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Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum:  A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen
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Dissemmination of Nonsense ad Infinitum: A Historiographical Examination of General Reinhard Gehlen

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On April 1, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Reinhard Gehlen assumed command of the German …

On April 1, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Reinhard Gehlen assumed command of the German
General Staff intelligence division, Fremde Heere Ost [Foreign Armies East]. On February 27,
1945, Brigadier General Reinhard Gehlen personally met with Adolf Hitler in the Reich
Chancellery. On July 1, 1946, Herr Reinhard Gehlen and several American intelligence analysts
departed Washington, DC, on a troop transport for Europe. On September 20, 1950, Gehlen met
with Konrad Adenauer at the Koenig Museum in Bonn. On April 1, 1956, Gehlen was
commissioned a Lieutenant General in the newly formed Bundeswehr. As this string of events
suggests, Gehlen continually worked to develop and operate an intelligence network against the
Soviet Union from 1942 until his 1968 retirement from the Bundesnachrichtensdienst [BND or
Federal Intelligence Service]; first for Hitler, but then for the United States and West Germany.
This spymaster’s unusual biography begs several important questions: What sort of person was
Reinhard Gehlen? Why was he employed by the United States and later the West German state
in such an important role given his association with Hitler and the Third Reich? What did this
association mean in light of the subsequent Cold War?
The study of these crucial questions is fundamentally problematic, as historians of
espionage by nature work in oxymoronic territory. Spies covertly seek to uncover and maintain
secrets, and historians overtly seek to research and analyze facts in order to form coherent
narratives. Thus the goal of intelligence history ironically violates the goal of intelligence
organizations. These opposing goals have led to a conflict-ridden modus vivendi between
historians and the intelligence community regarding the acquisition of sources.

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  • 1. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY DISSEMINATION OF NONSENSE AD INFINITUM: A HISTORIOGRAPHICAL EXAMINATION OF GENERAL REINHARD GEHLEN GEST 501: MODERN GERMAN AND EUROPEAN HISTORY DR. ROGER CHICKERING BY SEAN P. MCBRIDE WASHINGTON, DC 10 DECEMBER 2009 AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM
  • 2. McBride, 1 On April 1, 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Reinhard Gehlen assumed command of the German General Staff intelligence division, Fremde Heere Ost [Foreign Armies East]. On February 27, 1945, Brigadier General Reinhard Gehlen personally met with Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery. On July 1, 1946, Herr Reinhard Gehlen and several American intelligence analysts departed Washington, DC, on a troop transport for Europe. On September 20, 1950, Gehlen met with Konrad Adenauer at the Koenig Museum in Bonn. On April 1, 1956, Gehlen was commissioned a Lieutenant General in the newly formed Bundeswehr. As this string of events suggests, Gehlen continually worked to develop and operate an intelligence network against the Soviet Union from 1942 until his 1968 retirement from the Bundesnachrichtensdienst [BND or Federal Intelligence Service]; first for Hitler, but then for the United States and West Germany. This spymaster’s unusual biography begs several important questions: What sort of person was Reinhard Gehlen? Why was he employed by the United States and later the West German state in such an important role given his association with Hitler and the Third Reich? What did this association mean in light of the subsequent Cold War? The study of these crucial questions is fundamentally problematic, as historians of espionage by nature work in oxymoronic territory. Spies covertly seek to uncover and maintain secrets, and historians overtly seek to research and analyze facts in order to form coherent narratives. Thus the goal of intelligence history ironically violates the goal of intelligence organizations. These opposing goals have led to a conflict-ridden modus vivendi between historians and the intelligence community regarding the acquisition of sources. Because of the difficulty intelligence historians have at uncovering primary sources, this paper will limit its historiographical examination of Gehlen to the best-documented period his life: his career from his 1942 assignment to the Fremde Heere Ost until the 1956 conversion of his intelligence
