Introduction: Recent decades have seen the growth of the Christian Right, a major force within the Republican Party and on the American political landscape itself. The Family, a recent book by Jeff Sharlet has gained considerable traction and sets forth the profound influence wielded within U.S. power structure by an organization called The Family, founded in the 1930’s by a Norwegian immigrant named Abram Vereide (usually referred to by those familiar with him as “Abram.”) Although its primary influence is within the GOP, the Family has considerable gravitas within the Democratic Party as well.
This program highlights the organization’s profound relationship with the Underground Reich and the Bormann capital network. Vereide and his associates played a significant role in neutralizing the de– Nazification of Germany and the political rehabilitation of Third Reich alumni for service both in the “New” Federal Republic of Germany and U.S. intelligence. (Vereide is pictured below and at right with then President Eisenhower in 1960.)
Thus: “Between the Cold War establishment and the religious fervor of Abram and his allies, organizations that came of age in the postwar era–the National Association of Evangelicals, Campus Crusade, the Billy Graham Crusade, Youth For Christ, the Navigators, and many more–one finds the unexplained presence of men such as [Nazi agent Manfred] Zapp, adaptable men always ready to serve the powers that be.”
After delineating the pre-war and wartime careers in the United States of Nazi spies Manfred Zapp (pictured above and at left) and Baron Ulrich von Gienanth, the program notes that they were among those who became close associates of “Abram” in his “saving” of Third Reich alumni for duty in the Cold War. They were typical and by no means the worst of the Nazis recruited by Vereide and his associates.
Program Highlights Include: Vereide’s “saving” of Hermann J. Abs (right), “HItler’s Banker” so that he might become “Adenauer’s Banker”. Vereide’s role in saving manufacturing plants of top Nazis from seizure by the Allies; Vereide and his associates’ successful efforts at aiding the rearming of Germany for the Cold War; Vereide’s successful attempt to lift travel restrictions on “former” Gestapo officer von Gienanth; projections by anti-fascists during the war that the Third Reich’s plans to survive military defeat would involve networking with reactionary U.S. fundamentalists; Nazi general Reinhard Gehlen’s “post-intelligence” career as a religious evangelist.
1. We begin by examining the background of Manfred Zapp, a Nazi spy who became a close evangelical associate of Abram Vereide and the Family.
Manfred Zapp, a native of Dusseldorf by way of Pretoria, merited a line in the news when he stepped from an ocean liner onto the docks of New York City on September 22, 1938, a warm windy day at the edge of a South Atlantic hurricane. Just a few words in the New York Times’ “Ocean Travelers” column, a list of the travelers of note buried in the back of the paper. By the time he left the United States, his departure would win headlines. . . .
2. Zapp ran the Transocean News Agency, a Nazi espionage and propaganda outfit disguised as a journalistic operation.
. . . Zapp had been given charge of the American offices of the Transocean News Agency, ostensibly the creation of a group of unnamed German financiers. He had recently left a similar post in South Africa. “It is of paramount importance,” the German charge d’affaires in Washington had written Zapp the month before his arrival, “that a crossing of wires with the work of the D.N.B.–Deutschland News Bureau–“be absolutely avoided.” DNN was transparently the tool of the Nazi regime and thus under constant scrutiny. Transocean, as an allegedly independent agency, might operate more freely. “My task here in America is so big and so difficult,” Zapp wrote the German ambassador to South Africa a month after he arrived, “that it demands all my energies.”
3. Note that Zapp’s activities in the U.S. involved networking with members of the New York elite whom he believed (in many cases correctly) to be sympathetic to fascism. Like many Nazi and fascist sympathizers, Zapp disdained many of the superficial trappings of fascism, while valuing the corporatist philosophy at the foundation of the system.
