Operation Gladio – part 4: (Neo-)Nazis and their frenemies

This article is part of a series called ‘Operation Gladio, an inquest into the world’s largest terrorist network’, which exposes the role of NATO and Western intelligence agencies in terrorism, assassinations, coup d’états, the international drug trade, psychological warfare and the creation of enemies to legitimise their war on humanity, both at home and abroad. This series documents the emergence and development of Operation Gladio in post-WOII Europe but also uncovers its rebirth and globalisation after the Cold War in which the network aligned itself with Salafi-jihadism – rather than the extreme right – to further NATO’s geopolitical agenda for global hegemony.

Previous parts of this series can be accessed below:

Part 1: A whirlwind the shadows of Operation Desert Storm

Part 2: Cold War Italy: blueprint for a true shadow government

Part 3 False flag terrorism and the strategy of tension in Italy

“You can tell Herr [Henry] Ford that I am a great admirer of his, I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany. […] I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.”[1]

Adolph Hitler

On 23 August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact in which the two parties secretly divided Poland, among other East European countries, in spheres of influence. Immediately thereafter, SS chief Heinrich Himmler concocted a propaganda campaign that sought a justification to invade Poland. Among other provocative acts in the border area, German operatives on 31 August dressed up in Polish uniforms and seized the Gleiwitz radio station located in the vicinity of the Polish border. They then broadcasted a short anti-German message in Polish and subsequently left behind the dead bodies of several mutilated (and hence unidentifiable) prisoners of the Dochau concentration camp, as well as of a local activist with Polish sympathies who was kidnapped by the Gestapo the day before, as evidence to convince the German public of the act of “Polish aggression.” The next day, Hitler used these border incidents in his speech to the Reichstag as he announced the invasion of Poland, thereby kickstarting the Second World War.[2]

The American public was traumatised by the First World War and was extremely reluctant to enter another deadly global conflict. Only after the brutal Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour on 7 December, 1941 could President Franklin Delano Roosevelt convince his people that war was, supposedly, necessary. Following FDR’s infamous “day of infamy” speech the day after the attack, Congress declared war on Japan, after which Germany and Italy declared war on the US. In the mass media and history books, the event is remembered as a surprise attack that happened due to an unimaginable failure of American intelligence and incompetence of Hawaiian commanding officers Admiral E. Kimmel and General Walter Short. In reality, however, the Roosevelt administration at every possible turn in the months before the tragedy provoked Japan into committing the first overt act of war as part of a plan drawn up in October 1940 by Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence. When the Japanese were successfully driven into a corner and started to plan their attack on Pearl Harbour, a myriad of American cryptographers and other army personnel, Allied officers and friendly spies learnt about the Japanese intentions to bomb the American harbour in Hawaii and passed this information to the highest levels of the Roosevelt administration. Instead of warning Kimmel and Short, FDR and his cohorts pretended that they knew nothing and left the Hawaiian commanders, as well as thousands of American servicemen, out in the open to be sacrificed.[3]

Gleiwitz incident - Revolvy
Hitler employed the Gleiwitz false flag incident to launch an invasion of Poland

Both the Nazis and the Americans thus used a false flag operation to bring their respective countries into the war. When the old enemies became friends as the Soviets became their mutual new enemy, the American and German secret services became entangled in the Gladio web. In 1980, they resorted to the same ancient tactic to keep the European people in line by way of NATO’s “strategy of tension” tactic.

Nazis: from friends to enemies to friends

As the Second World War was the deadliest military conflict in human history, one assumes that the adversaries must have been bitter enemies. After all, tens of millions of people worldwide had to sacrifice their lives in service of their imperial governments. This turns out to be very untrue. A number of America’s largest corporations, such as General Electric Company, Standard Oil, National City Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Kuhn, Loeb & Company, Coca-Cola, General Motors and Ford Motor Company – many of them serving Rockefeller and Morgan interests, provided crucial support to Hitler’s rise to power by financing and trading with Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s.[4] Wall Street banker Prescott Bush, respectively father and grandfather of President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, was among the businessmen that profited from the Nazis’ growing industrial prowess.[5] Given the abundant financial ties between Hitler’s fascist Third Reich and large American corporations, it is unsurprising that there were ideological parallels as well. For instance, the Rockefeller Foundation eagerly funded German eugenicist research from the 1920s all the way up to 1939.[6] And Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst and Irénée Du Pont are but three of the American tycoons who admired Hitler.[7]

