Christopher SimpsonBlowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War

Vilis Arveds Hāzners

Excerpt of declassified CIA document certifying Hāzners as a field agent,
assigning him a pseudonym (Victor Halfond) and cryptonym (AEKILO-2).

Unsurprisingly, as the KGB's #1 target among Latvians in his position as a leader of the exile Latvian community and an employee of Radio Free Europe and eventual head of the Daugavas Vanagi, Simpson expends considerable effort to vilify Hāzners.

...certain war criminals found a comfortable roost at RFE/RL. Radio Free Europe repeatedly featured Romanian Fascist leader (and Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church in America) Valerian Trifa, for example, in Romanian-language broadcasts, particularly during the 1950s.[1] 1Vilis Hazners, who was accused in a CBS-TV 60 Minutes broadcast of spearheading a Nazi gang that “force[d] a number of Jews into a synagogue [which was] then set on fire,” emerged as a prominent Latvian personality in Radio Liberation transmissions. Hazners, at last report, was still broadcasting for RL in the 1980s.
Contention versus Fact

Simpson introduces Hāzners with the accusations against him as featured on "60 Minutes." These are the same as accusations by "U.S. authorities," which all originate from the single original set of KGB fabrications. Simpson elsewhere indicates Hāzners successfully defended himself, but that has no bearing on Simpson's continuing characterization of Hāzners as a war criminal. Even Hāzners' return to Radio Free Europe after vindication is described as conspiratorial.

2Vilis Hazners is an SS veteran and a winner of the German Iron Cross. The 3U.S. government has accused him of serving as a senior security police officer in Riga, Latvia, for much of the war. The 4government records include reports that the men under Hazners’s command committed serious atrocities, including herding dozens of Jews into a synagogue and setting it aflame. 5Hazners successfully defended himself from these charges, however, during a deportation proceeding in the late 1970s. 6Hazners entered the United States in the early 1950s. Whether or not the CIA assisted him in this is unknown, but it is clear that it sponsored him and helped pay his salary once he was here. Hazners assumed the chairmanship of the Committee for a Free Latvia and a post as delegate to the ACEN in New York. Both organizations—including the wages of their officials—are now known to have been financed in part by the CIA. (The 7sponsorship of these groups was secret during the 1950s but was eventually admitted by the government during the series of scandals that rocked the agency during the 1970s.) “Liberation” committee chairmen like Hazners typically received a salary of 8$12,000 per year in the early 1950s, a pay rate that was better than that of most mid-level State Department employees of the day. 9Hazners did not hide his Fascist background. He practically flaunted it. At the same time he was active in ACEN, he served as 10chairman of the Latvian Officers Association, a thinly disguised self-help group made up in large part of Waffen-SS veterans. He also served as an officer of the American branch of the Vanagis and as editor of the group’s magazine for many years. He was 11meanwhile active in a number of more respectable groups like the American Latvian Association, which he served as an officer, specializing in immigration and “refugee relief” work on behalf of favored Latvian émigrés in Europe.
Contention versus Fact

Simpson continues his indictment of Hāzners as an "SS" member. Whether intentionally or by chance, his opening sentence here could pass for a verbatim quotation of Alan A. Ryan, Jr.'s protestations in the OSI's rejected attempt to appeal Hāzners' acquittal.[2] Indeed, the government's brief essentially maintained that membership in the Waffen-SS alone meant guilty war criminal.[3]

Hāzners first served as an adjutant preparing men to serve on the Eastern Front. While ostensibly intended for security, they were actually a recruiting reserve for the Eastern Front. Hāzners had no role in the Holocaust, no role repressing Jews.

Hāzners was conclusively proven to not have been present. Curiously, the Israeli-identified and coached émigré Soviet witness against him had the complete collection of KGB propaganda pamphlets in his possession, and introduced into evidence, which contained the burning synagogue accusation. Perhaps he thought he was doing a good deed, since Israeli authorities had introduced Hāzners' photograph as that of a confirmed war criminal, at least one of those pictures had Hāzners name written right on the front of it. Neither Hāzners or any Hāzners' men committed any Holocaust war crime. The accusing "government records" are yet another incarnation of the original KGB fabrications. There were no actual records. Hāzners' military records—which the Germans had thoroughly investigated, confirmed no evidence of any war crimes, and were provided to the U.S. Justice Department—were never introduced at Hāzners' deportation trial because they would have exonerated him.

Simpson's observation here is superfluous, since he continues with his accusations against Hāzners. He ignores that Hāzners was exonerated and the OSI's request for appeal denied in 1980, eight years before publishing his book. Reading between the lines, the judicial review of the case labels the Department of Justice's case for the witch hunt it was.

Simpson is mistaken in his facts. Hāzners entered the U.S. in 1956, as reflected in CIA files and also widely reported in the news at the time his deportation proceedings were launched. The CIA neither sponsored his entry nor provided aid once he arrived.

Declassified CIA confirmation of no resettlement aid to Hāzners.

