U.S. tipped to Holocaust in '42

By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials learned within months of the U.S. entry into World War II that Nazi Germany planned mass killings to eliminate Jews, scholars reviewing newly declassified reports said Thursday.
But the U.S. government gave the information low priority in August 1942, the scholars concluded, not acknowledging that Germany had a plan to exterminate Jews until six months later. (Related site: National Archives group)

"It was an intelligence failure," said Richard Breitman, an American University Holocaust historian who studied the documents. "The early information was not assimilated or used correctly."

Breitman was part of a team of scholars, citizens and government officials who reviewed more than 240,000 pages of documents at the National Archives related to Nazi and other World War II-era crimes. The material was from files of the FBI, CIA and its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services.

The documents show a federal intelligence unit was formed to interview Jews who immigrated from Axis countries in 1941 and 1942. One, Joseph Goldschmied, described how Germans seized money and property from Jews in his hometown, Prague, Czechoslovakia, and sent thousands to die in the Theresienstadt detention camp.

"If Hitler remains true to his program of destroying all European Jewry — he will have achieved this goal soon," Goldschmied said in August 1942.

The scholars said the declassified documents also show:

• The CIA recruited as intelligence sources 23 Germans who appeared to have perpetrated war crimes.

• The U.S. Army protected an additional 100 German spies, including their leader Reinhard Gehlen, who had knowledge of Soviet Russia.

• The FBI and CIA helped Nazis or Nazi collaborators with intelligence value elude war-crimes prosecution.

• The agencies pressured the Immigration and Naturalization Service to let war criminals working with American authorities resettle in the USA.

American intelligence recruited the ex-Nazis in the Cold War fight against communism, some documents show. The professors say many of the ex-Nazis had little long-term value.

The documents include a previously unknown description of a tea party hosted by Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini attended. Hours earlier, Hitler had just missed being assassinated by a bomb planted by some of his senior officers.

The firsthand account from a translator, said Hitler gobbled candy-colored pills and raved for a half-hour "in a fit of frenzy" with "foam on his lips," questioning whether "the German people are worthy of my great ideas."

"I don't know why I didn't go over to the Allies there and then," said the translator, Eugen Dollmann, in a conversation after his capture in 1945.