World War II: German Spying and Counterintelligence--The Abwehr


Figure 1.--

The Abwehr was the Prussian Army's intelligence arm. It was created as war with Austria loomed (1866). Success in the Austro-Prussian War and the subsequent Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) resulted in expanding the organization. Wilhelm Stieber oversaw the Abwehr which collected vluable information on French defenses wand was seen as playing an important role in the Prussian/German victory. One outcome of the War was the unification of Germany around the Prussian state. Thus many Prussian insitutions became part of Imperial Germany. The Abwehr became the military intelligence organization of the new Imperial German military. The Abwehr collected valuable infirmation that proved useful when the Germany Army invaded Belgium. Walther Nicolai oversaw the modernization of the Abwehr to accomodate new technologies. The Abwehr ran inteligence and sabatoge operations in foreign countries, including the United States during the War. the Abwehr was forced to cease operation after World War I as part of terms of the Versailles Treaty (1919). The German military reactivated an ntelligence service (1921). The military inteligence operations included surveilance of political parties. And this included the NAZIs even after they became the governing party (1933). The NAZIs set up their own independent intelligence service--Sicherheitsdienst (SD--Security Service). It was headed by SS officer Reinhard Heydrich. (A cashiered former naval officer.) Wilhelm Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr, German military inteligence (1935). Thus he was the main German spy master during almost all of World War II. After being appointed to head the Abwehr, he negotiated with SD Director Heydrich over an agreed division of responsibilities. Both as World War II approsched trained and maintained their own intelligence forces. Canaris set about reorganizing the Abwehr into three separate branches: 1) espionage, 2) counter-espionage, and 3) sabotage. He appointed three respected Abwehr agents to head the three different branches. He insisted that they could not be NAZI Party members.

Historical Background

The Abwehr was the Prussian Army's intelligence arm. It was created as war with Austria loomed (1866). Success in the Austro-Prussian War and the subsequent Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) resulted in expanding the organization. Wilhelm Stieber oversaw the Abwehr which collected vluable information on French defenses wand was seen as playing an important role in the Prussian/German victory. One outcome of the War was the unification of Germany around the Prussian state. Thus many Prussian insitutions became part of Imperial Germany. The Abwehr became the military intelligence organization of the new Imperial German military.

World War I (1914-18)

The Abwehr collected valuable infirmation that proved useful when the Germany Army invaded Belgium. Walther Nicolai oversaw the modernization of the Abwehr to accomodate new technologies. The Abwehr ran inteligence and sabatoge operations in foreign countries, including the United States during the War. the Abwehr was forced to cease operation after World War I as part of terms of the Versailles Treaty (1919).

Weimar Era (1919-33)

The German military reactivated an ntelligence service (1921). The military inteligence operations included surveilance of political parties. And this included the NAZIs.

Pre-War NAZI Era (1933-39)

The Abwehr cintinued surveilance on the NAZIs even after they became the governing party (1933). The NAZIs set up their own independent intelligence service--Sicherheitsdienst (SD--Security Service). It was headed by SS officer Reinhard Heydrich. (A cashiered former naval officer.) Wilhelm Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr, German military inteligence (1935). Thus he was the main German spy master during almost all of World War II. After being appointed to head the Abwehr, he negotiated with SD Director Heydrich over an agreed division of responsibilities. Both as World War II approsched trained and maintained their own intelligence forces. Admiral Canaris in sharp contrast to the SD, insisted that Abwehr staff could not be NAZI Party members.

World War II (1939-45)

The primary German organization responsible for obtaining secret military intelligence and covert operations during World War II was the Amt Auslands und Abwehr--usually referred to as the Abwehr. The Abwehr had developed as a part of the German Army. The German military was more diverse in World war II. Whole the main service coninued to be Aemy (Wehrmacht), the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine were independent services and of considerable importance. Thus the Abwehr was independent of the three branches and organizationally attached to the High Command (OKW). Admiral Canaris set about reorganizing the Abwehr into three separate branches (Abteilung): 1) espionage, 2) counter-espionage, and 3) sabotage. He appointed three respected Abwehr agents to head the three different branches. Each of the principal German services (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine) has their own intelligence staff to collect, evaluate, and distribute inteligence information to the appropriate commands. Only the Abwehr operated covert overseas operations. The services informed the Abwehr on what they needed and the Abwehr used this information in planning their covert operations. The Abwehr on its own used began to collect a wide range of data that they believed would be useful to both OKW and the different services.

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Created: 1:28 AM 5/1/2009
Last updated: 1:28 AM 5/1/2009