"Croatia, a terrorist breakaway state from Yugoslavia, described itself as a "pure [Roman] Catholic state" whose leader, Ante Pavelic, had been personally received by the pope, ........"

From ................. BLOWBACK

By Christopher Simpson

Pub by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,

10 East 53rd St., NYC 10022

ISBN 1-555-84106-6 ............... 1988

page175 ........... "Any Bastard as Long as He's Anti-Communist''

[----------] The Ukrainian exile leader Lebed's entry into the United States and his high-profile political agitation once he had arrived provide an example of a second type of blowback as well, one which was to become much more widespread in the years to come. To put it most bluntly, former Nazis and collaborators on the U.S. payroll who were also fugitives from war crimes charges began to demand U.S. help in escaping abroad in return for their cooperation with - and continuing silence about - American clandestine operations. Some such fugitives pressed for entry into the United States itself, while others were content to find safe havens in South America, Australia, or Canada. Before the decade of the 1940s was out, some American intelligence agents found themselves deeply embroiled in underground Nazi escape networks responsible for smuggling thousands of Nazi criminals to safety in the New World.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN ....... page 176 ................. Ratlines

Ratlines, in espionage jargon, are networks of agents who smuggle fugitives or undercover operatives in and out of hostile foreign territories. These escape and evasion routes, as they are sometimes called, are a standard part of the clandestine operations of every major power, and there were hundreds of such ratlines snaking out of the Soviet-occupied territories in Eastern Europe in the wake of World War II.

The story of one of these ratlines is of special interest here because it reveals the manner in which the United States became entangled in the escape of large numbers of Nazi and Axis criminals, many of whom remained ardent Fascists as contemptuous of American democracy as of Soviet-style communism.

In hindsight it is clear that many of the ratlines used by the United States during the cold war began as independent, unsanctioned Nazi escape organizations that later turned to selling their specialized services to U.S. intelligence agencies as a means of making money and protecting their own ongoing Nazi smuggling efforts. Some of the exiles involved in this dangerous work did it for money; some, for ideological reasons; some, for both.

The most important Western ratlines that have come to light thus far, including those that smuggled Nazis, operated in and through the Vatican in Rome.1

page 177 ................... Ratlines

Unraveling the reasons why and how the [Roman] Catholic Church became involved in Nazi smuggling is an important step in understanding the broader evolution of the postwar alliances between former Nazis and U.S. intelligence agencies. One organization is worthy of close scrutiny. It is the prominent [Roman] Catholic lay group known as Intermarium.

During its heyday in the 1940s and early 1950s leading members of this organization were deeply involved in smuggling Nazi fugitives out of Eastern Europe to safety in the West. Later Intermarium also became one of the single most important source of recruits for the CIA's exile committees. This can be said with some certainty because about a score of Intermarium leaders ended up as activists or officials in Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberation, and the Assembly of Captive European Nations [ACEN], each of which the U.S. government has since admitted as having been a CIA-financed and -controlled organization.2

For much of the [Roman] Catholic Church's leadership, it will be recalled, World War II had been an interlude in a deeper and more important struggle against "atheistic communism" that had been raging for decades. This more fundamental struggle had closely aligned the Vatican hierarchy with a half dozen conservative Christian Democratic and clerical-Fascist political parties that were willing Nazi pawns during the war, even when the Church of Rome was itself under ideological attack from the German Nazi party.

The majority of the Nazis' Axis partners in Eastern Europe, as well as Vichy France, had been led by [Roman] Catholic political parties during the war.

The puppet government in Slovakia, for example, was run by a [Roman] Catholic priest, Monsignor Jozef Tiso. Croatia, a terrorist breakaway state from Yugoslavia, described itself as a "pure [Roman] Catholic state" whose leader, Ante Pavelic, had been personally received by the pope, while clerics in Admiral Nicholas Horthy's Hungary enjoyed a more profound influence in that country's wartime government than did its own parliament.

It is well established, of course, that some Catholic Church leaders bravely resisted Nazi crimes, sometimes at the cost of their lives. Even so, it is also true that the church-based political parties mentioned above played a central role in Axis military aggression. These organizations used the mantle and the moral authority of the church to help carry out the preparations for, and in some cases the actual execution of, the Nazi genocide of the Jews.*3

*According to a 1941 diplomatic report by Vichy France's representative to the Vatican [which has never been disavowed by the Holy See], the proper Christian attitude toward Jews at that time was summarized as follows:

This policy, in practice, led to [Roman] Catholic political parties' carrying out many of the preparatory steps for the Holocaust, such as registering Jews and expelling them from public life, legislating seizure of Jewish property, and compelling Jews to display yellow Stars of David. But several of the same Catholic parties responsible for this persecution - Horthy's Hungary being the best-known case - hung back from the actual mass murder of Jews, much to the annoyance of Hitler Germany.

