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Reinhard Gehlen: Wehrmacht Spymaster

Reinhard Gehlen, pictured a moment he replaced his boss as the head of the FHO (April 10, 1945 - May 1945). Source Reinhard Gehlen , the...

Reinhard Gehlen: Wehrmacht Spymaster
Reinhard Gehlen, pictured a moment he replaced his boss as the head of the FHO (April 10, 1945 - May 1945). Source
Reinhard Gehlen, the career officer in the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht. Gehlen was the first president of the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst as abbreviated BND), the Germany foreign intelligence agency from (1955-1968). In the years 1920-1945, he headed deep intelligence operations on the Soviet-German front.

Immediately after the surrender of Germany, as a specialist in the USSR, he was involved in intelligence work by the Americans, on whose money he created a new foreign intelligence service April 3, 1902, in the city of Erfurt on Lubenstrasse, house 63, a boy was born in the family of the retired Prussian army lieutenant Walter Gehlen, who was named Reinhard. The family came from the Flemish aristocracy, and traditionally men from the Gelen family served in the army.

Reinhard Gehlen
At twenty-one, December 1, 1923, Reinhard Gehlen became lieutenant of the Reichswehr. As a young man, Gehlen could not participate in the First World War and achieve promotion, ranks and awards during the hostilities, However, Reinhard had an enviable ambition and decided to advance, becoming an officer in the General Staff. True, the situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that under the terms of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, it was forbidden for Germany to have an Academy of the General Staff and to train highly qualified staff officers.

However, the Germans rather cleverly and skillfully circumvented these prohibitions by creating a “shadow Reichswehr” - a series of disguised military educational institutions, among which there was a complete analogue of the Academy, which trained officers in the specialty “Education Issues”. At the time the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany came to power, Lieutenant Reinhard Gehlen was just studying at such a department. Adolf Hitler immediately and openly headed for revenge and militarization of Germany. One of his first actions in this direction was the restoration of a number of military educational institutions, including the Academy of the General Staff.

Gelen was among her first graduates - among the fifty best officers in 1935 he was seconded to the General Staff. The certification on Gehlen noted his ability to clearly assess the strategic and tactical situation and the ability to quickly make the only right decisions. While serving in the General Staff, Hauptmann Gehlen managed to attract the attention of the well-known General von Manstein, who appreciated the zeal, knowledge and hard work of the young officer. In 1936, Gehlen became an officer in the operational department of von Manstein's headquarters: this turned out to be the next step in a long staircase upstairs.

Wehrmacht Spymaster
Dabendorf, ROA Propaganda School; left Colonel Reinhard Gehlen, Major General V.F. Malyshkin, behind the gene. Malyshkina captain V. Shtrik-Shtrikfeldt. Source.
In the summer of 1940, he was appointed adjutant to the chief of staff of the ground forces, Franz Halder. The Second World War began, and this post was considered very responsible. In 1942, in the estate “Voronino” near Vinnitsa, where the headquarters of the reconnaissance unit headed by Colonel Gelen headed by the Wehrmacht General Headquarters, Reinhard met with Admiral Wilhelm Kanaris. The head of the Abwehr invited the young, promising officer to create in the bowels of the General Staff a purely military intelligence body, so-called Abwehr-2, that is not under the control of the Hitler special services, and to head it.

On April 1, 1942, Reinhard, who had already put on the epaulette as Colonel heading the 12th department of the General Staff, whose sphere of spying activities was to focus on enemies in Scandinavia and the Balkans, apart from the Soviet Union. Gelen turned the department that worked poorly before him into a well-functioning mechanism. The department, called the FHO (Fremde Heere Ost, Fremde Heere Ost - “Foreign Armies in the East”), was supposed to process the materials received from the Abwehr, make reports and forecasts.

The work is ungrateful, especially since its results were reported to Hitler and often caused him irritation and discontent, since they did not correspond to his idea of ​​the progress of affairs. The unit headed by Gelen consisted of more than fifty officers, which included specialists in the processing and analysis of intelligence information, conducting interrogations of prisoners of war, radio specialists, translators from various languages, and primarily from Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Czech and Slovak , statistical unit and information and reference group.

Officially, the tasks of Colonel Gehlen’s unit included collecting information about the state of the enemy’s forces on the Eastern Front, preparing for the leadership and high command of the Wehrmacht analytical reports, reports, memos and illustrative graphic materials for them. Since high-quality information from the Abwehr ceased to come, Gelen established close contacts with other intelligence units: front-line intelligence departments Ost-I – II – III, the secret communications service, radio, air and front-line intelligence. The results of the interrogations of prisoners of war were also used. Gelen personally participated in this work. It was he who persuaded General Vlasov to cooperate. Gelen closely collaborated with the VI Directorate of the RSHA.

