In This Review

Fugitives: A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War
Fugitives: A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War
By Danny Orbach
Pegasus, 2022, 400 pp.

Orbach has written a detailed, sobering, and absorbing account of the many ways in which ex-Nazis managed to lead comfortable and active lives after World War II. He begins with General Reinhard Gehlen, a former Wehrmacht analyst, who used his trove of material on Soviet forces to start a new career running an intelligence organization, first for the Americans and then later for West Germany. Gehlen drew on the Third Reich’s vehement anticommunism while shedding the rest of his Nazi baggage. Other former Nazis moved closer to Moscow, including as KGB agents who used Gehlen’s organization to insert themselves into West German intelligence. Many never abandoned their anti-Semitism. One of the architects of the Holocaust, Alois Brunner, ended up in Damascus, where he advised the regime of Hafez al-Assad on torture techniques and sought to avoid the fate of his former boss Adolf Eichmann, who was kidnapped by the Israelis in 1960 while hiding in Argentina. Orbach includes some jaw-dropping stories of double dealing, espionage, and outright criminality. The book inevitably raises questions about those in the West who were happy to make use of these ex-Nazis without worrying about their checkered pasts.