Welcome to the sixth installment in my ongoing examination of the mysterious Cercle complex. Variously known as Le Cercle, Pinay Cercle, the Pesenti Group, and so on, the Cercle emerged during the early 1950s as a kind of auxiliary to to the infamous Bilderberg group. But despite its Atlanticism, the composition was of the Cercle complex has differed somewhat from Bilderberg. While the latter was dominated by American and Northern European elites, Le Cercle was originally a joint Franco-German venture. As such, it had more of a Catholic orientation was dominated by reactionary orders such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Opus Dei during the early years. Over the years a considerable amount of knights, lords, barons and dukes have been affiliated with the group as well, with these aristocratic trappings continuing to this very day.
The Cercle complex wielded phenomenal power throughout the Cold War and beyond, which has been explored before in an earlier series. As the title implies, the purpose of this present series is to explore the origins of the Cercle complex in relation to the various stay-behind armies that sprung up across Europe and beyond in the almost immediate aftermath of the Second World War. These paramilitary networks were initiated by the US and UK so as to wage a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union in the event of an invasion. They were modeled upon WWII era operations conducted by the UK's Special Operations Executive (SOE), the US's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and Nazi Germany's Amt VI-S of the Reich Main Security Office. The first installment of this series provided further details on these organizations. Part two explored how assets of these organizations were transferred to the private sector at war's end, while the third installment considered the World Commerce Corporation (WCC), the Frankenstein-like conglomerate that ultimately came to control these various assets by the onset of the Cold War.
|emblems of the SOE (top), OSS (middle), and SD (Amt VI: bottom)|
A major point of emphasis over the course of the last two installments in this series has been the parapolitics in France during the early years of the Cold War and for good reason: the Cercle complex was principally a French initiative initially. As such, our exploration will end in France.
But before getting there, I would like to take a brief digression to Germany. The various stay-behind efforts there during the early Cold War further elaborate the Cercle complex's control over the various stay-behind networks, including the private ones. As was noted in part four, the "Anello" (Italy's principal private stay-behind network) appears to have been under the direct control of famed Italian statesman Giulio Andreotti (as was the Propaganda Due [P2] Masonic lodge, allegedly), a co-founder of Le Cercle. In Belgium, but the official and private stay-behind networks appear to have been directed by Paul Vanden Boeynants (aka VdB) and Baron Benoit de Bonvoisin (aka the Black Baron), both of whom were actively involved with the Cercle complex since at least the 1970s.
In the case of Germany, there appear to have been similar connections. I would have outlined these in part four had I not forgotten about some crucial information a reader kindly provided in the comment section of the first installment of this series (hat tip Robert). But by giving these events their own installment, I'll be able to more fully explore the murky netherworld of the German stay-behind networks, which are quite curious (to put it mildly).
In the immediate postwar years, two prominent German officials are most closely associated with the stay-behind efforts. Neither name should come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog.
"When the Gladio scandal erupted in 1990 an unnamed former NATO intelligence official explained that the covert action branch of the CIA under Frank Wisner in order to set up the German Secret Army had 'incorporated lock, stock and barrel the espionage out then run by Hitler's spy chief Reinhard Gehlen. This is well known, because Gehlen was the spiritual father of Stay Behind in Germany and his role was known to the West German leader, Konrad Adenauer, from the outset.' According to the unnamed NATO officer, US President Truman and German Chancellor Adenauer had signed a secret protocol with the US on West Germany's entry into NATO in May 1955 in which it was agreed that the West German authorities would refrain from active legal pursuit of known right-wing extremists. What is not so well known is that other top German politicians were privy to the existence of secret resistance plans. One of these was the then German Secretary of State and former high-ranking Nazi, Hans Globke."
(NATO's Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, pg. 193)
|our old friend Reinhard Gehlen|
"Dubbed 'the gray eminence,' Globke secured his Richelieu-like grip on postwar Bonn through his jurisdiction over West Germany's prodigious secret-service outfit, the Gehlen Org. Gehlen himself described working with Globke as 'pleasant and stimulating.' Together with Adenauer – who referred appreciatively to Gehlen as 'my dear general' – they formed a high-powered troika that dominated West German politics until 1962, when the eight-five-year-old chancellor finally stepped aside.