  • 3. McBride, 2 organization into the West German BND. Because the Fremde Heere Ost and the U.S.-backed Gehlen Organization are arguably the best-documented fields of intelligence history due to recent declassification efforts, this paper will further use the historiographical development of Gehlen’s narrative to highlight the technical and theoretical difficulties inherent in the historicization of espionage. It is absolutely essential to note that the historiography of Reinhard Gehlen is a historiography of declassification, not of debate. This crucial distinction necessitates a particular structure for this historiographic investigation. Because of the modus vivendi between historians and the intelligence community, Gehlen’s historiography must be structured around the halts and spurts of declassification. For example, Mary Ellen Reese’s 1990 work on Gehlen had little impact on Timothy Naftali’s 2005 work. Naftali acknowledged Reese’s “expert interviewing” and successful efforts at obtaining classified materials under the Freedom of Information Act, but he completely dismissed her analysis with the statement that she “did a good job, but there were serious gaps in the information she received,” referring to the subsequent declassification of thousands of CIA documents under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998.1 Because the declassification of primary sources in this field is so tumultuous, historians have rarely had time to engage in meaningful analytical debate before their analyses are rendered obsolete by the declassification of revolutionary new primary sources. The name Reinhard Gehlen first received public attention in March of 1952, when Sefton Delmer, who had assisted British Intelligence during World War II, published a whistleblower article entitled “Hitler’s General now spies for Dollars,” based off a tip from MI6 aimed to 1 Richard Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 376.
  • 4. McBride, 3 weaken Gehlen, “a man whom they did not trust.”2 Following upon Gehlen’s inauspicious entry into the public domain, numerous other newspapers picked up the story and began their own critical investigations of Gehlen throughout the 1950’s. For historians, these sensationalist exposés have been highly problematic due to their opaque interviews conducted “off the record” and their highly sensationalized rhetoric. Although anonymity was likely needed to protect the sources from retribution by counterintelligence agents, these articles have been largely criticized by historians as “based on sources unavailable to others.”3 This is especially troubling considering the sensationalized rhetoric of many of these articles. The Berliner Zeitung exemplified both of these shortcomings in an article from 1956 that cited an unattributed former Luftwaffe Intelligence Officer who allegedly overheard Gehlen say “Humaneness [is] a pretty thing for men like Kant and Schopenhauer, but in our work [it is] mere dead weight [ballast].”4 Unable to personally verify the journalist’s confidential sources, historians have been forced to either ignore the articles or accept their conclusions as given. In many ways, journalists’ sensationalist tendencies towards Gehlen are understandable. During World War II, covert organizations such as the Gestapo carried out many heinous acts. Even in the traditionally professionalized field of military intelligence, the Nazi Party’s SD- Geheimdienst largely replaced Gehlen’s Fremde Heere Ost as the dominant intelligence service of the Third Reich. Due to this negative experience with covert German organizations during World War II, reporters such as Sefton Delmer naturally reacted critically to the news that “Hitler’s General now spies for Dollars.” Unable to know for sure, reporters assumed the worst based off the few interviews they could obtain, as exemplified by Delmer’s admission that “I 2 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, 407. 3 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, i. 4 Julius Mader, Die Graue Hand: Eine Abrechnung mit dem Bonner Geheimdienst (East Berlin: Kongress Verlag, 1960), 30.
