Reinhard Gehlen

Reinhard Gehlen

Infobox Military Person
name= Reinhard Gehlen
lived=April 3 1902dda|1979|06|08|1902|03|03|df=y
placeofbirth= Erfurt, Germany
placeofdeath= Starnberg, Germany

caption= Reinhard Gehlen
allegiance=flagicon|Nazi Germany Nazi Germany flagicon|GER West Germany
branch= Wehrmacht Heer
battles=World War II
awards=Deutsches Kreuz in silver during WWII Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz am Schulterband in 1968 Knight of Malta.

Reinhard Gehlen (April 3, 1902 - June 8, 1979) was a Generalmajor ("Major-General") in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) during World War II.

Gehlen held the position of chief of intelligence-gathering on the Eastern Front. He was subsequently recruited by the United States military to set up a spy ring directed against the Soviet Union.

Gehlen ran the West German intelligence apparatus until 1968, and is considered one of the most legendary Cold War spymasters. He organized the Gehlen Organisation, and later became President of the German Federal Intelligence Bureau.

Early Life & Military service

Reinhard Gehlen was born into a Roman Catholic family, the son of an owner of a bookstore. He joined the Reichswehr in 1920 and entered the German Staff College graduating in 1935. He was promoted to captain and was attached to the Army General Staff. [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ]

Under the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler, he was in the 1935/36 General Staff. In 1939 Gehlen was promoted to Major. For the 1939 German attack of Poland he was the first general staff officer of an infantry division. [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ] In 1940, Gehlen was promoted to Major and he became the liaison officer to Army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch. He was then transferred to the staff of Army Chief of Staff General Franz Halder.

In July 1941, Gehlen was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Gehlen worked extensively on the Eastern Front and, because of his superior talents and expertise, was promoted to senior intelligence officer with the German General Staff on the Russian front.

In 1942, he was approached by Colonel Henning von Tresckow, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and General Adolf Heusinger to participate in an assassination attempt on German dictator Adolf Hitler. His role was minor. When the plot culminated in the failed bomb plot of July 20, 1944, Gehlen's role was covered up and he escaped Hitler's brutal retaliation against the conspiratorscite book | title=The Service — The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen| last=Gehlen| first=Reinhard| coauthors=trans. David Irving| date=1971| pages=97-99| publisher=World Publishing| location=New York] .

In December 1944, Gehlen was promoted to the rank of Major General and was tasked with concentrated intelligence gathering directed at the Soviet Union and its battlefield tactics as Head of "Foreign Forces—East" ("Fremde Heere Ost"). This information was to make him very valuable after the war. [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ]

In March 1945, knowing the end was near for the Third Reich, Gehlen and a small group of his most senior officers microfilmed the holdings of the "Fremde Heere Ost" on the USSR and put them in watertight drums. The drums were then buried in several places in the Austrian Alps. Christopher Simpson: "BLOWBACK - The First Full Account of America's Recruitment of Nazis, and its disastrous Effect on our domestic foreign policy" Collier Books, New York 1988, ISBN 0-02-044995-X, pp. 41]

Post World War II

On May 22, 1945, Gehlen surrendered to the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in Bavaria. He was brought to Camp King and interrogated by Captain John Bokor near Oberursel. Because of his knowledge of and contacts inside the Soviet Union he was very valuable to the Americans. He offered them his intelligence archives and network in exchange for his liberty and the liberty of his colleagues imprisoned in American POW camps in Germany. Bokor 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 picked up and brought to the camp secretly, even without the knowledge of the CIC. Towards the end of the summer Bokor had the support of Brigadier General Edwin Sibert, the G-2 (head of Army intelligence) of the Twelfth Army, and Walter Bedell Smith, the highest ranking U.S. Army intelligence officer in Europe.Christopher Simpson: "BLOWBACK - The First Full Account of America's Recruitment of Nazis, and its disastrous Effect on our domestic foreign policy" Collier Books, New York 1988, ISBN 0-02-044995-X, pp. 41-42] General Sibert contacted his superior, General Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, who then worked with William Joseph Donovan and Allen Dulles, then the OSS station chief in Bern, to make arrangements. On September 20, 1945, Gehlen and three close associates were flown to the United States to begin work for them. Gehlen also revealed a number of Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officers who were secret members of the U.S. Communist Party.

