The Nazi war criminal who invented the mobile gas chamber and used it to murder thousands of Jews was recruited by West German intelligence after the Second World War and tried unsuccessfully to spy on Cuba's revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, new documents have revealed.
The disclosures concern Walter Rauff, a senior SS official who headed a Nazi research group which developed mobile gas chambers run on car exhaust fumes that were used at concentration camps throughout Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland and Ukraine during the Holocaust.
Rauff, who was wanted for more than 90,000 murders, was hired by West Germany's newly created BND intelligence service in 1958 even though its officials were apparently aware of his war crimes. "His recruitment was in no way politically or morally defensible," Bodo Hechelhammer, the head of the BND's history research group, told Der Spiegel magazine.
The revelations about Rauff are contained in hitherto unpublished BND archive documents, which the agency is researching with the help of historians in an attempt to provide an accurate assessment of its murky past. After fleeing an Allied prisoner of war camp in Germany after the war, Rauff escaped to Chile where he was contacted by Rudolf Oessger-Röder, an ex-SS man who recruited him on behalf of the BND. The BND's records show that Rauff was paid 70,000 Marks (£30,300).
One of Rauff's tasks was to infiltrate Castro's Cuba to supply German intelligence with information about the revolutionary leader. However, the documents show that Rauff's pay was halved in 1962 because his mission had failed.
Despite the BND's readiness to recruit Nazi war criminals, Germany's justice authorities caught up with Rauff in the 1960s. By the end of 1962, Chile had arrested him and had initiated steps to extradite him to West Germany to stand trial. However, as the crime of murder was subject to a 15-year statue of limitation in Chile at that time, he was freed after spending only a few months in custody. Rauff never answered for his crimes, dying in Chile in 1984 at the age of 77.
The revelations follow recent disclosures that the BND mysteriously "lost" a 500-page file on the 99-year-old Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner.