The CIA knew the whereabouts of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina more than two years before his capture by Israeli agents, but kept the fact secret to protect its anti-Communist efforts in West Germany, according to newly declassified agency documents.
The documents, among 27,000 pages of CIA records released by the National Archives here, indicate that the agency was told in 1958 by then West German intelligence that Eichmann was living under an alias in the Buenos Aires area. But the CIA did nothing, and Eichmann - the infamous organiser of the trains that carried Jews to the Nazi extermination camps - was eventually seized by Mossad agents in 1960, and flown back to Israel where he was tried and, in 1962, executed.
The CIA's inaction reflected the shift in US foreign policy goals almost as soon as the Second World War was over, from hunting down Nazi war criminals to enlisting help for the new priority of fighting Communism, as it threatened to engulf not only all of Germany, but parts of western Europe as well.
In the case of Eichmann, the documents show the CIA was desperate not to compromise Hans Globke, a former Nazi who stayed on in West Germany and helped organise anti-Communist initiatives there.
Eichmann was only one prominent former war criminal to benefit. In 1983, Washington admitted that US Army intelligence officers helped the Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons," flee to Bolivia and escape prosecution by France after the war. A government report at the time admitted that the officers "interfered with the lawful and proper administration of justice" by protecting him after he had been recruited as an anti-Communist spy.
Historians have chronicled how the US allowed in hundreds if not thousands of Nazi regime members and former Nazi collaborators from eastern European countries that fell under Soviet domination. "We knew what we were doing," one senior CIA officer was quoted as saying in a 1989 book."Any bastard as long as he was anti-Communist."
After Eichmann was captured, the CIA pressed US publications to keep quiet about his connection with Globke. Life magazine, which had bought Eichmann's memoirs, dropped a mention of Globke "at our request," according to a memorandum from the then CIA director, Allen Dulles.Reuse content