A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War
From Spain to Syria, the thrilling, untold history of Nazi fugitives turned postwar agents—for America, the Soviets, the Third World, or themselves.
After the Second World War, the Allies vowed to hunt Nazi war criminals “to the ends of the earth.” Yet many slipped away—or were shielded by the West, in exchange for cooperation in the unfolding confrontation with Communism.
Reinhard Gehlen, founder of West German foreign intelligence, welcomed SS operatives into the fold, overestimating their supposed capabilities. This shortsighted decision nearly brought down his cherished service, as the KGB found his Nazi operatives easy to turn or expose. However, Gehlen was hardly alone in this cynical strategy; the American, Soviet, French and Israeli secret services—and nationalist organisations and independence movements—all used former Nazi operatives in the early Cold War.
Nazi fugitives became freelance arms traffickers, spies, and assassins, playing crucial roles in the clandestine contest between the superpowers. From posh German restaurants, smuggler-infested Yugoslav ports, and fascist holdouts in Franco’s Spain to Damascene safehouses and Egyptian country clubs, these spies created a busy network of influence and information, a uniquely combustible ingredient in the covert struggles of the postwar decades.
Unearthing newly declassified revelations from Mossad and other archives, historian Danny Orbach reveals this long-forgotten arena of the Cold War, and its colourful cast of characters. Shrouded in official secrecy, clouded by myth and propaganda, the extraordinary tale of these Nazi agents has never been properly told—until now.
‘[A] riveting history… a horrifying and entertaining account of the role played by former (or so they claimed) Nazis in Cold War espionage.’ — The Telegraph
‘[A] gripping and often shocking account of what the former Nazis did next. … consistently absorbing and judiciously written.’ — The Times
‘Detailed, sobering, and absorbing.’ — Foreign Affairs
‘A compelling and eye-opening book.’ — The Scotsman
‘A quick, consequential read useful for even experienced intelligence professionals. Orbach skips across various persons, organizations, and events but still maintains a unifying narrative theme… Fugitives is a timely reminder for an evergreen lesson: even experienced professionals do well to keep a clear head and discerning eye despite the heavy undertow of emotional and cognitive biases.’ — Studies in Intelligence
‘[A] highly intriguing book … Fugitives is genuinely revelatory and Orbach’s research is impressive and scholarly. More to the point, the many fascinating narratives he relates here could easily provide the raw material for a dozen espionage novels. I have a feeling a lot of writers will be inspired.’ — William Boyd, New Statesman
‘The tales Orbach tells could fit into a peculiarly cynical 1970s spy novel, and it can read like one too. [Fugitives] is a murky saga of espionage, paranoia, and betrayal.’ — American Spectator
‘Orbach draws a richly detailed story of the extensive role of German intelligence and military advisers in the Cold War decades. The book is full of shady characters and preposterous plots, making it an entertaining read for fans of real-life espionage history. A lively history of the role played by former Nazis in the postwar intelligence community.’ — Kirkus Reviews
‘A trove of astounding stories.’ — American Thinker
‘Exceptional. A work of prodigious research and original storytelling that sheds remarkable and troubling light on one of the darkest corners of recent history.’ — Philippe Sands, author of The Ratline and East West Street
‘Orbach has delved deeply into notoriously inaccessible sources to uncover the murky stories of ex-Nazis. Few rogues’ galleries can compare with the cast of turncoats, double agents and merchants of death in Fugitives. I found it as gripping as a le Carré novel.’ — Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of Kissinger, 1923–1968
‘A highly original, compulsively readable book, painting an often-shocking picture of post-war Germany and its global connections, from black-market cigarettes to Algerian revolutionaries. Orbach tells an amazing story of former Nazi spies and soldiers plying their trade across Europe and the Middle East.’ — Benjamin Hett, Professor of History, Hunter College CUNY, and author of The Nazi Menace
‘Uncovering incredible details from Mossad’s previously unseen archives, Orbach’s excellent book reveals the truth of what was, until now, a murky legend: the astounding collaboration between fugitives of the Third Reich and the secret services of both Soviet and West-allied powers, including Israel itself.’ — Roger Faligot, author of Chinese Spies
‘Based on a wealth of hitherto unexplored sources, Orbach’s compelling new book about Nazis’ “Great Game” during the Cold War is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Middle East, or the aftermath of the Second World War.’ — Shlomo Shpiro, Chairman of the International Intelligence History Association, and Paterson Chair in Security and Intelligence, Bar-Ilan University
Praise for The Plots Against Hitler:
‘A definitive history of the anti-Nazi underground’s efforts to overthrow the Nazi dictator. A riveting read well worth picking up.’ — Jewish Book Council
‘Orbach scrupulously analyzes the resistance movements that opposed the Nazis from 1933 to 1945. His superb research includes interviews with resistance survivors, family members, and relevant records from archives around the world. Likely to become the definitive general history of the subject and the starting place for all future research, Orbach’s work is a fascinating story of courage and an excellent study of the struggle of individuals to act morally and honorably. — Publishers Weekly
‘This fresh look at the German Resistance will be appreciated by students of World War II history.’ — Library Journal
‘A robust history of the German conspiracy against Nazism. A gripping look at a historical counternarrative that remains relevant and disturbing.’ — Kirkus Reviews
Danny Orbach is an associate professor in the History and Asian Studies Departments at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received his PhD from Harvard University. His prior books include Curse on This Country: The Rebellious Army of Imperial Japan, and The Plots Against Hitler, which has been published in seven languages. Danny lives in Jerusalem.