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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / July 1, 2001

Page 7 of 8

Continued from page 6

Zweig said some information that sometimes seems new was actually reported years ago, yet dismissed as propaganda: ''We know everything, but we choose to forget most things.''

He pointed to a press conference that the declassification commission, the Interagency Working Group on Nazi and Japanese War Crimes, held last month to announce the release of CIA files on prominent Nazis, some of whom had worked for US intelligence during the Cold War. Some of the revelations actually had been leaked to the press by the CIA for propaganda purposes 50 years ago, Zweig said.

Indeed, the personal papers of Allen Dulles, a former OSS official and CIA director, contain copies of East German newspapers from the late 1940s accusing the United States of hiring Hitler's top spies, which the CIA admitted only last year.

''The Cold War distorted history, intelligence, public debate for two generations. And now we're starting to look at some of these East European sources in a different light,'' Zweig said.

Zweig also suggested that what the Allies knew about the Holocaust is a question that may have been answered long ago. Zweig was a student of Harry Hinsely, his doctoral supervisor at Cambridge University and the official historian of British intelligence during World War II. When Hinsley's two-volume book, ''British Intelligence in the Second World War,'' came out in 1981, Zweig said he noticed that an item in the appendix said the British were decrypting police radio transmissions in July 1941 and learned of mass shootings of Jews in Germany.

''I pointed it out: `Do you realize how important this is?''' Zweig recalled. ''He said, `So what?' Only afterwards, when the important questions were raised about the Holocaust, did he gradually acknowledge the significance each time I saw him. The last time I met Hinsley, his last words were `We always knew everything.'''

Breitman said although the shootings were known, and in fact condemned by Churchill without saying the victims were Jews, the Chilean dispatch is the earliest known statement of Nazi policy.

Yet like paleontologists arguing over whether dinosaurs were hot- or cold-blooded, historians have taken the same fundamental material and come to opposite conclusions. Those early shootings by German reserve police, some of whom exercised the option not to take part, were the subject of two books in the past decade: ''Ordinary Men,'' by Christopher Browning, and ''Hitler's Willing Executioners,'' by Daniel Goldhagen.

While both authors read the transcripts of the participants' postwar testimony, Browning concluded they were ordinary men faced with peer pressure, propaganda, and manic fear perpetuated by the war, while Goldhagen concluded that Germans suffer from an intrinsic hatred of Jews.

It is apparent that there is also a considerable amount of bad history floating around. For example, most historians dismiss perennial, Elvis sighting-style reports that Heinrich Mueller, the Gestapo chief in Berlin whose disappearance at the end of the war is one of its great mysteries, went on to work for just about every intelligence agency in the world. The fact that Mueller is absent from newly declassified CIA records tends to support reports that he died at war's end, Breitman said.

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