"At a time when Adenauer was virtually unknown in Germany, Gehlen leaned on his influential U.S. contacts to support him for chancellor. Adenauer also had the backing of the financial and industrial oligarchs of the Rhine-Ruhr area, who, like Gehlen, favored his Atlantic-oriented approach to international affairs. Adenauer's political longevity was enhanced by the meddling of the Org, which spied on the chancellor's domestic opponents. The list of targets included nearly everyone who did not readily fall into step with Adenauer's march towards economic and political integration with West."
(The Beast Reawakens, Martin A. Lee, pgs. 54-55)Konrad Adenauer would go on to become a co-founder of the Cercle complex during the 1952-1953 period. As such, it is hardly surprising that he would be close the German stay-behind efforts. As was noted above, another Cercle co-founder, Giulio Andreotti, would be closely involved with Italian stay-behind efforts for years as well. Further, we've already encountered at least one instance of Adenauer's efforts on behalf of the stay-behinds in the prior installment. There it was noted that the Volksbund fur Frieden und Freiheit (VFF: the People's League for Peace and Freedom), the German arm of the Paix et Liberte network, maintained close ties to Adenauer's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and had a direct line to the chancellor.
Gehlen has never been linked to the Cercle complex directly, but he surely wielded influence via Adenauer and Jean Violet, a French co-founder on the payroll of the BND (noted before here) for years. From 1949 to 1956, the main CIA liaison to the Gehlen Org was James Critchfield. As David Teacher notes in Rogue Agents, Critchfield is known to have been involved with the Cercle complex by the 1980s. Gehlen and his Org would also back closely related networks such as Interdoc throughout the Cold War as well. But moving along.
As for the secret armies themselves, there appear to have been several such organizations, in keeping with developments in other European countries around this time. The most well known are the Bund Deutscher Jugend (BDJ: League of German Youth) and its paramilitary arm, the Technischer Dienst (TD). Here's a little more background on these outfits:
"In Germany one of the Nazi-dominated US networks named 'Bund Deutscher Jugend' (BJ) and its stay-behind 'Technischer Dienst' (TD) were discovered in 1952. Klaus Barbie had played a leading role in setting up the German stay-behind BDJ-TD. But the secret was not kept long. The New York Times reported on October 10, 1952 under the somewhat misleading headline 'German Saboteurs betray US Trust. Wide Investigation Follows Confirmation of Financing Guerrillas' War Training', that 'Authoritative officials have privately confirmed today that the United States has sponsored and helped finance the secret training of young Germans, including many former soldiers, to become guerrilla fighters in the event of a war Soviet Union.' The US newspaper reported that the disclosure yesterday in the State Parliament of Hesse and the banner headline publicly today in the German press have caused the United States Department and the Army considerable embarrassment', above all because 'it was discovered that the projected guerrilla group had engaged in political activities. Their leaders... drew a blacklists of persons who were to be "liquidized," if they were deemed unreliable in a war against the Russians.' Therefore 'Several joint German-United States meetings were held' because many acting 'Socialist, including government officials, were on the list, as well as the Communists'.
"This early discovery of a part of the German stay-behind caused a major scandal on both sides of the Atlantic and Newsweek in the United States reported in October 20, 1952 that the CIA had organized a group of 'stay-behinds' in Germany. Interestingly enough the German newspaper Der Spiegel on October 29, 1952 correctly reported that stay-behind networks existed next to Germany also in numerous countries of Western Europe: 'The BDJ affair has caused considerable worries in the different headquarters of the American secret service in Europe. Because the "Technischer Dienst" in Germany is but one branch of a partisan network supported by the United States and spreading over the whole of Europe.' Specifically, as the Spiegel reported, 'This network is most strongly developed in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy and the Iberian peninsula. In France this organization was created already in 1948, with the support of the leader of the Socialist, [Ministry of the Interior] Jules Moch.' "
(NATO's Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, pg. 193)
As for Adenauer, while there is some dispute as to when exactly he learned of the existence of the BDJ-TD (some source allege that he was ignorant of these networks prior to their 1952 exposure, while others allege that he was aware of them for several years prior), there can be little question that Adenauer played a crucial role in covering them up after the initial fallout. Adenauer likely would have had good reason for a cover up, as Martin A. Lee alleges in The Beast Reawakens that the BDJ-TD was used to spy on and harass his political opponents.