What was Zapp’s task? During his American tenure, he flitted in black tie and tails from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue enjoying the hospitality of rich men and beautiful women–the gossip columnist Walter Winchell wrote of Zapp’s “madcap girlfriend,” a big-spending society girl who seemed to consume at least as much of Zapp’s attention as the news. He avoided as much as he could discussions of what he considered the tedium of politics. His friends knew he had dined with Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, and Roosevelt himself, and some must also have known that he had worked quietly–and illegally, if one must be technical–against the president’s reelection. But one did not ask questions. He traveled, though no one was quite sure where he went off to. One moment he was hovering over the teletype in Manhattan; the next he was to be found in Havana, on the occasion of a meeting of foreign ministers. Some might have called him a Nazi agent, there to encourage Cuba’s inclinations–a popular radio program, transmitted across the Caribbean, was called The Nazi Hour–but Zapp could truthfully reply that he rarely stirred from the lobby of the Hotel Nacional, where he sat sipping cocktails, happy to buy drinks for any man–or, preferably, lady–who cared to chat with him. . . .
4. More about Zapp’s networking with elements of the American elite who harbored fascist sympathies.
. . . . To Zapp, totalitarianism–the term he preferred to fascism–was, once pruned of its absurdities, a sensible and lovely idea. The torches and the “long knives,” the death’s-head and all that red-faced singing and table pounding, these activities Zapp did not care for. He actually preferred life in America, the canyons of Manhattan and the gin-lit balconies of the city’s best people, conversations that did not begin with “Heil Hitler!” Zapp signed his letters with this invocation, and a portrait of the Fuhrer hung in his office, but Zapp the journalist was too sensitive a recording device to enjoy all that arm snapping. If only Manhattan and Munich, Washington and Berlin, could be merged. It was a matter not of warfare but of harmony, democracy’s bickering and bile giving way to the “new conception,” in which power and will would be one.
5. Eventually, Zapp’s espionage activities caused him to fall afoul of the U.S. authorities.
Within a year, however, Zapp found cause to resist returning to that fine new system. After a series of unsolved murders and perplexing explosions and intercepted transmissions led the FBI to raid his front organizations in Boston, Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Zapp’s spartan office off Fifth Avenue, where they found what they believed to be evidence of the orchestration of it all, Zapp began to reconsider his enthusiasm for Hitler’s new order. He had failed the Fuhrer. How would his will judge him? What power would be exerted in the Gestapo “beating rooms” that Transocean employees had once considered themselves privileged to tour?
The FBI seized him and his chief deputy and whisked them away to cold, bare rooms, on Ellis Island, no less, where not long before, the rabble of Europe had been processed into “mongrel” America, land of “degenerate democracy,” as Roosevelt himself quoted Zapp in a speech denouncing Germany’s “strategy of terror.” . . .
6. Another of the Nazi agents with whom Abram Vereide and the Family would network after the war was Baron Ulrich von Gienanth, the Gestapo chief of the German embassy in Washington and a member of the SS.
. . . . On the other were men such as Zapp. Along with a D.C.-based diplomat named Ulrich von Gienanth (whom he would rejoin after the war in Abram’s prayer meetings), Zapp considered the coming conflict between the United States and the Reich one to be resolved through quiet conversation, between German gentlemen and American “industrialists and State Department men.”
Von Gienanth, a muscular, sandy-haired man whose dull expression disguised a chilly intelligence, “seems to be a very agreeable fellow,” Zapp wrote his brother, who had studied in Munich with the baron-to-be. Only second secretary in the embassy, von Gienanth maintained a frightening grip over his fellow diplomats. He was an undercover SS man, the ears and eyes of the “Reichsministry of Proper Enlightenment and Propaganda,” charged with keeping watch over its secret American operations. He was, in short, the Gestapo chief in America. While Zapp worried about his legal prospects in the Indian Summer of 1940, von Gienanth was likely waiting for news of a major operation in New Jersey: the detonation of the Hercules gunpowder plant, an explosion that on September 12 killed forty-seven and sent shockwaves so strong that they snapped wind into the sails of boaters in far-off Long Island Sound. . . .
