A Global Crusade against Communism: The Cercle in the “Second Cold War”

  • Adrian Hänni
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


The Cercle was founded in 1952–53 by the French statesman Antoine Pinay and his close associate, the international lawyer Jean Violet.1 At the time, Pinay was prime minister and Minister of Finance, while later that decade he served as the first Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance under President de Gaulle. Violet is a lesser-known and quite shadowy figure who would nonetheless play an important role behind the scenes during much of the Cold War era. He worked for the French foreign intelligence service SDECE (Service de documentation extérieure et de contre-espionnage) from the early 1950s until 19702 and in the 1960s he also became a paid agent of the German foreign intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst).3 The long-serving Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, and the prominent Bavarian politician and federal minister, Franz Josef Strauss, acted as co-founders of the Cercle. Pinay and Adenauer, the first chairmen, appointed Violet secretary general and entrusted him with the organization of the Cercle.


European Economic Community Free Agent International Terrorism Intelligence Service South African Government 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    This essay is based on the analysis of primary documents from the papers of Julian Amery at Churchill Archives Centre, the Brian Crozier papers and the Monique Garnier-Lançon papers at Hoover Institution Archives, and the William A. Wilson papers at Georgetown University. The earliest account of the Cercle is Pierre Péan, Enquête sur l’affaire des avions renifleurs et ses ramifications proches ou lointaines (Paris: Fayard, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. Extensive, though not always correct, information was collected by the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Covert Politics: Joel van der Reijden, Le Cercle and the Struggle for the European Continent: Private Bridge between Vatican-Paneuropean and Anglo-American Intelligence (2006, available online at <>). There are as yet very few studies of the Cercle which are based on primary sources. Johannes Grossmann provides a brief introduction to the Cercle up to the late 1970s in an early publication based on his PhD research:Google Scholar
  3. Johannes Grossmann, “Ein Europa der ‘Hintergründigen’: Antikommunistische christliche Organisationen, konservative Elitezirkel und private Aussenpolitik in Westeuropa nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg”, in Johannes Wienand and Christiane Wienand (eds), Die kulturelle Integration Europas (Wiesbaden 2010), pp. 303–40. David Teacher compiled a very detailed book on the main characters in the Cercle and the organizations they were associated with: Rogue Agents: Habsburg, Pinay and the Private Cold War 1951–1991 (3rd edition, 2011), available online at <,_2011,_full).pdf>. Teacher, who worked as a translator with the European Union, has provided a very valuable account of some of the main characters involved and of their wider networks, although his conclusions are speculative and not backed up by primary sources. I would like to thank David Teacher for his assistance in writing this chapter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2.
    See Roger Faligot and Pascal Krop, La Piscine: The French Secret Service since 1944 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 151–6, 248;Google Scholar
  5. Brian Crozier, Free Agent: The Unseen War, 1941–1991 (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. 191ff.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    David Rockefeller, Memoirs (New York: Random House, 2002), p. 413.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    On Amery’s role in the SOE and MI6 see Teacher, Rogue Agents, pp. 28ff.; on Amery’s role in the Congress for Cultural Freedom see Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta, 1999), pp. 76, 88.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    On Crozier see, besides his autobiography Free Agent, Teacher, Rogue Agents; Edward S. Herman and Gerry O’Sullivan, The Terrorism Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror (New York: Random House, 1989).Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    See the documents on the Centre europeen de documentation et d’information (CEDI) and the Académie européenne de sciences politiques (particularly the membership list from c. 1977) in Teacher, Rogue Agents. On Huyn see also Tim Geiger, Atlantiker gegen Gaullisten: Aussenpolitischer Konflikt und innerparteilicher Machtkampf in der CDU/CSU 1958–1969 (München: Oldenbourg, 2008), pp. 388–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 21.
    Excerpt from the minutes of the “Inner Circle” meeting, Washington DC, 10 April 1989, in Jürgen Roth, Die Mitternachtsregierung: Reportage über die Macht der Geheimdienste (Hamburg: Rasch und Röhring, 1990), p. 33. Roth’s brief remarks on the Cercle are not reliable and he gives a fairly mysterious account of how he received the document at a meeting with a British intelligence officer in a wine bar in Bonn (pp. 28–37). However, there are good reasons to conclude that the two documents relating to the Cercle that are cited by Roth are authentic. For example, a number of other sources confirm that psychological operations against the policy of rapprochement towards the Soviet Union and the pro-Gorbachev sentiment in the West were indeed preoccupations of Crozier and other Cercle leaders in 1989, and the minutes of the meeting refer to numerous details that were not known to outsiders at that time.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    WACL was founded in Taiwan in 1966 as an expansion of the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League (APACL), which was formed to fight communism at the request of Chiang Kai-shek at the end of the Korean War. In the 1970s WACL spread to all continents with chapters in Western Europe and the United States, but it also attracted the far right. In the 1980s its US chapter, the United States Council for World Freedom (USCWF), led by former General John Singlaub, became the most active branch of WACL, which now operated globally against communist groups and governments. In 1984, committees were established to support anti-communist resistance groups in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Nicaragua, where WACL, collaborating with the Reagan administration, was a major source of support for the Nicaraguan Contras. See, besides the chapter by Abramovici in this volume, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, Inside the League: The Shocking Exposé of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1986);Google Scholar
  12. Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party (Boston: South End Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    Peter Rae Killen to Julian Amery, 30 July 1987, Peter Rae Killen to Julian Amery, 12 January 1988, and Peter Rae Killen to Julian Amery, 22 August 1988, Box 33 1/10, JA. On Killen’s career in the DFA see Roger Pfister, Apartheid South Africa and African States: From Pariah to Middle Power, 1961– 1994 (London: I.B. Taurus, 2005), pp. 9–15.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    On the Department of Information’s secret propaganda programme, which led to the Muldergate scandal of 1978–79, see James Sanders, South Africa and the International Media, 1972–1979: A Struggle for Representation (London: Frank Cass, 2000).Google Scholar
  15. 43.
    Hans Graf Huyn, Der Angriff: Der Vorstoss Moskaus zur Weltherrschaft (Wien: Molden, 1978), p. 258.Google Scholar
  16. 45.
    Minutes of Cercle meeting, Zurich, 28–9 June 1980 in Jürgen Roth and Berndt Ender, Geschäfte und Verbrechen der Politmafia (Berlin: IBDK, 1987), pp. 89ff.Google Scholar
  17. 47.
    For a detailed history of the idea that the Soviet Union was behind international terrorism see Adrian Hänni, “Mastermind of Terror: The Soviet Union as the Leader of the International Terror Network”, in Eva-Maria Stolberg (ed.), Rivals of the Twentieth Century: USSR and USA: Two Geopolitical Powers in Competition (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), pp. 221–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Adrian Hänni 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Hänni

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations