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What known infiltrators were there in Germany during the war? How were they recruited? Before or after they got key positions? By the Soviets or by the British? What damage did they inflict? What spies did Germany have abroad?
The most famous infiltrator would be Admiral Canaris, the head of German military counter intelligence (Abwehr) who was executed early 1945 for espionage. Suspicions were raised during Gestapo's investigations after the attempt on Hitler's life july 1944, unrelated to Canaris. Obviously, the carelessly compromising content of Canaris' diary was found in a safe almost by chance.
Canaris has been blamed for having appointed numerous infiltrators within the German intellicens services, most notably Oster. He has been allegded to have dissuaded Franco to join the war on the axis' side, during a personal meeting. Of course, if the head of the intelligence service is an agent for the enemy, anything is possible! He could have systematically misinformed German leadership and leak secrets to the enemy.
Just one detail to illustrate the potential scope of desinformation beyond the obvious military: Goebbels was informed by Abwehr that the allied meeting in Casablanca, where they demanded unconditional surrender, took place in the White House (translation!) in Washington and that the unconditional surrender demand was directed only towards the Vichy troops in North Africa. Goebbles later agoniozes that his propaganda missed this opportunity to stress the need for a total war. Also, the allies timed a bombing of Berlin exactly when Goebbels started his speech on the total war, because of insider information even about such details as Goebbels schedule.
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GERMAN INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS
Repeated success can quickly create a reputation of omniscience and invincibility, and such was the reputation of Nazi Germany in 1941. Germany’s unbroken string of victories gave the impression of vast intelligence networks providing Hitler with all the information necessary to guide Germany from one victory to the next.(4) In reality this could not have been farther from the truth. While the German intelligence services undoubtedly had representatives in many parts of the world, and while Nazi Bund organizations may have provided information of some value, the real situation was that Hitler had gone a long way on bluff, boldness, intuition, and plain luck.(5) There was no vast intelligence network analyzing incoming reports and presenting them to senior political and military advisors for policy decisions. In truth, the intelligence resources available to the person who at one point controlled most of continental Europe was woefully inefficient.
The German intelligence services were divided, competitive, feuding, and in one case even treasonous.(6) At no point beneath Hitler himself was all of the information on any one subject assembled and analyzed. Hitler’s character would in many respects make him his own intelligence officer. Hitler’s belief in his infallibility and the superior human beings that constituted the Nazi Party, clouded his thoughts and vision and, as in the case of the Soviet Ukrainian population, turned potential advantages in sure defeat. Hitler was extremely critical of the military as well as certain groups within the German intelligence services, while at the same time being partial to others. This was the behavior and pattern that would create the chaos and competition that riddled the Third Reich. Hitler was especially partial to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the security service of the Nazi Party. Hitler maintained a strong devotion and commitment to the Nazi Party he created, and would often heed their advice, which was merely a reflection of his own personal beliefs. The advice they gave had little to do with military matters and focused instead on internal resistance and persecution, which fed Hitler’s appetite by confirming for him what he already believed to be true.(7) Hitler’s overt favoritism towards the SD fragmented the German intelligence services into operations competing for Hitler’s attention and support. Without an effective and cohesive intelligence organization Hitler’s luck would run out in Operation Barbarossa. Critical information concerning the Soviet Army, government, and people was left unread, or read and disregarded by Hitler.
The Foreign Armies East was primarily responsible for all information and intelligence for the attack on the Soviet Union.(8) They purportedly received all available information from all sources on the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries and would forward its reports to the Quartermaster General, who in turn forwarded them to all levels of the government, and all branches of the military.(9) It can be reasonably assumed that the Foreign Armies East did not receive complete information at all times. Certainly the Nazi Party intelligence (SD) did not contribute, nor would the Foreign Ministry which distrusted the military and would rarely report in full. Even in times of war the intelligence services in Germany were reluctant to cooperate, share information, or work in unison towards victory.
