Soviets penetrated West German spy agency by recruiting ex-Nazis, research shows

Heinz FelfeTHE SOVIET UNION INFLICTED incalculable damage to West German spy agencies —and by extension to their American patrons— by recruiting dozens of former Nazis who populated the ranks of West German intelligence after World War II. These are the preliminary conclusions of a study into the topic by Danny Orbach, a lecturer in history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which relies on recently declassified documents from American and German intelligence agencies.

Following the end of World War II and the partition of Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany —commonly known as West Germany— established a new intelligence agency, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Under American and British tutelage, the BND focused on combatting communist subversion, with the German Democratic Republic —East Germany— and the Soviet Union as its main intelligence targets.

Between 1956 and at least 1971, the BND employed hundreds of former members of Germany’s Nazi-era intelligence agencies. These included the Gestapo (wartime Germany’s Secret State Police) and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service), which was the intelligence of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing, the SS. The reason for hiring these officers is that they were experts in anti-communist operations, having spent many years working against the Soviet Union and its supporters inside Germany. Their criminal past as members of some of the Nazi war machine’s most ruthless elements was ignored. Eventually their files were destroyed by an embarrassed BND in the 1960s and 1970s.

But Orbach’s study shows that many of these former Nazi intelligence officers felt no allegiance to West Germany —which they saw as a superficial American creation. Additionally, many were opportunists and thrill-seekers, and actively sought to sell secrets to foreign intelligence agencies. Although these former Nazis “worked as mercenaries and moles for the highest bidder”, most were recruited by the Soviet Union, says Orbach. Several were led by feelings of vengeance against the West, which they blamed for Germany’s defeat in the war.

Among these former Nazis was Heinz Felfe, a former officer in the Sicherheitsdienst from Dresden, who “despised the Americans” for destroying his home city, says Orbach. He rose through the ranks of the BND, eventually becoming head of Soviet counterespionage. Felfe gave the Soviets thousands of classified BND files and single-handedly exposed the identities of at least 100 agents of the Central Intelligence Agency behind the iron curtain, according to Orbach. He was eventually arrested and imprisoned in 1961, but was released in 1969 in exchange for 21 Western citizens held in the Soviet Union. He lived most of the remainder of his life in the Soviet Union and East Germany. He died in 2008.●Orbach told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he plans to include unpublished information about the Soviet Union’s penetration of the BND in an upcoming book, which will detail the work of former Nazi officers in the BND during the Cold War.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 October 2020 | Permalink

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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