. . . . Von Gienanth’s initiatives were whimsical by comparison. Once for instance, he paid a pilot to dump pro-Nazi antiwar fliers on the White House lawn. He devoted himself to changing Goebbels’ gold into dollars, and those dollars into laundered “donations” to the America First Committee, where unwitting isolationists–Abram allies such as Senator Arthur Vandenberg and America First President Robert M. Hanes among them–stumped for recognition of the “fact” on Hitler’s inevitability.
Like Zapp, von Gienanth considered himself a commonsense man.
And Zapp–Zapp simply reported the news and sold it on the wire. Or gave it away. To the papers of Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and to the small-town editors of America’s gullible heartland, Zapp offered Transocean reports for almost nothing. In some South American countries, 30 percent or more of foreign news–the enthusiastic welcome given conquering German forces, the Jewish cabal in Washington, the moral rot of the American people–was produced by or channeled through Zapp’s offices. On the side, he compiled a report on Soviet-inspired “Polish atrocities” against the long-suffering German people and distributed it to thousands of leading Americans, the sort sympathetic to the plight of the persecuted Christian. Zapp’s sympathetic nature would prove, after the war, to be as genuine as his distorted sense of history’s victims. . . .
7. Next, the broadcast sets forth Abram [Vereide] and the Family’s positioning as a vehicle for the recruitment of Nazis to serve both the U.S. and the “New” Federal Republic of Germany. The organization involved in this served as a principal moral compass for much of the American power elite during the Cold War and through the present. The organizations which rescued and rehabilitated Third Reich alumni are at the foundation of the contemporary evangelical establishment.
. . . Establishment Cold Warriors of [Marshall Plan administrator Donald C.] Stone’s ilk dominate the history books. Zapp, the ally with an ugly past, is his dark shadow. But Abram and the influence of his fellow fundamentalists would remain invisible for decades, their influence unmarked by media and academic establishments. The role played by fundamentalists in refashioning the world’s greatest fascist power into a democracy would go unnoticed. So, too, would the role of fascism–or, rather, that of fascism’s ghost–in shaping the newly internationalist ambition of evangelical conservatives in the postwar era.
Between the Cold War establishment and the religious fervor of Abram and his allies, organizations that came of age in the postwar era–the National Association of Evangelicals, Campus Crusade, the Billy Graham Crusade, Youth For Christ, the Navigators, and many more–one finds the unexplained presence of men such as Zapp, adaptable men always ready to serve the powers that be. From American Christendom, Zapp and his ilk took the cloak of redemption, cheap grace, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of their most famous victims. To it, they offered something harder to define. This is an investigation of that transmission; the last message from the Ministry of Proper Enlightenment; the story of American fundamentalism’s German connection. . . .
8. When Abram got around to “saving” Third Reich alumni for service to the “New Germany,” as well as U.S. intelligence, he selected some genuinely ripe individuals.
Gedat was among the least tainted of the men that Abram and Fricke, and later Gedat himself, gathered into prayer cells to help forge the new West German state. But they were repentant men, this they testified to at every session. Repentant for what? It was hard to say. Every one of them claimed to have suffered during the war years. Men such as Hermann J. Abs, “Hitler’s banker” and a vice president of Abram’s International Christian Leadership (ICL), German division; Gustav Schmelz, a manufacturer of chemical weapons; Paul Rohrbach, the hypernationalist ideologue whose conflation of Germany with Christianity, and most of Europe with Germany, had inspired the Nazis to understand their war-hunger as divine; and General Hans Speidel, who had accepted the surrender of Paris on behalf of the Fuhrer in 1940, insisted that he had never believed Hitler, had been forced into his arms by the Red Menace, had regretted the unfortunate alliance with such a vulgar fool, a disgrace to God’s true plan for Germany. They had done nothing wrong; they, too, if one gave it some though, were victims.
