In the 1970s news broke that former Nazis had escaped prosecution and were living the good life in the United States. Outrage swept the nation, and the public outcry put extreme pressure on the U.S. government to investigate these claims and to deport offenders. The subsequent creation of the Office of Special Investigations marked the official beginning of Nazi-hunting in the United States, but it was far from the end.
Thirty years later, in November 2010, the New York Times obtained a copy of a confidential 2006 report by the Justice Department titled “The Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust.” The six-hundred-page report held shocking secrets regarding the government’s botched attempts to hunt down and prosecute Nazis in the United States and its willingness to harbor and even employ these criminals after World War II.
Drawing from this report as well as other sources, Spies, Lies, and Citizenship exposes scandalous new information about infamous Nazi perpetrators, including Andrija Artuković, Klaus Barbie, and Arthur Rudolph, who were sheltered and protected in the United States and beyond, and the ongoing attempts to bring the remaining Nazis, such as Josef Mengele, to justice.
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About the Author
Mary Kathryn Barbier is an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University. She is the author of several books, including Kursk 1943: The Greatest Tank Battle Ever Fought and D-Day Deception: Operation Fortitude and the Normandy Invasion.
Dennis Showalter is professor emeritus of history at Colorado College. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk, the Turning Point of World War II.
Read an Excerpt
Office of Special Investigations, Department of Justice
In the wake of 11 September 2001, the terrorist attacks in the subsequent decades, and most recently the refugee crisis caused by multiple conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, states have grappled with issues of security. These are, however, not unique. The United States faced similar issues in the aftermath of World War II, as displaced Europeans, particularly from Eastern Europe, sought new homelands in an environment of conflict. The sticking point in the twenty-first century is the possibility of terrorists crossing borders with legitimate refugees. As the Cold War unfolded, the possibility of Soviet spies infiltrating the United States created similar issues of exclusion and screening. Similar to the contemporary refugee-terrorist debate, the intellectual and moral fault line after 1945 developed between concern for America's security and a compassionate, humanitarian desire to help victims of Nazi and Soviet crimes against humanity. True to its democratic roots, the nation turned to Congress to solve the problem by passing the appropriate legislation — particularly legislation that identified who would be barred from entering the United States.
Otherwise known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was meant to exclude certain immigrants from immigrating to America, post World War II and in the early Cold War. The McCarran-Walter Act moved away from excluding immigrants based simply upon country of origin. Instead it focused upon denying immigrants who were unlawful, immortal, diseased in any way, politically radical etc. and accepting those who were willing and able to assimilate into the U.S. economic, social, and political structures, which restructured how immigration law was handled. Furthermore, the most notable exclusions were anyone even remotely associated with communism which in the early days of the Cold War was seen as a serious threat to U.S. democracy. The main objective of this was to block any spread of communism from outside post WWII countries, as well as deny any enemies of the U.S. during WWII such as Japan and favor "good Asian" countries such as China. The McCarran-Walter Act was a strong reinforcement in immigration selection, which was labeled the best way to preserve national security and national interests.
Truman indicated his disagreement by vetoing the McCarran-Walter Act, but to no avail. Congress had enough votes to override the president, and the bill became law. Passing the law was the first step; enforcing it was the next.
Based on the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, or the McCarran-Walter Act, Nazis who persecuted, abused, or executed Jews, gypsies, and other groups targeted by the Third Reich should not have been allowed to immigrate to the United States. In reality, it was difficult to vet all those who requested admission to the United States under the terms of the Displaced Persons Act, which Congress passed in 1948, or the 1953 Refugee Relief Act. Between 1948 and 1953 more than six hundred thousand Europeans emigrated to the United States. They sought asylum primarily for two reasons. Either they were victims of Nazi persecution or they were "political refugees from Communism." The sheer numbers requesting admission under the Displaced Persons Act, and later under the Refugee Relief Act, overwhelmed consular offices. Consequently, it was very difficult for officials who reviewed the applications and interviewed applicants to identify the ex-Nazis attempting to pull a fast one. Those hoping to "sneak" into the United States either presented false identification papers or lied about their wartime activities in their applications for asylum. Many former Nazis succeeded in obtaining the documentation necessary for them to gain entry to the United States. The 1952 McCarran-Walter Act was an effort by Congress to close the loophole in the 1948 immigration law.
Over the next few decades, however, news would occasionally emerge that would suggest otherwise. Apparently, some Europeans of questionable character, who were possibly guilty of committing war crimes, had succeeded in immigrating to the United States and, in some cases, had even become naturalized citizens. Many refugees to the United States — survivors of Nazi atrocities — found the trickle of news about possible Nazi criminals living in their adopted country disturbing and distressing on many different levels. Was the U.S. government guilty of harboring these criminals? Surely, only a few had slipped through the cracks and found asylum in the United States. The country would not have willingly admitted these monsters — or would it?
