Posts Tagged With: Operation Paperclip

Did He or Didn’t He?

At the end of World War II the Allies splintered between East and West, and they began carving up Germany and the rest of Europe. Even as the Cold War began to develop, the Allies were rounding up and preparing to try various members of the Nazi regime. It is no secret that while they were doing this, they were also deciding which Nazis to keep for their own purposes (and others would be released early from prison in the following years). This, and the consequences and questions of ethics, have been documented in many books such as The Nazi Next Door and Operation Paperclip.

The Allies also sent investigators to verify the death of Adolf Hitler, since the remains had been burned. There have always been whispers of Hitler escaping, but I’m not one to jump quickly to join conspiracy theories. Then two things happened.

First, there has been the continuing revelations of deception regarding the protecting of many Nazis brought to the U.S., or used in Europe, to “assist” in prosecuting the Cold War. The government’s nonsensical policy of picking and choosing who to use, and who to prosecute, and to occasionally change their mind years later, is a troubling window into what certain people in power do.

Second, something stood out in these accounts of investigating Hitler’s suicide in his bunker. The investigators relied on the testimony on Nazis and evidence provide by them. Continue reading

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Where’s Your Money Going?

Apparently convicted war criminals are.

Unfortunately, not really surprised. After all, the U.S. grabbed up quite a few Nazis after the war, scrubbed their past, and put them to work for the military. Even as some were being prosecuted at Nuremberg — in fact, before the war even ended — others were being vetted for the usefulness in the Cold War in what was called Operation Paperclip. And there began a decades-long policy with Nazis that still doesn’t make much sense.

Those not so valuable to the country were kept out or sent home. Some became exemplary rocket scientists, until someone decided certain ones should be prosecuted years after being effectively give a free pass. We still hunt down aged SS guards with a few years to live, yet many jailed after the war were released early in Cold War Europe to join the new cause.

Yet another lesson highlighting the government’s long downward spiral.

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Deal With the Devil: Operation Paperclip

Long a student of the history of space exploration, I knew of the Operation Paperclip (often called Project Paperclip) to bring rocket scientists to the U.S. after WWII from Germany. Never thought much about it until more studies on WWII and the Cold War started to reveal more about these scientists. Not all were innocents caught up in their nation’s war.

Some were part of the Nazi Machine.

Indeed, even when it was exposed in the ’40s that hundreds of these scientists, doctors and engineers were coming to America, protest was raised. It was largely too late. Records were scrubbed and classified. The people themselves remained quiet and evasive on the subject of their past until their death. While some Nazis to this day are hunted down in their old age, some were allowed to be free, in the open. Perhaps the most bizarre example of cognitive dissonance ever known, and widely at that. But most don’t know the whole story.

Annie Jacobsen remedies this in her new book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America. She isn’t the first to write on Paperclip, but perhaps the most thorough. She has brought new materials to light as more has become unclassified and through interviews with Paperclip family members and others with first hand knowledge.

I thought I knew a lot about the program, I didn’t. The twisted policy of chasing down prison guards in their 90s while other individuals were in effect acquitted. Some became American heroes. I have read of Von Braun and other rocket scientists who oversaw the V-2 production sites were thousands of prisoner-slaves died, but many know little of this. Jacobsen’s account will force you to look at our space heroes quite differently.

It wasn’t just the builders of rockets, however. Doctors involved in the Reich’s human experiments, experts in chemical and biological warfare and others were also spirited away by Paperclip. Most of these men lead productive lives contributing to our country. Others, though, were part of questionable state-sponsored activities here. In either case, Jacobsen writes this for us to ponder:

The question remains, despite a man’s contribution to a nation or people, how do we interpret fundamental wrong? Is the American government at fault equally for fostering myths about its Paperclip scientists — for encouraging them to whitewash their past…When, for a nation, should the end justify the means?

Categories: History, Modern History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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