Thousands of Intelligence Documents Opened under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act
Press Release · Thursday, May 13, 2004
Historians’ Book Details New Accounts of the Holocaust and Relationships Allied Intelligence Services Had with War Criminals
Hundreds of thousands of pages of FBI, CIA, and U.S. Army intelligence records related to Nazi and World War II war crimes and perpetrators have been declassified and opened to the public under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998. On May 13, the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) announced the release, which included approximately 240,000 pages from the FBI, 419 additional CIA name and subject files, and more than 3,000 pages documenting U.S. Army involvement with German spymaster Reinhard Gehlen.
The records and others released under the Disclosure Act are discussed in U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, a new book by IWG historians Richard Breitman, Norman J.W. Goda, Timothy Naftali, and Robert Wolfe.
IWG Chair Steve Garfinkel said, "More than eight million pages of records have been declassified as a result of the IWG. I commend the hard work of the agencies and of the IWG historian team, which has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and the world of intelligence with their book, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis."
The latest release of records, when combined with previously available documents, alter our understanding of certain aspects of the Holocaust. Notably, the book’s authors show the failure of U.S. and Allied intelligence to understand how closely tied the "Jewish question" was to the central goals of the Nazi regime; the ways in which U.S. financial institutions helped the German government between 1936 and 1941; and the extent to which U.S. and Allied governments aided and protected war criminals after the war.
OSS Knowledge of the Holocaust
Newly declassified documents demonstrate that a good deal of information about what we have come to call the Holocaust was available to officials of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a predecessor agency of the CIA. Yet until President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board in January 1944, the OSS made relatively few efforts to secure information about the fate of Jews in Occupied Europe. The Holocaust information accumulated incidentally, or came in with other matters considered more significant to the war effort.
Jews who managed to get out of Germany or German-occupied territories and reach the United States, as well as all those who immigrated here from Axis countries in 1941 and 1942, were debriefed by a special oral intelligence unit. One Jewish refugee, Alfred Goldschmied, supplied a particularly detailed account of the German takeover of Czechoslovakia and correctly appraised, in mid-1942, the Nazi policy of eliminating the Jews from Europe. The official American government statement that Nazi Germany had a policy of mass extermination of Jews came six months later, suggesting that this early information was not assimilated or used effectively.
Goldschmied’s 26-page report provided OSS interviewers a picture of his experiences from the time Germany occupied Prague until his departure. The declassified document of August 8, 1942, ended with the following:
Of the 48,500 Jews still living in Prague before the occupation, approximately one half [were] deported [by] the day of my departure. Everything was carried through upon direct orders from Berlin, where they had had a good deal of practice before. From the small towns almost all Jews were deported, in Prague only those could remain who were married to an Aryan. Later transports went to Theresienstadt, a garrison about one hour from Prague...Later on Theresienstadt was used only as a transit place. After three days the Jews were sent on to Poland...Men and women were separated and many died of starvation. Reports coming in indirectly from Poland give heartbreaking details. If Hitler remains true to his program of destroying all European Jewry—he will have achieved that goal soon and most countries will be depleted of Jews.
Chase National Bank, Jewish Accounts, and Nazi Germany
It has been known since the war years that the Nazi government built dollar exchange in the United States until the June 14, 1941 Executive Order freezing German assets. The Germans sold special German Marks—known as Rueckwanderer [returnee] Marks—to U.S. residents of German descent. It has also been known that Chase National Bank (later Chase Manhattan, and now J.P. Morgan Chase) was involved in these transactions. Newly declassified FBI records offer a far more detailed picture than ever before. Thanks to FBI sources within Chase National and the other businesses involved as well as documents subpoenaed for a Grand Jury investigation launched in August 1941, the Bureau was able to follow a money trail.
While the scheme to build dollar exchange for Germany through the sale of Rueckwanderer Marks originated with Germany, U.S. financial institutions were clearly implicated. They helped the Germans raise over $20 million between 1936 and 1941, and in return earned over $1.2 million in commissions. Over half a million alone went to Chase National Bank and its subagents. The financial houses understood that the German government paid the commissions through the sale of discounted, blocked Marks that came mainly from Jews who had fled Germany. In fact these financial houses, especially Chase, were most eager to increase the scope of their business after the Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom known as Kristallnacht in November 1938, when Jewish emigration from Germany reached its height.
