Outraged account of how the Cold War created an entree for thousands of ardent Nazis to reinvent themselves as Americans.
Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times Washington bureau investigative reporter Lichtblau (Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice, 2008) writes in an urgent, pulpy style, appropriate to his shadowy tale of “America’s decades of resolute indifference to the Nazis in its backyard.” He deftly manages a rough chronological structure that demonstrates how American views on war criminals fluctuated wildly over time. Beginning with spy chief Allen Dulles’ covert 1945 meeting with the top SS general in Italy, efforts were made on behalf of well-connected Nazis, including the CIA’s “Paperclip” program for top scientists and the “rat line” to South America maintained by anti-Semitic Catholic clergy. Many fugitives worked as anti-communist provocateurs for the CIA during the 1950s, while in the ’60s, J. Edgar Hoover “had no interest in having his agents wasting their time tracking down supposed Nazis in America.” But by the ’70s, owing to efforts by a few crusading journalists and immigration investigators, “Nazis in America were suddenly a hot topic.” The turning point was the 1979 establishment of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which aggressively pursued aging Nazis, like renowned scientist Arthur Rudolph, who’d overseen the V-2 rocket program. Yet with success came backlash; amazingly, the Reagan White House provided Pat Buchanan a platform to attack the investigations and Holocaust research generally. Lichtblau builds suspense by focusing on the long-term fates of individuals like Tom Soobzokov, a power broker among New Jersey Eastern Europeans before being outed as a brutal collaborator; he pushed back aggressively against his accusers and was ultimately killed in a mysterious pipe bombing. Lichtblau utilizes obscure sources and declassified files, tenaciously circling back to a dark reality: Many of the estimated 10,000 Nazis who settled here were involved in the worst aspects of the Holocaust.
Fascinating and infuriating corrective to the American mythology of the “Good War.”