Germany's foreign intelligence service opens its archives to historians





Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, is having historians look into its shadowy early years, when the organization hired former Nazi criminals. The coming revelations could prove embarrassing for Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats and may even tarnish the legacy of former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

They called Johannes Clemens the "Tiger of Como." When an SS captain bore a nickname like that, it rarely meant anything good. Clemens belonged to a squad that shot 335 civilians in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome in 1944, one of the worst massacres on Italian soil during World War II.

Former chief inspector Georg Wilimzig also had blood on his hands. His 300-member squad, known as IV/2, murdered thousands of men, women and children following the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

After 1945, Clemens and Wilimzig both found themselves working for the same employer -- the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency.

It's no secret that intelligence agencies don't like to disclose too much information about their own histories. There is even less transparency when that history involves mass murderers among the ranks. For this reason, it is all the more remarkable that the current BND head, Ernst Uhrlau, has been pushing for years to have more light cast on the early years of his organization, as part of Germany's ongoing efforts to come to terms with its Nazi past. Uhrlau, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has been trying since 2006 to move the issue forward....


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