Following the threat of a lawsuit, the Justice Department finally released the report on the CIA’s harboring of Nazis in the United States. The Justice Department submitted an edited version of the report to the National Security Archive after having resisted the release of the report since 2006. The New York Times recently published an article after obtaining a full unedited version of the 600 page report. The report is the result of six years of work and it focuses on both the successes and failures of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). This office was created in 1979 to facilitate the deportation of Nazis residing in the United States.
The most controversial information contained in the report is that which shows the CIA’s involvement with harboring Nazi immigrants. It has been previously documented that the CIA used Nazis for intelligence purposes after the war, however, this report examines the level of deception involved in this collaboration. The CIA often assisted and employed these men despite knowing of their criminal pasts. The report states that, “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became – in some small measure – a safe haven for persecutors as well.”
Since the OSI was created, over 300 Nazis have been deported, stripped of citizenship, or blocked from entering the United States, despite the aid offered by the CIA. For example, the Nazi scientist Arthur Rudolph was brought to the United States by the CIA in 1945 because of his rocket making expertise. Rudolph went on to work for NASA. The OSI later found evidence that he was involved in exploiting slave labor in Germany during WWII and sought to deport him in 1983. The OSI believed that the deportation of someone as prominent as Rudolph would show their commitment to their Nazi deportation program. Rudolph moved back to Germany in 1984 after information regarding his involvement with slavery surfaced. The report reveals that the CIA often had prior knowledge of the wrongdoings of Nazis such as Rudolph but continuously denied having such knowledge.
In another instance, the OSI discovered that Nazi, Otto Von Bolschwing, whom worked for the CIA for many years, was involved in the initial planning of the Holocaust. Upon discovering this information, the OSI sought to deport Von Bolschwing, however, he died before his deportation.
The Department of Justice report elicits a number of questions surrounding the issue of Nazi harboring. Were the actions taken by the CIA to utilize the skills of the Nazis after WWII immoral or inappropriate? As Nazis living in the United States become increasingly elderly, is mandating their deportation inhumane? Should they be allowed to stay in the United States?
This blog topic highlights the fact that criminal justice ultimately depends on a willingness to prosecute. How many prosecutable criminals (even if they are not Nazis) have been harbored in some respect by the U.S. government because they agreed to testify against coconspirators, reveal information, or perform other such ‘exonerating’ acts? To me, it seems that the U.S.’s actions towards the Nazis after WWII fit within this same general pattern, which is neither unfamiliar nor uncommon to the U.S. justice system. However nauseating (or not), the U.S. government often trades intelligence for clemency.
The question that this blog topic proposes, really, is whether we can ever accept such a trade. I think that the establishment of the Office of Special Investigation in 1979 clearly shows that we cannot – at least with respect to Nazis. The U.S. should not have (to put it mildly) made itself “a safe haven for persecutors” after WWII and the Office of Special Investigation illustrates the government’s (eventual) agreement with this point. And indeed, I think that this blog topic has interesting implications in this respect. At what point does the government’s say about how a particular criminal should be treated become moot? Courts are not supposed to involve themselves in political questions, but political questions are sometimes inextricably linked with legal questions, like who is and isn’t going to face criminal liability. On an international level, this link is one of the main reasons that the U.S. has refused to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the connection between politics and law is debated endlessly.
The initial problem is that the CIA should have never brought Nazis to America in the first place without making a complete disclosure of their plans to the OSI. It is inexcusable for the CIA to use Nazi’s for the supposed benefit they could provide without first disclosing their prior wrongdoings to other departments of the government and/or the American people. The only exception to this mandatory disclosure requirement by the CIA should be in the rare instances where national security is implicated.
I find it very difficult to have any sympathy for the Nazis who are currently being deported. The Nazis showed very little sympathy for anyone else when they uprooted 6 million Jewish people from their homes, transported them to concentration camps and murdered them in cold blood. I personally feel deportation is a lot less severe than what any of the people murdered by the Nazis had to go through. Regardless of the Nazi’s current age they should not be allowed to remain in America short of any other arrangement with the government where they are serving some type of punishment in the U.S., justifiably making restitution in this country or where the benefit to the American people of being allowed to stay here far exceeds the seriousness of their prior acts. Nonetheless, it is imperative that any arrangement of this kind be disclosed to other government departments and the American public
I feel that any actions taken by the CIA post-WWII to utilize the skills of Nazis to be immoral, inappropriate, and highly reprehensible. Nazis, especially those of the level of Rudolph, should be considered war criminals. The fact that the United States harbored and employed war criminal is embarrassing and insulting from a Jewish and human rights perspective.
Even if Nazis living in the United States become increasingly elderly, stripping them of the citizenship and deporting them is not inhumane; if anything, it is a remedy that the U.S. government should employ. The United States should not be known as a country that harbors war criminals or that makes exceptions for “elderly” war criminals.
I am not advocating for the proposition that two wrongs make a right, however, the Nazis deported millions of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals out of their home countries during WWII, many of them infants, the elderly, and sickly individuals. The atrocities that the Nazis committed against those in their concentration, work, and death camps was far more inhumane than deporting them from the United States.