The Foreign Armies East was dependent upon the Abwehr (High Command Intelligence Agency) for much of its clandestine information.(10) The Abwehr was solely responsible for control of espionage and counterespionage, but it was forbidden to handle political material from foreign sources.(11) The collection of political intelligence was divided between the Foreign Ministry, which covered all areas where Germany had diplomatic representation, and the (SD), the security services of the Nazi Party. Intelligence itself is tremendously difficult to manage, but to further compound these difficulties by dividing the responsibility among Military Intelligence, the Foreign Office and the Nazi Party Security Service made the task impossible. In 1940, The Abwehr attempted to form a common front with the Foreign Ministry against the Party Security Service, but neither was very successful in protecting itself from the (SD) that enjoyed Hitler’s full support.(12)
The factionalism within the German intelligence services created fantastic confusion as the three main elements competed for vital information. In their eagerness to out-produce each other and their unwillingness to share information about their sources, the feuding Germans were easy targets for double agents and deception.(13) The Auslandsorganisation, the group attempting to organize Germans in other countries, maintained its own intelligence service and channeled what it collected into the party system. Eberhard von Stohrer, The German Ambassador in Spain, complained frequently about the innaccurate information collected by the Auslandsorganisation, and the policies implemented as a result of this information.(14) Each of the military services also had their own intelligence services in the form of cryptanalytic agencies. These agencies were all under the control of the Wehrmachtnachrichtenvergingungen, Armed Forces Signal communications (WNV), The Heeresnachrichten Wesens (Army Communications System) forwarded its intercepts to army intelligence. The navy had the Beobachtung-Dienst (observation service), while the Luftwaffe had the Funkaufklarungsdienst, Radio reconnaissance Service. The OKW, Wehrmacht Command, had its own communication and cryptanalytic services. Supposing that four military services, each with its own internal intelligence organization was not enough, the Foreign Office controlled the Sonderdienst Dahlem, Special Services at Dahlem, which processed some of the raw information intercepted by the military services at the post office. Herman Georing himself organized hi own intelligence service called the Forschungsamt, Research Office, which operated with the SD to intercept communications, tap telephone lines, and open mail.(15)
With all these collection agencies, and their analytic counterparts, one would assume the German policy makers were well informed. But these were competitive and uncoordinated organizations. These organizations did not share raw material they collected, and there was rampant overlapping efforts and wasteful duplication. In many instances the interpretation of the data received was in direct contrast from one group to another. There was only one person in Germany who could have pulled these feuding independent organizations together. He was Adolf Hitler, and he was not interested.(16) Hitler did not want one coordinated intelligence report. He told Heinrich Himmler, "The Abwehr always sends me a batch of individual, undigested reports. Of course they are all of great importance and come form the most reliable of sources, but it is left to me to sift the material. This is not right, and I want you to instruct your staff to carry out their work quite differently.(17) (Himmler headed the S.S. and the SD, the bitter rival of the Abwehr.) Actually Hitler preferred it this way. As his own intelligence officer he could interpret the information as he saw fit and never be in the position of taking a view contrary to the collective one of the intelligence services.(18) Also, in this manner he could readily agree and confirm information received by the SD to continue his assault on the innocent peoples of Europe.
Why should Hitler have had confidence in his intelligence services? Their reports had been as wrong as his military analysts were. In 1940 these groups were telling Hitler that the French Army was invincible and that the Maginot Line was impregnable. That the Czech’s would fiercely resist German occupation, and that Britain and France would launch a massive assault to save Poland.(19) Hitler possessed the political savvy necessary to accomplish as much as Germany did until this time. This was a trait that was not measurable by intelligence. Hitler knew how the British, French, Czech, and Poles would react and did as he pleased anyway. Hitler was a man of great self-confidence and ego. His was a supreme ego and he believed only in himself. He believed that he alone had been chosen to build a greater Reich that would rule the world for a thousand years.
The conviction of his infallibility gave Hitler an audacity that more rational humans could never have possessed. Each successfully exploited weakness of an opponent made him even bolder. He seized political opportunities with a cynicism and an uncanny intuition that made him even more awesome to his followers, who had in many ways already deified him far beyond the justified pretensions of any mere human being.