  • 5. McBride, 4 cannot help sharing the misgivings of another German general, who was most anxious that I should keep his identity secret for fear of reprisals against him.”5 Unable to disprove their own suspicions through investigative research, reporters’ sensationalized rhetoric reflected their common fears of anti-democratic domestic espionage and German revanchism. Drawing on these journalistic exposés as primary sources, the first published books on Reinhard Gehlen were the highly polemical and propagandistic works of East Germany. All of these works, including Die Graue Hand in 1960 and Nicht Länger Geheim in 1966 were written by the same author: Julius Mader. Mader was one of the principal propagandists of the East German regime, belonging to the Socialist Unity Party [SED], reporting as a journalist for several Communist newspapers, earning a doctorate with a dissertation on the “development, system, and methods” of the “imperialist” German intelligence service, and authoring over ten highly-critical books on the American and West German intelligence services leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.6 Mader relied heavily on numerous critical newspaper articles from both sides of the Iron Curtain to substantiate his Marxist demonization of Gehlen, often quoting entire paragraphs or reprinting entire newspaper clippings from Newsweek, Times, France-soir, and the communist Freies Volk as a springboard for his own unsubstantiated polemics. After printing a clipping of the first few paragraphs of a Sefton Delmer article entitled “JOBS for the Gestapo BOYS: THEY’RE BACK AT THE OLD GAME,” Mader used Delmer’s interview with an anonymous German general who “believes that Gehlen is using his influence to see that it is the Nazi type of officer who gains control of the new German army when it is formed” to add Western credibility 5 Mader, Die Graue Hand, 30. 6 Wer war wer in der DDR?, 4th ed., s.v. “Julius Mader.”
  • 6. McBride, 5 to his characterization of Gehlen as the central policy entrepreneur of the early Cold War. 7 Unsubstantiated by sources, Mader instead turned to literary tropes. Possibly drawing from Faust, Mader accused the “Fascist General Staff Officer”8 Gehlen of planting “the seed of Satan” 9 in the Anti-Fascist alliance through his “diabolical plan”10 to “convince some or all of the Western Allies to cooperate against the Soviets.”11 In other words, the Faustian bargain was Gehlen’s exchange of intelligence for the mantle of “America's number one Spy in Europe… without the knowledge of either the US Congress or the American People.”12 The Faust-like United States thus gained intelligence on the Soviet Union, but at the expense of losing its democratic Soul, fighting an ideological Cold War with an erstwhile ally, and aiding in the resurrection of Hitler's General Staff and the rearmament of Germany. Access to classified government documents is a rare luxury in the field of intelligence history. Those interested in Reinhard Gehlen and Axis espionage in World War II benefit from the total and complete destruction of those regimes in 1945. Upon the end of the war, the Allies published and microfilmed a significant body of captured government documents. Because Reinhard Gehlen voluntarily surrendered his meticulously preserved files to the Americans in 1945 in exchange for clemency, the Fremde Heere Ost documents total some 36,852 typescript pages.13 The publication of these documents led to series of books on the German World War II intelligence establishment. However, because Gehlen was only responsible for a small part of 7 Mader, Die Graue Hand, 74. 8 Mader, Die Graue Hand, 52. 9 Mader, Die Graue Hand, 101. 10 Mader, Die Graue Hand, 43. 11 Julius Mader and Albrecht Charisius, Nicht Länger Geheim: Entwicklung, System und Arbeitsweise des imperialistischen deutschen Geheimdienstes (East Berlin: Deutscher Militärverlag, 1969), 135. 12 Mader and Charisius, Nicht Länger Geheim, 136 13 E.H. Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1972), 384.
