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Book Review - "The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9780547669199_p0_v1_s260x420The Nazis Next Door by Eric Lichtblau is a compelling reminder of how quickly man’s inhumanity to man has been forgotten.  Many in the FBI, CIA, the space program, and other agencies of the US government teamed up with war-criminal Nazis to combat the Soviets.  As WWII came to an end there were those in the government that were more concerned about the next great conflict, the threat of Communism. The book delves into two issues.  The first chapter in the book examines an important topic, the myth of the concentration camp liberation. The second narrative is the story of the people who worked so hard for decades to find war criminals given safe haven by the FBI, CIA, and military. 

Lichtblau points out how many Jewish survivors had to be bunked side by side with the Nazi POWs, while in certain cases, the Nazi tormentors were given the duties of overseers of the camps including medical care.  These terrible conditions in the Displaced Person’s Camp were highlighted, showing how the detainees were kept there because of illness, lack of resources, or because visas were limited.  The author compares this to the thousands of Nazis able to gain entry as self-proclaimed refugees, or with the help and protection of US government agencies.

The author commented to, “History has forgotten what happened to the survivors.  There is an image that they were embraced by the allied forces as they flooded out from the camps, given warm showers, beds, and plentiful food.  It was really not like that at all. The blame has to go to U.S. Army General George Patton who was in charge of the displaced persons camps. He had sort of an odd fondness almost for the Nazi prisoners, believe it or not. He believed that they were the ones in the best position to efficiently run the camps, and he gave them supervisory approval to basically lord over the Jews and the other survivors. I hope the book makes people aware of the horrific conditions of the camps and Patton’s overt Anti-Semitism.  Jewish groups complained to President Truman who did not ignore it.  After an investigation there was a blistering and condemning report, lost to history, by Penn Law School Dean, Earl Harrison.  This report to Truman stated, ‘As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.’ Even though conditions did improve some survivors were kept in the camps for as long as five years. They were still confined behind barbed wire, under armed guard in camps.”

Nazis who were able to flourish in the US included Dr. Hubertus Strughold, Arthur Rudolph, Otto von Bolschwing, and Rocket Scientist Werher von Braun. American civilian and military leaders chose to look the other way because of the information and knowledge in science, medicine, military, and engineering the Nazis provided during the Cold War fight. For example, Dr. Hubertus Strughold, M.D., once director of the Aviation Medical Research Institute in the Third Reich, was recruited by the U.S. Air Force and rose to head its School of Aviation Medicine in San Antonio. He became celebrated as "the father of space medicine,” even though he performed medical experiments at Dachau involving subjecting victims to high altitude and freezing torture.  There is also the case of Otto von Bolschwing, an asset for the CIA, even though he was a onetime colleague of Adolf Eichmann's who had laid out a plan for persecuting Germany's Jews.

Lichtblau noted, “There was this blind spot of the benefit of having them help in the Cold War effort.  Remember the Dulles quote, paraphrasing, ‘I would deal with the devil himself if it would help national security.’ In the early months, and the first few years after the war, beginning in mid-1945, there were only a very limited number of immigration visas to get into the United States. There were many, many thousands of Nazi collaborators who got visas to the United States while the survivors did not.”

The Nazis Next Door powerfully examines if the cost of harboring Nazis within US society outweighed the gains for national security.  There was the new mindset that the Nazis were yesterday’s enemies, with the newfound enemy the Soviet Union. Readers are asked to consider if the allies betrayed those who suffered atrocities. The book is very interesting and an eye-opener.