While large swathes of the political segment of the Nazi Party were prosecuted in the Nuremberg trials, many of the most powerful Nazi-era industrialists and bankers managed to get away with only small sentences or were not tried at all. They went on to play an important role in the economic integration of Europe after the Second World War, which in turn has paved the way for the gradual political centralisation in the region ever since. Astonishingly, this is exactly what Nazi officials ordered an elite group of powerful businessmen representing the war-time German economy to do after Germany’s imminent defeat in in an August 1944 meeting attended by a French spy who wrote a report about it that was sent to the US and UK governments.[8] European supranationalism, at the same time, was an important goal of the Anglo-American power elite as well, as evidenced in the pivotal role that the Council on Foreign Relations, the CIA and the Bilderberg Group played in the early steps towards European integration after the continent was left in ruins.[9] Even before the last blood was spilled, German nationalist fascism and American corporate fascism coalesced like it had before the outbreak of war. This convergence is perhaps most demonstrably symbolised in the figure of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who held a membership card of Hitler’s NSDAP Party until 1934 and tried to help Nazis flee to Argentina after war’s end.[10] A couple of years later, he founded the secretive Bilderberg Group that has been bringing together the most powerful European and North American elites in industry, finance, academia, media and politics every year since its inception in 1954 to advance Atlanticist corporate globalism.

Main photo Naval false flags
Rather than a surprise attack, the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour was the intended outcome to bring a reluctant American public into the Second World War

The extensive use of ex- and neo-Nazis in Operation Gladio is but a logical consequence of this history. From 1945 onwards, American intelligence recruited over 1.500 German scientists, engineers and technicians in what came to be known as Operation Paperclip, whereby the Joint Chiefs of Staff appropriated Nazi-era science in order to keep up the US’s military advantage in the Cold War’s arms race. Many of the recruits were former members of the Nazi party and some were former leaders.[11] Additionally, files released by the CIA in 2001 have confirmed that several Western intelligence agencies employed Nazi war criminals after the war. For instance, Klaus Barbie, an SS and Gestapo officer in occupied France, worked as an intelligence source for both the CIA and German intelligence all the while being on the run for a death sentence issued by a French court. During the war, Barbie found amusement in personally torturing men, women and even children, for which he was accredited the nickname “the butcher of Lyon.”[12] The Justice Department has by now admitted that American intelligence officials helped Barbie escape to Bolivia after the war in 1983. He was only arrested and tried years later for responsibility of thousands of murders and deportations.[13]

Operation Gladio in Germany

Starting in December 1942, Nazi officials attempted to set up a clandestine dialogue both to the US and the Soviet Union to explore the possibility of making bilateral peace agreements. Behind Hitler’s back, SS chief Heinrich Himmler and SS foreign intelligence head Walter Schellenberg sent messages proposing a separate peace with the US through a backchannel facilitated by the Vatican, Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA’s war-time predecessor. Swiss OSS station chief Allen Dulles, former director of the Council on Foreign Relations and later CIA head, seriously considered the proposal because the Germans suggested that they would concentrate their undivided attention on pulverising the Soviets in case of peace with their Western adversaries. Albeit unsuccessfully, Dulles did lobby Washington to consider the deal.[14]

That same Allan Dulles was at the forefront of recruiting Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen in 1946 as the chief of Germany’s first post-war intelligence agency set up by the Americans to fight the Soviets covertly. As chief of the Foreign Armies East, Gehlen was responsible for Nazi Germany’s military intelligence throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In other words, he was Hitler’s top anti-Soviet spy. In that capacity, he was responsible for the torture, interrogation and murder by starvation of some four million prisoners of war.[15] Realising that the demise of the Third Reich was inevitable, however, he came up with the idea of forming clandestine guerrilla squads composed of die-hard Nazis. Called “Werewolves,” these units were to “stay behind” after the war was finished, act as normal citizens by day, but awake as relentless communist hunters by night.[16] Additionally, he microfilmed data and intelligence on Soviet communists collected by the Foreign Armies East during its torture operations and buried these in the meadows of the Austrian Alps. He then handed himself in to the Americans before the Soviets could get to him, after which he met Allen Dulles, as well as future director of the CIA General Walter Bedell Smith, OSS chief General William Donovan and high-ranking OSS officer and later chief of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination Frank Wisner.[17] Convinced of his capabilities, these men agreed in 1946 to rehabilitate the Nazi general and let him set up Organisation Gehlen, an anti-communist intelligence agency sponsored by the US occupying army.[18] In 1956, Organisation Gehlen was rebranded and formalised as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), West Germany’s equivalent of the CIA that is still in existence today. The Nazi war criminal stepped down as president only in 1968, after over 20 years of service.

