Recalling the Nazis Next Door

As author and journalist Eric Lichtblau delivered remarks during an April 20 Yom HaShoah program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, photographs of the unimaginable appeared on a slide show behind him: ex-Nazis who were provided safe haven by the United States during the Cold War.

“[The] CIA and, to a lesser extent, the Pentagon and the FBI, saw some of these people as helpful spies in the Cold War because they had been fighting the Soviets so long. The mantra of the CIA was that no one hated the Russians more than the Nazis, and, ‘We wanted to put that hatred to use,’ ” Lichtblau said.

“The irony is that these were not good spies, for the most part. These were men, not a surprise to anyone in this room, who turned out to be cheats and embezzlers and thieves and liars [and], in a few cases … double agents, and yet they drew a paycheck from the United States.”

Hundreds turned out for the April 20 event, “Red, Whitewash and Blue: The U.S. Government’s Effort to Cover Up Nazi War Criminals in America,” at the medical center’s Harvey Morse Auditorium.

The keynote discussed, among other things, Nazi scientists who helped this country develop weaponry for use against the Soviets and how former Nazis were dispatched to Europe by the CIA to serve as spies against the Soviets and dig up useful dirt on them.

Lichtblau — a reporter for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking a story about the secret wiretapping program under President George W. Bush — is the author of the 2014 book “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men.” The book alleges that the U.S. provided safe haven for more than 1,000 ex-Nazis during the Cold War period.

The accomplishments of some these Nazis eventually put U.S. leaders in a difficult position, Lichtblau said, citing as an example President Ronald Reagan’s administration, which was angered by the U.S. Justice Department going after ex-Nazi Arthur Rudolph, a production manager of a Nazi-run slave labor factory who was also instrumental to the U.S. Apollo space race to the moon.

Lichtblau also spotlighted Otto von Bolschwing, describing him as a Prussian baron who helped Adolf Eichmann draft documents about the extermination of the Jews. The CIA had Bolschwing work as a spy in Europe during the Cold War and allowed him to live in the United States afterward. He died in Sacramento.

Lichtblau framed the CIA and other agencies who made the Nazis’ cooperation with the U.S. possible as a shameful period in history.

The provocative topic at the well-attended, lunchtime lecture drew Rebecca Appel, a member of Etz Jacob Synagogue. Appel said she was happy that she attended the event and that it made her think of Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted and imprisoned of spying for Israel.

“I think it was great,” the 67-year-old told the Journal as she and the others exited the building. “I never knew these things. My girlfriend is an activist and she wants to free Jonathan Pollard. Why do they call him a spy but they don’t call these guys spies?”

Lichtblau told the Journal he appreciated Cedars-Sinai providing him a venue for his discussion, while noting that the hospital has been holding Yom HaShoah ceremonies long before “most places were recognizing Yom HaShoah.” The event — the medical center’s 31st annual community program marking the occasion — was one of many gatherings in Los Angeles over the past week to honor Yom HaShoah, which took place on April 16.

Additional participants in the program were Vera Guerin, chair of the Cedars-Sinai board of directors; Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and manager of the spiritual care department at Cedars-Sinai, and Dr. Joel M. Geiderman, chair of the day’s program. Cantor Netanel Baram led the Mourner’s Kaddish to close out the event, leading attendees — some wearing their white lab coats — to stand, some reciting the prayer.