[AFIB] The CIA's Neo-Nazis
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Thu Jun 1 13:18:42 MDT 2000
News * Analysis * Research * Action
- May 31, 2000 -
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THE CIA'S NEO-NAZIS
by Martin A. Lee
World View Features
Thursday, May 25, 2000
In March of this year, on the 62nd anniversary of Nazi Germany's annexation
of Austria, several hundred neo-Nazis paraded through a Turkish
neighborhood in Berlin, shouting anti-foreigner, anti-European and
anti-Semitic slogans. They also sang the banned ultra-nationalist verses of
the German national anthem at a rally organized by the National Democratic
Party (NPD), the most radical of several German far-right political
parties. The NPD called for the demonstration to show its support for Joerg
Haider, the charismatic fuehrer of the Austrian Freedom party, a party that
had recently entered that country's national governing coalition.
Compared to Haider's suit-and-tie fascism, the German NPD represents a much
rougher brand of extremism. Several NPD leaders have served -- or are
currently doing -- jail time for denying the Holocaust. The NPD's closest
U.S. ally is Dr. William Pierce, author of the notorious hate novel, The
Turner Diaries, which the FBI has called "the blueprint for the Oklahoma
City bombing." In 1998, Pierce traveled to Germany to attend the NPD's
national convention. While NPD candidates have won a few local council
seats in Brandenburg and Saxony, the party's involvement in electoral
politics primarily functions as a legal cover for grass-roots neo-Nazi
cadre-building -- with an emphasis on direct action, street confrontations
and physical attacks against immigrants and anti-fascists. NPD campaign
rallies typically resemble skinhead rock concerts crammed with rowdy youth.
The CIA's former friend
On May Day, the NPD tried to take its game onto the turf of the Left by
staging "pro-worker" demonstrations in several German cities, including
Berlin, where the star speaker was veteran neo-Nazi agitator Friedhelm
Busse. Formerly one of the youngest members of the Hitler Youth, Busse, 71,
roused the crowd with anti-foreigner and anti-American vitriol that
elicited loud cheers from shaven-head teenagers and 20-somethings who waved
illegal imperial German black-and-white flags. Violence erupted after Busse
ended his pep talk with a line from an old Nazi song: "We're marching for
Hitler day and night because of the need for freedom and bread."
Busse's status as an elder statesman among hard-core neo-Nazis in Germany
is all the more troubling given that his checkered past includes a
controversial stint with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Back in the
early 1950s, Busse joined the Bund Deutscher Jugend (BDJ), an elite,
CIA-trained paramilitary organization composed largely of ex-Hitler Youth,
Wehrmacht and SS personnel in West Germany. Busse and his fellow Bundists
were primed to go underground and engage in acts of sabotage and resistance
in the event of a Soviet invasion. But instead of focusing on foreign
enemies, Busse's "stay behind" unit proceeded to draw up a death list that
included future Chancellor Willi Brandt and other leading Social Democrats
(West Germany's main opposition party), who were marked for liquidation in
case of an ill-defined national security emergency.
The Bund's cover was blown in October 1952, when the West German press got
wind that U.S. intelligence was backing a neo-Nazi death squad. Embarrassed
State Department officials, who tried to cover up the full extent of
American involvement with the youth group, admitted privately that the
scandal had resulted in "a serious loss of U.S. prestige."
An abhorrent legacy
West German "stay behind" forces quickly regrouped with a helping hand of
the CIA, which recruited thousands of ex-Nazis and fascists to serve as
Cold War espionage assets. "It was a visceral business of using any bastard
as long as he was anti-Communist," explained Harry Rostizke, ex-head of the
CIA's Soviet desk. "The eagerness to enlist collaborators meant that you
didn't look at their credentials too closely."
The key player on the German side of this unholy espionage alliance was
Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, who served as Adolf Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy.
During World War II, Gehlen was in charge of German military-intelligence
operations on the eastern front.
As the war drew to a close, Gehlen sensed that the United States and USSR
would soon be at loggerheads. He surrendered to the Americans and touted
himself as someone who could make a decisive contribution to the impending
struggle against the Communists. Gehlen offered to share the vast
information archive he had accumulated on the USSR.
U.S. spymasters took the bait.
With a mandate to continue spying on the East just as he had been doing
before, Gehlen re-established his espionage network at the behest of
American intelligence. Incorporated into the fledgling CIA in the late
1940s, the Gehlen "Org," as it was called, became the CIA's main eyes and
ears in Central Europe.
