The Secret Surrender
John F. Kennedy concluded after the Bay of Pigs that the reappointment of Allen Dulles as Director of the CIA had been a mistake. We are told, however, that he still could not understand how a man so intelligent and so experienced could be so wrong.1 Dulles’s account of his part in arranging the surrender of German armies in Italy sixteen years earlier offers important clues; it also illuminates the way in which Dulles helped set in motion the events that we know as the Cold War.
This is not his intent, of course. Dulles was wartime OSS Chief in Switzerland. During March and April 1945 a leading Nazi in Italy, SS General and Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff got in touch with him. Dulles’s book is a detailed account of how this “contact” was used to facilitate the surrender of German forces in Italy a few days before V-E Day. The publisher promises the book will convey “the breathless excitement of a fictional thriller.” However, it contains no sex, little sadism, only an occasional episode, in the woods at a Swiss villa. There is excitement in this tale, but to sense it one must know a good deal more than Dulles tells about its bearing on the great issue of 1945: whether the World War II alliance could be followed by peaceful relations among the Great Powers.
Hitler was sure it could not, and, of course, in the end he was right. Convinced that disputes between the Allies could save the Third Reich, he and his subordinates tried to foment trouble during the last months of the war. His underlings maneuvered both to curry personal favor with the Americans and British and to save Germany from the Russians. Wolff made his approaches to Dulles in Switzerland. Wolff’s SS boss. Himmler, suggested a deal to Count Bernadotte: “In order to save as great a part of Germany as possible from a Russian invasion I am willing to capitulate on the Western Front in order to enable the Western Allies to advance rapidly towards the east.” This bait was offered all over Europe; the trouble, of course, lay in the hook, and Dulles knew it: “It would have been a simple matter for the Germans to let word leak to the Russians that some secret negotiations were going on…that the Allies were running out on them.”
IT WAS A “REAL DANGER.” Yet it was a risk Dulles was willing to take; he begged Washington to let nothing interfere with his efforts to produce the surrender of a million men. Washington was dubious. The Germans had been ordered to fight to the last man. Talk of surrender was high treason, and Hitler was hanging Generals on the slightest evidence of insubordination. The only result of bargaining talks would be to arouse Soviet suspicions. So Dulles’s first request for permission to open a…
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