If the Soviets had invaded West Germany in the early days of the Cold War, they would have found more than a hodgepodge of NATO troops waiting for them.
They would also have confronted a secret army of Hitler’s former soldiers, waiting to settle scores with the Communists. Considering the brutal, take-no-prisoners warfare on the Eastern Front in World War II, former German SS troopers fighting vengeful Red Army troops—again—would have been the height of savagery.
The German magazine Der Spiegel discovered a file buried for years in the archives of the BND, Germany’s spy agency. The documents reveal that in 1949, some 2,000 former officers of the SS and the Wehrmacht—the regular German military under the Third Reich—formed a secret paramilitary army that might have numbered as many as 40,000 fighters in the event of war.
The Allied occupation forces didn’t know about it. If they did, they would have discovered the involvement of several former Nazi generals who would later become senior commanders in the Bundeswehr, West Germany’s army.
The underground army was apparently supported by former Third Reich generals such as Hans Speidel, who became chief of NATO ground forces in Central Europe in 1957, and Adolf Heusinger, the first inspector general of the Bundeswehr.
Thus after losing millions of men to defeat Hitler, the Western Allies might have had to deal with an army of German war veterans backed by former Nazi senior officers who were rising stars in the West German military. Anti-communist or not, the existence of such an organization surely wouldn’t have reassured the survivors of Coventry and Oradour-Sur-Glane.
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