Perhaps some of them were. That is one of the many clever strategies of fascism: persecution belongs to the powerful, according to its rules, both to dole out and to claim as the honor due martyrs. Abram did not ask questions; he simply took out his washcloth and got busy with the blood of the lamb. He scrubbed his “new men” clean. Did it work? Abs, “Hitler’s banker,” became “Adenauer’s banker,” a key figure in the West German government’s financial resurrection. Schmelz kept his factory. Rohrbach wrote on, authoring tributes to Abram’s International Christian Leadership in the Frankfurter Allgemeine.
And Speidel? He was a special case, a co conspirator with Rommel in the attempted assassination of Hitler, the “July Plot” of 1944. There was something almost American about him; like Buchman, like Barton, he considered Hitler’s racial policies a distraction from his really good ideas. For this ambivalence, the Allies rewarded him: he served as commander in chief of NATO ground forces from 1957 to 1963, when Charles de Gaulle, unpersuaded of his reconstruction, insisted on his ouster.
Such men are only a few of those whom Abram helped, and by no means the worst. There were Zapp and von Gienanth, there were “little Nazis” Abram championed for U.S. intelligence positions, and there were big ones: Baron Konstantin von Neurath, Hitler’s first foreign minister, and General Oswald Pohl, the last SS commander of the concentration camps, among them. For those beyond hope of blank-slate reinvention, Abram and his web of Christian cells led medical mercy (von Neurath, sentenced to fifteen years for crimes against humanity, was released early in 1953; Abram took up his case up his case upon learning from von Neurath’s daughter that her father, classified as a “major War Criminal,” was receiving less than exemplary dental care in prison) or expediency(it was unjust, they felt, that Pohl, who while imprisoned by the Allies wrote a memoir called Credo: My Way to God–a Christ-besotted path that did not include acknowledging his role in mass murder–should be left wondering when he would be hanged.)
When occupation forces charged Abs with war crimes, he offered a novel defense. He did not deny what he had done for Hitler; he simply declared that he had done it for money, fascism be damned. He would gladly do as much for the Allies. And so he did, a task at which he so excelled that he would come to be known as the wizard of the “German Miracle.” His past was forgotten–a phrase that must be written in passive voice in order to suggest the gentle elision of history in the postwar years, undertakenby those eager to see a conservative German state rise from the ashes, a sober son of Hitler’s fatherland that would inherit the old man’s hatred for one radicalism but not his love of another. . . .
9. Senator Alexander Wiley (R-Wisconsin) was another close associate of Abram’s. Wiley was instrumental in the successfully lobbying (along with Abram and his aide Otto Fricke) for the rearming of the German army against the former Soviet Union.
. . . . Senator Wiley wanted total war. Take the men of Hitler’s old panzer divisions, bless ‘em under Christ, and point ‘em toward Moscow. Abram’s German point man, Otto Fricke, wasn’t so blood-thirsty; he merely wanted twenty-five rearmed German divisions to slow the Russian invasion he saw coming. “What Do We Christians Think of Re-Armament?” was the theme of one of Fricke’s cell meetings in 1950. They were conflicted, tempted to take “malicious joy that the ‘Allies’ are now forced to empty with spoons the bitter soup that has been served by the Russians.” The judgments at Nuremberg had dishonored the Wermacht, and the dismantling had insulted and robbed Germany’s great industrialists, Krupp and Weizacker and Bosch–all well represented in Fricke’s cells. By all rights they should stand down, refuse to rearm, let the Americans defend Christendom from the Slavs. But there it was: Christendom. They were Christian men, chosen not by a nation but by Jesus himself to lead their people into the “Order” God revealed to them in their prayers. “To accomplish these tasks,” the Frankfurt cell concluded, “the state needs power and this powerfulness is indispensable for the sake of love.” . . .
10. Vereide and the Family were successful in obtaining permission for former SS/Gestapo officer von Gienanth to travel outside of Germany.