Why should Hitler believe the reports of his intelligence services concerning the Soviet Union, when their information on all other areas had been persistently overly pessimistic? Intelligence services must consistently be credible to be effective, and this the German services were not. But how could they be consistent when their information was fragmentary and their analysis biased by a firmly established prejudice about the Soviet Union’s strength.(20) The Foreign Armies East was excellent at correlating the information it received, but if the information did not fit into their (or specifically Hitler’s) basic concepts the analysts were inclined to discount or ignore it.(21)
Furthermore, the reports from the intelligence services had to pass through senior staff officers who were completely controlled by Hitler and only told him what they knew he wanted to hear. Hitler only wanted his own convictions confirmed and he was convinced that the Soviet Union was weak. He believed that the great purges of the 1930’s had seriously damaged the command structure of the Soviet military.(22) His conviction of Soviet military weakness was strengthened by the Red Army’s poor performance in the winter war against Finland in 1940. If the Soviets had difficulty defeating Finland, they should pose no threat to the German Army.(23) Hitler was also convinced that Communist Party control in the Soviet Union was insecure and that the Soviet people would welcome the Germans as liberators. Yet he was so disdainful of the Slavs as people that he gave orders to immediately execute all political commissars, to liquidate the Jews, and to be ruthless in handling the population in occupied areas.(24)
German intelligence on the Soviet Union prior to the attack was severely lacking. There were some potentially good sources, but there is no evidence that they produced much of value, and if they did that it was believed or acted upon. The SD had officers in the Baltic States as well as in every country in East Europe. They even reportedly had two officers on the staff of Colonel-General Konstantin Rokossovsky of the Red Army.(25) In addition they employed hundreds of low-level agents, who infiltrated the Soviet border equipped with radio sets. The Soviet Army radio security was poor and by the time of the attack in June the German intelligence services had a fairly complete order of battle of all the Soviet units in the frontier area. German communications intelligence, however, could not pick up the Soviet reserve units deep in the interior of the country. This led to a gross miscalculation of the Red Army’s strength. The Germans estimated Soviet strength at 200 divisions a month prior to the attack. In the first six weeks of the war, the Germans already encountered greater than 360 divisions.(26)
The German military attaché’s office in the Moscow embassy probably had the most reliable and realistic information about Soviet troop strength and intentions, but its views or opinions were not given much weight. General Ernst Koestring warned not to underestimate the ability of the Soviet military forces.(27) General Heinz Guderian, the foremost armored warfare expert in the German Army, had published a book in 1937, Actung, Panzer! which estimated Soviet tank strength at 10,000, a figure he altered from intelligence reports of that time which gave the actual strength as 17,000.(28) He even had difficulty using the more conservative figure in his book, as the then German Chief of Staff General Ludwig von Beck thought it vastly exaggerated. General Beck was in complete agreement with Hitler in respect to the overall military ability of the Soviet Union. In 1938 he wrote that the Red Army was a disgrace as a military force and was not a factor to be reckoned with.(29)
Hitler was obviously disdainful of both the numbers and the quality of Soviet tanks because he launched Operation Barbarossa with only 3,200 tanks, while yearly German production was only 1,000.(30) In 1933, eight years prior to the attack, Guderian had visited a single tank factory in Russia that was producing 22 tanks per day.(31) As the war between Germany and Russia began, Russian tank production was many times greater than that of Germany. Six weeks after the German attack Hitler saw General Guderian in Nory Borissov and told him, "If I had known that the figures for Russian tank strength which you gave in your book were in fact the true ones, I would not – I believe – ever have started this war."(32) If Adolf Hitler had listened to the experienced military personnel at his disposal, and would have viewed the Russian military as the worthy opponent they were, they may not have been a need for this conversation to occur.
