Senate investigators have uncovered evidence that during World War II, German spies recruited Red Cross members and used the relief agency as cover for transporting agents through Europe and Northern Africa.
The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday the newly declassified dispatches from the former Office of Strategic Service (OSS) are rife with speculation but little hard evidence.
The Red Cross confirmed 10 people named in one of the memos had worked for the humanitarian agency during World War II, said Kim Gordon-Bates, spokesman for the group. But, he said, the documents don’t prove these people were spies.
Nevertheless, historians say the memos represent new information about the war. The OSS cables were found in the National Archives as part of a Senate Banking Committee investigation into the recovery of millions of dollars that European Jews and Holocaust victims deposited in Swiss banks during the war.
One OSS memo, dated Feb. 4, 1944, reads:
“Information has come from various sources which indicates that the International Red Cross may have a number of people in its organization and, indeed, on its executive staff who are either German agents or associates of German agents and who are using the Red Cross organization as a cover for the securing and transmitting of military information.”
The account was based partly on a confession by Jean Robert Alfred Pagan, who was arrested for spying in Algiers, Algeria, on Oct. 14, 1943.
The documents describe how young Frenchmen were being recruited for the German Intelligence Service and “thoroughly trained in methods of espionage and sabotage.”
The recruits, who were paid 25,000 French francs after their training, went to North Africa with the Red Cross, where they received “instructions in invisible writing.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman said the documents don’t distinguish between the International Red Cross and the Red Cross societies run by countries, which generally are autonomous.
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