The major "scandal" was accusations that individual such as Hāzners, targeted by KGB intelligence, were war criminals knowingly hired by the CIA. A subsequent GAO audit of the CIA concluded the vast bulk of allegations against the CIA had no factual basis, for example, only one individual confirmed to have been a former Nazi member had been brought to the U.S. under the auspices of the CIA. Unsurprisingly, that GAO audit did not satisfy those who were convinced the CIA was wading waist-deep in Nazis and Holocaust perpetrators.

There was nothing sinister in the CIA providing funding for anti-Soviet activities.

Hāzners wasn't even in the U.S. in the early 1950's. His formal "agent" role commenced only in 1962. CIA document Hāzners was earning $4,800 a year ("overt income") in the early 1960's, with the addition of up to $300 per quarter for intelligence summaries, interviews, and so on. We located one such quarterly payment record, for $200. Assuming that was all CIA funding, no more than $6,000 a year—and a decade later and at best half the amount that Simpson alleges. We can only surmise Simpson plucked a number out of thin air to provoke indignation that the government paid CIA-employed Nazis better than it paid State Department employees.

Hāzners work as a field agent to not be paid more than $300 any quarter, declassified CIA document.

What "fascist" background? Hāzners was not a fascist before, during, or after the war. Why shouldn't Hāzners be rightfully proud of his fight against Soviet reinvasion of his homeland?

No one in the Latvian Legion fought for Hitler's "New Europe." All who served in the Legion, whether volunteers or conscripts, hoped for it to become the backbone of a new Latvian army in a free Latvia restored after the war. In retrospect, we can all too easily dismiss such hopes as incredibly naive. But for those who had driven out the Russians with German aid, then turned on and driven out the Germans only 25 years earlier in Latvia's war of independence, hope sprang eternal from their own history.

We can only infer Simpson refers to his allegation they are a den of fascists who earned their officerships as rewards from Hitler, now "disguising" themselves as legitimate military veterans. Anyone who had been an officer in the Latvian army and had escaped being killed or deported by the Soviets was likely to have wound up in the Waffen-SS, including Hāzners, who had been a captain and military instructor when the Soviets invaded.

We must observe that it is only in Simpson's vituperative Latvian fascists fantasy that all the groups Hāzners belonged to or led were not respectable.

The official Latvian-American organization in the GOP’s nationalities council is the Latvian-American Republican National Federation, which was led for years by Davmants [sic.] Hazners (president) and Ivars Berzins (secretary). During the 1970s the group shared the same office and telephone number in East Brunswick, New Jersey, with 12the Committee for a Free Latvia. The latter group, it will be recalled, ... was led for most of the last decade by the by-now familiar Vilis Hazners (president) and Alfreds Berzins (treasurer and secretary) despite accusations aired by 60 Minutes and other media that both had been responsible for serious crimes during the war. Their associate 13Ivars Berzins is most recently noted as a leading proponent of the campaign to halt prosecutions of fugitive Nazi war criminals in the United States. There is 14no indication, it should be stressed, that Ivars Berzins or the other leaders of the Latvian-American Republican party group engaged in any sort of disreputable activity. Even so, the intimate ties between these two organizations and their leaderships 15raise legitimate questions concerning what the political agenda of the Republican organization may actually be.
Contention versus Fact

Simpson once again trucks out the debunked 60 Minutes Nazi allegations. As the accusations against Hāzners and Bērziņš were false, and every Latvian knew they were false because they came from Soviet propaganda, there was no issue where the Latvians were concerned.

Simpson also smears Ivars Bērziņš, Hāzners' lawyer, accusing him of actively blocking the prosecution of fugitive Nazi criminals.

Simpson backs off immediately, that he does not allege impropriety. But, then, there would be a completely different conspiracy to investigate were Simpson to properly refer to Bērziņš as "a leading proponent of the campaign to halt the use of KGB-supplied fabricated evidence to target and persecute individuals by falsely alleging they are Nazi war criminals."

Simpson's innuendo proves his exculpation of Bērziņš is less than sincere.

[footnote] Daugavas Vanagi Biletens (February 1951). 16Hazners was editor of the Biletens at this point; the president of the organization at the time was ... V. Janums, who is also ... accused of war crimes by the present Soviet Latvian government.
Contention versus Fact

Buried in a footnote, Simpson confirms the illegitimate, occupying Latvian Soviet "government" is the source of allegations against both Janums and Hāzners.


[1]Romanian defectors communicated information to the OSI that the Soviet-installed Romanian regime had manufactured evidence against Trifa, however, the OSI labeled this information unreliable. This despite the INS's and OSI's proven inability to tell propaganda from fact, and, in the case of Hāzners, here, willfully suppressing exculpatory German service records.
[2][Evidence which merits granting of appeal includes] " an Iron Cross decoration given to the respondent bearing the signature of Adolph Hitler and the designation, Waffen S.S.", Judicial Review, July 15, 1981.
[3]See DOJ Trial Brief, page 2.

Updated: June, 2017

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