In actuality the German figure of 200 Soviet divisions was probably close to accurate at the outset of hostilities. The dramatic increase in Russian strength being accredited to the efficient Russian mobilization of machinery and troops, which put over a million men under arms within one month of the war.(33) In this incredible feat the Russians were aided by Osoaviakhim, a nationwide paramilitary organization which had over 30 million members, of whom 30 percent were women. This group established clubs, which were formed into units to defend local areas. Units of pilots, of parachutists, and of partisan cadres were created to resist the Germans. These units were responsible for the neutralization of minefields and the recovery of equipment in the rear of armies.(34) Hitler immediately dismissed the latent strength of such an organization. Again, he believed that the Russian military machine was so riddled with communism, insecurity, suspicion, and informers, and so demoralized by the officer purges that it could not function properly. Intelligence had drawn up a clear picture of the Russian Army in Poland and of the vulnerability of its disposition. "You only have to kick in the door," he told Field Marshall Rundstedt, "and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."(35) It is paradoxical to find Hitler, whose own contempt for the professional soldier was without limit, and who never ceased to exalt the ties of the "party" over the military caste system, expressing such a view on the corrupting effect of politics on a military system.
Hitler’s final miscalculation concerning Russia was the one that would directly ensure his defeat: the Russian soldier. The German Army was now confronted by an opponent of a completely different kind than the nations of the West. "The Russian Soldier," Red Army Marshal Nikolai Krylov has said, "loves a fight and scorns death. He was given the order: ‘If you are wounded, pretend to be dead; wait until the Germans come up; then select one of them and kill him! Kill him with your gun, bayonet, or knife. Tear his throat with your teeth. Do not die without leaving a behind you a German corpse."(36) It was attitudes like this, embraced by the entire Russian Army that would deny Hitler victory. These men were driven to repel the invading German Army and would give their lives willingly in the process. The German Army did not know how to defeat an army such as this when Operation Barbarossa began, nor did they know how to stop them as the battle turned against Germany.
RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS
The Russian intelligence services were the children of conspiracy and terror and inherited many of the characteristics of their parents, some good but many more bad. Of the numerous information collecting organizations, there was only one internal security service, the NKVD, which also collected information on foreign developments.(37) The NKVD was the direct descendent of the CHEKA, established by Lenin and Trotsky immediately following the revolution, and whose original members had survived the revolution as underground conspirators. The CHEKA’s original mission was to protect the Red Revolution from the White Counter-Revolution. Success was the only quality tolerated. Few survived failures in the Soviet services.(38)
Stalin used the NKVD in his great purges of the late thirties that decimated the senior ranks of the Red Army. But even in the NKVD itself purges were common. It is a vicious cycle when all of the executioners and witnesses must be eliminated. By 1941 few of the original Chekists survived, but those who did remain within the NKVD were true experts in the art of conspiracy.(39)
The NKVD was extraordinary in its capacity to recruit agents from targeted areas: prominent individuals in Russian exile organizations plotting counter-revolution, leaders of party dissidents within the Soviet Union, or government officials in a country which one day may be an enemy of Russia. The NKVD was everywhere inside Russia and out.(40) While throughout its history its primary mission was the protection of the state, this was interpreted to mean everything of interest to Joseph Stalin.
In 1941 the NKVD had only two years before absorbed the last remnants of the Comintern intelligence system: the Communist International organized by Lenin in 1919 to direct a world revolution. The Comintern was a massive international bureaucracy with headquarters in Moscow and dominated by Russians. While the primary mission of the Comintern was direction and guidance to communist cadres throughout the world, it was by its nature a vast intelligence gathering organization.(41) It had specific networks organized for that purpose, but also had the resources of the communist parties of the world.