Despite his promise not to recruit unrepentant Nazis, Gehlen rolled out the
welcome mat for thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht and SS veterans. Some of
the worst war criminals imaginable -- including cold-blooded bureaucrats
who oversaw the administrative apparatus of the Holocaust -- found
employment in the Org. Headquartered near Munich, the Org subsequently
morphed into the Bundesnachtrichtendienst, West Germany's main foreign
intelligence service. Gehlen was appointed the first director of the BND in
While dispensing data to his avid American patrons, Gehlen helped thousands
of fascist fugitives escape to safe havens abroad -- often with a wink and
a nod from U.S. intelligence. Third Reich expatriates subsequently served
as "security advisers" to repressive regimes in Latin America and the
Middle East. Ironically, some of Gehlen's recruits would later play leading
roles in neo-fascist groups around the world that despised the United
States and the NATO alliance.
Friedhelm Busse went on to direct several ultra-right-wing groups in
Germany, while another Gehlen protégé, Gerhard Frey, also emerged as a
mover-and-shaker in the post-Cold War neo-Nazi scene. A wealthy publisher,
Frey currently bankrolls and runs the Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), which was
described by U.S. army intelligence as "a neo-Nazi party." During the past
two years, the DVU scored double-digit vote totals in state elections in
eastern Germany, where the whiplash transition from Communism to capitalism
has resulted in high unemployment and widespread social discontent.
Embittered by the disappointing reality of German unification, a lost
generation of East German youth comprise a Nazi Party in waiting.
Even before Frey formed the DVU in 1971 with the professed objective to
"save Germany from Communism," he received behind-the-scenes support from
Gehlen, Bonn's powerful spy chief. But when the Cold War ended, the DVU
chief abruptly shifted gears and demanded that Germany leave NATO. Frey's
newspapers started to run inflammatory articles that denounced the United
States and praised Russia as a more suitable partner for reunified Germany.
Frey also joined the chorus of neo-fascist leaders who backed Saddam
Hussein and condemned the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991.
A deal with the devil
In American spy parlance, it is called "blowback" -- the unintended
consequences of covert activity kept secret from the U.S. public. The
covert recruitment of a Nazi spy network to wage a shadow war against the
Soviet Union was the CIA's "original sin," and it ultimately backfired
against the United States. An unforeseen consequence of the CIA's ghoulish
tryst with the Org is evident today in a resurgent neo-fascist movement in
Europe that can trace its ideological lineage back to Hitler's Reich
through Gehlen operatives who served U.S. intelligence. Moreover, by
subsidizing a top Nazi spymaster and enlisting badly compromised war
criminals, the CIA laid itself open to manipulation by a foreign
intelligence service that was riddled with Soviet agents.
"One of the biggest mistakes the United States ever made in intelligence
was taking on Gehlen," a CIA official later admitted. With that fateful sub
rosa embrace, the stage was set for Washington's tolerance of human-rights
abuses and other dubious acts in the name of anti-Communism.
* * *
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADOLF
by Martin A. Lee
World View Features
Thursday, April 20, 2000
Eight hundred guests gathered in Munich's Loewnbraeukeller, one of the
biggest and most famous beer halls in Bavaria, to celebrate Adolf Hitler's
birthday on April 20, 1990. To the delight of the assembly, several people
wearing donkey outfits entered the premises and scampered between the
tables. The masked marauders had come to mock the Nazi Holocaust. Those who
accepted the fact that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II
were depicted as donkeys that would believe anything.
Although blatant displays of Holocaust denial are illegal in Germany, the
proprietors of the Loewnbraeukeller had made arrangements with the police
not to intervene while the keynote speaker, British author David Irving,
trivialized Nazi atrocities in a smarmy, joke-filled address that drew a
standing ovation from the audience.
A decade later, Irving made a complete ass of himself in a London
courtroom, which rejected the libel suit that he had brought against
American academic Deborah Lipstadt, who wrote an unflattering expose of
Holocaust negationists. The judge ruled in no uncertain terms that Irving
is an "active Holocaust-denier, an anti-Semite and a racist" with extensive
ties to neo-Nazis in Europe and North America.
Irving's cynical attempt to relativize the Holocaust has made him a welcome
speaker on numerous far-right platforms. Despite his courtroom setback,
Holocaust denial screeds and other kinds of hate literature will continue
to circulate like political pornography among extreme right organizations,
which range from violent skinhead gangs and underground terrorist cells to
mass-based electoral movements.
The number of hardcore neo-fascists in Germany grew by 10% in 1999 to 9,000
and, according to government statistics, far-right violence is also on the
rise. Membership in far-right political parties increased from 49,000 to
51,400 last year (but this figure does not include the 40,000 members of
the extreme-right Republikaner Party).
The situation is particularly troubling in economically depressed eastern
Germany, where 15% to 20% of young men vote for neo-fascist parties. "To
say that one third of East German youth is now prone to the extreme right
is an understatement," warns East Berlin criminologist Berndt Wagner. "The
point of no return has already been reached for many. It's very depressing.
It's growing. It's getting worse."
Even more dangerous in some ways than crazed outbursts of racist thuggery
by neo-Nazi youth are what Nobel Prize-winning novelist Guenter Grass
describes as the "white collar skinheads" who occupy positions of power in
German government and society. These gentrified fascists have longer hair
and dress in respectable suits and ties, but their bigoted worldview has
much in common with violent neo-Nazi lumpen.