[ From...... THE BALKANS IN OUR TIME ........ by ROBERT LEE WOLF Professor of history at Harvard) published by: W.W.NORTON & Co. by arrangement w/Harvard Press 1967 ............ "Elsewhere the dreary story varied only in degree. The Hungarians massacred at least 10,000 Serbs in Novi Sad and at other points in the Bachka in ........" -END QUOTE- JP ]

Regardless of the intentions of the [Roman] Catholic collaborators in Eastern Europe, the fact remains that in the end the executions of Jews went ahead anyhow. Monsignor Tiso's Slovakia, for example, had murdered about 75,000 Jews, including children, by the end of the war. In Hungary Germany installed a more cooperative prime minister in 1944 and succeeded in deporting about 70 percent of the country's Jewish population Ñ more than 400,000 people Ñ to death camps in a matter of weeks. In the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania, the subtleties of St. Thomas's distinction between restricting Jews and killing them seems to have gotten lost in the chaos of war. There leaders of [Roman] Catholic political parties, in some cases accompanied by priests, actively instigated pogroms in which thousands of people lost their lives.

The Vatican did not condone these killings. Indeed, Pope Pius XII and some of his senior lieutenants moved discreetly - too discreetly, some say - to try to bring them to an end. Official letters were secretly dispatched, Jews were given shelter in church buildings, and the pope himself is said to have spent the bulk of his personal fortune on relief work. In Italy and France, in particular, many thousands of Jews owed their survival to the church's efforts on their behalf. There were also individual prelates who acted with great heroism to save innocent people. Those include Father Maximilian Kolbe, who gave up his life at Auschwitz so that another man might live. Despite such efforts, however, the results of the ''Final Solution to the Jewish Question" are well known.

page 178

As Nazi Germany collapsed during late 1944 and early 1945, many senior [Roman Catholic] church officials helped organize a massive campaign of refugee relief for millions of [Roman] Catholics fleeing from Eastern Europe. Once this was underway, few distinctions were made between the [Roman] Catholics responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Axis states and those being persecuted simply for opposition to the Soviets.

The vast majority of the refugees who swept through Rome in the wake of the war had left their homelands for reasons that had nothing to do with war crimes, obviously; they had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Germans or Soviet armies had stormed through their villages.

page 179 ................. Ratlines

At the same time, however, these refugee routes became the most important pipelines out of Europe for Nazis and collaborators fleeing war crimes charges. Factions within the church that had long been sympathetic to the Nazis' extreme anti-Communist stand organized large-scale programs to facilitate the escapes of tens of thousands of Nazis and collaborators from Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, the Ukraine, and a number of other Eastern European states.

The pivotal role of the church in the escape of the Nazis has been emphasized by Luftwaffe Colonel Hans Ulrich Rudel, the highly decorated German air ace who became an international spokesman for the neo-Nazi movement after the war.

Colonel Rudel exclaimed in a speech at Kufstein in 1970.

The Vatican's principal agencies for handling refugees were a group of relief agencies in Rome that divided the assistance work according to the nationality of the refugee. Lithuanians went to see Reverend Jatulevicius at No. 6 on the Via Lucullo, for example, while Padre Gallov at 33 Via dei Parione aided Hungarians and Monsignors Dragonovic and Magjerec at the Istituto di St. Jeronimus were in charge of Croatian relief, and so forth.5

According to a top secret U.S. State Department intelligence report of May 1947, [the LaVista Report ]

page 180

The classified study confirmed that Nazis and their collaborators were not excluded from the effort:

Leaders of the Intermarium organization became coordinators of much of the Nazi escape effort, and many of the men who controlled the Vatican's relief campaign simultaneously became the top leadership of Intermarium. Monsignor Krunoslov Dragonovic who ran escape routes for Ustachi (Croatian Fascist) fugitives, for example, served as the chief Croatian representative on the selfappointed Intermarium ruling council.

Archbishop Ivan Buchko of the Ukraine, who successfully intervened with Pope Pius XII himself to win freedom for a Ukrainian Waffen SS legion,* became the senior Ukrainian Intermarium representative, according to U.S. Army investigative records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The onetime Fuhrer of the openly Nazi Latvian Perkonkrusts, Gustav Celmins, was tapped as Secretary of the headquarters branch in Rome.7

The Ukrainian SS division surrendered to British troops in early 1945 and was interned at the Rimini POW camp north of Rome. Most of them were facing forced repatriation to the USSR under a clause of the Yalta agreements governing return of POWs who had been captured in enemy uniform. If they returned, they would almost certainly be executed for treason or serve long prison sentences in gulag labor camps.