. . . . Von Gienanth was bound to the Fatherland. This, he complained to Abram, was an impediment to reconstruction. He’d wanted to attend a conference in Atlantic City with further ideas of expansion in mind. Would the American military really say that a man of his stature would blemish the boardwalk? He was on a list of undesirables, he had learned from certain connections–probably ICL men within the occupation. This would be “undesirable,” he thought, if he had been a communist. “But I don’t see any sense in including people of my attitude”–ex-fascists ready to make common cause with the United States.
Among the many testimonies von Gienanth collected on his own behalf was a letter from an American diplomat’s wife who insisted the baron had not been a Nazi so much as an “idealist.” Eventually, von Gienanth had believed, “the good and conservative element of the German people would gain control.” Fascism had been like strong medicine, unpleasant but necessary to what von Gienanth had always believed would be the reestablishment of rule by elites like himself. “In the coming years of reconstruction,” his advocate wrote, “such men will be needed who can be trusted.”
Abram contacted the Combined Travel Board that decided on which former Nazis could be allowed to leave the country. The baron was needed , Abram insisted. There were high Christian councils to be held in The Hague. “Expedite the necessary permit.”
Should that argument prove inadequate, Abram hired von Gienanth’s wife, Karein, as a hostess on call for Americans traveling on Christian missions. She was an American citizen, though she’d spent the war with her SS officer husband. Now her American passport was being threatened. Abram saved it. That summer, he sent the baron and his wife a gift of sort: a congressman from California, to be a guest on the baron’s estate. The following winter Senator Frank Carlson visited. “As you know,” Abram advised Karein, “he is one of the closest friends and advisers to Eisenhower.”
A “serene confidence has filled me,” she replied, “as to President Eisenhower’s guidance by God.” That summer, her husband flew with her to England, his passport evidently restored.
11. Next, the program notes a function convened at the castle of the Teutonic Order (Teutonic Knights) in Bavaria. (For more about the history of the Teutonic Knights, see Paul Winkler’s The Thousand-Year Conspiracy, available for download for free on this website.) Note that major players from the German power elite, business partners with their cartel associates in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West, as well as key political figures, were lectured to by Christian fundamentalist “converts”–“some of the best minds of the old regime.”
The assembled received “a letter of repentance for the sins of denazification signed by more than thirty congressmen including Wiley and Capehart and a young Richard Nixon.”
. . . . The first meeting at Castle Mainau had taken place in 1949, the same year the Allies allowed Germans to begin governing themselves again. The 1951 meeting was planned to mark what Abram considered the complete moral rehabilitation–in just two years–of Germany. Abram wanted the Americans to go to them, a grand contingent of senators and representatives.
. . . . General Speidel was there, as was Rohrbach, the propagandist: There were representatives from the major German banks and from Krupp and Bosch, and there was the president of Standard Oil’s German division. There was at least one German cabinet member, parliamentarians, mayors, a dozen or more judges. A U-boat commander, famed for torpedoing ships off the coast of Virginia, cut a dashing figure. A gaggle of aristocrats, minor princes and princesses, barons and counts and margraves were intimidated by some of the best minds of the old regime. There was the financial genius Hermann J. Abs, and a fascist editor who hd once been a comrade of the radical theorist Walter Benjamin before throwing his lot in with the Nazis.
Wallace Haines spoke for Abram. He stayed up all night before his lecture, praying for the spirit that spoke aloud to his mentor. The Americans, God told him to say, were thrilled with the “eagerness” of the Germans to forget the war. The Americans came to the Germans humbled, he told them. Haines brought proof of their new-found wisdom: a letter of repentance for the sins of denazification signed by more than thirty congressmen including Wiley and Capehart and a young Richard Nixon. . . .
12. Eventually, Vereide, the Family and their Nazi and fascist associates (on both sides of the Atlantic) were successful in getting the rigorous de-Nazification program rescinded. Note the reference to the “Morgenthau boys.” This is a reference to former Treasury Secretary Robert Morgenthau, who favored a rigorous approach to de-Nazification that included the de-industrialization of Germany. For more about this topic, see FTR #578, as well as All Honorable Men, available for download for free on this website.
