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International Red Cross Accused of Being "Used & probably controlled" by German intelligence during WWII

From the Detroit Free Press, August 30, 1996, p. 6A:

WWII documents bolster Nazi-Red Cross connection
By Arthur Spiegelman


CHICAGO -- The International Committee of the Red Cross, which prides itself on being nonpolitical, is accused in previously secret World War II documents of being used and "probably controlled" at its highest levels by German intelligence.

The U.S. intelligence documents allege that ICRC representatives worked as agents conveying military information to Berlin, even using U.S. diplomatic mail to get material out. They also allege Red Cross pouches were used to ferry German assets into Switzerland and the group itself was used to smuggle German agents across European borders.

Marked "Washington office items not previously released," the Office of Strategic Services documents were found recently in the U.S. National Archives by World Jewish Congress researchers trying to trace assets of Holocaust victims.

In Geneva, ICRC spokesman Kim Gordon-Bates said: "We know that documents are being made available...from various archives but we have not seen them and cannot comment."

But he added the ICRC, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, works under difficult ethical and practical guidelines. It always tried to recruit the best people but mistakes could be made, especially during war, he said.

One OSS document, dated Jan. 11, 1944, says: "A series of observations commenced by the French and continued by this organization indicate that the I.R.C.C. is probably controlled by the German I.S. The German delegate to the I.R.C.C. in Geneva is known to be a German agent and the head of the I.R.C.C. to be German controlled."

The document adds: "Enough is known to warrant the assumption that any delegate of the I.R.C.C. should be considered a potential if not actual German I.S. agent." The letters I.S. stood for Intelligence Service.

The OSS was the wartime U.S. intelligence agency and the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Another document, dated Feb. 4, 1944, says: "Information has come from various sources which indicates that the International Red Cross may have a number of people in its organization and indeed, on its executive staff, who are either German agents or associates of German agents, and who are using the Red Cross...as a cover for the securing and transmitting of military information."

In 1995, the ICRC, which coordinates Red Cross work around the world, acknowledge its "moral failure" during the war -- a reference to its failure to denounce atrocities against Jews and other minorities in Hitler's concentration camps.

A spokesman for the World Jewish Congress said the more than 200 pages of documents had been turned over to the Senate Banking Committee, headed by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., for investigation.

A May 21, 1945, document said Red Cross pouches were being used to smuggle "concentrated forms of wealth" from Germany to Turkey and then to Switzerland. A Feb. 4, 1944, document said the Red Cross representative in French North Africa "may be involved in the intelligence activities of the enemy but the evidence is not conclusive as yet. He is said by some to be very stupid and by others to be an enemy agent, not so stupid. In any case many of his associates are suspect."

That document also says the Red Cross was being used by the Germans to smuggle agents out of France.

An August 1945 document said a Red Cross representative suspected of being a German agent was using the U.S. diplomatic pouch in Algiers to send materials out of the country and evade censorship.

One Red Cross representative in Cairo is described in an Aug. 16, 1945, document as "one of the most dangerous pro-fascists among Swiss residents abroad." Another Swiss national representing the Red Cross in Istanbul is described as "entertaining girls" from local bars and paying them to collect information from U.S. and British servicemen.

Gordon-Bates said the ICRC had been informed earlier about an alleged pro-Nazi delegate in Turkey and had asked an independent historian to investigate. The delegate was accused of using the ICRC pouch to transfer funds.

"He did in fact misuse the ICRC diplomatic pouch to transfer funds, but we don't know what these funds were, whether they were Jewish funds," Gordon-Bates said.

He said the historian will try to find out whether the delegate acted alone. He also said the man was "cashiered" from the ICRC in 1945 as soon as the agency learned of his activities.

"But we would like to know whether the rot went any deeper. We're very keen to find out about this," Gordon-Bates said, adding: "We're not making excuses. We're saying that whatever emerged is possible. It's something we'll have to live with and hope that it will never happen again."

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March 8, 1999

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