Defense (intelligence service)
Abwehr has been the widespread term in German usage since 1920 for the German military secret service in the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht with its branches (secret reporting service, diversion and (during war) commando companies as well as the actual defense against espionage and sabotage ).
"Defense group" and "Defense department"
After the defeat in World War I , according to Article 160 of the Versailles Treaty with the German General Staff , its intelligence department IIIb was also dissolved. In the years 1919 and 1920 there were several small groups of former officers of III b, who worked within the 4 general commands, in structures of paramilitary organizations and the border protection units formed, which continued to work in the sense of the military intelligence service. With the increasing consolidation of the Weimar Republic and the revision of its military structure, intelligence gathering of information was again integrated into suitable structures from the end of 1919. In the spring of 1920, some former employees of Department IIIb under Major Friedrich Gempp , the former deputy of Walter Nicolai , received the order to set up a so-called defense group as part of the “ provisional Reichswehr ” . The main task of the "Abwehr" consisted in obtaining information using intelligence resources and methods for assessing and observing opposing military formations. Only in the second instance were questions of secrecy and the protection of the troops in the center. In matters of counter-espionage, there was direct cooperation with the Reich Commissioner for Public Order (RKO) and the regional police authorities, in this case the State Police Central Offices (C.St.), as they had been founded in Prussia in 1907. The concept of "defense" only had the purpose of camouflaging the actual intelligence activities. Organizationally, the defense group was assigned to the Army Statistics Department in the Army Office of the Reichswehr Ministry until 1928.
On April 1, 1928, a decree by the Reichswehr Minister Wilhelm Groener came into effect, the aim of which was to reorganize the Defense Department , to assign it to the naval intelligence service from the naval command, and to subordinate the new military intelligence service structure of the Weimar Republic directly to the Reichswehr Minister. In this way, the efficiency of the service, its better subordination to the political goals, but also the secrecy of its activities should be increased. On January 31, 1930, Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand von Bredow and in June 1932 Captain Conrad Patzig took over the management of the defense department. In order to meet the leadership requirements within this two-part secret service formation, both army officers and naval officers were entrusted with leading functions in the "defense" during this short transition period. Conrad Patzig also brought numerous former officers who had been retired after the First World War to join the Abwehr as so-called “supplementary officers”. During their civilian professional years, these officers had not only acquired life experience, but also foreign and language skills, which strengthened the capabilities of the defense department beyond national borders, so that active espionage was added to pure counter-espionage. But already at the end of 1932 there were careful efforts to separate the secret service organizational forms of the army and the navy again.
After the Nazi takeover of power on January 30, 1933, the Abwehr department faced competition from National Socialist organizations. Domestic rivals were the Security Service (SD) of the SS and the Research Office of the Air Force . Foreign policy argued with theDefense department, the Foreign Office , the Foreign Policy Office of the NSDAP , the Volksdeutsche Rat , the Association for Germanness Abroad and the foreign organization of the NSDAP for competencies. Patzig's efforts to create a unified intelligence service out of all organizations failed because of the SD, but also because of the Foreign Office, which strictly forbade its military attachés to work with defense agents. Domestically, the SD also claimed the monopoly on researching the security situation and the mood of the population, as well as increasing the power of disposal over the police. The undisputed task of the defense department remained the military "secret reporting service" (espionage) as well as counter-espionage in the Reichswehr and the armaments industry. The inevitable tensions that arose from these restrictions eventually led to Patzig's detachment.
Patzig's successor was on January 1, 1935 Captain z. S. Wilhelm Canaris , who was promoted to Rear Admiral on May 1 of the same year . Like Patzig, Canaris could not prevent the growing power of the SS and SD, but he did manage to find a provisional modus vivendi . With the standartenführer Best , who in the Gestapo for the so-called defense police was responsible, he was acting out a "Ten Commandments" called Contract Work: The Defense Department remained the monopoly of military espionage and counter-intelligence received, but was the defense police the Gestapo manhunt awarded on suspicion of treason - the “sixth commandment”, however, required that the interests of the “secret reporting service” and counter-espionage take precedence in individual cases. With the armament of the Wehrmacht , the number of defense workers also grew. While the Defense Department had just under 150 employees in 1933, it was almost 1,000 in mid-1937. By the start of the war in 1939, the number had doubled to around 2,000.
Foreign Office / Defense
In 1938 the Abwehr Department was appointed to the Foreign News and Defense Department of the newly created High Command of the Wehrmacht . Shortly after the start of the war, on October 18, 1939, the official group was elevated to the position of Foreign / Defense , which was directly subordinate to the Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, General Wilhelm Keitel . The headquarters of the office was in the building of the High Command of the Wehrmacht on Tirpitzufer 75-76 (today Reichpietschufer ) in Berlin-Tiergarten .
