The CIA helped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann evade capture to protect high ranking West German officials from possible revelations about their own Nazi pasts, documents Tuesday reveal.
A March 1958 memo from West German intelligence informed the CIA that Eichmann, the senior Gestapo officer who oversaw Hitler’s “Final Solution” to annihilate European Jewry, was living under the alias “Clemens” in Argentina where he had arrived seven years earlier, the documents show.
“It now appears that West Germany could have captured him in 1958, if it wished to,” said University of Virginia historian Timothy Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
“Newly released CIA materials suggest that in the highest levels of the Konrad Adenauer government, there was concern about what Eichmann could say if caught about those close to the chancellor.”
He was speaking at a news conference where a government working group headed by the National Archives announced the release of 27,000 pages of CIA documents relating to the spy agency’s ties to former Nazis, including war criminals.
The CIA also could have passed along the information to Israeli intelligence, which was ending its own search for Eichmann in Argentina when the U.S. spy agency received word of his whereabouts from West Germany.
It was not U.S. policy at the time to pursue former Nazis, who were still being recruited as Cold War spies against the Soviet Union.
The Israelis finally captured Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. He was tried in Jerusalem for crimes against the Jewish people, found guilty and hanged in 1962.
But Naftali said the CIA also helped West Germany to suppress part of Eichmann’s diary that could have embarrassed Adenauer’s national security adviser, Hans Globke, himself a former Nazi.
Eichmann’s family had sold the Nazi fugitive’s memoirs to Life magazine to raise money for his defense.
West Germany officials asked the CIA to help suppress the document.
“The CIA explained that they could not stop publication but persuaded Life (magazine) to delete the one reference to Globke in the excerpts the magazine was planning to publish,” Naftali said.
“The CIA, which worked closely with Globke, assisted the West Germans in protecting him from Eichmann,” he said.
About 8 million pages of documents from agencies that also include the FBI and the Defense Department have been declassified under the disclosure act.
The working group established by the disclosure act is also examining federal government affiliations with war criminals from Imperial Japan.
The CIA had previously released more than 1.2 million pages of documents relating to former Nazis in compliance with the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998.
The historians, who examined newly released CIA documents, told a news conference that America’s use of war criminals in Cold War intelligence mainly produced unreliable information, sometimes with disastrous consequences for U.S. interests.
“We have not found any evidence that hiring these tainted individuals brought little other than operational problems and moral confusion,” Naftali said.