WASHINGTON (Jun. 16)
The Justice Department admitted Thursday that convicted Nazi war criminal Robert Jan Verbelen worked for the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps in Vienna from 1946 to 1956, as did at least 13 other active members or collaborators of the Nazi Party and SS.
The department made public the results of a formal investigation, initiated by a request from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, into whether the U.S. government protected and assisted Verbelen, who now lives in Austria.
The report also provides descriptions of the 13 others, but does not name them at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, in order “to protect the identity of intelligence operatives,” the report said.
Elliot Welles, who heads ADL’s task force on Nazi war criminals, said he is seeking to uncover those names as a “matter of principle.”
A copy of the report was forwarded to the Austrian government, according to Neal Sher, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, who co-wrote the report.
The report does not ask Austria to retry Verbelen, now 77, who was convicted in 1965 of two murders during World War II. He was later acquitted on the grounds that he had been carrying out orders from superiors.
The Austrian Supreme Court overturned that acquittal, but never retried him. Verbelen had gained Austrian citizenship after serving in the state police in the late 1950s.
He was arrested there in 1962, after the public prosecutor in Vienna learned that Verbelen had been sentenced to death in absentia by a Belgian military court in 1947, for having committed 101 murders during the Holocaust,
A ‘SHOCKING’ REPORT
Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, who termed the report “shocking in its revelations,” called on the Austrian government to retry Verbelen.
Welles said the ADL is seeking a meeting with Austria’s minister of justice, Egmont Foregger.
In the case of Verbelen, who is on the U.S. “watch list” of suspected Nazi barred from entering the country, the 92-page report found “no evidence that any Counter Intelligence Corps officials learned Verbelen’s true identity before 15 June 1956.”
The Justice Department’s report, in describing Verbelen’s atrocities, said that “at the end of 1942, Verbelen began ordering groups of Flemish SS men … to carry out special actions against persons suspected of being anti-Nazi. These actions ranged from house searches to beatings to assassinations of prominent personalities.”
Sher said the intelligence corps had a “practice of utilizing Nazi criminals and their collaborators in its postwar, Cold War, European intelligence operations,” including klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyons.”
In some instances, the report said, the Counter Intelligence Corps took steps to protect such informants from being arrested.
Sher added that in light of Verbelen’s ability to assume different aliases, “it’s not surprising he made a living writing fiction.”