History: Interpol and the Nazi Party

About the history of Interpol, it's founding in Austria, Hitler and the nazis overtaking Interpol and the United States role in the matter.

The Men from Interpol

By Vaughn Young

When Interpol was 1st established in 1924, Vienna was chosen as its "permanent" home by fixing in the constitution that the head of the Austrian federal police would automatically lead the organization from the capital of that nation. In short, whoever ran the Austrian police ran Interpol, which Hitler would quickly recognize.

The Nazis strongly supported the organization and encouraged its expansion. By 1937, Interpol officials elected Nazi General Kurt Daluege, destined to be executed in 1946 for war crimes, as their vice-president. At the same time, J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, was expressing interest and corresponding directly with Interpol's secretary general, Oscar Dressler. In 1937, H. Drane Lester, assistant director of the FBI, attended the Interpol congress in London and recommended to Hoover that the U.S. formally join.

Undaunted by growing Nazi participation, U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings recommended to the Congress, a mere 2 weeks after Hitler's take-over of Austria and Interpol, that the U.S. formally join the group "as advocated by Director Hoover." Since Secretary of State Cordell Hull had no objection to the membership "from the point of view of our international relations," Congress voted the money and as of June 8, 1938, the U.S. was officially a member of Interpol. The U.S. was a member of a Nazi-run organization for only $1,500 annual dues.

With Hitler now in full command in Germany, the 1939 Interpol conference was scheduled for Berlin under the patronage of the Reichsfuhrer, the SS, and Chief of the German Police Heinrich Himmler. For over a month, the U.S. State Department debated about whether or not to attend this Nazi conference. On August 11--3 weeks before W.W. II began--it declined to accept the invitation it had been sent.

Reinhard Heydrich, appointed to head the Nazi SS, became Interpol's new president, announcing that "Under its new German leadership [Interpol will] be a real center of criminal police." On December 8, 1941, Berlin was named as Interpol's new home and the move was made. Sharing a villa in Wannsee, a wealthy suburb of Berlin, with the Gestapo, Interpol was placed under Heydrich's Sicherheitdienst (SD) or Security Police. Also working in the SD at the time was a young SS officer (#337259), commissioned on July 1, 1939, by the name of Paul Dickopf. After the war, Dickopf was to reemerge and become Interpol's president from 1968 to 1972.

In June, 1942, Heydrich was assassinated. For 6 months, the Gestapo (and Interpol) lacked a leader. Himmler finally chose Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who had been working in Austria, to succed Heydrich. With the Gestapo and the SS as his primary concern, Kaltenbrunner finally turned his attention to Interpol and wrote all member nations on July 28, 1943, in words to be echoed at St. Cloud 20 and 30 years later, that he would "continue the strictly nonpolitical character" of the police organization. Meanwhile, the ovens of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Treblinka burned into the night. And with them, the worth of Interpol's word.

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