- The secret life of a former Nazi war criminal, who spied
for America's Central Intelligence Agency after the Second World War in
return for a fake Jewish identity, was disclosed yesterday.
- The story of how Günter Reinemer, an S.S. lieutenant
who commanded death squads at the Treblinka concentration camp, escaped
the death penalty because of the CIA is told in a documentary to be screened
in Germany next month.
- Reinemer was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of
Jews at Treblinka, the first concentration camp in Poland. More than a
million Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were killed at Treblinka.
- Given the identity Hans-Georg Wagner by the CIA, he later
married a Jewish woman, lived in Israel and was buried in a Jewish cemetery.
His story might have been buried with him had he not felt the need to confess
in 1988, shortly before he apparently committed suicide. His statements
form the basis of the documentary Wagner's Confession.
- The role of the American intelligence service in the
days after the war has still to be fully explained. With the Third Reich
vanquished, America sensed that it needed every ally available to fight
the coming Cold War and was not too particular about its recruits. The
CIA recruited Nazi scientists and much smaller fry, such as Reinemer, by
offering the choice: work for the US or almost certainly forfeit your life
at a war crimes tribunal.
- Reinemer's journey from war criminal to respected Jewish
businessman was exposed only in the final days of his life because of suspicions
over his financial trustworthiness. In 1988, as Wagner, he was living in
Caracas, Venezuela, when he secured a job as consultant engineer to the
Jewish-owned Venergia submarine battery manufacturer. There were some on
the board who doubted the motives, and the fiscal propriety, of Wagner,
as money went missing. That led to the appointment of Klaus-Dieter Matschke
of the KDM company in Frankfurt, which specialises in the prevention of
- Wagner was arrested by the Venezuelan secret service
in August 1988 and tortured with electrical cattle prods after the company
voiced its suspicions about him. Herr Matschke persuaded the authorities
to let him take over. At first Reinemer stuck to his story that he was
a Jewish businessman. "Then, after about a week of questioning him,
I threw a thick bundle of files on to my desk and just shouted at him:
'Name, rank, last military assignment.'
- "Perhaps the tone of command, perhaps the weariness
from the past few days, perhaps a need to break with the past - I don't
know what it was, but he looked up and said: 'Reinemer, SS Death's-Head
Division, Treblinka.' It was the start of a comprehensive confession."
- For the next week Reinemer agreed to dictate his story
to Herr Matschke. Reinemer, born in Dresden in 1918, told how he joined
the Nazi party and later the SS and was attached to Treblinka in 1942.
He said that later he commanded a squad which clubbed prisoners to death
after a failed uprising and later led more prisoners into a forest to be
- "I recalled the camp commander's order to the SS
guards," he told Herr Matschke. " 'Restore calm with no regard
to the consequences.' I went into the forest with a detachment of 110 Jews.
I lined them up and gave the order to fire."
- At the end of the war he put on the uniform of an ordinary
German soldier but was recruited by the CIA after being discovered in a
prisoner of war camp.
- He spent several months at a US military base at Frankfurt-Höchst,
where he learnt rudimentary intelligence techniques and was circumcised.
He was given a Jewish identity and sent as a Holocaust survivor to Calbe,
East Germany, where he was to spy on old Nazis and new communist technologies
at the local power plant. He went with his second wife, a Frenchwoman,
and stayed until 1957 when he abandoned his family and fled West. According
to intelligence files examined in German archives, the CIA forgot about
him and no further action was taken against him. He stayed in West Germany
until 1969, when he moved to Israel. In 1972 he moved to Venezuela with
a Polish-Jewish woman whom he had married.
- His widow, Rosa, said: "He fooled me for more than
two decades about his past. Imagine, me, a Jew, living with a Jew-killer.
I would have killed him myself had I known."
- After confessing his identity he was found dead two days
later. Herr Matschke said: "You have to ask yourself: how many other
Reinemers did America spirit to safety?"
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