On 20 March 1944, Gen. William J. Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), passed on to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a memorandum written by Abram Hewitt, OSS officer in Stockholm under cover of the United States Commercial Company. The president had sent Hewitt, a longtime friend, to Stockholm under the aegis of the OSS to get a feel for the role and significance of Scandinavia in World War II. Hewitt's message, which summed up conversations he had had with Felix Kersten and Walter Schellenberg, emissaries of Himmler, must surely have caught the president's attention. The contents of the report were startling: It concerned a secret proposal proffered by Nazi Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, and iterated by Schellenberg and Kersten, for ousting Hitler and negotiating peace with the Western Allies as a first step in fighting a one-front, one-enemy war with the Soviet Union—with or without help from the United States and Britain.
By the fall of 1944, it was obvious that the war in Europe was in its final year. In France, British and American forces had broken out of Normandy and were driving toward Paris and the Rhein. In the East, the Soviet Army was expanding its control westward across Europe. All over the Continent, Allied domination of the air was complete, and in the North Atlantic the back of the German U-Bootwaffe was finally broken.
The story of escaped Nazis after the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945 has long gripped novelists and Hollywood screenwriters and provided the grist for such box office hits as The Boys From Brazil and The ODESSA File. Since the 1970s, the topic has also provided steady fare for historians and journalists anxious to explore supposed cabals between American intelligence agencies and such personalities as Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" at Auschwitz, and former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, a German intelligence officer in the Balkans during World War II.
"Honest and idealist ... enjoys good food and wine ... unprejudiced mind ..."
That's how a 1952 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessment described Nazi ideologue Emil Augsburg, an officer at the infamous Wannsee Institute, the SS think tank involved in planning the Final Solution. Augsburg's SS unit performed "special duties," a euphemism for exterminating Jews and other "undesirables" during the Second World War. Although he was wanted in Poland for war crimes, Augsburg managed to ingratiate himself with the U.S. CIA, which employed him in the late 1940s as an expert on Soviet affairs. Recently released CIA records indicate that Augsburg was among a rogue's gallery of Nazi war criminals recruited by U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after Germany surrendered to the Allies.