The new poster boy
The leaders of the more successful neo-fascist movements in Europe have
deliberately softened their image and tailored their message to appeal to
mainstream voters. Joerg Haider, the charismatic fuehrer of the Austrian
Freedom Party, certainly does not conform to the stereotype of a Hollywood
Nazi. He is far too cagey to advertise an explicit allegiance to the
With Haider at the helm, the Freedom Party recently muscled its way into
Austria's national governing coalition after it won 27% of the vote. In the
last elections, it emerged as the top vote-getter among the Austrian
working class and people under 30 in what proved to be the strongest
showing of a right-wing extremist party in Europe since World War II.
Much like disgraced historian Irving, who is held in high regard within the
Freedom Party, Haider has likened Winston Churchill to Hitler and equated
the Nazi Holocaust with the postwar expulsion of ethnic Germans from
eastern border zones. When asked if 6 million Jews had died, Haider
shrugged, "If you like."
Haider's remark about the Holocaust was in keeping with several sympathetic
statements he made in reference to Hitler's employment policies, the
"decency" of the notoriously brutal Waffen SS, and how all soldiers, no
matter which side they were on, had "fought for peace and freedom" during
the World War II.
After each so-called gaffe, the Freedom Party fuehrer flip-flopped and
belatedly issued a half-hearted apology, only to make another outlandish
comment soon after without actually admitting that he had said anything
erroneous in the first place.
Instead of Haider, the media should scrutinize other Freedom Party members
Instead of fixating on Haider's verbal pirouettes, news media should
scrutinize some of the hard-core extremists who occupy positions of
influence within the Freedom Party. To cite a few examples:
Haider's adviser on cultural affairs, Andreas Molzer, was until recently
the publisher of Zur Zeit, a virulently racist Vienna newsweekly, which
raved about "the dogma of the six million murdered Jews" and the
"epoch-making economic and political successes of the great social
revolutionary," a reference to Hitler.
Markus Ertl, a Freedom Party councilor in Spittal an der Drau, claimed at a
veteran's reunion that only 74,000 people died at Auschwitz, and they were
killed by Anglo-American air raids.
Helmut Kowarik and Barbara Schoepfnagel, Freedom Party representatives in
Vienna's regional parliament, are also active members of the Austrian
Landsmannschaft, a group that promotes Holocaust-denial and commemorates
Hitler's birthday in its newspaper.
The time is right for the far right
Even outside Austria, neo-fascists and right-wing extremists have reason to
be pleased as they mark Hitler's birthday anniversary this year. After
wallowing in the political wilderness during the Cold War, they have posted
significant gains at the ballot box and are now a force to be reckoned with
in several European states.
The Swiss Peoples Party scored a major electoral breakthrough, besting all
contestants with 23% of the vote last October. Far-right parties have also
tallied 15% or more nationwide in Norway, France and Italy. And the Vlaams
Blok, another radical right-wing populist party with openly fascist roots,
outpolls its rivals with more than 30% of the vote in Antwerp, Belgium's
second largest city.
In Western Europe today, there are 50 million poor people, 18 million
unemployed, and 3 million homeless -- and post-Communist Eastern Europe is
faring much worse. Such conditions are ripe for exploitation by
ultra-right-wing demagogues. Scapegoating immigrants and railing against
globalization, a new breed of fascists posing as national populists has
touched a raw nerve in a post-Cold War world that is still wobbling from
the collapse of Soviet-bloc Communism, the reunification of Germany, major
economic restructuring and fast-paced technological change.
"Neo-fascism and neo-Nazism are gaining ground in many countries --
especially in Europe," says Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, special rapporteur of
the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Of particular concern,
Glele-Ahanhanzo noted in a recent report to the U.N. General Assembly, is
the "increase in the power of the extreme right-wing parties," which are
thriving in "an economic and social climate characterized by fear and
despair." Among the key factors fueling the rise of the far right,
according to the U.N. report, are "the combined effects of globalization,
identity crises, and social exclusion."
Even when they lose elections, neo-fascists are like a toxic chemical in
the water supply of the European political landscape, polluting public
discourse and pressuring establishment parties to adopt heretofore
extremist positions to beat off challenges from the hard right.
By the time the Austrian Freedom Party grabbed the reins of national power
in February 2000, it had already seen the previous centrist governing
coalition implement much of its anti-immigration and law-and-order
Moreover, it is increasingly difficult to discern any substantive policy
differences between Haider's minions in Austria and a growing right-wing
faction within the conservative opposition in Germany, which has openly
endorsed the Freedom Party. If someone with Haider's charisma emerged on
the German political scene, there is little reason to doubt that he would
do rather well.
Martin A. Lee is the author of The Beast Reawakens, a book about neofascism.
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