In the 1970s the dam burst wide open. The news broke that a large number of former Nazis who had persecuted Jews and other groups were living in the United States. Outrage swept across the nation. The public outcry put extreme pressure on the U.S. government to investigate these claims and, when warranted, to deport the offenders. The number of cases that came to light demanded the establishment of a special division within the Department of Justice that would be devoted solely to investigating possible Nazi criminals, to building cases against them, and to wielding the gavel of justice against them. The result was the creation in 1979 of the Office of Special Investigations. For the next few decades the OSI was kept incredibly busy.
Prior to the establishment of the OSI, however, both the Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service had taken seriously the possibility of Nazi criminals living in the United States, openly or under assumed identities, and had instigated numerous investigations and court cases against several alleged perpetrators of wartime atrocities. In some cases investigation of alleged wartime criminals began relatively early in the Cold War era. In 1951, for example, Andrija Artukovic, the suspected "Butcher of the Balkans," first came to the attention of authorities. Pursuing an investigation of and legal action against Artukovic, who had entered the country under a fictitious name, the Department of Justice spent over three decades trying to deport him. Shortly after the OSI was established in 1979, it took up the case. It was not until 1986, over three decades after the commencement of the initial DOJ investigation, however, that the case against Artukovic was finally resolved; it resulted in his deportation.
Similarly, Karl Linnas, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959, came to the attention of the DOJ in 1961. An article in the New York Times outed him. A DOJinvestigation confirmed the war crimes allegations lodged against Linnas, but, despite its strenuous efforts, the government agency found itself unable to achieve deportation until the OSI took on the case in November 1979. It still took until 1987, however, for the OSI and the DOJ to achieve the desired outcome in the Linnas case — denaturalization and deportation.
Finally, there was the case of the Romanian Otto von Bolschwing, who found employment in Europe for the CIA in 1949. Five years later the CIA facilitated his immigration to the United States. He achieved citizenship by the end of the decade. Von Bolschwing avoided a DOJ investigation until 1977. The OSI became involved in the investigation, but the CIA continued to stonewall for a time. Although the OSIultimately succeeded in proving its case against the Romanian, the agency declined to pursue deportation for humanitarian reasons.
What brought the issue to public attention? What caused the floodgates to open? Although cracks had appeared over the years, a number of events occurring in the 1970s combined to burst the dam. The events included
1. The denaturalization and extradition of Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan, a German-born New York City housewife who had served as a guard supervisor at a Nazi death camp.
2. Public denunciation of the INS by the investigator and prosecutor in the Braunsteiner Ryan trial, each of whom left the agency after accusing it of foot-dragging and cover up in other Nazi investigations.
3. Publicity attendant the simultaneous filing of three deportation actions against alleged war criminals in 1976.
4. Congressional oversight hearings in 1974, 1977 and 1978 which highlighted deficiencies in the INS procedures for investigating Nazi cases.
5. A GAO [General Accounting Office] study that concluded that the INS investigations of Nazis were "deficient or perfunctory."
6. Publicity surrounding the prosecution of a denaturalization case against the Romanian Orthodox Bishop of America for his alleged involvement in atrocities during World War II.
7. The 1977 bestseller Wanted! The Search for Nazis in America.
8. NBC's 1978 broadcast of a powerful four-part miniseries titled Holocaust.
Once the floodgates were opened, there was no going back. The public demanded justice — and accountability.
At the end of the day, in each of these cases — Artukovic, Linnas, von Bolschwing, and Braunsteiner Ryan — and in others initiated prior to the creation of the Office of Special Investigations, the Department of Justice lacked the legal recourse to prosecute and deport these and other alleged Nazi criminals. Most of the cases involving alleged Nazis were handled by the INS, which was the practice in any disputed immigration situation. Unfortunately, because each district was responsible for cases raised locally, there was no central coordination through the Washington DC or New York offices, which resulted in poor results and suggested a lack of seriousness on the part of the INS. That situation would remain unchanged until Congress got involved and passed legislation that increased the DOJ's powers in cases such as these. Congress remained uninvolved, however, until one of its members led the charge and proposed legislation. Initially, however, congressional leaders dragged their feet until pressure dictated oversight hearings. They seemed unwilling to jump into the fray and take the bull by the horns.
What changed? Or rather, who convinced Congress to provide the muscle that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act lacked when it came to expelling former Nazis of questionable character who had not only gained entry into the United States but had also, in some instances, acquired citizenship. It is impossible to tell this story without acknowledging, and emphasizing, the roles that Simon Wiesenthal and Elizabeth Holtzman played. Both were dedicated to finding justice for the millions who suffered and died — or in some cases survived — at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. To understand their dedication and what drove them to advocate for the victims and to push for the persecution of Nazi criminals, one has to know more about who Wiesenthal and Holtzman were.
Born in 1908 in Buczacz, Galicia (in what today is the Ukraine), Simon Wiesenthal survived internment in not one, but five, concentration camps. Wiesenthal and his family were not strangers to prejudice and persecution. As Jews, they had been targets for decades before World War II, but the Nazis took persecution to a new level. While life under the Soviets was not easy, the situation became much worse with the 1941 German occupation of Galicia. Initially, the Germans forced both Wiesenthal and his wife, Cyla, to work "at the German Eastern Railway plants." Although an "underground movement" smuggled his wife out of the area, Wiesenthal remained behind. His life was a living hell. For the next several years he found himself moved from camp to camp. He tried to escape, but freedom did not last. Recapture meant return to the camp and harsher treatment. He also tried suicide — twice — but was equally unsuccessful.