  • 7. McBride, 6 just one of the numerous competing intelligence organizations, his presence in these books was limited. For example, in Gert Buchheit’s 1966 Der deutsche Geheimdienst, Gehlen appeared only twice. In this brief account, Buchheit portrayed Gehlen as a skilled intelligence officer locked in a “monstrous game of Cowboys and Indians” against the Nazi Party’s competing intelligence organ, the SD-Geheimdienst.14 Based on former classified intelligence documents, Buchheit showed that the SD used its clout within the Nazi Party to convince Hitler’s entourage that Gehlen’s intelligence reports merely reflected a Soviet bluff, leading Buchheit to conclude that “it would have been better had Hitler listened more to the Head of… the Fremde Heere Ost and less to the reports of his SD-Geheimdienst.”15 Buchheit’s work was significant in Gehlen’s historiography in several regards. First, its conclusions were drawn exclusively from archival research of the captured German documents. Second, its characterization of Gehlen was much more nuanced than previous accounts, likely drawing from Buchheit’s own experience as an intelligence officer during World War II. Although this work did not address Gehlen post 1945, it formed an influential methodical contrast to the opaque biases of the journalistic exposés and the propagandistic polemics of Julius Mader. General Reinhard Gehlen’s retirement from the BND in 1968 precipitated a surge in media coverage. Much of this coverage initially concerned the role that Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik played in the retirement of Germany’s Cold Warrior par excellence, but gradually media attention reverted to more general speculative and sensationalized accounts in the mold of Sefton Delmer’s 1952 “Hitler’s General now spies for Dollars.” 1971 became “the climax of the publicity,” when Der Spiegel featured a fifteen-issue series, which its authors Heinz Höhne and Hermann Zolling thought “destroyed” the mythic legend which [Gehlen] had so carefully 14 Gert Buchheit, Der deutsche Geheimdienst: Geschichte der militärischen Abwehr (München: List Verlag, 1966), 435. 15 Buchheit, Der deutsche Geheimdienst, 435.
  • 8. McBride, 7 preserved for decades” by exposing “the rise, the achievements, the weaknesses and the mismanagements of the spy-king.”16 Due to substantial response, including Reinhard Gehlen’s autobiographical counterattack,17 Heinz Höhne and Hermann Zolling published an expanded account of their Spiegel article entitled The General was a Spy: The Truth about General Gehlen and his Spy Ring. The General was a Spy significantly pioneered several improvements in the collection and analysis of sources. Regarding newspaper sources, Höhne and Zolling countered Mader’s parroting of anti-Gehlen articles by developing a more complex system of subjecting newspaper texts to varying degrees of criticism based off its perceived trustworthiness.18 Regarding oral accounts, Höhne and Zolling also attempted to strike a balance between scholastic transparency and the need to “assure their informants that any degree of privacy desired would be respected… in order that their personal safety would be guaranteed against any possible investigations by BND officials.”19 The result was the inclusion of vague footnotes, such as “Information from BND circles,” “statement on oath, in private ownership,” and “conversation between one of the authors and ‘Hunter,’ 10 September 1969.”20 Although by no means transparent, this approach 16 Heinz Höhne and Hermann Zolling, The General was a Spy: The Truth about General Gehlen and his Spy Ring (New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, Inc, 1972), xxiii. 17 Generally, these memoirs were considered a disappointment due to Gehlen’s refusal to leak classified information. Because this author considers Gehlen’s memoirs a primary source, they will not be treated in this paper. 18 When Höhne and Zolling cite from Der Spiegel or the Spiegel archives, they list solely that source within the footnote. When they use facts presented by other Western news publications, they reference at least two corroborating sources. For example, they use articles from The Times, the Deutsche Zeitung, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung to corroborate their assessment of East German penetration of the BND. When they use the arguments, analysis, or rhetoric of other Western newspapers, they typically quote the source verbatim without explicitly mentioning the source in text, where they directly quote their source’s assessment that Gehlen “for thirteen years successfully competed with Greta Garbo in his ambition to remain undetected,” but the reader has to turn to the endnotes to discover that this was quoted from the Industriekurier. In contrast, when they quote East-Bloc sources (either newspapers or Julius Mader), they explicitly mention the source in text, when they begin their citation of the Täglich Rundschau with the comment, “the Tägliche Rundscahu, the official Soviet organ, said…” 19 Höhne and Zolling, The General was a Spy, 335. 20 Höhne and Zolling, The General was a Spy, 336.
