Thousands of pages of top secret U.S. files on Nazi leaders reveal intense Western efforts to recruit Nazi war criminals and a fascinating psychological portrait of Adolf Hitler.
The new information about Hitler comes in a 1944 CIA memo quoting an informant who says he struck up a conversation with the Fuhrer's personal physician seven years earlier — and the doctor predicted then Hitler could become "the craziest criminal the world ever saw."
The comments were reportedly made by German surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch who spoke about Hitler's growing megalomania at dinner party in 1937.
"Sauerbruch ... stated that from close observation of Hitler for many years, he had formed the opinion that the Nazi leader was a border case between genius and insanity and that ... the decision would take place in the near future whether Hitler's mind would swing toward the latter," the memo said.
Months later, the doctor said Hitler's "swing toward insanity had taken place," according to the informant.
The document is among 10,000 pages of CIA files about the Nazis declassified yesterday — and released during a news conference at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
The documents show that high-ranking Nazis — including death doctor Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann — were coddled by American and Soviet spymasters as World War II ended.
"The real winners of the Cold War were Nazi criminals," Justice Department official Eli Rosenbaum said. "East and West became so rapidly focused on challenging each other that they lost their will to pursue Nazi perpetrators. They even deemed some of the criminals to be useful allies."
The Nazi files were declassified under the terms of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 2000.
They paint a disturbing portrait of postwar Europe, in which nearly a dozen top Nazis bought their freedom by peddling intelligence to the CIA's predecessor or the Russian KGB.
"The United States of America retained Nazi war criminals, and there will be no question about it," said Thomas Baer, who worked with the CIA to pull the documents from long-forgotten files.
The documents also indicated that American intelligence chief Allen Dulles conducted secret negotiations in Switzerland with Nazi war criminals.
The Nazis later used the high-level contact with Dulles, who later became CIA director, to slip through the fingers of Nazi hunters after the war.
The files included plenty of previously unknown details about Hitler's top lieutenants, including Mengele, Eichmann, Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller, and Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief in occupied Lyon, France.
As the war wound down, the Americans made little effort to pursue Eichmann, one of the key architects of the final solution, until 1959, when Israeli agents captured him for trial.
Former UN Secretary Kurt Waldheim, who was accused of Nazi wartime atrocities, also turns up in the files. Scholars say there is no evidence he cooperated with American intelligence, although he may have dealt with the Russians.