“America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” the report says, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors.”
The Justice Department cited “numerous factual errors and omissions” in the report, according to the Times, but declined to say what they were. The Justice Department also said the report was never formally completed and did not represent its official findings.
The report documents a neglected corner of history, focusing on the work of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis.
“It’s an amazing story that needs to be told,” prosecutor Judith Feigin, who authored the report, told the Times.
The 600-page report found that the Justice Department itself sometimes concealed what American officials knew about Nazis in this country, and in other cases American intelligence officials aided Nazis in the U.S.
For example, the report details the case of Tscherim Soobzokov, a former Waffen SS soldier. According to the report, prosecutors filed a motion in 1980 that “misstated the facts,” claiming that checks of CIA and FBI records revealed no information on his Nazi past.
In fact, the report said, the Justice Department “knew that Soobzokov had advised the CIA of his SS connection after he arrived in the United States.”
Soobzokov was killed in 1985 by a bomb at his New Jersey home after his case was dismissed.
The report also cites help that CIA officials provided in 1954 to Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolf Eichmann who later worked for the CIA in the United States.
According to the report, CIA officials debated in memos whether Von Bolschwing should deny any Nazi affiliation or “explain it away on the basis of extenuating circumstances,” if confronted about his past.
The Justice Department, after learning of Von Bolschwing’s Nazi ties, sought to deport him in 1981. He died that year at 72.
The report also examines the case of Arthur L.H. Rudolph, a Nazi scientist who was brought to the United States in 1945 for his rocket-making expertise. Rudolph ran the Mittelwerk munitions factory.
The report cites a 1949 memo from a top Justice Department official urging immigration officers to let Rudolph back in the U.S. after a stay in Mexico, saying that a failure to do so “would be to the detriment of the national interest.”
Justice Department investigators later found evidence that Rudolph was much more actively involved in exploiting slave laborers at Mittelwerk than he or American intelligence officials had acknowledged, the report says.
Rudolph has been honored by NASA and is credited as the father of the Saturn V rocket.
The report was first undertaken in 1999, after senior Justice Department lawyer Mark Richard persuaded Attorney General Janet Reno to begin this look at Nazi-hunting history. He assigned Feigin to the job and edited the final version of the report in 2006, urging the Justice Department to make it public, according to the Times.
When Richard became ill with cancer, he told a gathering of friends and family that he hoped to see the report’s publication before he died, the colleagues said. He died in June 2009.
“I spoke to him the week before he died, and he was still trying to get it released,” Feigin told the Times. “It broke his heart.”
Under the threat of a lawsuit after Richard’s death, the Justice Department turned over a heavily redacted version last month to a private research group, the National Security Archive.
In the censored version, a chapter on the OSI’s case against John Demjanjuk — a retired American autoworker who was mistakenly identified as Treblinka’s Ivan the Terrible — deletes dozens of details, including part of a 1993 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that raised ethics accusations against Justice Department officials.
The complete version of the report was obtained by The New York Times for its story today.