  • 9. McBride, 8 was a vast improvement over previous refusal to even acknowledge that these “off the record” interviews took place. Regarding documentary sources, Höhne and Zolling adopted methodology similar to Buchheit to integrate the captured Fremde Heere Ost documents into their World War II portion of Gehlen’s narrative. Due to these methodological improvements, The General was a Spy notably advanced the historization of the Gehlen narrative. Höhne and Zolling’s selection and analysis of primary sources substantially shaped their characterization of Gehlen. Like Mader, many of their footnotes cited newspaper accounts for their opaque unattributed sources, but unlike Mader, Höhne and Zolling criticized that a “lack of information led writers and journalists to produce an increasingly outrageous series of stories about Gehlen,” leading them to attempt “to penetrate this safety-curtain of calculated legend and deliberate falsehood.” 21 By combining textual criticism of newspaper sources with oral accounts and the captured German documents, Höhne and Zolling produced a substantially complex characterization of Gehlen. During the pre-1945 period when these authors primarily used the captured German documents, they characterized Gehlen, much like Buchheit, as a pragmatic intelligence mastermind that could read “communist Russia [like] an open book,” and on whom “the SS death-ray was… beamed.”22 In contrast, when Höhne and Zolling treated the post-1945 story in the absence of declassified documents, their characterization more closely resembled that of Julius Mader. Thus, their assertion that Gehlen sought to “commit the US occupier on the German side” by “exploiting the differences between the United States and the Soviet Union” closely resembled Mader’s classification of Gehlen as the policy entrepreneur of the Cold War. Remarkably, this tonal and analytical contrast hinged on the type of source used, highlighting the significant impact of primary sources on Gehlen’s historiography 21 Höhne and Zolling, The General was a Spy, 4. 22 Höhne and Zolling, The General was a Spy, 29.
  • 10. McBride, 9 E.H. Cookridge’s23 1972 work entitled Gehlen: Spy of the Century failed in its attempt to break Gehlen’s historiography free from the sensationalized accounts of the press. Cookridge, who wrote numerous popular accounts of espionage during the Cold War, characterized the journalistic accounts of Gehlen as “based on guesswork rather than facts” because “even the most tenacious reporters were unable to discover where he lived, or whether he was married and had any children.”24 Having decided to “refrain from including” this “speculative tittle-tattle about Gehlen,”25 Cookridge’s intention was to craft a narrative that only cited details that could be “fully authenticated and supported by documentary evidence.”26 Cookridge thus spent three years conducting archival research in West Germany, East Germany, and the Soviet Union following Gehlen’s 1968 retirement. Unfortunately, lack of available sources made Cookridge’s goal impossible, instead transforming his post-1945 narrative into a speculative extrapolation based off the World War II archival records.27 Cookridge’s extensive archival research reflected his commendable attempt at crafting a narrative free of speculation, but his archival research in the Soviet Union and East Germany turned out to be relatively fruitless, demonstrating that the abandonment of speculative journalistic sources could only be achieved through the declassification of government documents. Although Cookridge’s characterization of Reinhard Gehlen lacked Höhne and Zolling’s contradictory pre- and post-1945 divergence of tone, his account cannot be considered any more historical than previous narratives. Cookridge refused to use newspaper articles, but his documentation of alternate sources consisted exclusively of vague allusions to “first hand 23 E.H. Cookridge was one of several pseudonyms used by Edward Spiro. Because the pseudonym is more commonly known, it will be used throughout this paper. 24 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 8. 25 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 11. 26 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 11. 27 Cookridge’s chapter on the Gehlen Organization cites only two primary sources, both of which date from before 1945.