With the recruitment of Gehlen, the CIA and BND were in an excellent position to build an extensive stay-behind structure. Just like in Belgium (see part 5), multiple stay-behind organisations sprung up, thrived and disappeared throughout the Cold War. In 1952, former SS officer Hans Otto walked into the Frankfurt police station in the German state of Hesse and declared that he belonged to “a political resistance group, the task of which was to carry out sabotage activities and blow up bridges in case of a Soviet invasion.” The organisation was called the Technischer Dienst (TD) and was embedded in the Bundes Deutscher Jugend (BDJ), even though the average age was around 40. It was comprised of former Nazis and extreme anti-communists alike and, according to Otto, was organised by Gehlen and was funded by “and American citizen [named] Sterling Garwood,” whom he identified as “an agent of the CIA.”[19] Otto’s revelations led to a nation-wide outrage which eventually reached the shores of the US, where the New York Times reported that “authoritative [American] officials privately confirmed today that the United States had sponsored and helped finance the secret training of young Germans, including many former soldiers, to become guerrilla fighters in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.”[20] What’s more, inspectors stumbled upon a list of persons to be eliminated in case of a Soviet occupation while searching a BDJ-TD stay-behind base. The list contained the names of known German communists, as well as more moderate socialists, many of which were prominent acting politicians and journalists.[21] Yet, all members of the secret army arrested by the authorities in Hesse were acquitted by the Bundesgerichtshof, the country’s highest court located in Karlsruhe. Baffled by the decision, Hesse’s Prime Minister August Zinn angrily stated: “The only legal explanation for these releases can be that the people of Karlsruhe declared they acted upon American direction.”[22]

After the Iron Curtain fell and Gladio was exposed, it appeared that the BDJ-TD secret army was but one segment of a larger stay-behind network. Declassified documents of East Germany’s secret service Stasi unveiled more than 50 stay-behind locations that it had identified across West Germany throughout the Cold War. The Stasi documents further showed that the German stay-behind was well-connected, and that it stood in communication with “NATO secret services” in Italy, Belgium and France.[23] Finally, recent research in the archives of the BND has uncovered another parallel secret army active in the years after the Second World War. Established in 1949, it comprised a coalition of approximately 2.000 veterans of the Nazi Wehrmacht and Waffen SS, and its stated goal was to defend West Germany against Eastern aggression as well as domestic communism. The underground army proposed its services to the Gehlen Organisation, which financed it until 1953.[24]

The 1980 Oktoberfest bombing

After steadfastly refusing a full-scale investigation during the 1990 Gladio revelations, the German government issued a four-page report in which it confirmed the existence of a stay-behind structure west of the Iron Curtain that had been set up by the BND and was transnationally embedded in the NATO structure. [25] Moreover, it admitted that secret arms caches were erected across the country, just like in Italy and elsewhere, but claimed that these had all been dissolved in 1972. Mysterious arms depots were still being discovered throughout the 1980s, however. Most notably, forest workers by accident stumbled upon a large arms cache filled with guns and other combat equipment near the village of Uelzen in October 1981. Thereafter, the police arrested neo-Nazi Heinz Lembke, who at first refused to talk, but later disclosed the locations of a total of 33 hidden arms depositories, all of which had been erected by him. That same evening, he said to his interrogator that he might reveal to him the next day by whom the guns and explosives were meant to be used. But that next day, on 1 November 1981, in a chilling similarity to the death of Belgian WNP leader Paul Latinus (see part 5), he was found hanging on a rope from the ceiling of his prison cell.[26]

A year before his underground arsenal was exposed, Lembke was implicated in Germany’s most severe terrorist attack since the Second World War. On 26 September 1980, a bomb exploded at the main entrance of the Oktoberfest in Munich just as thousands of visitors were crowding towards the exit. 13 people, including children and the attacker himself, died and 211 others were injured, many of whom lost limbs in the explosion. The tragedy occurred just weeks after the Bologna train station massacre, and around the time that the Americans started to construct unilateral stay-behind networks in Belgium which fostered the emergence of the Nijvel Gang two years later (see part 5). Just like in Italy and Belgium, right-wing extremists carried out the attacks. And just like most Cold War terrorist attacks on European soil, the perpetrator did not act alone.