Joseph Stalin was never a proponent of the Comintern and only tolerated its existence as he continued to build, purge and rebuild the Soviet party organization. In 1943, Stalin announced the dissolution of the Comnitern without even notifying communist party’s of the member countries.(42) His action was widely seen as a renunciation of the communist world revolution. Russia’s allies, especially Great Britain and the United States were somewhat reassured of Stalin’s intentions for the future. However, the Russian Communist Party organization had taken over the world-wide espionage and revolutionary activities, as well as the personnel of the Comintern.(43)
Intelligence from abroad was received in many places in Moscow, but ultimately it was all channeled to the Presidium, where it was tightly controlled by the Secretariat. The many sources and multiple channels existing within the Soviet system had distinct advantages. First, the number of sources enhanced the possibility of securing information important to the Soviet Union. Second, the nature of the sources also insured that the level and quality of the information was varied: some high-level, from penetration of foreign governments; some low-level from party members and informants. Third, the different channels used for getting information to Moscow both increased the security of the system and insured that if one channel was blocked one of the others was certain to get through.(44) The NKVD ran numerous espionage networks throughout the world and each reported independently to the center in Moscow. By 1941, either the NKVD or the Military Intelligence Department of the General Staff had absorbed most of the foreign intelligence activities of the Comintern.(45)
In addition to the NKVD and military intelligence, Stalin had intelligence coming into Moscow from every other Russian government department that had representative’s abroad. Not being experts in the field of espionage, these individuals were required to report all they heard or saw, and in certain instances they were coopted by the NKVD or military intelligence to organize intelligence networks.(46)
If Stalin’s intelligence services had worked as they should and the system had functioned efficiently, all the information collected, from any part of the world or any organization would have ended up in the same office in Moscow. This office, called Control, operated directly under Stalin in his role as First Secretary of the Communist Party. It was Control’s responsibility to analyze all incoming information and to prepare reports for the Presidium, the General Staff, and interested departments. Control was also responsible for guiding the collection of intelligence needed for the security of the Soviet Union. Perhaps most important of all, it was required to evaluate the quality of the sources so that the party and government members would know whether the information came from sources of unquestioned reliability, of questionable accuracy or of unknown quality.(47)
But Stalin’s intelligence services had also inherited the bad qualities of its parent, conspiracy. It was a paranoid organization. It was not only suspicious of everyone else in the world, it did not trust itself. The NKVD watched everyone else, and they all watched the NKVD.(48) There appears to be almost as much energy expended on internal observation s on external collection. This atmosphere had to impact the quality of analysis and interpretation of material in Moscow. Likewise, it also had to have negative effects on the honesty and validity of material presented to Stalin himself. How would a report from an international source, which purported to be an exact copy of a German High Command document, analyzing the strength of the Red Army and commenting that the leadership was poor due to the purges of the thirties; that Russian tanks were of inferior quality; or that part of the Russian population would turn against the communists at the first opportunity, be handled?(49) Realizing the low-level of tolerance the NKVD had with respect to criticism of the Kremlin, would the report ever be sent?
What would Control in Moscow do with the report? Would they bury it, forward it, or reprimand the international official? If sent forward, what comment would Control put on it? Would they say it was an exact reflection of the views of the German General Staff? Or would they call it a German fabrication? If the report reached Stalin, what would his reaction be? Would it be one of fury at the unfavorable reflection on his actions or one of sober acceptance that the Germans might be seriously underestimating Russian capabilities?(50) In any intelligence system a report passes through many hands. Any one of the persons handling the report could edit it or file it at their discretion.
The Soviet intelligence system in 1941 was the world’s largest. British and French intelligence had been badly damaged by the military disasters in Western Europe in 1940.(51) Yet the government and armies of the Soviet Union were unprepared for the attack by Germany on June 22, 1941. This was either an incredible failure on the part of the Russian intelligence services or a miscalculation of gigantic proportions on the part of Stalin and the Russian leadership.
The communist intelligence services should have produced vast quantities of information on the size, quality and intentions of the German Army. They had so many potential sources at their disposal within Germany itself that it would have taken a sizable staff to dissect the data accumulated. Although the Nazis had tried to eradicate the communists in Germany, there remained numerous underground groups in vital areas: in the military services, munitions factories and in the government bureaucracy itself.(52)
Even if the Russian espionage agents had not succeeded in infiltrating the key centers of Germany where knowledge of the attack was available from December 18, 1940 onward, the preparations and mobilizations in the east must have attracted the attention of low-level agents and informants. Three million men and accompanying equipment cannot be assembled unnoticed, especially by a xenophobic nation such as the Soviet Union.