  • 11. McBride, 10 information from a number of [Gehlen’s] assistants and former officers of the Gehlen Organization and the [BND],” suggesting that his scholarship was predisposed to the favorable tone of those close to Gehlen. 28 Additionally, because his documentary evidence consisted merely of the captured German documents, Cookridge’s characterization of Gehlen greatly resembled Buchheit, describing Gehlen as “the Spy of the Century,” who “reared in the tradition of Prussian discipline.., accepted the authority of the State, whatever its political persuasion.”29 In contrast to Mader, Höhne, and Zolling’s argument that Gehlen was the policy entrepreneur of the Cold War, Cookridge countered with the unsubstantiated assertion that Gehlen was “a peacemaker” that “prevented… rash action” by sending “urgent reports to Washington stating that… the Soviet bark would not be followed by a bite.”30 Nevertheless, it is impossible to know to what degree Cookridge’s characterization of Gehlen was justified due to his to document his interviews. In the late 1980s, the journalist and popular historian Mary Ellen Reese dramatically changed the historiography of Gehlen by triggering the initial declassification of U.S. Army documents relating to the Gehlen Organization. Reese initially sought a few answers to questions she had on Reinhard Gehlen, but she concluded that her “answers [were] not to be found in published accounts” due to the two flaw of being “virtually all German… [with] a considerable axe to grind”31 and being “distorted” because of “the absence of [primary sources] 28 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 11. 29 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 3. 30 Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century, 5. 31 Her omission of Cookridge’s accout likely related to the transparency of primary sources. Because Reese was able to personally examine and reinterpret all of the Fremde Heere Ost sources listed in Cookridge’s bibliography, she did not cite him. In contrast, Reese cited Höhne and Zolling often because she could not personally examine or reinterpret their numerous facts and quotations derived from the Spiegel archives and their confidential interviews.
  • 12. McBride, 11 from the Americans.”32 Because of these perceived flaws, Reese decided to seek out new American sources in order to write her own impartial narrative. After the CIA refused even “either to confirm or deny that any relationship between Gehlen and the CIA ever existed,” the U.S. Army luckily agreed to release “well over a thousand” new intelligence documents on the 1950s Gehlen Organization in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.33 Because of the declassification of these Army documents, around two dozen intelligence officers, who were previously reluctant to divulge classified information, now agreed to Reese’s requests for interviews, forming a chain of eyewitness accounts that ran from the end of the Gehlen Organization to the creation of the BND. In contrast to the previous oral interviews preformed by Höhne and Zolling, Reese openly detailed the identities of the intelligence officials she interviewed. These two new developments in primary sources allowed Reese to compose the first narrative extensively supported by transparent and verifiable evidence, suggesting the opening of a new historiographical chapter. Reese’s characterization of Gehlen drew directly from the newly declassified sources and expert interviews. In terms of Gehlen’s abilities as an intelligence officer, her characterization matched Buchheit and Cookridge, largely due to the consistent treatment of Gehlen in both the captured World War II documents and the newly declassified U.S. Army documents. However, her interviews with Eric Waldman, one of the Army officers who she classified as having helped Gehlen throughout the period of the Gehlen Organization, led her to a full rebuttal of Gehlen as either Mader, Höhne, and Zolling’s Cold War policy entrepreneur or Cookridge’s peacemaker. Instead, she treated Gehlen as a pragmatist that sought to shape “the position and role of postwar Germany in a new Europe whose political landscape he knew would be dominated by the 32 Mary Ellen Reese, General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection (Fairfax: George Mason University Press, 1990), xii. 33 Reese, The CIA Connection, xiii.
  • 13. McBride, 12 relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States.”34 Due to the declassification of Army documents and the corroboration of expert witnesses, Reese offered the first realistic glimpse at the historical Reinhard Gehlen. Gehlen’s historiography suggested to varying degrees that the Gehlen Organization hired former intelligence officers from the Nazi Party’s SD-Geheimdienst. In the light of events such as the 1986 election of Kurt Waldheim in Austria, the 1988 publication of freelance journalist Christopher Simpson’s Blowback35 , and the 1995 Swiss debate about stolen Jewish gold, pressure increased on the U.S. Congress to declassify the CIA documents relating to the possible employment of war criminals and former Nazis within the CIA-backed Gehlen Organization.36 The outcome of this pressure was the passage of the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, which resulted in the declassification of 8 million pages of U.S. government records, including thousands of new documents on Gehlen.37 Soon after its passage, four of the consulting academic historians for the Nazi War Criminal and Imperial Japanese Records Interagency Working Group decided to co-author a book entitled U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis. In one of the chapters of this book, Timothy Naftali used the newly declassified documents to analyze “the origins, implication, and results of the U.S. government’s postwar sponsorship of Reinhard Gehlen, and of the organization that became the [BND].”38 As suggested by his aforementioned characterization that Reese “did a good job, but [that] there were serious gaps in the information she received,” Naftali’s primary purpose was to fill in those 34 Reese, The CIA Connection, xiii. 35 Christopher Simpson’s Blowback was a sensationalized account that “examined U.S. recruitment of still other former SS men, Nazis, and collaborators” and the “unexpected… negative effects at home.” Christopher Simpson, Blowback (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), 5. 36 Jens Wegener, Die Organisation Gehlen und die USA: Deutsch-amerikanische Geheimdienstbeziehungen 1945-1949 (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2008), 5. 37 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, i. 38 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, 376.