Oktoberfest bombing 2
The aftermath of the 1980 Oktoberfest bombing

Gundolf Köhler, a geology student and member of a neo-Nazi organisation called Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann, was identified as the person who set off the bomb. Although experts doubted that Köhler could have constructed the sophisticated explosive device, which consisted of a mortar placed in a fire extinguisher, on his own, and although several eyewitnesses maintained that he was speaking to two individuals immediately prior to the explosion, the authorities quickly concluded that Köhler acted alone. Yet, the investigators had received information implicating Lembke as the supplier of the used explosive already a day after the massacre. Indeed, two other members of Wehrsportgruppe Hoffman had testified separately that Lembke had shown them several types of explosives and that he told them that he had many chaches full of such material buried in the woods and that he could provide a lot of them as well as train people in using them. Despite these testimonies, Lembke was left untouched.[27] Furthermore, when Ulrich Behle and Karl-Heinz Hoffmann – respectively an undercover agent working for the North Rhine-Westphalia state secret service code-named “Felix” and the founder of the neo-Nazi group – travelled to Damascus a month after the massacre, Behle told a Tunesian bar tender “that was us” in reference to the Oktoberfest bombing. The bar tended later reported what he had learnt to the German authorities and provided documents proving that he spoke to Behle, but the investigators dismissed the statement as “alcolhol-induced bragging.”[28]

The Oktoberfest bombing clearly fits the pattern of Gladio’s false flag terrorism. It occurred nine days before parliamentary elections and at a time of overall European reluctance to follow NATO’s Cold War doctrine. In addition, Lembke’s underground arms caches and the links between law enforcement and right-wing extremist groups smell like Gladio involvement. And indeed, just like the other terrorist atrocities that I have outlined in this series, the crime was connected to Operation Gladio. The missing link was provided only recently by Andreas Kramer, the son of Johannes Kramer, a captain of the Bundeswehr and, in addition, a colonel of the BND secret service involved in the international NATO stay-behind structure. After his father’s death, Andreas Kramer testified under oath in court in 2013 that his father was involved at the highest level in coordinating the Oktoberfest massacre, in addition to a series of bombs that targeted public infrastructure and buildings but killed no one in Luxemburg between 1984 and 1986. Employing the members of Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann as “useful fools,” Johannes Kramer was among the Gladio operatives who arranged the manufacturing of the explosive.[29] In that sense, the perpetrators of the massacre, just like the neo-fascists of Ordine Nuovo in Italy and WNP in Belgium (see part 5), only played the role of patsies in the hands of the larger political forces.


[1] Quoted in A. James Rudin, “The dark legacy of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism,” Washington Post, 10.10.2014, http://washingtonpost.com/national/religion/the-dark-legacy-of-henry-fords-anti-semitism-commentary/2014/10/10/c95b7df2-509d-11e4-877c-335b53ffe736_story.html?utm_term=.f1256bd5d633.

[2] Bob Graham, “World War II’s first victim,” Telegraph, 29.08.2009, http://telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/6106566/World-War-IIs-first-victim.html; Thomas Laqueur, “Devoted to terror,” London Review of Books 37, no. 18 (September 2015), 9-16, available at http://lrb.co.uk/v37/n18/thomas-laqueur/devoted-to-terror; “The Gleiwitz incident: the ‘first man to die’ in the war,” World War II Today, http://ww2today.com/the-gleiwitz-incident-and-the-first-man-to-die-in-world-war-ii.

[3] Bas Spliet, “Naval false flags and the twentieth ‘American Century’,” Scrutinised Minds, 09.10.2017, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2017/10/09/naval-false-flags-and-the-twentieth-american-century/.

[4] Jacques R. Pauwels, “Profits über alles! American corporations and Hitler,” Global Research, 08.06.2004, http://globalresearch.ca/profits-ber-alles-american-corporations-and-hitler/4607; Anthony Sutton, Wall Street and the rise of Hitler (California: ’76 Press, 1976); Michael Dobbs, “Ford and GM scrutinized for alleged Nazi collaboration,” Washington Post, 30.11.1998, http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/nov98/nazicars30.htm.

[5] Ben Aris and Duncan Cambell, “How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power,” Guardian, 25.09.2004, http://theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar.

[6] F. William Engdahl, Seeds of destruction: the hidden agenda of genetic manipulation (Montréal: Global Research, 2007), 79-84.

[7] Ken Silverstein, “Ford and the Führer,” Nation, 06.01.2000, http://thenation.com/article/ford-and-fuhrer/; Eric Rauchway, “How ‘America first’ got its nationalistic edge,” Atlantic, 06.05.2016, http://theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/william-randolph-hearst-gave-america-first-its-nationalist-edge/481497/; Pauwels, “Profits über alles!”

