to touch, if you will, the subject matter at hand. I [00:45:00] want to ask some opinion questions to close with, but I will note that there are marvelous chapters on immigration of a lot of the émigré groups to the United States; that there's a marvelous chapter called "Guerrillas For World War III", in which the role of these émigré groups are integrated into a master plan, that include the strategic, that is, nuclear bombing missions; and then the parachuting [00:45:30] of these émigré groups in, that the émigré groups, in fact, were trained in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and that's the development really, of America's special forces program that continues, of course, to this day.
There are marvelous chapters called "Ratlines and Pipelines", that talk about the Vatican role in bringing the émigré groups to the United States; not, by any means, to oversimplify a very complex subject there. I don't mean to say the Vatican participated blindly. They [00:46:00] knew, and they...
Chris Simpson We'll have to have another interview.
Alan Fong I hope so, I hope so, of that matter. We have about 10, 15 minutes left here, Christopher, and I want to ask some opinion questions; because I think the book, Blowback, is of such significance that it raises, if you will, some questions, which, in terms of public policy, need to be looked at, and maybe just a simple one. How difficult is it, or has it [00:46:30] been, to reverse the kind of Cold War policy that we've come up with? And is that not necessary?
Chris Simpson It's been very difficult. Part of what transpired in these programs was, in the early 1950's, there was a decision to bring a substantial number of these extreme right wing émigré groups to the United States, and to support them here, with money, and contacts [00:47:00] with government officials, and support them in various lobbying campaigns, and so forth. Now, what you see today is that the extreme right wing has a measure of real political power in the United States. They don't control the country exclusively, but nonetheless- simply look at the White House, look at Patrick Buchanan and so forth. The extreme right wing has substantial influence in some quarters.
[00:47:30] Let's have a look at these groups, these extremists on the right. Who are they, where they come from? What you see is that many of these same extremist émigré political organizations from Eastern Europe continued to play a substantial role in the radical right in the United States. In that way, they play a role in international affairs. This isn't just me talking. For example, Senator Charles Mathias, writing in foreign affairs [00:48:00] specifically pointed out some of the CIA's, although he doesn't acknowledge that they're CIA programs, but some of these right wing émigré programs as playing a very substantial role in obstructing East-West trade initiatives, and obstructing initiatives, such as they were, during the Kennedy and Johnson administration to establish better East-West ties, and to cool out, or at least manage better the nuclear weapons race.
A more recent example: [00:48:30] the SALT 2 treaty. What happened there? This is a complicated story, but basically what happened is that there's an organization in Washington, it's called the American Security Council. This is generally regarded as one of the most effective, pro armament, pro military lobby groups in Washington DC. They collect tens of thousands of dollars for major military contractors, and then they handout that money to congressional campaigns, [00:49:00] to Congressman who vote in favor of a variety of military spending bills. That organization, it was the lead organization in attempting to stop the SALT 2 treaty; and it created something that was called the Coalition For Peace Through Strength, which was a coalition, a broad number of largely right wing organizations that were opposed to this treaty with the Soviet Union.
They published their membership list, or at least [00:49:30] the names of the member organizations in the Coalition For Peace Through Strength, and you can go down that list, and you will see that between 15 and 20% of the organizations in this coalition are the same extremist émigré groups from Eastern Europe; Slovakian World Congress, and this type of thing. Here's an organization, which still, in the 1970's and 80's publishes magazines that praise Jozef Tiso, who was a Nazi quisling in Slovakia, whose [00:50:00] administration during the war took the lives of 70,000 people, including many children; and yet, he's a hero to these people. Similar groups among Croatian émigrés to this country, Ukrainians, and so forth.
Now, it's important not to imply, and not to think that simply because a person is from Eastern Europe that they're somehow tied up with one of these extremist groups. That's not the case at all. But the fact of the matter is, that these extremist groups, [00:50:30] the fringe groups of the right, do play a substantial role in Eastern European communities in this country, and then they do play a role in right wing lobby groups, such as the American Security Council. And that group, using money for major corporations, plays a very substantial role in Capitol Hill.
Alan Fong We've got fewer minutes than I thought we had left, but I do want ask you, on a closing note, one of the points of the book, Blowback, is a plea for [00:51:00] discussion and a disclosure of information long-held higher than secret, very classified; in order for the public, certainly for journalists to introduce the subject of the public, but for the public to be able to talk about the blowback effects of these programs that have existed from the Second World War, to Vietnam, and now in Central America, even. Is your own work [00:51:30] going to continue in this area? Are you a national security reporter?
Chris Simpson I'm working on a new project that deals with the United Nations War Crimes Commission Files, that will touch on some of these the same issues. But I think that there's quite a bit to be done, by many different people. I'm certainly not the only person who has made a contribution in this field. There's a half a dozen other journalists who have been very active writing [00:52:00] about this stuff for some time.
I think one small thing, that's worth considering here, is a what about the argument that we had to do this? What about the argument that, "Well, maybe we don't like Nazis; but the world is not a nice place, and sometimes you do things with unpleasant people." It's a fair question. It seems to me- How much time we got, just seconds?
Alan Fong Two minutes.
Chris Simpson Oh okay, fine. It seems to me, that if you're going to make the argument that [00:52:30] we had to do this, that we had to hire these Nazis and collaborators, then you have to show something that they produced that we couldn't have gotten anywhere else; something that they produced that was so uniquely valuable that it justified laying aside the basic traditions, even the laws of our country. The fact of the matter is, is that that doesn't exist. In other words, these programs, even when you lay aside any kind of moral [00:53:00] objection to hiring Nazis, even when you lay aside any political critique of extreme anti-Communism, when you lay it all aside and you look at, simply, what did they produce. They did not produce a heck of a lot. In the Klaus Barbie affair, here's a guy who was chief of the Gestapo in the Lyon, France. They deported Jewish children to death camps. He was supposedly somebody that we just had to have.
His dossier, much of his dossier is open today; you can look [00:53:30] at what he produced. What did he get? He collected leaflets at communist meetings, leaflets that were handed out on the streets. He came up with a membership list of a left-wing organization in a minor town in Germany. He collected gossip that was current among right wing émigré groups of the day. This is the kind of stuff that we were getting from these people.
Alan Fong Plus misinformation.
Chris Simpson Yes, right, right; as in the Gehlen case.
Alan Fong Christopher Simpson, our guest on KPFK, [00:54:00] I'm Alan Fong. We've been talking about Chris's latest book, it's called Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects On the Cold War, it's publication of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a New York-based group. We thank you very much, and we hope to have you back.
Chris Simpson Good. It's been a pleasure.