Of particular significance is the fact that Vereide was able to intercede on behalf of industrial plants to prevent their de-Nazification.In this regard, Vereide was doing the work not of the Lord, but of the Bormann capital network.
. . . . For years, Manfred Zapp had been Abram’s harshest correspondent, constantly warning that the “man on the street” with whom he seemed to spend a great deal of time had had enough of America’s empty promises. America had committed “mental cruelty,” he charged, holding “so-called war criminals” in red coats–the uniforms of the Landsberg Prison–awaiting execution indefinitely.
Abram agreed, and sent to the occupation government letters signed by dozens of congressmen demanding action.
America prevented German industry from feeding the nation, Zapp argued.
Abram agreed, and intervened time and again on behalf of German factories. He saved as many as he could, though a steel foundry named for Hermann Goering was beyond even his powers of redemption.
America had put leftists and trade unionists and Bolsheviks in power, Zapp complained.
Abram agreed. The cleansing of the American occupation government became an obsession, the subject of his meetings with the American high commissioner John J. McCloy and his weekly prayer meetings with congressmen.
“Idealists” were prevented from serving their people, said Zapp. The man on the street was losing faith in the American religion. “Freedom in their interpretation is the ideal for which we shall fight and die but the reality is nothing else but a beautiful word for services for Western powers . . . The word freedom is not taken seriously anymore.”
Within a few years, nobody cared. The “Morgenthau Boys” were as much a part of the past as the history no German cared to speak of. . . .
13. Published before the 1944 Normandy invasion, Curt Riess’ The Nazis Go Underground forecast that the Third Reich’s strategy for going underground would involve liaison with American Protestant fundamentalists.
Also of interest to Berlin—particularly in view of the coming underground fight of the Nazis—must be the Fundamentalist Protestants, who have a considerable following in Michigan, Kansas, Colorado, and Minnesota. To be sure, some of the Fundamentalists are among the most courageous fighters for democracy, but a great many of them are definitely pro-Hitler. Their reason for this stand is that Fundamentalists do not believe in freedom of religion, and they do believe that the Jews should be punished because they killed Christ. They say that Hitler has been sent by God to ‘save Christianity and destroy atheistic Communism.’ To many of them Japan is the ‘oriental outpost of Christianity’ destined to save Asia from the danger of a ‘Communistic China.’
14. In the context of this discussion, it should be recalled that Nazi spy chief Reinhard Gehlen became an evangelist after his formal retirement from being the head of the German intelligence service. [Chief of Hitler’s intelligence apparatus for the Eastern front in World War II, Gehlen jumped to the CIA with his entire organization which became: the CIA’s department of Russian and Eastern European affairs, the de-facto NATO intelligence organization and finally the BND, the intelligence service of the Federal Republic of Germany.]
In this context, it should be remembered that Gehlen reported to Bormann’s security chief, Heinrich Muller and that he was clearing his postwar actions taken in conjunction with US intelligence with Admiral von Doenitz (Hitler’s nominal successor as head of state) and General Franz Halder, his former chief-of-staff. In his operations, Gehlen was operating as part of the Underground Reich.
Today, on the threshold of three score years and ten, General Reinhard Gehlen has found a surprising new field of activities. He has become an evangelist. With still unimpaired energy he has taken over the direction of a campaign for building new churches and schools for the Evangelical Church in Catholic Bavaria. After a life of seclusion he frequently attends meetings all over the province at which appeals for new funds are launched; on occasion he does not disdain to visit members of his religious community in order to encourage the enterprise and to pass the begging bowl. . .
Gehlen: Spy of the Century; by E.H. Cookridge; 1973 [SC] Pyramid Books; Copyright 1971 by European Copyright Company Limited; ISBN 0–515-03154–2; p. 450.