It is also interesting that Klaus Barbie would play a crucial role in setting up the BDJ-TD. The exposure of this network directly led to Barbie fleeing Europe for South America. There, the former SS man would establish himself as as a security chief and drug lord in Bolivia by the late 1970s. Barbie was plugged into the underground SS network headed by Otto Skorzeny and worked closely with the infamous Italian neo-fascist terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie, who had ties to organizations linked to the Cercle complex (noted before here and here). Curiously, the man who debriefed Barbie and likely gave the greenlight for his work on the BDJ-TD project was the longtime US intelligence officer Arnold M. Silver.
Silver later joined the CIA in 1948 and became quite a senior figure. He served in Austria, Luxembourg (as the Chief of Station no less), Germany, and Turkey before returning to the United States. According to the great David Teacher in Rogue Agents, Silver was in charge of counter-subversion efforts in West Europe. He was eventually drummed out of the CIA during the Carter administration by the DCI, Admiral Stansfield Turner. After his departure from the CIA, Silver became involved with the Cercle complex, initially through Brian Crozier's 6I network (a private intelligence network under the control of the Cercle complex, noted before here). By the 1980s, he had become a "security adviser" to the Cercle complex itself.
"The Bruderschaft was one of the most important groups in Germany's postwar fascist elite. Using its intelligence and organizational contacts with fascist movements around the world, it played a critical role in the Nazi underground railroad that smuggled war criminals to South America and the Middle East. In the early 1950s, elements from the Bruderschaft also helped create the Freikorps Deutschland, a paramilitary organization later outlawed by occupation authorities.
"The Bruderschaft was founded in 1945-46 in a British POW camp in Germany by Major Helmut Beck-Broichsitter, an ex-staff officer of the Grossdeutschland Division. He was soon joined by Franke-Gricksch, who brought to the group a detailed plan to recapture power 'through slow, mythological insinuation into governmental and party positions, under cover of such secrecy or camouflage as might be necessary for the success of the operation.' "
(Dreamer of the Day, Kevin Coogan, pg. 192)The Bruderschaft remains one of the most enigmatic organizations of early postwar Nazi underground. The two principal figures behind it, Helmut Beck-Broichsitter and Alfred Franke-Gricksch, effectively represented different factions of the postwar underground. Many of the former Wehrmacht (the regular German military, as opposed to the Waffen-SS) officers within the Bruderschaft tended to side with Beck-Broichsitter, while Franke-Gricksch spoke for the SS, Hitler Youth, and Conservative Revolutionary elements within the organization.
This divide became more pronounced as the Cold War struggle intensified. According to Jeffrey Bale in The Darkest Sides of Politics, I, Beck-Broichsitter proposed in setting up anti-Communist shock troops to work in conjunction with the American military. Specifically, Coogan reports that efforts were in fact made to merge the paramilitary forces of the Bruderschaft with those of the BDJ-TD.
The ultimate fate of Alfred Franke-Gricksch is shrouded in mystery. In September or early October of 1951, he crossed over into East Berlin and was never seen alive again. During much of the prior year he had been in regular contact with Communist officials and in 1955, his wife returned to Germany from a Soviet prison camp. She alleged that Franke-Gricksch had been executed by the Soviets, but many believed that he was still alive.
As for the Bruderschaft, it was formally dissolved around the time of Franke-Gricksch's flight to East Berlin. But this was not the end of it. Rather, its members formed even more exclusive groups. The most noteworthy of these was the Naumann-Kreis (Naumann Circle) that was briefly discussed in the prior installment. There, it was noted that the Naumann-Kreis enjoyed ties to Dr. Eberhard Taubert, the founder of the Volksbund fer Frieden und Frieheit (VFF), the German branch of the CIA-linked Paix et Librete movement.
|a propaganda poster from the VFF|
|Heusinger (top) and Speidel (bottom)|
Skorzeny appears to have become involved in such activities mere months after he "escaped" from US custody in July of 1948. Several months he later, he was advising a US-sponsored organization geared towards psychological warfare and covert operations.
"... A West Germany political action group called the Fighting League against Inhumanity (Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit), or KgU. The group was headed by Rainer Hildebrandt, a surviving member of the network that carried out the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944. Hildebrandt was imprisoned by the Nazis for his connections to the German resistance but managed to survive the war. He was a staunch anti-Communist, and with help from the U.S. Army's CIC, he founded the KgU in October 1948. It seems likely that Otto Skorzeny was contacted through secret channels to assist in the effort just after its formation. It is also possible that he was an original paramilitary adviser to the project. The KgU organization received its entire financial support from the CIA.
