The German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) specifically recruited Nazi-era killers – hr documentary at ARD Media Library | hessenschau.de

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Federal Intelligence Service systematically sought out killers and office workers in the Nazi dictatorship. This new documentary features ARD. Among them was the former head of the Gestapo department from Kassel.

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ARD DOCUMENTARY: Tried BND for the Nazis


Hessenschau from 10.10.2022

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He shot civilians in Italy, killed the Polish elite, sent thousands of Jews to labor camps and ordered their execution: the list of crimes committed by members of the secret state police, or Gestapo, under National Socialism is long. A human resources documentary now shows that many of them were included in the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) after World War II, not only despite these crimes, but also because of them. The files show that they were recruited in a purposeful and systematic manner.

One of them: Eric Wigan, born in 1913 in Willingen-Usseln (Waldeck-Frankenberg). At the age of 19 he joined the so-called Schutzstaffel (SS), which expelled and persecuted political opponents and the Jewish people of Adolf Hitler during National Socialism. In 1934 Wigan joined the Gestapo in Kassel. Since 1941, as department head, he was responsible for thousands of forced laborers in what was then Breitenau Labor Camp in Guxhagen (Schwalm-Eder).

Not only were a number of Wigan’s foreign forced laborers brought to Brittnau. In at least one case, he also arranged for the execution of a prisoner. This is documented through files from Today’s Remembrance. However, the Federal Intelligence Service hired him.

10% to 20% “have blood on their hands”

Such dubious occupations were more common in the BND than previously known. Secret files, which historian Gerhard Salter has been allowed to see, reveal how Nazi intelligence ruthlessly recruited Nazi criminals after 1945. “We knew in advance that there were one or two Nazi criminals in the German Federal Intelligence Service,” says Salter. He wanted to find out how these people found an intelligence backdoor. “But no one ever crept in there. The management simply wanted these people.”

For ten years, Salter searched mounds of files for an independent committee of historians to research the history of the German Federal Intelligence Service. He is now certain that 10-20 per cent of employees have “blood on their hands”. “And this does not mean that they were just members of the NSDAP, but that they actively participated in the murders, and in some cases took a leadership role.”

Personal note: “Decent figure”

He also served as head of the Wigan department in post-war Germany. Files reviewed by Human Resources in several archives show that he worked for the Hessian Office for the Protection of the Constitution since 1954 and then at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. After people with a Nazi past were no longer welcome there, he was hosted by the German Federal Intelligence Service.


Aerial shot of the building by a drone.

This is what happened often, says historian Gerhard Salter. Reinhard Gehlen, the longtime head of the Federal Intelligence Service, did not think about de-Nazification and the Nuremberg trials of high-ranking Nazi criminals. More than 30 of his employees participated in the murders in the occupied eastern territories during World War II. For example, Gustav Grauer and Heinrich Schmitz of Trier in the Rhineland-Palatinate, their task force killed over 130,000 civilians, mostly Jews, in the Baltic states.

Or Karl Theodor Schutz, whose profile testified as having a “perfectly decent figure”, although in 1943, as head of the Gestapo in Rome, he was implicated in one of Italy’s greatest world war crimes, the shooting of 335 people in caves ardyatin.

Prefer BND Nazis

When recruiting, the leadership of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) stated that it should primarily “consider persons who come from the circle of acquaintances of the tested and tested personnel and whom they consider ideologically, personally and professionally suitable to take part in the great mission”. This is what was stated in the instructions from the headquarters to the subordinate divisions since May (May) 1947.

Another letter from the Purchasing Department from 1951 shows that, on the other hand, there were concerns if the applicant was from a family that “was opposed to National Socialism from the start” or if his wife was “from a Jewish family”.

Historian Salter concludes that this shows that there was no awareness, “that it was not acceptable to kill millions of Jews, liquidate the elite in Poland, and carry out pogroms in almost every European country.”

The head of the chancellery is hardly interested in the reassessment

In 1956, things could have gotten tight for Jilin and his staff. Foreign intelligence became a federal authority and thus subordinated to the Federal Chancellor in Bonn, which was headed by Hans-Maria Globeck (CDU). But Globke himself came from the executive apparatus of the Nazi regime. He is “the main architect of the legal mantle of persecuting and killing European Jews and an accomplice in the Holocaust,” says Klaus-Dietmar Henk, spokesperson for the Committee of Independent Historians on the history of the German Federal Intelligence Service. Since the FBI helped him cover up his past, Globke had no interest in stopping Secret Service personnel policy.


Shelves fill the entire wall with files.

However, the judiciary became aware of the employees of the German Federal Intelligence Service. In 1960, Wigan, the former head of the Gestapo department in Kassel, was accused of involvement in the murder of a Polish laborer with forced labour.

But Wiegand was released from custody after a short time. He had indicated his cooperation with the intelligence service and testified in an interrogation on November 28, 1960 that for this reason there was no danger of his escape. This is also mentioned in the files.

Investigations stopped

The FBI’s management covered their staff, as historian Salter described. Inquiries from the Federal Chancellery were answered anonymously or the truth was simply not told. “We know of individual cases in which employees with knowledge of the German Federal Intelligence Service have sent files to the prosecutor’s office in order to make them available to the accused so that witness agreements can be made,” Salter says.

Since Wiegand grew up under National Socialism, there was a lot to be said because “it might not have been possible for him to take a critical view of his own which would enable him to acknowledge the injustices caused by the executions,” the official said. Wiegand case result. Investigations against him were dropped.

It was not until 1963 when a commission systematically examined the employees of the German Federal Intelligence Service. 71 of about 150 were subsequently released, including former Romanian Gestapo chief Carl Theodor Schutz. On the other hand, Eric Wigan of Castle Gestapo has not been prosecuted. He died in 1964.

More information

The 45-minute documentary “Favorite Killers – How Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service Recruited Nazi Criminals” can be found at ARD Media Library.

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More information

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