He took part in the preparation of Zeppelin operations for sending agents over the front line, developed tactical instructions on the use of sabotage groups and the organization of sabotage behind enemy lines. Gelen stayed away from the conspirators on July 20, 1944 , and if he maintained acquaintance with anyone, then those who, like him, were oriented to the West, therefore avoided retaliation. In the same year, Reinhard Gehlen, who received the rank of General, was already well aware of the prospects for ending the Second World War. Being a man to whom all reliable information flocked about the course of the war and the inevitable defeat of Germany, and being a militant anti-communist, Gehlen made a choice: to put himself, his knowledge and his department at the service of that of the Western allies who express their readiness to “acquire” it well pay for his services.

After the Warsaw uprising, when one of its organizers and leaders, the Polish general Bur-Komorowski from the Craiova’s Army, fostered and fully supported by the British, was captured by the Germans, Gelen became very interested in the experience of the “combat” AK and devoted a lot of time to “working” with Bur-Komorowski . The British intelligence and sabotage services, which have a lot to learn, transferred part of their experience and knowledge to underground cells - “battles” - of the Craiova Army, which was politically oriented towards London. Gelen cunningly decided through the Poles to "suck" the English experience of underground, sabotage and intelligence work. Let not all, but at least that which succeeds. And indeed, something was possible: Bur-Komorowski went to cooperate with the Germans.

Werewolf Plan 

On April 5, 1945, Gehlen entered into a secret agreement with his assistant Gerhard Wessel and former chief of the Russian Bureau of the Abwehr German Bown. They agreed to come to the Americans with a good "dowry" - an archive and file cabinets, as well as with the best cadres who were anti-communist, anti-Soviet and pro-American. Before the end of the Reich, he did not approve of the Nazi leadership’s intention to create Werewolf groups and wage an underground war, despite the fact that he and his department were developing a plan for Werewolf groups, "

According to the plan, the Werewolf organization should include: special short-term courses for training sabotage organizers, saboteurs, and people trained to collect intelligence information; preliminary creation in the territory of the Reich, which may be captured by the enemy, of clandestine warehouses of weapons, explosives and radio communications; advance organization of the werewolf combat groups, each of which should consist of several dozen people; training people who are able to conduct certain propaganda.

In practice, what General Gehlen enumerated was already actually available from the special services of the Third Reich. It only remained to bring everything into a harmonious system, debug and give a single guide. The general intended to lead the Werfolf himself. According to Gehlen, the werewolf structure must consist of five units, whose members are unfamiliar with each other, but have common leadership skills and met the following criteria:

  1. Zuh-gruppen - search group. 
  2. Sprengen-gruppen is a subversive group. 
  3. Meldungo-gruppen - information group. 
  4. Aufklerun-gruppen - intelligence group. 
  5. Insurgrung-gruppen - a group of organizers of the uprisings. 

In fact, the entire structure, with only minor changes, and, most importantly, the basic principles of the Werewolf underground work, General Gehlen and his people carefully copied from the pro-British Polish Army Craiova, considering her experience of illegal activity against the German special services as the most successful. However, all attempts to transplant the experience of the partisan movement in Poland onto German soil turned out to be absolutely impossible and, one after the other, failed completely. Werewolf did not play any significant role in World War II. However, not everything is so simple and simple.

Many Western scholars, not without good reason, believe that the Werewolf nevertheless played a serious role, but not at all on the plan that people used to consider it officially. By and large, it turned out to be a well-thought-out multi-way action: it distracted the attention of the Nazi leadership and special services, to a certain extent untied the hands of Helen himself and allowed him to become true “werewolves” without any special interference! At the beginning of January 1945, Gehlen and the department employees accompanying him arrived in the city of Zossen, located about two dozen kilometers from Berlin. Previously, General Gehlen ordered secretly copying all the archives and files of the intelligence department of the General Staff, including photographs and magnetic recordings. They hid everything in three different reliable caches in Germany.

Reinhard Gehlen
One of the few photos of Reinhard Gehlen, during his work in the BND. Here on the deck of the boat on the lake in Zurich with a hat and sunglasses.
On January 9, General Gelen personally reported to Adolf Hitler for the last time about the state of affairs on the Eastern Front. Then, in front of the RSHA, almost all the files and archives of the Fremleheere ost intelligence department of the General Staff were pointedly passed through paper-cutting machines and burned. After some time, from Zossen, to the south, to the Bavarian-Austrian border area, where the Alpine Fortress was located, a small motorcade emerged, in which General Gehlen was located. The cars moved unhindered, as they had special passes. In the mountain town of Misbach, General Gehlen divided his employees into three groups and sent each to the mountains along his route.

