SS Killer Recruited By CIA Given Jewish Identity
By Alan Hall,,3-51581,00.html
The secret life of a former Nazi war criminal, who spied for America's Central Intelligence Agency after the Second World War in return for a fake Jewish identity, was disclosed yesterday.

The story of how Günter Reinemer, an S.S. lieutenant who commanded death squads at the Treblinka concentration camp, escaped the death penalty because of the CIA is told in a documentary to be screened in Germany next month.

Reinemer was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Jews at Treblinka, the first concentration camp in Poland. More than a million Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were killed at Treblinka.

Given the identity Hans-Georg Wagner by the CIA, he later married a Jewish woman, lived in Israel and was buried in a Jewish cemetery. His story might have been buried with him had he not felt the need to confess in 1988, shortly before he apparently committed suicide. His statements form the basis of the documentary Wagner's Confession.

The role of the American intelligence service in the days after the war has still to be fully explained. With the Third Reich vanquished, America sensed that it needed every ally available to fight the coming Cold War and was not too particular about its recruits. The CIA recruited Nazi scientists and much smaller fry, such as Reinemer, by offering the choice: work for the US or almost certainly forfeit your life at a war crimes tribunal.

Reinemer's journey from war criminal to respected Jewish businessman was exposed only in the final days of his life because of suspicions over his financial trustworthiness. In 1988, as Wagner, he was living in Caracas, Venezuela, when he secured a job as consultant engineer to the Jewish-owned Venergia submarine battery manufacturer. There were some on the board who doubted the motives, and the fiscal propriety, of Wagner, as money went missing. That led to the appointment of Klaus-Dieter Matschke of the KDM company in Frankfurt, which specialises in the prevention of industrial espionage.

Wagner was arrested by the Venezuelan secret service in August 1988 and tortured with electrical cattle prods after the company voiced its suspicions about him. Herr Matschke persuaded the authorities to let him take over. At first Reinemer stuck to his story that he was a Jewish businessman. "Then, after about a week of questioning him, I threw a thick bundle of files on to my desk and just shouted at him: 'Name, rank, last military assignment.'

"Perhaps the tone of command, perhaps the weariness from the past few days, perhaps a need to break with the past - I don't know what it was, but he looked up and said: 'Reinemer, SS Death's-Head Division, Treblinka.' It was the start of a comprehensive confession."

For the next week Reinemer agreed to dictate his story to Herr Matschke. Reinemer, born in Dresden in 1918, told how he joined the Nazi party and later the SS and was attached to Treblinka in 1942. He said that later he commanded a squad which clubbed prisoners to death after a failed uprising and later led more prisoners into a forest to be executed.

"I recalled the camp commander's order to the SS guards," he told Herr Matschke. " 'Restore calm with no regard to the consequences.' I went into the forest with a detachment of 110 Jews. I lined them up and gave the order to fire."

At the end of the war he put on the uniform of an ordinary German soldier but was recruited by the CIA after being discovered in a prisoner of war camp.

He spent several months at a US military base at Frankfurt-Höchst, where he learnt rudimentary intelligence techniques and was circumcised. He was given a Jewish identity and sent as a Holocaust survivor to Calbe, East Germany, where he was to spy on old Nazis and new communist technologies at the local power plant. He went with his second wife, a Frenchwoman, and stayed until 1957 when he abandoned his family and fled West. According to intelligence files examined in German archives, the CIA forgot about him and no further action was taken against him. He stayed in West Germany until 1969, when he moved to Israel. In 1972 he moved to Venezuela with a Polish-Jewish woman whom he had married.

His widow, Rosa, said: "He fooled me for more than two decades about his past. Imagine, me, a Jew, living with a Jew-killer. I would have killed him myself had I known."

After confessing his identity he was found dead two days later. Herr Matschke said: "You have to ask yourself: how many other Reinemers did America spirit to safety?"

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