Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Reinhard Gehlen

Reinhard Gehlen

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Reinhard Gehlen'
Start a new discussion about 'Reinhard Gehlen'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Reinhard Gehlen was a General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 in the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, who served as chief of intelligence-gathering on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

. After the war, he was recruited by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 military to set up a spy ring directed against the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (known as the Gehlen Organization
Gehlen Organization
Gehlen Organization was an intelligence agency established in June 1946 by U.S. occupation authorities in the United States Zone of Germany, and consisted of former members of the 12th Department of the Army General Staff...

), and eventually became head of the West German intelligence apparatus. He served as the first President of the Federal Intelligence Service
Bundesnachrichtendienst
The Bundesnachrichtendienst [ˌbʊndəsˈnaːχʁɪçtnˌdiːnst] is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, directly subordinated to the Chancellor's Office. Its headquarters are in Pullach near Munich, and Berlin . The BND has 300 locations in Germany and foreign countries...

 until 1968. Gehlen is considered one of the most legendary Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 spymasters.

Early life and military service


Reinhard Gehlen was born into a Roman Catholic family in Erfurt, the son of a bookstore owner. He joined the Reichswehr
Reichswehr
The Reichswehr formed the military organisation of Germany from 1919 until 1935, when it was renamed the Wehrmacht ....

 in 1920. He attended the German Staff College, graduating in 1935, after which he was promoted to captain and attached to the Army General Staff.

Under the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler, he was on the General Staff during 1935-1936. In 1939, Gehlen was promoted to Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

. At the time of the 1939 German attack on Poland he was a staff officer of an infantry division. In 1940, Gehlen became liaison officer to Army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

. He was later transferred to the staff of Army Chief of Staff General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

.

In July 1941, Gehlen was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

, sent to the Eastern Front and assigned to the German General Staff, section Fremde Heere Ost, FHO or Foreign Armies East as a senior intelligence officer.

In the watershed year of 1942, according to Gehlen's memoir, he was approached by Colonel Henning von Tresckow
Henning von Tresckow
Generalmajor Herrmann Karl Robert "Henning" von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government...

, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and General Adolf Heusinger
Adolf Heusinger
Adolf Heusinger was a German General. He briefly served as Chief of the General Staff of the Army during World War II and served as the first Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, the West German armed forces, from 1957 to 1961...

 to participate in an assassination attempt on German dictator Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. His role was to be minor. When the plot culminated in the failed bomb plot
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

 of 20 July 1944, Gehlen's role was covered up and he escaped Hitler's brutal retaliation against the conspirators. Throughout his years at FHO, Gehlen allowed determined anti-Nazis to hold conspiratorial discussions inside his section and he was present at Berchtesgaden in the final days before 20 July when details of the assassination attempt were discussed.

In the spring of 1942 Reinhard Gehlen took over FHO from Colonel Eberhard Kinzel
Eberhard Kinzel
Eberhard Kinzel was a highly decorated General der Infanterie in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded several divisions. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or...

. Even before the disaster of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, Gehlen realized that FHO must be fundamentally reorganized and he methodically set about finding the right personnel. Gehlen scoured army personnel files searching for linguists, geographers, anthropologists and lawyers, looking for junior officers who had recently joined FHO. He accepted anyone who seemed suitable to him and who would be likely to raise the intellectual level of FHO. A stream of fresh and energetic officers and experts flowed in. It was this cadre that amassed a comprehensive data file on the Red Army, producing assessments and "defeatist reports" that reached Hitler. Their discouraging accuracy eventually resulted in his dismissal in April 1945, but not before his last promotion, to the rank of Major General.

During the war, Gehlen's organization accumulated a great deal of information about the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and the battlefield tactics of the Red Army. When the Iron Curtain
Iron Curtain
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...

 descended in 1946, leaving the Western Allies with virtually no intelligence sources in the East, Gehlen’s vast store of knowledge made him very valuable.

Realizing early on that Germany would ultimately be defeated, Gehlen made preparations to ensure his own survival after the fall of the Third Reich. He ordered the microfilming of the holdings of Fremde Heere Ost and had them placed in watertight drums, which he buried in several places in the Austrian Alps. He had fifty cases of archives buried at the Elendsalm in the mountains of Upper Bavaria, planning to sell them after the end of hostilities.

Post World War II



On May 22, 1945, Gehlen surrendered to the U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 Counter Intelligence Corps
Counter Intelligence Corps
The Counter Intelligence Corps was a World War II and early Cold War intelligence agency within the United States Army. Its role was taken over by the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps in 1961 and, in 1967, by the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency...

 (CIC) in Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

. He was brought to Camp King
Camp King
Camp King is a site on the outskirts of Oberursel, Taunus , with a long history. It began as a school for agriculture under the auspices of the University of Frankfurt. During World War II, the lower fields became an interrogation center for the German Air Force. After World War II, the United...

 and interrogated by Captain John R. Boker near Oberursel
Oberursel
Oberursel is a town in Germany. It is located to the north west of Frankfurt, and is the second largest town in the county of Hochtaunuskreis and the 14th largest town in Hessen.-Extent of municipal area:...