"The formation of the KgU was announced publicly by its German founders, who resolutely declared its objectives as 'to rally opinion against political oppression in the Soviet zone [of Berlin].' A primary goal of its organizers was 'to discover the fate of those who have been disappeared into Soviet concentration camps.' In reality, the KgU was in close communication with Western intelligence from its conception. The organization was assessed by individuals in the Army CIC, who saw the organization as an excellent vehicle for counterespionage, intelligence gathering, psychological warfare, and covert activities."
"The Skorzeny Papers, Ralph P. Ganis, pgs. 179-180)
Skorzeny's involvement with the KgU may indicate that it was a full blown stay-behind network. As has been noted above, frequently these networks served a duel purpose as an intelligence gathering network. Indeed, these organizations were frequently engaged in a host of black activities.
It is also interesting to note that another figure involved with the KgU by 1950 was Friedrich-Wilhelm Schlomann. Schlomann would work with the KgU until its dissolution in 1959, upon which he became a mainstay in the Ministry of Defense's Psychological Warfare Directorate, which had been co-founded by Strauss in 1958. Indeed, Strauss was the Minister of Defense when Schlomann was first officially brought into the fold. As the great David Teacher notes in Rogue Agents, Schlomann would later become an adviser to future German Cercle members.
Around 1950, Scarface proposed forming his own stay-behind network. This would have consisted of some 200,000 troops, the bulk of whom would have been veterans of the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS. At one point, he proposed to train and set up these forces in Spain with the assistance of Franco. Indeed, Spain appears to have been a popular training ground for these type of activities, as we shall see.
Skorzeny made his initial pitch to put together stay-behind forces to the above-mentioned Adolf Heusinger and Hans Speidel of the Schnez-Truppe. Elsewhere, it is reported that Albert Schnez himself had also approached Skorzeny about cooperating with his efforts in the Swabia region in February of 1951. It is unknown, however, if Skorzeny's project was supposed to be a part of Schnez-Truppe. Reportedly, the Gehlen Org had concerns about Skorzeny becoming involved in Schnez's project, and even "consulting" with the SS about taking a stand against Skorzeny.
Just how serious these misgivings may have been is highly debatable, however. Gehlen himself had personally worked closely with Skorzeny for several years by this point.
"... Skorzeny and Gehlen probably began coordinating the launching of various ventures behind Soviet lines as early as the summer of 1943, by which time 'Scarface' had been put in charge of Amt VI's Zeppelin groups. This pattern of collusion was intensified after the disbanding of the Abwehr as an autonomous organization and the incorporation of much of its operational apparatus into other security organs. The bulk of it was absorbed into the RHSA as the Militaramt (Military Bureau), but Gehlen's FHO managed to obtain control over the Abwehr's 'WALLI' intelligence networks in exchange for his agreement to assist the Zeppelin units. Towards the end of the war, Gehlen and Skorzeny worked closely together in an effort to combine the Zeppelin stay/behind resistance groups and the WALLI networks into a combined espionage organization behind the Soviet front. Thus, although personal rivalries between the two highly ambitious and headstrong men sometimes led to serious friction, especially after Hitler had a falling out with Gehlen over his pessimistic situation reports, their relationship survived the collapse of the Third Reich. Some of Gehlen's intelligence files may have been cosigned to Skorzeny for burial during the last days of the war. Later, Gehlen intervened on behalf of the imprisoned SS man, and then apparently recruited him as a contract agent for the West German intelligence service he had been then been appointed to head, the so-called Gehlen Org..."
(The Darkest Sides of Politics, I, Jeffrey Bale, pg. 75)
On the whole, Skorzeny is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Cold War. While often depicted as a diehard anti-Communist and/or Nazi, he was hardly opposed to working with Soviet-backed forces and even the Mossad. Indeed, he frequently played both sides against the other, indicating he was either a completely amoral opportunist, brilliantly working toward a third agenda, or some combination of the two. In any case, Herr Gehlen may well have trusted Skorzeny with the most sensitive aspects of Germany's stay-behind operations as he clearly had no real loyalty to either the US or USSR. And indeed, it appears that Skorzeny had links to virtually every major German stay-behind, with the possible exception of the BDJ-TD (and Klaus Barbie later became a part of Skorzeny's network). As such, I suspect some even more incredible bombshells regarding Skorzeny's role in such things await to be discovered.
And with that I shall wrap things up for now. With the next installment we shall go further back into the origins of the Cercle complex and the stay-behind networks themselves. And naturally, it leads back to France. Until then dear reader, stay tuned.