Using confidential sources with Chase National Bank, the FBI began to investigate the scheme in October 1940. This was more than four years after the scheme had begun, and the FBI’s aim was to compile lists for further surveillance of German-Americans who had purchased blocked Marks. The sale of blocked Marks thus continued for nine months after the FBI investigation began, and the business was at its heaviest during that time. Chase National executives avoided federal prosecution for violations of the Johnson Debt Act of 1939, the Espionage Act of 1917, and the Foreign Agents Act of 1938 when Chase’s lead lawyer, a former U.S. attorney from the same district office that had conducted the Grand Jury investigation, threatened to reveal FBI, Army, and Navy sources and methods in open court.
CIA and Eichmann’s Associates
After World War II, the emerging struggle with the Soviet Union dominated the resources and attention of the United States, even at the expense of the task of locating and punishing the perpetrators of the Holocaust. The May 1960 Israeli capture of notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, however, refocused public attention on those men who had managed to elude justice in the chaos of the immediate postwar period. For the CIA, this unexpected event would force a re-examination of some of the former Nazis it had recruited in the rush to produce intelligence results during the Cold War in the 1950s. Newly released records show that at least five of Eichmann’s associates, each a significant participant in Hitler’s war upon the Jews, had worked for the CIA. Additionally, the records reveal that at least 23 war criminals or Nazis were approached by the CIA for recruitment. The documents help answer the question of how and why these war criminals were given employment, assistance, and, in two cases, U.S. citizenship by a nation that had lost more than 300,000 lives in World War II.
In early 1950, the Austrian police began asking questions about Otto von Bolschwing, a former SS officer hired by the CIA in late 1949. Bolschwing’s SS personnel file had been among those captured at the end of the war. To protect this agent from any war crimes trial, however, the CIA decided that any prosecutors who asked for Bolschwing’s SS personnel file should be told, "no files available." Bolschwing had worked with Eichmann before the war in planning the expropriation of Jewish property in Austria and later served as the SS consultant to the forces that staged the bloody pogrom in Bucharest, Romania in 1941. In 1953, in recognition of Bolschwing’s work for U.S. intelligence, the CIA pressured the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to let him enter the country. He later became a U.S. citizen. When U.S. Congress in the 1970s forced an examination of U.S. policy toward Nazi war criminals—creating at the time the Office of Special Investigations in the Department of Justice—Boschwing was investigated and then stripped of his citizenship. OSI found Bolschwing on its own. The CIA never turned him in to law enforcement. He died in 1982.
An Eyewitness Account of Hitler’s Tea Party
A document declassified by the IWG provides the first primary source evidence of the bizarre impromptu "tea party" at Adolf Hitler’s field headquarters in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of the Fuehrer on July 20, 1944. SS Colonel Dr. Eugen Dollmann, a liaison officer to Mussolini’s Italian Fascist Republic, served as interpreter between the two dictators at the coincidental summit, and so became an eyewitness to history.
The only previous account of the event, in a 1947 book by British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, borrowed nearly verbatim from an actual eyewitness account. Now publicly available for the first time, is his source—an English translation of a surreptitiously recorded conversation, conducted in German between Eugen Dollmann and SS Colonel Georg Elling, then prisoners-of-war in a British POW cage in Italy, exactly one year after the tea party.
In the document, Dollmann notes:
[T]he FUEHRER leaped up, in a fit of frenzy, with foam on his lips, and yelled out that he would be revenged on all traitors, that Providence had just shown him once more that he had been chosen to make world history, and shouted about terrible punishments for women and children, all of them would have to be put inside concentration camps! He shouted about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth for everyone who dared set himself against divine Providence.
Hitler’s appalling behavior at the tea party greatly dismayed Dollmann, as can be inferred from his comment to Elling: "I thought to myself...[Hitler] must be mad. I don’t know why I didn’t go over to the Allies there and then." It appears that during the tea party, Dollmann had contemplated turning his coat. In fact, upon this returning to Italy later that month, Dollmann cautiously began to trim sail. His influence on SS General Karl Wolff, the SS commander in Italy, spurred the negotiations that led to Operation Sunrise, the early and opportunistic surrender of German forces in Italy on May 2, 1945, just one week before the VE-Day capitulation.
Press Contacts: Giuliana Bullard, IWG, 703-532-1477 or Susan Cooper, National Archives, 202-501-5526
This page was last reviewed on February 13, 2019.
Contact us with questions or comments.