Abwehr scored perhaps its greatest victories in the area of industrial espionage, as agents managed to steal the blueprint for every major American airplane produced for the war effort. The Abwehr was the German military intelligence organization from 1866 to 1944. The organization predates the emergence of Germany itself, and was founded to gather intelligence information for the Prussian government during a war with neighboring Austria. After initial successes, the organization was expanded during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Under the direction of Wilhelm Stieber, Abwehr located, inﬁltrated, and reported on French defensive positions and operations. The Prussians claimed victory, largely because of the success of Abwehr agents. In 1871, Prussia united with other independent German states to form the nation of Germany. The new country adopted much of the former Prussian government and military structure, including the Abwehr. The intelligence agency was again tested at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. German agents worked to pinpoint the location and strength of the Allied forces, helping the German forces to invade and progress through northern France before stalemated trench warfare began. New military technology changed the nature of espionage. Agency director Walther Nicolai recognized the need for a modernized intelligence force and reorganized the department to include experts in wire tapping, munitions manufacturing, shipping, and encryption. The agency tapped enemy communications wires, intercepting and deciphering Allied dispatches with measured accomplishment. The Abwehr sent several agents to spy on the manufacture of poison gas in France, and tracked munitions production and shipping in Britain. The organization sent saboteurs to disrupt the shipment of arms from America to Allied forces in Europe. Several ships were sunk in transit after being identiﬁed by agents as smuggling arms. German agents, often acting on information collected by Abwehr, set ﬁre to several American weapons factories and storage facilities. While the Abwehr was generally successful, the loss of the German codebook to British intelligence somewhat undermined the agency’s ultimate efﬁcacy during the war. After World War I, the Abwehr ceased operation under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. The intelligence service was re-established in 1921. When the Nazis gained control of Germany in the 1930s, some members of the intelligence agency began to spy on their own government. The Nazis created a separate intelligence organization, the Sicherheitsdienst, or Security Service, headed by Reinhard Heydrich. In 1935, the new Abwehr director, Wilhelm Canaris, and Heydrich reached an agreement about the roles of each agency, but both trained and maintained their own espionage forces. Canaris reorganized the Abwehr into three branches: espionage, counterespionage, and saboteurs.
He appointed three distinguished Abwehr agents to lead the branches, but only on condition that they were not members of the Nazi party.
This aroused the suspicion of rival Security Service. The two agencies came into conﬂict on several occasions, and as Heydrich gained power, he persuaded the government to investigate members of the Abwehr for espionage and treason. Several members of the Abwehr were arrested in 1939. Though a handful of the agency’s highest ranking ofﬁcials were active as double-agents or as members of the Resistance, the organization as a whole continued its espionage operations on behalf of the German government. At the outbreak of World War II, Abwehr resumed operations similar to those carried out during World War I. The agency was in charge of tracking troops and munitions transports, tapping wires and intercepting radio messages, and inﬁltrating foreign intelligence and military units. Abwehr placed two operatives inside the British intelligence agency for two years, and developed a highly successful encryption device called the Enigma machine.
Above picture: The Enigma encypted communications machine, developed by Abwehr, famously used on German WW2 submaraines in the Atlantic.
Agents tracked and monitored various resistance movements in occupied Europe, and even sabotaged military and government strongholds behind Allied lines. Canaris made the United States one of Abwehr’s primary targets even before America’s entry into the conﬂict. By 1942, German agents were operating from within all of America’s top armaments manufacturers.
Abwehr scored perhaps its greatest victories in the area of industrial espionage, as agents managed to steal the blueprint for every major American airplane produced for the war effort.
One of the Abwehr’s responsibilities during World War II was the extraction of information from prisoners of war. While Abwehr agents remained largely in control of seeking strategic information from British, French, and American prisoners, the Nazi government issued a special directive to various branches of the military regarding Russian prisoners of war. The Commissar Order, as it became known, instructed the Army to handle Russian prisoners as harshly as they deemed necessary for the retrieval of military information. At one time, German concentration camps held more that 1.5 million Russian prisoners. Canaris himself raised several objections to this policy, largely on the grounds that it undermined the authority and efﬁcacy of his agency and could cripple the German war effort. In 1944, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, assumed control of Abwehr after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler and several other high ranking Nazi ofﬁcials. Himmler suspected that the plot was the work of agents inside the government, most especially within the Abwehr Intelligence Organization.
Above picture shows Heindrich Himmler to the far left.
Heindrich Himmler was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Germany. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler briefly appointed him a military commander and later Commander of the Replacement (Home) Army and General Plenipotentiary for the administration of the entire Third Reich (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung).
Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the people most directly responsible for the Holocaust, where Jews, were killed ruthlessly, without criminal charges. And Himmler was the one who haunted down and killed the old German Abwehr Intelligence Officers most efficiently since they actually were very informed and not at all into German World Supremacy.
The July Plot also exposed the work of those Abwehr agents who had intentionally leaked sensitive information to the Allies.
Above picture : The 'good-hearted-person' Mr. Wilhelm Canaris (1887-1944) -- German Admiral and the last chief of the Abwehr intelligence until his execution by the Hitler regime in 1944.
Until his arrest, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris was viewed in Germany as being perhaps the most cunning and ruthless member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hardly a single German would ever have thought that the head of the feared Abwehr was secretly running a double game. While helping to plan many of Hitler’s expansionist schemes, he was also plotting against him, doing whatever he could to thwart Hitler’s plans and in many cases, trying to warn the Allies of Hitler’s intentions in advance. Its a fascinating story. He remains perhaps the biggest mystery man of the Nazi era. A man full of contradictions. He never made a public speech. He rarely spoke at all to anyone but his closest confidants. He had absolute control of the Abwehr and used its power to shelter many members of the Resistance, giving them jobs and the authority and papers necessary to travel around the Nazi Empire.
Several agents, including Canaris, were charged with high treason and executed.
The Abwehr was then due to circumstances, dissolved and vanished, together with it's work experiences and professional active duty standards.
Today, the German Intelligence, the BND, West Germany's international intelligence service, are operating as a new organization with no advanced learnings and professional operational practices from the old Abwehr, kept intact.
// THE POLITICAL AVENUE™