  • 14. McBride, 13 gaps with the newly declassified CIA documents. Citing documents from CIA analysts that had previously analyzed Gehlen’s operations through Ultra, he concluded that the Gehlen’s unit “preformed only marginally better than the average German intelligence unit in World War II.”39 Naftali similarly traced an active campaign by a group of CIA analysts against the U.S. Army’s sponsorship of the Gehlen Organization due to “Gehlen’s careless employment of Nazi war criminals.” 40 Like Reese, Naftali portrayed Gehlen as a pragmatist that sought to help Germany, but his portrayal greatly emphasized the negative elements of this pragmatism, such as Gehlen’s willingness to play the U.S. Army and the CIA off one another and to hire former members of the Nazi Party’s SD-Geheimdienst. Due to the large-scale declassification efforts that accompanied the Freedom of Information Act and the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, the German Intelligence services of World War II and the 1950s are now the best-documented sectors in all of intelligence history. As a result, the first decade of the 21st century has seen a veritable German-language boom on West and East German espionage in the early Cold War. The most significant author of this boom is the young PhD candidate Jens Wegener. Possibly due to the inability of graduate students to actively chase down classified documents and evade counterintelligence agents, Wegener does not claim to have uncovered new primary sources, but instead has simply focused on reinterpreting the analytical elements of the Gehlen narrative. Although his dissertation is still under work, his 2008 Magisterarbeit entitled Die Organisation Gehlen und die USA promisingly reinterpreted the existing sources on the Gehlen Organization using the lens of the transatlantic relationship. Despite the fact that Wegener’s characterization of Gehlen differed little from Naftali, his scholarship significantly suggests that Gehlen’s historiography might have 39 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, 378. 40 Breitman et al, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, 406.
  • 15. McBride, 14 reached a point where analytical debate has surpassed the declassification of primary sources as the dominant element of historiographical discourse. Due to the lack of meaningful analytical debate between historians, the reader may judge this paper to be a failed attempt at historiographical analysis. The author believes that this failure is itself quite instructive. Intelligence history is commonly criticized as ahistorical. For example, a declassified CIA report entitled “Intelligence in recent public literature” (which was presumably written by an agent with access to classified knowledge on Gehlen) classified all of the books then available (including those by Julius Mader, Heinz Höhne, Herman Zolling, and E. H. Cookridge) as “based largely on speculation… and… a great deal of proven nonsense,” predicting that the ongoing historiography of Reinhard Gehlen would be “the dissemination of nonsense… ad infinitum, as each successive writer draws on his predecessor.” 41 This criticism cuts back to the problem of sources. Hard sources that can be printed, verified, and openly discussed are typically a nonentity in intelligence history. Instead, historians have often had to take numerous leaps of faith by accepting the information presented by unnamed sources or allegedly leaked documents. In concrete terms, this means that most footnotes refer to unverifiable facts presented in newspaper articles, memoirs, interviews, and other historical literature. To transform this shaky foundation into a coherent narrative, a large degree of speculation is required. Specifically regarding Gehlen’s historiography, these general characterizations accurately reflect the situation that authors encountered prior to Mary Ellen Reese’s success in obtaining new declassified documents. Just as prehistory describes the period prior to recorded history, prehistoriography describes the period prior to documentary evidence. Scholarship on Gehlen prior to 1990 is therefore best considered prehistoriographic. 41 Central Intelligence Agency. Intelligence in recent public literature: Four books on the chief of the West German intelligence service. Book Review, 1972.
