Otto von Bolschwing
|Otto von Bolschwing|
15 October 1909|
Schönbruch, East Prussia, German Empire
7 March 1982 (aged 72)|
Carmichael, California, U.S.
|Years of service||1932—1945 ()|
|Other work||Intelligence agent for the CIA|
Otto Albrecht Alfred von Bolschwing (15 October 1909 – 7 March 1982) was a German SS-Hauptsturmführer in the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst (SD), Hitler's SS intelligence agency. After World War II von Bolschwing became a spy and worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Europe and later in California.
Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing was born in Schönbruch, District of Bartenstein, East Prussia (now: Szczurkowo, Poland) on October 15, 1909. He was descended from the aristocratic Bodelschwingh family. He was educated at the University of Breslau and the University of London. He joined the Nazi Party in April 1932 and after the Nazis came to power the following year he became a member of the SS. Bolschwing was assigned to the foreign intelligence section of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and worked as an undercover agent in Mandatory Palestine, exchanging promises of encouraging young Jews to emigrate for intelligence about the British supplied by the Haganah. He was closely associated with Adolf Eichmann, became his adjutant, and had some involvement in the planning of the Final Solution. In 1937 he wrote a memorandum concerning Jewish emigration, referencing the anti-Jewish riots in Berlin in 1935:
The most successful means of depriving the Jews of their sense of security is the wrath of the people that expresses itself in riots. Even though this method is illegal, it has, as shown by the 'Kurfürstendamm Riot', had enduring impact.
His report suggested bureaucratic methods such as economic restrictions, special taxes, and passport denials to purge Germany of its Jews. Heinrich Himmler was impressed with the report, and assigned von Bolschwing to work under Adolf Eichmann. Over the following years, von Bolschwing wrote dozens of memos and reports on how to persecute Jews. His suggestions to Eichmann included confiscating money from Jews, labeling them on their passports, and allowing Jews to leave Germany but not to return. Rather than advocating the mass murder of Jews, he proposed making their lives so terrifying and unbearable that they would voluntarily leave Germany.
Later, von Bolschwing became the representative of the SD at the German embassy in Bucharest, Romania, where he organised an anti-Jewish pogrom with the Iron Guard in 1941, in which 125 Jews were killed. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) on 30 January 1941. After returning to Germany in March 1941 Bolschwing pursued to a career in business, becoming a partner with the Bank voor Onroerende Zaken, an Amsterdam-based bank which played a role in the confiscation of assets belonging to Jewish citizens in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.
According to Eric Lichtblau, von Bolschwing's actions were not motivated by antisemitism so much as by the desire for power and wealth. Lichtblau noted that in the midst of the Holocaust, von Bolschwing married a half-Jewish woman.
Before the end of World War II in 1945, von Bolschwing had already been recruited by the American Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), the counter-espionage arm of the US Army Secret Service, which was later merged into the CIA. It has been speculated that this was because he recognized Germany was destined to lose the war, and decided to work with the winning side. Already in spring 1945, he was working for them in Salzburg. According to the CIA he was one of their highest-ranking agents in Europe. He provided intelligence on Nazi colleagues and German military operations. In 1949 he joined the Gehlen Organization and mobilized former contacts in Italy in order to influence the events of the Greek Civil War, while providing intelligence of possible subversion by communist agents. After being expelled for ineptitude and insubordination, he began working for the CIA, running an anti-Soviet spy network composed of ex-Nazis in Austria.
During this period, the CIA's knowledge of von Bolscwhing's Nazi past was limited. He admitted to having been a card-carrying member of Nazi Party, but claimed that he only joined it as a way of getting government approval for a cement factory he wanted to build in East Prussia, and that he had tried to thwart Hitler. Some officials within the CIA had doubts about him. An early assessment of him stating that the CIA's knowledge of his war record "rests almost entirely on his own unsupported statements," referring to him as "self-seeking, egoistical, and a man of shifting loyalties." Other memos referred to him as a "shady character" and suggested he be held with a "tight rein." The CIA possessed evidence linking von Bolschwing to Eichmann and the high echelons of the SS. A source believed to be reliable fingered him as a member of the SD, and another source in Poland identified him as the SS's top man in working with the Romanian Iron Guard. Nevertheless, the CIA decided to use his services, with one assessment claiming that his past Nazi Party membership was "relatively inconsequential, particularly in view of the subject's excellent service on our behalf."
In 1950, the Austrian government inquired about von Bolschwing due to war crimes suspicions, and the CIA rushed to shield him from potential prosecution. The Austrians were told that there was "no file available" on him. A few years later, after he had run into visa problems, the CIA tried to help him gain Austrian citizenship. When this proved unsuccessful, the CIA decided to help him immigrate to the United States. The CIA helped expedite his application for a US visa, withheld information from the US State Department about his Nazi past, and booked tickets for him and his wife on a luxury cruise ship voyage to the US. When von Bolschwing and his wife arrived in the US on February 2, 1954, they were met by a military intelligence officer who had worked with him in Europe, and were hosted in his Boston home for a few months. Having brought him to the US as what it saw as a reward for his service, the CIA ended its relationship with von Bolschwing, ordering him to break off all relations and to contact them only in the event of a "dire emergency" which was a "life or death situation."