One of the major debates since the attack has been whether or not Stalin was aware of an impending German attack. If this is the case why then did he not take greater defensive measures to secure the Russian frontier? The usual explanation is that Stalin did not want to give the Germans a pretext to attack, as he felt he could negotiate with Hitler. But to make this explanation plausible it must be assumed that Russia thought German intelligence was so good that it would immediately identify any build-up and use it as a justification to attack. This assumption seems strange in that Stalin had conducted many purges to eliminate any elements of the population it suspected of disloyalty, also the idea that many inside Russia would know what was occurring is doubtful. Stalin was unquestionably aware of the possibility of a German attack. To him it was a matter of timing, not of possibility.
Of all the reports received in Moscow, the most precise and complete were provided by the Russian Military Intelligence services. Western Europe was covered by the Rote Kapelle, the "Red Chapel", which had networks of agents in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Italy.(53) The most extensive networks were in Germany, where the Russians had agents in every major ministry in the government and industry. They had agents on the staff of senior military officers and high within the Nazi political party. If Stalin had any idea of the strength of the Russian intelligence services in Germany and elsewhere, the opening battle of this war could have been drastically different.
There were at least five Soviet agents on the General Staff of the Luftwaffe. Lieutenant Colonel Harry Schulze-Boysen was in the Forschungsamt, a key position for the collection of military information. Oberregierungsrat Arvid Harnack was a Russian expert in the Ministry of Economics. Legionsrat von Schelia was First Secretary of the Foreign Office. Colonel von Bentivegni was in military counterintelligence and Colonel of Engineers Becker. These were important agents, but others were all over Germany, men and women who hated the Nazis and Hitler.(54)
The most effective Russian intelligence network operated out of Switzerland. It was headed by Alexander Koulicheff who worked under the name of Alex Rado.(55) His chief agent was Rudolf Roessler, a German publisher, who used the pseudonym of Lucy. Lucy’s sources in the German High Command included several generals who had been colleagues of Roesslers in World War I.(56) The intelligence provided by Lucy was accurate and plentiful. Reports of wholesale troop movements to the east in early June as the final preparations for the attack were being made were sent to Moscow. Another report in mid-June advised that the attack would occur on June 22 and gave the precise German order of battle, the army groups and their objectives. The Control office in Moscow, however, was suspicious of the reports from Lucy. The precise identity of the original source was never revealed to them and the information was so factual that it appeared to be a German plant. But Control could not ignore the report on the date of the attack, which had been received previously from other sources. Rado initially worried about sending the reports at all for fear of being reprimanded for passing on provocative information.(57) If Rado was afraid to submit information directly received from the German High Command itself, what wasn’t sent to Moscow by others? Stalin’s own system prevented him from receiving information that may have swayed his opinion on the Germans and their intent.
The Russian intelligence network in Japan was equally effective. Richard Sorge, a journalist, had developed sources with access to the top level of the Japanese government.(58) Sorge had established himself so well with the German embassy that he was considered a trusted member of the staff and confided in by the ambassador and military attaché. Thus Sorge new what both Germany and Japan were planning to do.
On March 5, 1941, Sorge sent Moscow a microfilm of cables from German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop to General Ott, the German ambassador in Tokyo, giving the date of the attack on Russia as the middle of June. In June, Major Scholl, the Assistant Military Attaché, told Sorge the attack would take place on June 20 or within two or three days after that and that there would be no declaration of war or ultimatum.(59)
Control in Moscow now had reports from opposite sides of the world giving the precise date of the attack. There was no danger of false confirmation, rather the identical information came from independent sources and through two distinctly different channels. These reports validated one another, and both were met with skepticism by Stalin. Stalin did not trust Sorge since he wouldn’t go to Moscow to meet personally with him. As an intelligence operative, Sorge’s primary concern was to conceal his true intentions and to remain alive. Visiting Stalin may well have jeopardized both.
Furthermore, Stalin was warned by other nations, particularly the United States and Great Britain, of the impending German attack and its date. International warnings began to reach Moscow as early as January 1941.(60) In January the Commercial Attaché in the United States embassy in Berlin advised Washington that Hitler was planning to attack Russia in the spring. If an American commercial attaché in Berlin could gather such sensitive information, the Soviet intelligence also must have had it.