But that spring General Pavlo Shandruk, the leader of a Ukrainian liberation committee that had been founded under Nazi auspices, contacted Archbishop Ivan Buchko, a high ranking prelate in Rome specializing in Ukrainian matters for the Holy See. Shandruk pleaded with Buchko by letter to intervene on behalf of the Ukrainian soldiers who had served in SS units, particularly what Shandruk termed the "1st Ukrainian Division," which was in fact the 14th Waffen SS division "Galicia." Shandruk hoped that Archbishop Buchko might reach the pope himself with the general's plea for mercy on behalf of his men. "Archbishop Ivan [Buchko] answered my letter very soon informing me that he had already visited the Division," Shandruk recalled later.

Declassified U.S. State Department and army intelligence records trace the roots of Intermarium back to an alliance of militantly anti-communist [Roman] Catholic lay organizations from Eastern Europe established in the mid-1930s. The Abwehr [German military intelligence service] used Intermarium contacts as prewar "agents of influence" abroad as well as reasonably reliable sources of information on the large emigre communities of Europe. By the time the Nazis marched across the Continent, Intermarium had become, in the words of a U.S. Army intelligence report, "an instrument of the German intelligence.''8

The name of the group means "between the seas," and the announced purpose of the coalition was to unite nations "from the Baltic to the Aegean" in a common front against the USSR. Intermarium was also to be the name of a new, unified Catholic federation of all the countries bordering Russia Ña new Holy Roman Empire, in effect - that was to be created in order to hasten the overthrow of the USSR. Although never a Fascist or National Socialist group as such, Intermarium was far to the right of the political spectrum, and a number of its leaders actively collaborated with the Nazis. Their strategy was congruent in many important respects with that of Nazi "philosopher" Alfred Rosenberg, and Intermarium leaders established a close working relationship with the Rosenberg ministry at least as early as 1940.

Centuries-old [Roman] Catholic anti-Semitism was rife in the organization, and Jews were excluded from Inermarium's federation plan.

After the war Intermarium became one of the first organizations to campaign openly for freedom for Waffen SS POWs and for permission to establish a volunteer anti-Communist army for use in a supposedly imminent war against the USSR. The group's multilingual Bulletin, for example, argued as early as January 1947 that "it does not matter whether it is [now] between a second and a third world war, or else in the middle of a non-finished second world war ...... [but] events should not take us unprepared, like in 1939."

page 182

Organizing must begin immediately, the official publication asserted, for an "amalgamated common armed forces of the Intermarium," built out of exiles who had fought on either side between 1939 and 1945.

The function of this exile army, in Intermarium's vision, was to deal with the USSR as the Allies had with Germany - by "crushing her military strength and partitioning her," as a key manifesto puts it, "into ..... free states in their ethnical borders''9 - in other words, by dividing up the Soviet Union into smaller ethnic units in much the same way as had been proposed by the Rosenberg group inside the German high command. Not surprisingly, the USSR remained deeply hostile to Intermarium, and Soviet agents arrested the group's leaders whenever they could lay hands on them.

U.S. intelligence became aware at least as early as 1947 that Intermarium had become deeply involved in arranging escapes for a wide variety of Nazis and collaborators from Eastern Europe. In June of that year, for example, U.S. CIC Special Agent William Gowen notified his headquarters in Rome of a curious incident in which a fugitive Hungarian Fascist who had been a part-time informer for him had ''escaped'' from Italian custody with Intermarium's assistance. According to Agent Gowen, Intermarium enjoyed enough clout inside the Italian police administration that it was able to arrange for the release of his informant through official channels. Following Intermarium intervention on behalf of the former Fascist, Gowen said, the Italian Ministry of the Interior cabled the prison camp where the informant was interned and ordered it to turn him loose. The freed suspect was then listed as "escaped" in official files.10

Gowen and other CIC agents established a working relationship with a number of Intermarium officials that same year. Their immediate goal was to create trouble for the Soviet-aligned government in Hungary, which had deposed a pro-Western prime minister in mid-1947. Not long after the Intermarium escape incident Agent Gowen arranged with intelligence specialists at the U.S. Department of State to provide a U.S. diplomatic visa to a leading Intermarium spokesman, Ferenc Vajda, so that he might travel to America. Vajda's mission for Intermarium [and for the CIC] was to convince the deposed prime minister, Ferenc Nagy, to join with former Axis quislings in a new U.S. sponsored alliance against Communist power in Hungary.

Vajda, as it turns out, was himself a fugitive from war crimes and treason charges at the time he entered the United States.