Any of his scouts knew that if he was captured, he should not give any information about himself without the written order of General Gehlen, who went to the mountain shelter "Elendsalm", where he spent the time remaining until the surrender of Germany, waiting for the Anglo-American approach troops. In his hands, the general had a win-win trump card: a spy network throughout Eastern Europe, including the republics of the USSR.

Moreover, Gehlen turned out to be so cunning that he managed to secretly launch a paw into the holy of holies of Walter Schellenberg and some other RSHA directorates. With this “product”, General Gehlen hoped to successfully carry out his own Werewolf operation. And, in general, he was not mistaken. When American troops occupied this part of Europe, Gehlen did not want to surrender to anyone. He needed one of the intelligence or counterintelligence leaders. But the first young captain of the American counterintelligence he met sent Helen to a prisoner of war camp.

There, fortunately for Gehlen, in July 1945 he met with the Brigadier General, Chief G-2 (Military Intelligence) in the American occupation zone of Germany, Edwin Luther Siebert. Gelen shared with him his ideas for a joint struggle against the Soviet Union.

CIA activities in Germany

This coincided with the ideas of General Seebert himself. He introduced Gehlen to Eisenhower's chief of staff, General Walter Bedell Smith, known for his anti-Soviet sentiment. They had a long and sincere conversation. As a result, in September 1945, Gehlen, together with six assistants, flew to the United States. There they met with the chief of the American military intelligence, Major General George W. Strong. Until July 1946, negotiations and other preparatory work were conducted in Washington. At the same time, Gelen’s former “ally” Herman Bown, under the control of General Siebert, secretly from Gehlen, created a small counterintelligence intelligence group.

Reinhard Gehlen service's ID as Hans Holbein
Reinhard Gehlen service's ID as Hans Holbein
Its headquarters was located in the Taunus mountain range. Active work began in March 1946. In July 1946, Gehlen returned to Germany. By this time, the Americans had authorized and agreed to fund a single intelligence organization led by Gehlen. Bown and Wessel were appointed as his assistants. So the exhaust gas was born. The British tried to create a similar organization. But they did not succeed. Its head, Adolf Wicht, together with his subordinates, moved to the OG in early 1947. Among the conditions on which the exhaust gas was created were the following:

  • 1. The German intelligence service carries out intelligence in the East ... based on a common interest in protecting against communism.
  • 2. Gehlen Organization secretly funded by the American in return, the organization gives the Americans all the results of intelligence works obtained. 
Initially, the OG operated in Taunus, in December 1947 its headquarters moved to the estate of Rudolf Hess in Pullach, near Munich. Gelen eliminated his rival Hermann Bown in December 1951 under the pretext of financial irregularities. Gradually, the estate of Hess ceased to arrange the expanded service of Gehlen. The former residence of Martin Bormann (the “Russian agent” by definition of Helen) was attached to it, and then a number of new buildings were built for the work and housing of the exhaust workers. This village was called the "camp of St. Nicholas", as it was settled on December 6, 1947, on the day of St. Nicholas. Receiving a scarce food supply at that time, as well as dollars forbidden for circulation among Germans, many OG employees and their wives engaged in speculative transactions. 

Moreover, in collusion with the military police they even did such things: they bought goods from a speculator for dollars. Immediately the military police grabbed the speculator and seized the dollars that they returned to the owner (leaving part of the production to themselves). They speculated on coffee on the black market, engaged in smuggling. In 1953, a big process took place, but neither General Gehlen nor his organization were named at it. It cost them a considerable amount, but the exhaust gas remained unsullied. Of course, exhaust gas employees were not only engaged in speculation. Their main task was the fight against the USSR. 

The intelligence collection was conducted both through military espionage, mainly against the Group of Soviet occupation forces in Germany, and through counterintelligence. Both political intelligence and work with double agents were conducted. Since its inception, the FG has maintained close contacts with the CIA, providing it with additional detailed information about the USSR and the socialist countries, the collection of which was difficult for the Americans. Since 1950, Gehlen began to take former Nazis from the RSHA into his service. They were of great help during the Cold War. He also established close contacts with emigrant anti-Soviet organizations: NTS (People's Labor Union), UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) and others. 

After the formation of the GDR in 1949, the organization of Gehlen became especially important for the Americans. On their instructions, Gehlen recruited agents surrounded by the Prime Minister of the GDR, Otto Grotewol, the Minister of Transport of the GDR, the future Interior Minister Ernest Wollweber and other “painful” points. OG drove several large figures to flight to the West: in April 1953, Johann Krauss, a responsible foreign intelligence officer of the GDR, and in September 1955, Deputy Minister Hermann Kastner. On July 11, 1955, the OG was transformed into the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND - Federal Intelligence Service), which was chaired by Reinhard Gehlen. 