In 1944 Wiesenthal was transferred again. His new residence was the Janowska concentration camp. Located in the suburbs of Lvov, Poland, the camp complex included both a SS-run armaments factory and housing for the forced laborers. Established in 1941, Janowska also served as a transit camp for Polish Jews being sent to extermination camps. As the Soviet steamroller pushed German troops out of the Soviet Union and through Poland and other eastern European countries, the SS guards liquidated a large number of camp internees and evacuated with the rest. Of the hundred thousand who inhabited the camp, fewer than forty, including Wiesenthal, accompanied the fleeing SS guards. A short time later Wiesenthal and the others joined the population in a new camp — Mauthausen — in Austria. Wiesenthal would not be moved again by the Germans. In May 1945 he was liberated from Mauthausen by American soldiers.
The ordeal had taken a mental and physical toll on Wiesenthal, who "at 6 feet tall, weighed less than 100 lbs" at the time of his liberation. By late 1945 he had found his wife, Cyla, who had also survived the war. Both had, however, lost family and friends in the camps. Once he had recovered, Wiesenthal quickly determined his life's mission: justice for those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, both those who had survived and those who had not. To obtain justice, he had to identify, locate, and facilitate the prosecution of the responsible Nazis — those responsible for the laws that denied Jews, gypsies, and other groups their rights, jobs, property, freedom, and lives; those who set the "Final Solution" policy; those who carried out the policies, the guards at the camps, the torturers, and executors; those who had committed atrocities; those who carried out medical experiments on concentration camp inmates.
Wiesenthal was also dedicated to educating the world about the realities of the Jewish wartime experience under German control. One of the ways in which he combined both goals was by being director of the Linz Jewish Documentation Center, a position that he held from 1947 until 1954. In 1961 he became the director of the Vienna Jewish Documentation Center, and in 1977 he founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California. Throughout this time he worked tirelessly to locate numerous former Nazis; he and others felt these individuals should be held accountable for their wartime actions. In addition to his detective role of trying to track down persecutors, Wiesenthal focused a spotlight on the worst of the offenders. He made efforts to locate the perpetrators publicly. Furthermore, he kept attention focused on them. Although at times his methods were controversial and he was accused of being a loose cannon who got it wrong, Wiesenthal contributed to the capture of the likes of Adolf Eichmann, Franz Stangl, and Karl Silberbauer. Eichmann worked with top Nazi officials in designing and implementing the Final Solution for the eradication of the Jewish population in German territory and eventually worldwide. The Austrian Stangl joined the SS and had the dubious distinction of being the commandant of two extermination camps: Sobibór and Treblinka. Silberbauer, a member of the Gestapo, was credited with arresting Anne Frank and her family, who were sent to a concentration camp. Of the four members of the Frank family, only the father, Otto Frank, survived.
Wiesenthal kept attention on the fight through his many publications. Included among them were The Murderers among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Memoirs (1967), The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (1969), and Justice Not Vengeance: Recollections (1989). Although at times controversial, Wiesenthal received recognition of his life's work from several governments. During his lifetime he was awarded the Dutch Medal of Freedom, the Luxembourg Medal of Freedom, and the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. Through his postwar work Wiesenthal accomplished two goals. He "shed light on the injustices and horrors of the Holocaust." Furthermore, he challenged governments, including the U.S. government, to intervene "in the capture of war criminals" and to bring them to justice. Ever the activist, Simon Wiesenthal did not make it easy for the U.S. Congress to remain outside of the fray.
Although Wiesenthal could only indirectly pressure the U.S. Congress and DOJ to get involved in the location and prosecution of alleged Nazi war criminals, Elizabeth Holtzman, on the other hand, was positioned to affect change in the U.S. government's ability to prosecute identified persecutors to achieve denaturalization and deportation and to facilitate court cases filed against them in other countries — France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Israel. Born with a twin brother in 1941 to Russian immigrant parents, Holtzman followed in her lawyer father's footsteps. In 1965 she graduated from Harvard Law School. Out of the five hundred in the 1965 graduating class, there were fifteen women, one of whom was Holtzman.
Excerpted from "Spies, Lies, and Citizenship"
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Dennis Showalter
List of Terms and Abbreviations
1. Office of Special Investigations, Department of Justice
2. Klaus Barbie—“Butcher of Lyon”
3. Josef Mengele—“Angel of Death”
4. Otto von Bolschwing and the Central Intelligence Agency
5. Kurt Waldheim—Patriot or Villain?
6. Andrija Artuković—“Butcher of the Balkans”
7. Karl Linnas—Executioner in Estonia
8. Operation Paperclip—Antecedents and Dubious Draftees
9. Arthur Rudolph—Nazi Rocket Scientist, NASA Scientist, or Villain?
10. The Scientists Who Avoided OSI Investigation