. Because of his knowledge and contacts inside the Soviet Union he was very valuable to the Americans. He offered them his intelligence archives and his network of contacts in exchange for his liberty and the liberty of his colleagues imprisoned in American POW camps in Germany. Boker quietly removed Gehlen and his command from the official lists of American POWs and managed to transfer seven of Gehlen's senior officers to the camp. Gehlen's archives were unearthed and brought to the camp secretly, without even the knowledge of the CIC. By the end of the summer Boker had elicited the support of Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 Edwin Sibert, the G2 (senior intelligence officer) of the Twelfth Army. General Sibert contacted his superior, General Walter Bedell Smith
Walter Bedell Smith
Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith was a senior United States Army general who served as General Dwight D. Eisenhower's chief of staff at Allied Forces Headquarters during the Tunisia Campaign and the Allied invasion of Italy...

, Eisenhower's chief of staff, who then worked with William Joseph Donovan
William Joseph Donovan
William Joseph Donovan was a United States soldier, lawyer and intelligence officer, best remembered as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services...

, the former head of OSS and Allen Dulles, then the OSS station chief in Bern, to make suitable arrangements. On September 20, 1945, Gehlen and three close associates were flown to the United States to begin work for them. While there, Gehlen exposed a number of Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 (OSS) officers who were secret members of the U.S. Communist Party
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

.

In July 1946 Gehlen was officially released from American captivity and flown back to Germany, where he began his intelligence work on 6 December 1946 by setting up an organization of former German intelligence officers, first at Oberursel near Frankfurt, then at Pullach
Pullach
Pullach, officially Pullach i. Isartal, is a municipality in the district of Munich in Bavaria in Germany. It is serviced by the S 7 line of the Munich S-Bahn, at the Großhesselohe Isartalbahnhof, Pullach and Höllriegelskreuth railway stations....

 near Munich, called the “South German Industrial Development Organization” to mask its true nature as an undercover operation and spy ring. Gehlen handpicked 350 former German intelligence agents to join him, a number that eventually grew to 4,000 undercover agents. This group was soon to be given the nickname the "Gehlen Organization" or simply "the Org."

Gehlen Organization



Gehlen had always been under the sponsorship of US Army G-2 (intelligence), but he eventually succeeded in realizing his ambition of establishing an association with the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA), established in 1947. The CIA kept close tabs on the Gehlen group. For many years during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, Org agents were the only eyes and ears of the CIA on the ground in the Soviet Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 nations.

Every German POW returning from Soviet captivity to West Germany, between 1947 and 1955, was interviewed by Org agents. The Gehlen Org employed hundreds of ex-Nazis and also had close contacts with East European émigré organizations. Unheralded tasks, such as observation of the operation of Soviet rail systems, airfields and ports were important functions of the Org, as was the infiltration of agents into the Baltic and the Ukraine. Operation Crossword
Operation Crossword
During World War II, Operation Crossword or Operation Sunrise was a series of secret negotiations conducted in March 1945 in Switzerland between representatives of Nazi Germany and the Western Allies to arrange a local surrender of German forces in northern Italy...

 infiltrated some 5,000 anti-communists of Eastern European and Russian ancestry. The Org "Operation Bohemia" was a major counter-espionage success.

The Gehlen Organization was eventually compromised by East Germany, communist moles within itself and by communists and their sympathizers within the CIA and the British SIS (MI6), particularly Kim Philby
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

. As the Org slowly emerged, bit by bit, from the shadows, Gehlen and his group came under relentless attack from both sides, East and West. The British, in particular, were hostile toward Gehlen and segments of the British press made sure the Org became known.

.

BND


Ten years after the end of World War II, on 1 April 1956, the Gehlen Organization was officially handed over to the government of the Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

. It formed the nucleus of the newly-created Bundesnachrichtendienst
Bundesnachrichtendienst
The Bundesnachrichtendienst [ˌbʊndəsˈnaːχʁɪçtnˌdiːnst] is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, directly subordinated to the Chancellor's Office. Its headquarters are in Pullach near Munich, and Berlin . The BND has 300 locations in Germany and foreign countries...

(BND or Federal Intelligence Service). Gehlen held the top leadership post (President of the BND), presiding over spectacular successes as well as failures, until being forced out in 1968. His downfall was as dramatic as his rise, resulting from several factors, including the discovery of Heinz Felfe
Heinz Felfe
Heinz Paul Johann Felfe was a German national who was a former SS Obersturmführer , who worked for the Bundesnachrichtendienst , after the Second World...

, an ex-SS lieutenant and Soviet agent in the Pullach
Pullach
Pullach, officially Pullach i. Isartal, is a municipality in the district of Munich in Bavaria in Germany. It is serviced by the S 7 line of the Munich S-Bahn, at the Großhesselohe Isartalbahnhof, Pullach and Höllriegelskreuth railway stations....

 headquarters complex, estrangement from Chancellor Adenauer earlier in 1963 and above all, by his increasing inattention to business and his delinquent leadership which, taken altogether, resulted in a decline in efficiency of the BND. He retired from government service in 1968, receiving the pension of a Ministerialdirektor (one of the most senior civil service grades), plus, allegedly, a pension from the CIA. He died in 1979 at the age of 77.

Honors


Gehlen received the German Cross
German Cross
The German Cross was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 17 November 1941 as an award ranking higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross respectively ranking higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit...

 in silver during World War II and the Federal Cross of Merit with Shoulder Ribbon
Bundesverdienstkreuz
The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is the only general state decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has existed since 7 September 1951, and between 3,000 and 5,200 awards are given every year across all classes...

 in 1968. He also was a Knight of Malta.

External links