In July 1946 Gehlen was officially released from American captivity and flown back into Germany, Camp King, where he began his intelligence work by setting up an organization of former German intelligence officers. He set up a dummy organization in Pullach [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ] near Munich called the South German Industrial Development Organization to mask his undercover operation and spy ring. Gehlen handpicked 350 former German intelligence agents to join him; that number eventually grew into 4,000 undercover agents. They were called V-men and for many years they were the only eyes and ears of the CIA on the ground in the Soviet Bloc nations during the Cold War. This group was soon to be given the nickname the "Gehlen Organisation."

Gehlen Organization

The Gehlen Organization had a disappointing record in supplying valuable intelligence on the Warsaw Pact. According to a Guardian article reviewing declassified CIA documents on the Organization, "for all the moral compromises involved [in hiring former Nazis] , it was a complete failure in intelligence terms. The Nazis were terrible spies." [ [,,1792559,00.html Why Israel's capture of Eichmann caused panic at the CIA] , "The Guardian", June 8, 2006 ] The CIA worked closely with the Gehlen group: the Gehlen Organisation supplied the manpower while the CIA supplied the material needs of the clandestine operations, such as money and airplanes.

A successful mission was Operation Crossword, which infiltrated some 5,000 anti-communists of Eastern European and Russian ancestry Fact|date=February 2007. These agents were given espionage training at a camp named Oberammergau. Another mission by the Gehlen Organization was "Operation Rusty" that carried out counter-espionage activities directed against dissident German organizations in Europe. Fact|date=February 2007

The mission of the Gehlen Organization was severely compromised by communist moles within the organization itself and within the CIA and the British MI6, particularly Harold "Kim" Philby. The WIN mission to Poland was a complete failure due to the compromising of the mission by counter-spies; as it turned out, the so-called Fifth Command of WIN organization within Poland had been created by the Soviet intelligence services in the first place Fact|date=February 2007.

Despite these setbacks, the "Gehlen Organization" was successful in discovering the secret Soviet assassination unit known as SMERSH. They also assisted in the successful Berlin Tunnel which was constructed under the Berlin Wall to monitor East German and Soviet electronic communications Fact|date=February 2007.

The Gehlen Organization employed hundreds of ex-Nazis, among them Alois Brunner, who was responsible for the Drancy internment camp near Paris, is responsible for the death of 140,000 Jews, and is believed to be still alive as of 2007 [ Biography at the Jewish Virtual Library] ] ; the CIA turned a blind eye, and indeed actively participated in some cases, because of the exigencies of the Cold War. According to Robert Wolfe, historian at the US National Archives, "US army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen's offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red Army — and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired." [ [,,1792559,00.html Why Israel's capture of Eichmann caused panic at the CIA] , "The Guardian", June 8, 2006 ]


In 1955, the Gehlen Organisation was officially handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany under the government of Konrad Adenauer. [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ] On April 1, 1956 it formed the nucleus of the newly-created "Bundesnachrichtendienst" (BND or Federal Intelligence Service). [ Reinhard Gehlen - Biografie WHO'S WHO ] ] Gehlen held the top leadership post (President of the BND) until forced out due to a political scandal in the ranks. He retired from the BND in 1968 and died in 1979, aged 77.


Gehlen received the Deutsches Kreuz in silver during WWII and the Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz am Schulterband in 1968. He also was a Knight of Malta.

ee also

* Gerhardt Boldt



* "Intelligence" by Peter Kross, "Military Heritage", October 2004. pp 26–30.
* "Gehlen: Spy of the Century" by E.H. Cookridge, 1971
* "The Old Boys — The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA" by Burton Hersh, 1992
* "The General Was a Spy: The Truth About General Gehlen and His Spy Ring" by Heinz Hohne, and Hermann Zolling, New York: Bantam Books, 1972.
* "Jagd Gruppen 101 A Clinical insight into West German Death Squad 1945-196"
* "Gehlen´s Organisation" by Mary Ellen Reese
* "Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA" by Tim Weiner. pp 10-190.

External links

* [ Brief description of the "Gehlen Organisation" with details of many who worked for it]
* [ "Disclosure" newsletter, Information promulgated by the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration]
* [ "Forging an Intelligence Partnership: CIA and the Origins of the BND, 1945-49"] CIA declassified documents on the Gehlen Organization.

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