The Waffen SS in Cuba

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary I could not make this one up to save my life. It has been revealed by the German foreign intelligence agency Bundesnactrichtendienst (BND) that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro actually sought out members of the former German Waffen SS during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Waffen SS was Adolf Hitler’s personal body guards. The Waffen SS was a separate elite military force from the German army, navy, and air force before and during World War II. Of the four former Waffen SS officers whom Castro wanted to come to Cuba, two of them did go. These Waffen SS officers were lured by the pay—Castro paid them quadruple what they were earning at their jobs in Germany. The two Waffen SS officers were hired to train Cuba’s military forces. Eventually, these two former German Waffen SS officers went back to Germany (at that time West Germany) after their contracts were finished. Castro also wanted to hire former World War II German military personnel from the army, navy, air force and paratroopers, but they all refused.

You could ask why Fidel Castro, of all people, would want with former World War II German military personnel when he had plenty of Soviet military advisers? The only answer is that Castro at the time wanted to make sure his armed forces were not made a tool, a puppet of the Soviet Union. Like so many dictators, Castro feared of being overthrown. Either by people in his own Communist Party or by his own ally. He wanted to make sure that his military stayed loyal to him. Apparently this move worked, although Fidel Castro would remain dependent on the good graces of the Soviet Union for most of his rule. But then one has to ask why Fidel Castro, the Communist revolutionary who sought to create institutions in Cuba that made all equal, would want to deal with former personnel of an organization that were taught to believe in a “master race?” This whole idea is disconcerting to put it mildly. Yet Castro did actively seek former German military personnel from the Third Reich to train his military. You can imagine how the Russian military personnel felt as these German military personnel—all of them bitter enemies from World War II—were training Cuban military personnel who were supposed to be allies of the Soviet Union!

As if this is not weird enough, it gets even more bizarre. Fidel Castro, according to the BND, was in touch with German middlemen with ties to right wing extremists (read: neo-nazis) to be able to secure 4,000 Belgian-made assault rifles. It seems that Castro was far more paranoid of his former Soviet ally than any of us imagined. But even going to right wing extremists directly or indirectly would make even people in Castro’s inner circle wonder what he was doing. All I can say is that this has to be one of the most unusual of historical incidents that defy logic. But then the Cold War (1945-1991), which had all kinds of weird and bizarre things happen, was a time that truly made for strange bedfellows.

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