Head of Defense
- 1920 to June 30, 1927: Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Gempp
- July 1, 1927 to January 31, 1930: Lieutenant Colonel Günther Schwantes
- February 1, 1930 to mid-1932: Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand von Bredow
- June 6, 1932 to December 31, 1934: Frigate captain / sea captain Conrad Patzig
- January 1 to April 25, 1935: Sea captain Wilhelm Canaris (in charge of the tour)
- 26 April 1935 to 11 February 1944, Captain / Rear Admiral / Vice Admiral / Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
On February 11, 1944, Admiral Canaris was removed from office by Adolf Hitler and murdered on April 9, 1945 in the Flossenbürg concentration camp .
Canaris appointed Georg Hansen as his successor as head of the military defense even before his resignation in February 1944. The Abwehrabteilung I, the "Secret Registration Service", was established under the direction of Colonel i. G. Georg Alexander Hansen was transferred to the Reich Security Main Office as "Military Office" (Mil Office) and from then on was subordinate to SD chief Walter Schellenberg , Hansen was his deputy. All other areas of defense were assigned to the Gestapo by the end of the war.
Organization of defense
Since September 1938, the defense was divided into five areas:
- The central department (department Z) was responsible for organization and administration. Head of Department Z was Lieutenant Colonel from September 1938 to April 1943, later Colonel Hans Oster , his successor was Colonel Jacobsen. The central department comprised the following work areas:
- ZO: General Affairs and Central File
- ZR: right
- ZF: Finance
- Eg: Foreign policy and military reporting
- The international department under the later Vice Admiral Leopold Bürkner was divided into eight groups:
- Group I: Foreign and Defense Policy
- Group II: Relations with foreign armed forces, general and registry
- Group III: Foreign Armed Forces and Registration Point
- Group IV: Special Marine Service
- Group V: foreign press
- Group VI: Issues of Martial Law
- Group VII: Colonial Issues
- Group VIII: Information
- Department I, the "Secret Registration Service", was headed by Lieutenant Colonel Hans Piekenbrock from 1937 to mid-1943 , and was succeeded by Colonel Georg Alexander Hansen . The task of Department I was espionage: to obtain information about the military and the armaments industries of all potential opponents of Germany as well as about their possible military intentions, as well as the establishment and control of a network of agents. The operational work was done by four groups:
- Group I / Army
- Group I / Marine
- Group I / air
- Group I / G / Technical repellants
- There were also three independent presentations:
- I / economy
- I / press
- I / i (radio network, secret radio reporting service)
- Department II (sabotage and decomposition of the military in enemy territory) was headed in 1938 by Captain Helmuth Groscurth , from late 1938 / early 1939 by Lieutenant Colonel, later Major General, Erwin von Lahousen-Vivremont, and from late 1943 by Colonel Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven . It consisted of three groups:
- Head of group: personnel matters, training of informants , preparation of sabotage instructions
- Group 1: Exploration and deployment of opposition organizations and national minorities in different countries
- Group 2: sabotage and disintegration
- Department III had the tasks of countering espionage, combating treason , sabotage and damage to military resources, as well as corruption and the destruction of military strength . It was headed by Kurt Himer until the end of 1934, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Rudolf Bamler until the spring of 1939 . His successor was Lieutenant Colonel, later Lieutenant General, Franz Eccard von Bentivegni .
- Group III A (chief group): General Affairs
- Leadership group III H: counter-espionage in the army, questioning
- Group III M: Counterintelligence in the Navy
- Group III L: Defense in the Air Force
- Group III Wi: Defense in the economy
- Group III C: Defense against domestic authorities
- Group III F: Defense abroad
- Group III D: Diversion, enemy deception
- Group III S: Combating sabotage
- Group III G: Reports and experts
- Group III N: Foreign letter inspection office and telegram inspection office
- Group III K: radio defenses
- Group III Kgf: Defense in POW camps
- Group III U: Internal evaluation
The external organization of the Abwehr headquarters in Berlin was based on defense stations in Germany (Ast) with defense branches (Nest) as well as defense branches in the occupied countries and so-called war organizations (KO) in the allied and neutral countries. In 1933 there were the following defense units (and branches), each of which was assigned individual geographical areas for processing:
- Königsberg , Stettin , Breslau - main work against the east,
- Berlin - main work against the East and Diplomatic Corps ,
- Dresden - main work Poland , Czechoslovakia ,
- Nuremberg - main work Balkans as well as Poland and Czechoslovakia,
- Hamburg - main work England , France and overseas, including the overseas radio center , which was able to establish radio connections in the countries mentioned and beyond
- Münster, Hanover, Kassel, Stuttgart, Cologne, Trier - main work against the west,
- Salzburg, Vienna, Graz - main work Balkans and Mediterranean area,
- Wilhelmshaven, Bremen, Kiel - England and overseas in naval matters.
