Intelligence combines information and understanding. In spring 1952, an unexpected piece of information rippled through the international postwar intelligence community: Walter Schellenberg, the head of Nazi Germany’s political foreign intelligence service, Amt VI of Heinrich Himmler’s Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) – Office VI of the Reich Security Main Office – and advisor to and confidant of Himmler had died in Italy. A flurry of intelligence activity took place, meant to confirm a death that came as a surprise despite the man’s longstanding ailments. An understanding and appreciation of the facts settled in soon. There would be no further need by the various intelligence services to concern themselves with the former spymaster. 1 Hitlers Intelligence Chief Schellenberg
Walter Schellenberg’s career had been illustrious. Born in 1910, he was fresh out of law school when Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933. Quickly aligning himself with the new government, Schellenberg joined the NSDAP and SS, Schutzstaffel – Protective Squads – and was shortly thereafter recruited into the SD, Sicherheitsdienst – Security and Intelligence Service – of the SS. Over the course of the next decade, Schellenberg, taking all opportunities given to him and creating additional ones along the way, made a stellar career that brought him close to the head of the SD, Reinhard Heydrich, and Himmler. Hitlers Intelligence Chief Schellenberg
In the summer of 1941, Walter Schellenberg was appointed to lead Office VI, the political foreign intelligence service, of Heinrich Himmler’s main instrument of power and terror, the RSHA. Having headed the Gestapo’s counterintelligence department in the two years before this, Schellenberg was no stranger to intelligence matters. He had written on it, tried to define it in its new, Nazified context, and played a prominent role in broadly defined counterespionage matters, notably in the abduction of two British intelligence officers across the Dutch border in November 1939. Until the end of the war, Schellenberg strove to create in Office VI what he deemed a unified, objective, and infallible foreign intelligence service for all of Germany. Along the way, Schellenberg’s upstart agency swallowed Germany’s seemingly well-entrenched military intelligence service, the Abwehr – literally: the Defense – in February 1944 and battled the Auswärtige Amt – Foreign Office – under Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Prominently involved in Himmler’s last-ditch efforts to negotiate with the Western Allies in the spring of 1945, Schellenberg managed to extract himself from the fate that befell many of his SS and SD peers. The end of the war found him in Sweden, and he subsequently managed to parlay his short-term stint as Himmler’s peace emissary, his perception of himself as a reasonable politician, and his knowledge about the inner workings of Nazi Germany into the role of a friendly witness for the Western Allies. Put on trial during the so-called subsequent Nuremberg proceedings, Schellenberg found himself on the docket with members of the Foreign Office. The erstwhile spymaster had morphed into a diplomat. At Nuremberg, he received a lenient sentence of six years but was released on a medical pardon in 1950. Schellenberg spent the last months of his life near Lake Como in Italy, furtively writing and editing his memoirs, published after his death, and regaling visitors with his wartime exploits. A myth of Schellenberg’s making gained currency. Hitlers Intelligence Chief Schellenberg
Walter Schellenberg has remained an enigma, and so has the organization he headed. Who was this man? What did he and his organization stand for? What did Office VI do? How did Office VI collect intelligence, and how did it use it? Well, this is another story which you can find out in several books about him.
The inspiration for this article came, again, due to a readers’ email who contacted me on a similar topic. Thanks to this reader I can display a most curious travel document – a fake US passport used by Schellenberg, Hitlers’ Intelligence Chief, under a different name.
William G. Bellmount United States Passport No. 4183
Hitlers Intelligence Chief Schellenberg
In early 1945, Schellenberg encouraged Himmler to overthrow Hitler in order to negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, using as an excuse Hitler’s poor health; however, Himmler never took action but instead vacillated. He also convinced Himmler to meet with the former president of Switzerland, Jean-Marie Musy, who promised to pay in Swiss francs for the release of Jews. At the end of the war, Schellenberg was able to persuade Himmler to try negotiating with the Western Allies through Count Folke Bernadotte. Schellenberg had earlier in the year worked as an intermediary between Count Bernadotte and Himmler for the release and safe passage of a number of prisoners and inmates held in concentration camps through the Swedish Red Cross.
In the spring of 1945, Schellenberg instigated further meetings with Count Bernadotte as an opening to the western powers. He personally went to Stockholm in April 1945 to arrange the meetings for Himmler. With him above shown fake US passport seemingly issued as a replacement-passport by the US consulate general in Paris in 1941.
In the end, none of it mattered. The preliminary capitulation was signed at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims, France on May 7, 1945; General Eisenhower wore “a battle dress and a hat.” On May 8, 1945, the Doenitz government finalized Germany’s unconditional surrender. The document was signed that night at Karlshorst, near Berlin. General Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov represented the Soviet Union.
1.) The Third Reich’s Intelligence Services – The career of Walter Schellenberg, Katrin Paehler, www.cambridge.org/9781107157194