  • 16. McBride, 15 For examinations of Gehlen prior to the 1956 formation of the BND, the era of prehistoriography is at an end. This does not imply that declassification is over, but rather that declassification will no longer occur at the expense of analytical debate between historians. This shift is clear in the ongoing doctoral work of Jens Wegener and the 1993 formation of the International Intelligence History Association, which seeks to promote “interdisciplinary research and teaching in the field of intelligence history.”42 As intelligence history continues to become a respectable field of scholarly research, the historiography of Reinhard Gehlen will continue to evolve. As historians continue to replace reporters, the emphasis of Gehlen’s historiography will shift from methodological problems associated with primary sources towards academic debate focusing on analytical and philosophical perspectives. The way forwards is clear. Historians must counter the cynical CIA prediction of “dissemination of nonsense… ad infinitum” and continue the difficult historization of intelligence history. 42 International Intelligence History Association; available from <http://www.intelligence-history.org/>; accessed 10 December 2009
  • 17. McBride, 16 Bibliography Breitman, Richard, Norman J.W. Goda, Timothy Naftali, and Robert Wolfe. U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Buchheit, Gert. Der deutsche Geheimdienst: Geschichte der militärischen Abwehr. München: List Verlag, 1966. Central Intelligence Agency. Intelligence in recent public literature: Four books on the chief of the West German intelligence service [Classified]. Book Review, 1972. Unattributed. Declassified, March 26, 1980. Cookridge, E.H. Gehlen: Spy of the Century. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1972. Critchfield, James H. Partners at the Creation: The Men Behind Postwar Germany’s Defense and Intelligence Establishments. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. Felfe, Heinz. Im Dienst des Gegners: 10 Jahre Moskaus Mann im BND. Hamburg: Rasch und Röhring Verlag, 1986. Gehlen, Reinhard. The Service: The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1972. Gröhler, Harald. Herr Gehlen ohne Foto: Ein Bericht über den Gründer des Bundesnachrichtendiensts. Berlin: Trajo Verlag, 2006. Höhne, Heinz and Hermann Zolling. The General was a Spy: The Truth about General Gehlen and his Spy Ring. New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, Inc, 1972. Höhne, Heinz. Der Krieg im Dunkeln: Macht und Einfluβ des deutschen und russischen Geheimdienstes. München: C. Bertelsmann Verlag GmbH, 1985. Kahn, David. Hitler’s Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War II. New York: Da Cappo Press, 1978. Mader, Julius. Die Graue Hand: Eine Abrechnung mit dem Bonner Geheimdienst. East Berlin: Kongress Verlag, 1960. Mader, Julius and Albrecht Charisius. Nicht Länger Geheim: Entwicklung, System und Arbeitsweise des imperialistischen deutschen Geheimdienstes. East Berlin: Deutscher Militärverlag, 1969. Müller-Enbergs, Helmut. “Julius Mader.” In Wer war wer in der DDR?, 4th ed. Berlin: Links Verlag, 2006. Reese, Mary Ellen. General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection. Fairfax: George Mason University Press, 1990. Schmidt-Eenboom, Erich. Geheimdienst, Politik und Medien: Meinungsmache Undercover. Berlin: Kai Homilius Verlag, 2004. Simpson, Christopher. Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. Wegner, Jens. Die Organisation Gehlen und die USA: Deutsch-amerikanische Geheimdienstbeziehungen 1945-1949. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2008.

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