Now the service was financed not from the US, but from the federal budget of Germany and gained greater independence. Gehlen paid special attention to strengthening his influence in the German army - the Bundeswehr. It is no accident that in his organization the son of the former chief of the General Staff, lieutenant colonel Heinz Gunter Guderian, the nephew of the Kaiser general Colonel Ludendorf, the former Nazi Wehrmacht general Adolf Heusinger, who later became the first inspector general of the Bundeswehr, and many others found refuge in his organization. In addition to this, Gehlen envisaged conducting counterintelligence inside the country, which strengthened his influence, especially during the “witch hunt”, and gave free access to the first federal chancellor of the German government Konrad Adenauer. 

OG, no matter what name it was, had a huge number of agents. Only one OG general office in Karlsruhe had forty-two sources, which operated directly in East Berlin and the Soviet occupation zone. It also had sources, gunners, couriers and other agents in neutral Austria and Switzerland, in France and Yugoslavia. In addition, agents were recruited in political and economic spheres within Germany and in West Berlin, in ministries, state governments, police and border troops, political parties, trade unions, and diplomatic missions of the Bonn state abroad. 

"Spy family" 

With the growth of his importance and influence, Gehlen began to show "nepotism" more and more (speaking in Russian: "Well, how can you not please your own little man ?!"). Gelen trusted all senior posts only to his old associates, mainly to former officers of the General Staff and the Abwehr. They led the units, sometimes replacing each other. Familyhood especially manifested itself after the creation of the BND. In the service of Gehlen, a real family clan formed, which influenced the secret service policy. German writers H. Hene and G. Zolling noted in their book “Pullah from the Inside”: “Countless ties bound the members of this order with each other. Gehlen, who was characterized by a sense of nepotism, brought numerous relatives to the apparatus in Pullah.  

Gehlen he really liked to act as the patron of weddings. So, he facilitated the marriage of his secretary with one of the senior officers, who later became a secret service general. ” Gelen married his daughter Katarina to Colonel Durrwanger, aka Justus, whom he made the BND’s communications chief in Bonn, that is, he appointed him to a position that made it possible to establish contacts in all areas of the government apparatus. At the Gelena villa, a family clan constantly met: three daughters, a son, sons-in-law, friends and secretary of Justus Dürrwanger Veronik, daughter of Helen Wolf's closest friend. Veronica’s husband was an employee of the BND Lenkight, sometimes replacing Justus. 

In addition to Katarina, two more daughters of Gelena married BND officers. Helena's brother, nicknamed “Don Juan”, was a BND resident in Rome, where he distinguished himself by his strange projects for introducing him to the Vatican and his behavior corresponding to his nickname. Shurin Gelena, von Seidlitz-Kurzbach, headed the BND personnel department and firmly held in his hands this most important position for the "family". One of Gelena Schlemel’s cousins, nicknamed “Doctor,” was an official BND doctor. The most important thing in this “family idyll” was that during meetings at the villa espionage doctrine was developed, tasks were compiled and distributed. 

In addition to members of his family, Gehlen also tended for the families of his old friends and colleagues. The sons of these friends were arranged for various synecure posts. They were educated at the expense of the BND and came to work under pseudonyms, which made it possible to cover up the fact that they were relatives of senior employees. The Soviet intelligence officer Felfe, who worked for Gehlen, recalled how one of these offspring was sent on a special task, which, as they said, was very important and secret. And during the transfer from Rome about the Olympic Games, this young man was shown in all its glory on the platform of the stadium, where he was not supposed to be. From the 1960s, the sunset of the Helen era began. 

The complete surprise for him and for his service was the construction of the Berlin Wall. This was not only a moral blow to the prestige of the BND, but also deprived the service of the most important point for contacting agents operating in the GDR. The second blow was the arrest and conviction in 1963 of the Soviet agent Felfe, who held a responsible post in the BND. He was a native of the RSHA and the SS, and thanks to this he became an employee of the OG, and then the BND. His exposure provoked sharp criticism in West German society about the use of former Nazi officers in special services. And as you know, this was especially committed by the organization of Gehlen. In the same year, in 1963, Chancellor Adenauer was replaced by Chancellor Erhard, who had less respect for Gehlen. 

With the advent of Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger and the creation of the “Great Coalition” of CDU and SPD in West Germany, changes have occurred - the government’s policy has now been aimed at developing civil society and limiting the unconstitutional activity of the BND within the country. Upon reaching retirement age (66 years), in May 1968, Gehlen was dismissed. In 1972, the general published his memoir, entitled "Service, Memoirs of 1942-1971." In 1979, at the age of seventy-seven, General Gehlen passed away. 

The German government promised to break with the Nazi past of its intelligence services. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ernst Urlau the head of the BND at the end of 2011 promised to assemble an independent commission of historians in order to clarify the brown roots of the service. The headquarters of the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienstes BND) in Pullah.