Justice Dept. inquiry says war criminals were given safe haven.
Richard Breitman, who worked for the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group, said there was “certainly information in the CIA file that some CIA officials suspected Soobzokov was covering up information about war crimes.”
An article in the Aug. 22, 1985, issue of The Jewish News — a predecessor publication of New Jersey Jewish News — reported on the bombing of the Paterson home of Tscherim Soobzokov.
A former citizen of the Soviet Union who allegedly collaborated with the Nazis during World War II was given safe haven in Paterson until his murder in 1985, according to a secret Justice Department report disclosed on Sept. 13 by The New York Times.
The report accuses the CIA of knowingly allowing Tscherim Soobzokov and other known or suspected Nazi war criminals to enter the United States “for postwar intelligence purposes.” The report also said, however, that the number of Nazis who entered the United States after World War II was smaller than the 10,000 figure that is often cited.
The report devotes a chapter to Soobzokov, who was able to obtain American citizenship in 1960 despite suspicions about his wartime activities. The report also says he was on the CIA payroll from 1952 to 1959.
Born in 1924 in the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union, Soobzokov was recruited by the multinational force of the Waffen SS after his country was occupied by the Nazis in 1941.
As a first lieutenant, he was assigned to recruit Nazi loyalist soldiers and hunt down Jews and members of the Young Communist League in a region of the former Soviet Union called Circassia.
“I think he was from an area of the Soviet Union that the CIA felt there was unrest in,” said Richard Breitman, a professor of German history at American University in Washington, DC.
Between 1999 and 2007, Breitman worked for the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group, a Justice Department agency that reviewed classified records of German and Japanese war crimes.
In 2006 Breitman authored a report on Soobzokov.
“He was not a big fish,” Breitman told NJ Jewish News in a Nov. 16 phone interview. “Whether you consider him a small fish or someone of significance or importance, he was certainly not among the top figures.”
Those “top figures” in the report include Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolf Eichmann; Arthur L. Rudolph, a Nazi scientist; and John Demjanjuk, a retired American autoworker who was tried and acquitted in Israel of being Treblinka’s Ivan the Terrible.
He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1955 and began working as a source for the FBI three years later. The CIA told the Immigration and Naturalization Service it had no derogatory information that would preclude granting him citizenship.
Determining the scope of Soobzokov’s wartime activities “is a tough question,” said Breitman.
“Was he in fact a war criminal? I am not in the business of prosecuting people. I am not a lawyer,” he said. “All I can tell you is we were able to get a fair degree of new information from the CIA. They ultimately gave more information on Soobzokov than they had conceded initially. There was certainly information in the CIA file that some CIA officials suspected Soobzokov was covering up information about war crimes.”
Publicly, Soobzokov denied any Nazi affiliations. He was defended by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan as a victim of “vile slander” and by former Rep. Robert Roe (D-Dist. 8).
In the predawn hours of Aug. 15, 1985, a pipe bomb exploded outside Soobzokov’s Paterson home. The critically injured man was rushed to Saint Joseph’s Hospital, where he died three weeks later. His wife, daughter, and grandson suffered minor injuries. The Jewish Defense League claimed responsibility for the bombing, then later rescinded that claim. The murder has never been solved.
The secret report examined the work of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis. More than 300 Nazis have been deported, stripped of citizenship, or blocked from entering the United States since the creation of the OSI, according to the report.
It was obtained after a Freedom of Information Act suit by a private think tank, the National Security Archive.