By 1939 the defense stations had grown to 15 regional locations.
War organizations emerged during the course of the war z. B. in Spain, Portugal and Turkey, counter-intelligence branches in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The organizational structure of the defense agencies and war organizations corresponded to the Abwehr-Zentrale in Berlin with its structure in Group I (secret reporting service), Group II (sabotage and decomposition) and Group III (counter-espionage). Their leaders were subordinate to the respective group leaders at headquarters.
Defense activities 1939–1945
Abwehr I (espionage) concentrated on the main opponents of the war France, Great Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union, plus the Near and Middle East to East Asia. The bases were the neutral states of Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey. The focus of the operation against France from 1937 until the surrender in the summer of 1940 was the exploration of the army and naval armaments as well as the Maginot Line . The gathering of news from Great Britain and the USA proved to be a failure, because the contacts established there before the war were discovered and blocked by the counter-espionage of these states after 1939. For the attack on the Soviet Union , three reconnaissance units (cover names Walli I, II and III) were set up in the spring of 1941; there were also front reconnaissance commands and troops in the army groups and armies or tank groups and, after the start of the fighting, V-man groups who should scout behind enemy lines.
Abwehr II (sabotage and disintegration) carried out the first operation before and during the attack on Poland in autumn 1939. Specially formed task forces had the task of securing the traffic routes in the border area for the advance of the German troops and of protecting the Upper Silesian industrial area from destruction. In April 1940 Abwehr II occupied two railway bridges north of the German-Danish border before invading Denmark , and in May 1940 the fortifications in Belgium and the Netherlands were shut down. Other deployments were directed against enemy shipments of raw materials and enemy merchant ships in neutral ports. During the course of the war, sabotage and diversion actions against the Soviet Union took place in its hinterland. The Brandenburg special unit , which is subordinate to Abwehr II , was deployed primarily in the war against the Soviet Union , but also in Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece and North Africa, as well as in every other theater of war such as in Spitzbergen . The Dallwitz airborne battalion also belonged to these units set up under the leadership of the Abwehr .
Abwehr III had, in addition to counter-espionage, protection of the troops and the fight against treason and sabotage, the task of protecting its own armaments measures. In 1944, for example, the resistance group around Kaplan Heinrich Maier , who sent the exact drawings of the V-2 rocket and the Tiger tank or sketches of the location of the armaments manufacturing plants essential to the war effort, was sent to the American Office of Strategic Services by a double agent who worked for both the OSS and the the German defense and the SD worked, uncovered. In addition, there was not only the surveillance of the opposing intelligence services, but also the deception of the enemy, e.g. B. by “ turning around ” opposing agents and using so-called “game material”, ie incorrect but credible information. Since the end of 1939, small Abwehr III groups operated with the field troops to protect the files of the defeated enemy from deliberate destruction. The Secret Field Police was subordinated directly to the outbreak of war defense III.
Resistance in defense
While in the first few years after Hitler came to power in 1933 the overwhelming majority of the Abwehr, as in the entire Reichswehr, were positive about the new government, criticism arose from 1938 onwards. The resignation of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Werner von Fritsch and the Reich Minister of War Werner von Blomberg in February 1938 outraged many officers. After Hitler had decided to destroy Czechoslovakia militarily, a first coup plan was drawn up in late summer 1938. In addition to Army Chief of Staff Ludwig Beck and other army officers such as the commander of the Berlin military district Erwin von Witzleben and General Franz Halder , the Abwehr was mainly involved in the planning with Lieutenant Colonel Hans Oster , Abwehr Chief Wilhelm Canaris and Judge Hans von Dohnanyi . After the conclusion of the Munich Agreement on September 29 with the British Foreign Minister Neville Chamberlain , which led to the bloodless annexation of the Sudetenland , the prepared Coup d'Etat became obsolete.
