By Fiona Govan
Fidel Castro recruited former members of the Nazi Waffen SS to train his troops at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, declassified German intelligence files show.
The communist leader also sought to buy weapons from arms dealers connected with Germany’s extreme right, showing the extent to which he was prepared to collaborate with his ideological enemies to prevent a U.S. invasion on the Caribbean isle.
Papers released this week by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)—the German foreign-intelligence agency—show information gathered by German operatives 50 years ago during the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis.
They reveal that Castro personally approved a plan to hire former Nazi officers to instruct the Cuban revolutionary army, offering them wages that were four times the average salary in Germany at the time and the chance to start a new life in Havana.
The papers, dating from October 1962, show that four former officers from the elite Nazi death squads had been invited to the Cuban capital, although subsequent reports could only confirm that two had arrived.
It also showed how the Castro regime negotiated with two traffickers linked with Germany’s far right to purchase Belgian-made pistols to arm the Cuban forces.
The conclusion drawn by German secret-service officials was that the Cuban regime wanted to free itself from total dependence on Soviet-backed training and supplies.
“Evidently, the Cuban revolutionary army did not fear contagion from personal links to Nazism, so long as it served its their own objectives,” said Bodo Hechelhammer, historical investigations director at the BND, in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt.
The papers provide insight into Cuban actions during a Cold War period that brought the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of war.
The 13-day missile crisis began on Oct 16, 1962, when then-president John F. Kennedy first learned the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba, barely 90 miles off the Florida coast.
After secret negotiations between Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the United States agreed not to invade Cuba if the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from the island.