It remains one of the great paradoxes of the post-World War II era: despite the United States’ participation in the prosecution of Nazis and other war criminals, several guilty individuals were protected, and even recruited by intelligence agencies to aid the U.S. in espionage it conducted after the war.
Shortly after the end of World War II, U.S. intelligence agencies began fostering relationships with escaped Nazis and other war criminals for purpose of exploiting their knowledge to the benefit of American interests. As if the intelligence community’s uneasy relationship with former enemies weren’t ironic enough, there were some instances where individuals that were being prosecuted for war crimes had actually been tapped for recruitment by the Counter-Intelligence Corps (prior to the establishment of the CIA) unbeknownst to the prosecutors that were building cases against them.
Among the most notorious war criminals who served the efforts of U.S. intelligence had been Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie, who was employed by the United States and eventually helped to escape to Bolivia, where he was believed to have participated in the coup d’état undertaken by Luis García Meza in 1980. Barbie, nicknamed the “Butcher of Lyon” for his torture of Gestapo prisoners during the War, was eventually captured and extradited to France, where he stood trial for his war crimes and eventually died in prison.
The involvement of war criminals like Barbie in U.S. intelligence operations is one of the strangest and more disconcerting areas in post-war American history. However, what is less well known is that at one time, the CIA also investigated possible connections between Barbie and an American philanthropist and oil tycoon best known for conducting expeditions in search of the famous Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.
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