A second coup plan came into being when Hitler decided on October 22, 1939 to carry out the Western Offensive . The initiative for this plan came from General Halder , who was now Beck's successor as Chief of Staff of the Army. Like the commanders of the three army groups , von Leeb , von Rundstedt and von Bock , who were to be responsible for the main tasks, he saw an unacceptable military risk in an attack on the Western powers. Halder gave Major Helmuth Groscurth , the head of Defense Department II (sabotage and disintegration) the order to update the plan of overthrow of 1938. In contrast to his co-conspirators Canaris and Oster, Halder only wanted to strike if no other means could be found to stop Hitler. On November 5th, together with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Colonel General Walther von Brauchitsch , he once again presented the concerns of the troop leaders to Hitler. Terrified by Hitler's outburst of anger, Halder had the coup documents that had been drawn up up to that point destroyed.
After the failure of the coup plans, Admiral Canaris' resistance was on the one hand to cover the conspiratorial activities of his employees. In addition, on the other hand, he made the most of the opportunities his office offered him: for example, he had members of the opposition who were drafted for military service become employees of the Abwehramt in order to evade them from the Gestapo stalking, or Jews became V men or Agents employed to save them from arrest and deportation. With false papers from the Abwehr, Canaris ensured, among other things, that Chief Rabbi Joseph Isaak Schneersohn, who was persecuted and hid in occupied Warsaw, was able to get to safety abroad. The wife and children of the former Polish military attaché in Berlin, Antoni Szymanski, were also able to escape to Switzerland thanks to the help of Canaris. During the war years, Canaris is said to have even tried to use secret service channels in the east and west to explore the chances of a separate peace , which he himself never admitted.
Hans Oster, head of Department Z in the Abwehr and at the same time Canaris' deputy in the case of mobilization , had been looking for his own way of resistance since autumn 1939. He first arranged a diplomatic initiative with Beck and Dohnanyi to find out whether and, if so, under what conditions, the Western powers would agree to a kind of standstill in the event of a military coup. The aim was to secure foreign policy against a coup to be considered again later, in order to relieve the hesitant generals of the concern that the Allies could militarily exploit a change of power in Germany. The lawyer and opponent of the regime, Josef Müller, was chosen as the intermediary. He had been doing his military service in the Abwehrstelle Munich since the beginning of the war and had good connections with the Vatican. He should Pope Pius XII. to get in touch with England. In fact, there were two conversations between Pope Pius XII in the following months. and the British ambassador Francis d'Arcy Osborne, but the initiative fizzled out. Müller was arrested by the Gestapo in April 1943 and imprisoned one after the other in the Buchenwald , Flossenbürg and Dachau concentration camps until he was liberated. His colleague Randolph von Breidbach-Bürresheim , also an officer in the Munich Abwehrstelle, was arrested and died in 1945 in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp .
In addition to the initiated Vatican initiative, Oster made the decision to prevent Hitler's offensive to the west “on his own initiative and at his own risk”, as he mistrusted the generosity's will to resist. He revealed to his long-time friend, the Dutch military attaché Major Gijsbertus Jacobus Sas, Hitler's plan of aggression with the start of the attack on November 12, 1939. At that time, Oster was still hoping that Hitler would call off the Western offensive if the Netherlands and Belgium initiated strong defensive measures. In the following months, when Hitler postponed the western offensive almost thirty times because of the unfavorable weather conditions, but did not think about abandoning the plans, Oster informed Sas about each planned attack date and confessed: “You can now say that I am a traitor, but I am I really don't, I consider myself a better German than all those who run after Hitler. It is my plan and my duty to free Germany and the world from this plague. "
Nobody in The Hague or Brussels took Sas's warnings seriously, which is why no enhanced national defense precautions were taken. The German offensive began on the morning of May 10th, and the 18th Army reached the IJsselmeer on the same day . The Dutch armed forces surrendered on the evening of May 14th and the Belgian forces on May 28th . The Nazi regime never heard of Oster's disclosure of the date of the attack; it was only made known by Sas himself after the war.
On April 5, 1943, Oster was relieved of his post in the Abwehr and placed under house arrest as part of the so-called deposit fund investigation. After the assassination attempt on July 20, he was arrested by the Gestapo on July 21, 1944. An SS token court in the Flossenbürg concentration camp sentenced him to death by hanging on April 8, 1945 , and the next day he was hanged together with Canaris, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Army Judge Karl Sack and the Abwehr Captain Ludwig Gehre . Oster's close confidante, the naval officer Franz-Maria Liedig , who had accompanied him to all meetings with Sas and who was also involved in the coup plans, was arrested by the Gestapo in early November 1944. He was held in several concentration camps until the end of April 1945, but was finally freed from Dachau by the Allies.
