Gustav Hilger

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Gustav Hilger (center) at a meeting of Molotov and Hitler. Berlin. 1940

Gustav Arthur Hilger (September 11, 1886 – July 27, 1965) was a German diplomat and expert on the Soviet Union. He was best known for his role in German–Soviet relations during the interwar period as a Counselor at the German embassy in Moscow.[1] After World War II, he advised the United States and West German governments on Soviet issues.[2] Hilger worked under the CIA aliases Stephen H. Holcomb and Arthur T. Latter.[3] Joseph Stalin said of Hilger: "German heads of state and German ambassadors to Moscow came and went - but Gustav Hilger remained."[4]

Born in Moscow, the son of a German businessman, Hilger spent most of his life in Russia until 1941. After World War I and the Russian Civil War, Hilger advocated German rapprochement with the Soviet Union and helped negotiate closer economic ties and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[5] In 1941, he warned Hitler and Nazi German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop against invading the Soviet Union to no effect.[6] Following Operation Barbarossa, Hilger was expelled from Russia and returned to Berlin where he served as a deputy to Ribbentrop in the German Foreign Office.[2] Responsible for advising Ribbentrop on Eastern issues, Hilger received activity reports of the Einsatzgruppen from the Reich Main Security Office and was aware of the Holocaust in the East.[2][7]

In 1945, Hilger surrendered himself to allied occupation officials in Salzburg.[5] He was brought to a secret military interrogation camp in Fort Hunt, Virginia, where U.S. Army Intelligence interrogated him along with other captured German military and civilian officials. American intelligence officials found valuable Hilger's knowledge of the Soviet Union and German wartime activities in Eastern Europe.[2] In 1946, Hilger returned to Germany as an analyst for the Gehlen Organization. In 1948, with the help of Carmel Offie and George Kennan, Hilger and his wife moved to Washington, where he consulted for the State Department and the Office of Policy Coordination.[8] In 1953, he published The Incompatible Allies: A Memoir-History of German–Soviet Relations, 1918–1941 with support from the Russian Research Center at Harvard University.[9]

Having acted as an unofficial envoy of Konrad Adenauer in Washington, Hilger returned in 1953 to West Germany, where he was a Counselor at the Foreign Office in Bonn until retiring in 1956.[2][8] Upon retirement, he received a full pension for continuous civil service from 1923 to 1956. Hilger was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in 1957, and he continued to provide informal advice to West German and American officials until his death in 1965.

Although Hilger was never prosecuted for war crimes or atrocities committed under the Third Reich, controversy has surrounded his complicity in the activities of the Foreign Office during the Nazi period and his postwar employment by the U.S. and West German governments.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ a b Happel, Jörn (2017). Der Ost-Experte: Gustav Hilger -- Diplomat im Zeitalter der Extreme. Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh. ISBN 9783506786098. OCLC 987575606.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wolfe, Robert (June 2006). "Gustav Hilger: From Hitler's Foreign Office to CIA Consultant" (PDF). Project on Government Secrecy, Federation of American Scientists. Historians View Newly Released CIA Records.
  3. ^ a b Das Amt und die Vergangenheit: Deutsche Diplomaten im Dritten Reich und in der Bundesrepublik. Conze, Eckart. München: Pantheon. 2012. p. 372. ISBN 9783570551660. OCLC 780134638.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ "Hilger, Gustav" (PDF). CIA. Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  5. ^ a b Hilger, Gustav. “Autobiographical Life History of Dr. Gustav Hilger,” October 11, 1945. Second Release of Name Files Under the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, ca. 1981 - ca. 2002, File Unit: Hilger, Gustav, 7–8. NARA RG 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1894 - 2002, National Archives at College Park, MD.
  6. ^ Shore, Zachary (2005). What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy. Oxford University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 1282366955. OCLC 816344796.
  7. ^ Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews (Second ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 580.
  8. ^ a b Ruffner, Kevin Conley. “Chapter Seven: Could He Not Be Brought to This Country and Used?” In Eagle and Swastika: CIA and Nazi War Criminals and Collaborators, Draft Working Paper. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2003.
  9. ^ Hilger, Gustav (1953). The Incompatible Allies: A Memoir-History of German-Soviet Relations, 1918-1941. New York: Macmillan. pp. 1–2.