In the US, von Bolschwing became the executive of a series of drug and chemical companies, and served as a consultant for projects in Germany, often traveling there for business. In 1959, he became a US citizen. He became well-connected, and was put in line for a prestigious posting as a State Department representative for international development in India.
In May 1960, von Bolschwing's former superior Adolf Eichmann, who was living in Argentina under a false identity, was abducted by Israeli agents and smuggled to Israel, where he would be tried and executed. News of the abduction caused von Bolscwhing to fear that he was next. He correctly predicted that his name would come up at Eichmann's trial, and feared that a renewed probe into the Nazis' Jewish affairs office as part of the prosecution efforts would uncover his own role. Fearing that he would be prosecuted and that the Israelis might even abduct him the same way they had abducted Eichmann, he contacted one of his former handlers, expressing his fears and claiming that he was afraid for his life. The CIA, in turn, was desperate to keep his name and involvement with Eichmann a secret. West German intelligence agents who spent a month in Washington perusing US intelligence files on their own unearthed massive evidence linking von Bolschwing directly to Eichmann and the Jewish affairs office. Despite the fact that this information had been sitting in the CIA's files for years, the agency blamed him for his dishonesty in minimizing his role with the Nazi Party for the predicament it now found itself in.
The CIA agreed to protect von Bolschwing, promising that it would not turn him over to Israel and that it would withhold evidence of his past from the US Justice Department. Had the Justice Department received the evidence, it potentially could have opened deportation proceedings against him, and had he been deported, he risked prosecution in West Germany or Austria. In exchange, von Bolschwing had to renounce his candidacy for development representative in India.
In 1969 von Bolschwing was working for the California computer leasing company Trans-International Computer Investment Corporation of Sacramento, which had contracts for the Defense Department. He rose to vice-president, but his job there ended when the company became embroiled in a financial scandal, and it subsequently went bankrupt in 1971.
His wife committed suicide in 1978. The US government did not begin investigating von Bolschwing's activities in Nazi Germany until 1979, when his wartime record was revealed to the public. The Justice Department filed charges against him in May 1981 for concealing his Nazi past and sought to deport him; his second wife stated that he had been a double agent for the Americans in Tyrol. He surrendered his American citizenship but early in 1982 the trial was delayed while he was allowed to remain in the country because of his deteriorating health—he had an incurable brain disease. He died two months later, in March 1982, in a nursing home in Carmichael, California.
- Peter Levenda, Ratline: Soviet Spies, Nazi Priests, and the Disappearance of Adolf Hitler, Lake Worth, Florida: Ibis, 2012, ISBN 9780892541706, n.p.
- John Loftus and Mark Aarons, The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed The Jewish People, New York: St. Martin's, 1994, ISBN 9780312095352, pp. 46, 140.
- Peter Wyden, The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler, Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown / London: Kuperard, 2001, ISBN 9781559705325, p. 8.
- "Das wirksamste Mittel, um den Juden das Sicherheitsgefühl zu nehmen, ist der Volkszorn, der sich in Ausschreitungen ergeht. Trotzdem diese Methode illegal ist, hat sie, wie der ‘Kurfürstendamm-Krawall’ zeigte, langanhaltend gewirkt." - Jürgen Matthäus, "Konzept als Kalkül: das Judenbild des SD 1934–1939", in: Nachrichtendienst, politische Elite, Mordeinheit. Der Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuhrers SS (SD), ed. Michael Wildt, Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2003, ISBN 9783930908844, p. 129 (in German), pointing out that the phraseology was far from novel at the time.
- Lichtblau, Eric: The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men
- Loftus and Aarons, p. 46.
- Klaus Eichner and Gotthold Schramm (Eds.): Angriff und Abwehr. Die deutschen Geheimdienste nach 1945, Berlin: Edition Ost, 2007, ISBN 9783360010827, p. 170 (in German)
- Ron Blubaugh, McClatchy News Service, "Three Are Charged With Stock Swindle", Sacramento Bee, 8 June 1972, p. 9.
- Pete Carey, "Ex-Nazi’s brilliant U.S. career strangled in a web of lies", San Jose Mercury News, November 20, 1981, online at For the Record Supplemental
- File: US District Court, Eastern District of California; Civil Action No. 81-308 MLS
- "Report: Gov't Allowed Nazi Criminals into U.S." CBS News, 22 November 2010.
- Associated Press, "Accused of Being Nazi, He'll Fight US Charges", The Boston Globe, 28 May 1981.
- Peter Bennett, "Ex-Nazi Gave Up Citizenship, Denying Any Ties to Eichmann", Los Angeles Times, 15 March 1982 (subscription required).
- "Urtelie: Otto von Bolschwing", Der Spiegel 2/1982 (in German)
- AP, "Otto von Bolschwing; Ex-Captain in Nazi SS", The New York Times, 10 March 1982
- "Austrian who helped Allies died in disgrace as accused Nazi", Chicago Tribune, 9 November 1982 (subscription required).
(in German) "Report des US-Justizministeriums: USA gewährten Nazis Unterschlupf", Der Spiegel, November 14, 2010
- Klaus Eichner. Faschistische Ostexperten im Dienste der US-Geheimdienste" in: Holocaust-Täter im Dienste von BND und CIA. Kominform. 6 April 2008 (in German)
- Klaus POPA. Völkisches Handbuch Südosteuropa Online Lexikon B. 3 February 2010 (pdf) p. 84 (in German)