Secret Intelligence in the Twentieth Century

By Heike Bungert; Jan G. Heitmann et al. | Go to book overview

1

Military and Civil Intelligence Services in Germany from World War I to the End of the Weimar Republic

Ludwig Richter

When Germany began organizing a secret intelligence and counter-espionage division in late 1912 as part of its general staff, the military intelligence services of Britain, France and Russia could already look back on a long and great tradition. 1 The Reich lacked a political intelligence service comparable to those of the great European powers because the German general staff stubbornly objected to using any form of police investigation methods or political espionage and opposed the intermingling of political and military affairs in general. 2

Only in the face of the undeniable increase in military intelligence activities by France and Britain after 1906 did the German general staff and the Ministry of War finally agree to a fundamental reorganization of Germany’s institutions for gathering military intelligence. 3 This was accomplished under Major Heye, later the Army’s Supreme Commander, who was appointed chief of the military intelligence service known as ‘Department III B’ in 1910. He was succeeded by Major Walter Nicolai in the spring of 1913. 4

Information related to military intelligence had previously been gathered by intelligence officers collaborating with district officers stationed at the Reich’s borders and special intelligence departments within the police force. Not until 1910 were these officers assigned to the General Commands (Generalkommandos). The creation of an independent military intelligence service thus marked a major shift in policy. Although Germany’s intelligence service had no political arm whatsoever before World War I, the Foreign Ministry kept a wary eye

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