Hans von Dohnanyi was summoned by Oster to serve in the Abwehr in the fall of 1939 after Dohnanyi had received his draft notice. Oster set up the Reporting Unit (ZB) for him , where he officially had to analyze the foreign and military policy situation based on the incoming reports. In secret, Dohnanyi continued his collection of material on violations of the law by the regime, which he had already begun before the war as a personal advisor to Justice Minister Franz Gürtner and as a judge in Leipzig. He recorded all information about crimes that he obtained, not least with the help of his brother-in-law, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in writing, so that he could use it later in a trial against the regime.
On April 5, 1943, Dohnanyi was arrested by the Gestapo on charges of foreign exchange offenses. The reason was that in September 1942, in coordination with Canaris and Oster, he organized the escape of 14 Jews to Switzerland under the guise of a fictitious espionage operation, Operation Sieben . In order to provide them with money - Switzerland only allowed entry if they had sufficient financial means - the refugees received 100,000 dollars from a Swiss Abwehr foreign exchange deposit. When this financial transaction was noticed, an investigation was launched under the keyword Depositenkasse , which cost not only Dohnanyi but also Oster. During his Gestapo imprisonment in the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse prison and then in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Dohnanyi fell seriously ill. In Sachsenhausen he was murdered by the SS on April 8 or 9, 1945 after a mock trial. Other defense officers were directly or indirectly involved in Operation Sieben , such as Captain Hans Harald Berger from Section IH West / 3 in the Berlin headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Erich Fiedler, a former employee of Groscurth, Captain Suss, the head of Counter-Espionage Section III F in the defense office in Munich, and Georg Duesterberg from the ZF finance department.
Canaris's closest collaborators had been anti-regime and active in the resistance since 1938/39. These included:
- Hans Piekenbrock , head of Abwehr I until March 1943, who promoted unusual inefficiency among his employees: files were lost, reports were seldom read and even less checked.
- Georg Alexander Hansen , Piekenbrock's successor, who had been involved in all planning for the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944 since 1943, then arrested, sentenced to death by the People's Court and executed on September 8 in Berlin-Plötzensee prison.
- Helmuth Groscurth , 1938 Head of Abwehr II.
- Erwin von Lahousen , head of Abwehr II from early 1939 to mid-1943, who in autumn 1939 declared himself ready to steal explosives from the depot for the planned coup, and in the spring of 1943 soldier to army officers Colonel i. G. Henning von Tresckow and Major Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff provided the explosives for the attacks they planned on Hitler.
- Wessel Freytag von Loringhoven , who succeeded Lahousen as head of Department II from mid-1943 to mid-1944, who joined the resistance group around Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and supplied them with the explosives for the assassination attempt on July 20. Since the release certificate for the explosives was signed by Major Wolfgang Abshagen , also from Division II, Abshagen was arrested after July 20. Released from custody by the Gestapo in November, Abshagen was murdered by the Soviet secret service in August 1945. Freytag von Loringhoven killed himself on July 26, 1944 to avoid being arrested by the Gestapo.
- Rudolf von Marogna-Redwitz , head of the Abwehrstelle Vienna from 1938 to summer 1944, who, together with his colleague Emmerich von Boxberg, campaigned for those persecuted by the regime by employing them as alleged informants or by enabling them to escape with bogus foreign assignments. After Canaris' impeachment in the spring of 1944, Marogna-Redwitz was also deposed and made himself available to the conspirators around Stauffenberg as a liaison officer for the Vienna military district. Arrested after July 20, he was sentenced to death by the People's Court on October 12 and executed on the same day in Berlin-Plötzensee prison.
- Otto Armster , Marogna-Redwitz's successor as head of the Abwehrstelle Vienna from April 1944, who was designated by the assassins of July 20 as a liaison officer for the Salzburg military district. On July 23, 1944 Armster was arrested in Vienna and then imprisoned in the Lehrter Strasse prison in Berlin until he managed to escape on April 25, 1945. Arrested by the Soviet secret service, he remained in custody until 1955.
In addition, there were numerous Abwehr officers and members of the Abwehr who rejected the regime, became involved in the resistance and put their lives on the line. The following are known: Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Klaus Bonhoeffer , Justus Delbrück , Ludwig Gehre , Hans Bernd Gisevius , Herbert Gollnow , Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg , Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz , Otto John , Otto Kiep , Bernhard Letterhaus , Helmuth James Graf von Moltke , Ernst Munzinger , Egidius Schneider , Werner Schrader , Ulrich Wilhelm Graf Schwerin von Schwanenfeld , Ulrich von Sell , Theodor Strünck .
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- Peter Hoffmann : Resistance, coup d'état, assassination. The fight of the opposition against Hitler. Berlin 1970, p. 555.