[8] Adam Lebor, “Revealed: the secret report that shows the Nazis planned a Fourth Reich… in the EU,” Daily Mail, 09.05.2009, http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1179902/Revealed-The-secret-report-shows-Nazis-planned-Fourth-Reich–EU.html; Martin A. Lee, The beast reawakens: fascism’s resurgence from Hitler’s spymasters to today’s neo Nazi groups and right wing extremists (New York: Routledge, 2011), 21-2.

[9] Bas Spliet, “Soft power centralisation: the CIA, Bilderberg and the first steps towards European integration,” Scrutinised Minds, 25.03.2017, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2017/03/25/soft-power-centralisation-the-cia-bilderberg-and-the-first-steps-towards-european-integration/.

[10] Bruno Waterfield, “Dutch Prince Bernhard ‘was member of Nazi party’,” Telegraph, 05.03.2010, http://telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/netherlands/7377402/Dutch-Prince-Bernhard-was-member-of-Nazi-party.html; “KLM accused of helping Nazis flee,” BBC, 08.05.2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/6635677.stm.

[11] National Archives, Records of the Secretary of Defense (RG 330), available at http://archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-330-defense-secretary.

[12] “CIA admits employing Nazis,” BBC, 28.04.2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1301306.stm; Georg Bönisch and Klaus Wiegrefe, “German intelligence hired Klaus Barbie as agent,” Der Spiegel, 20.01.2011, http://spiegel.de/international/germany/from-nazi-criminal-to-postwar-spy-german-intelligence-hired-klaus-barbie-as-agent-a-740393.html.

[13] Paul L. Williams, Operation Gladio: the unholy alliance between the Vatican, the CIA and the Mafia (New York: Prometheus, 2015), 72.

[14] Lee, The beast reawakens, 18-21.

[15] Christopher Simpson, Blowback: America’s recruitment of Nazis and its effects on the Cold War (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), 44.

[16] Lee, The beast reawakens, 23-4; Williams, Operation Gladio, 25.

[17] Daniele Ganser, NATO’s secret armies: Operation Gladio and terrorism in Western Europe (London/New York: Frank Cass, 2005), 191.

[18] Williams, Operation Gladio, 26-7.

[19] Willams, Operation Gladio, 67.

[20] Quoted in Richard Cottrell, Gladio: NATO’s dagger at the heart of Europe: the Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia terror axis (San Diego: Progressive Press, 2015), 318.

[21] Ganser, NATO’s secret armies, 195-6.

[22] Williams, Operation Gladio, 68.

[23] Ganser, NATO’s secret armies, 202-5.

[24] Klaus Wiegrefe, “Nazi veterans created illegal army,” Der Spiegel, 14.05.2014, http://spiegel.de/international/germany/wehrmacht-veterans-created-a-secret-army-in-west-germany-a-969015.html.

[25] The report, written by Lutz Stavenhaven in 1990, admitted that the German stay-behind network was part of the Coordination and Planning Committee (CPC) and the Allied Coordination Committee (ACC), but falsely maintained that these bodies were independent of NATO. Both Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti’s report and the Belgian parliamentary commission found that the CPC and the ACC were indeed part of the NATO structure.

[26] Ganser, NATO’s secret armies, 205-11.

[27] Ganser, NATO’s secret armies, 207-8.

[28] Ulrich Chaussy, Oktoberfest das attentat: wie die verdrängung des rechtsterrors begann (Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag, 2014), 42, excerpt available at http://books.google.de/books?id=1g_qAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA40&hl=nl#v=onepage&q=das%20waren%20wir&f=false; Reinhard Jellen, “Es wird noch viel aufklärungsarbeit nötig sein,” Heise, 31.07.2010, http://heise.de/tp/features/Es-wird-noch-viel-Aufklaerungsarbeit-noetig-sein-3386357.html; Dietmar Henning, “1980 Oktoberfest bombing: Geman government and secret service still witholding information,” World Socialist Website, 25.05.2016, http://wsws.org/en/articles/2016/05/25/okto-m25.html.

[29] “Es war Nato gegen Nato,” Tageswoche, 10.04.2013, http://tageswoche.ch/politik/es-war-nato-gegen-nato/; Rafael Poch, “Andreas Kramer: ‘He golpeado un nido de avispas’,” La Vanguardia, 27.04.2013, http://lavanguardia.com/internacional/20130427/54371582415/andreas-kramer-he-golpeado-un-nido-de-avispas.html.

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