On March 20, Sumner Wells, the Under Secretary of State in Washington, advised Constantine Oumansky, the Soviet ambassador and experienced intelligence officer, that the Germans were planning an attack. On March 25 the Germans ordered the expulsion of all Russian boundary and repatriation missions on the German side of the Lithuanian border. On April 3, Winston Churchill sent a message to Sir Stafford Cripps, the British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, directing him to advise Stalin that the German were planning an attack an d that they were moving three armored divisions from Rumania to southern Poland for that purpose. On June 1, German technicians working on a Russian cruiser in Leningrad were recalled by Berlin.(61) There were clear signs available in Moscow also. Laurence Steinhardt, the American Ambassador, cabled Washington of the recall of German and Italian diplomatic wives back to Berlin and Rome. If Stalin would not believe the words of other national leaders, perhaps he should have been influenced by the irregular diplomatic behavior that he and the NKVD surely knew about.
Stalin did, however, have some justification for not trusting the Americans or British. These were the same nations that had supported Finland in the Winter War the previous year. Stalin felt that the American and British were playing the Russians so that they would fight Hitler instead of them. He believed that both the United States and Great Britain were imperialistic nations that were determined to rid the world of communism and that they saw in Adolf Hitler a vehicle to accomplish this.(62) Even if Stalin did harbor such feelings he could not dispel the information from around the world which corroborated Americas and Great Britain’s information.
The warnings continued to arrive in Moscow until the very last moment. A Czech deserter from a German division in the Lvov region defected to the Russians at 10PM on the night of June 21 and told interrogators that the attack would occur at 3AM. It took over three hours for the information to reach Stalin, who did not believe the information and ordered the man shot!(63)
Hitler himself could have been used as a warning to Russia. In Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and in over 1,500 speeches, there are few themes reiterated more frequently as the danger of Bolshevism and the "living room" available to Germany in Russia.(64) In the book, Hitler stated that Russia afforded the primary area for new lands and colonies for Germany, and spoke bluntly of the destruction of communism: "The new Reich must follow the paths of the ancient Teutonic orders...The end of the Bolshevik power will be the end of Russia as a state."(65) From his earliest speeches as a leading political figure in Germany until June 22, 1941, an attack on Russia was implicit. Recover the gains of Bres-Litovsk, enslave half of the Slavs, confiscate the land and make the Ukraine an outpost of eastern Germany were also themes replete throughout Hitler’s career.
It is possible that Stalin’s own experiences altered his judgement during this critical time. Having utilized the NKVD to purge his enemies, and being well aware of their ability to deceive, would he trust or rely on their reports? Having been an espionage operative himself, and knowing the pitfalls involved with the profession, would he give any credibility to an agent’s report? Having purged the Red Army just three years previous, did he have the confidence in his military intelligence to act upon their information? Or did the system of terror and suspicion that he created become a monster that enveloped even its creator?
It may never be known the weight which the Stalin gave to the various sources of intelligence he received. However, it was his judgement that was decisive in Russia and the final view on any matter would be Stalin’s alone.
The case can be made that just as Hitler’s intelligence services were generally poor, failed to collect adequate information and did not work together, the situation in Russia was exactly the opposite. The Russian intelligence services were tightly controlled and coordinated. The Russian’s had superior intelligence networks throughout Western Europe and Japan. These networks produced detailed information on the strength and disposition of German and Japanese military forces, but more importantly what those governments intended to do with these forces, and when they intended to do it. The information was not only accurate, it was timely and received in Moscow well before the event. Stalin’s refusal to heed the numerous warnings he received or listen to his intelligence services cost him and Russia dearly. Only the tenacity and bravery of the Red Army officers and soldiers, and the assistance of Russia’s greatest ally, "Mother Nature", saved Russia from sure defeat.
Adolf Hitler not only misjudged the Russian Communist government, he did not understand Russia or the Russian people. If he had any notion of the Russian people turning against Stalin and the Russian Communists, he would not have treated them as Untermenschen, inferior peoples. By allowing the Sonderkommando, special units, to follow the combat troops into Russia and terrorize the population, Hitler created resistance movements and guerrilla units, which operated behind the German lines and caused massive confusion throughout the war. Hitler was also blind to the vastness of Russia and the severity of its climate. The Russians left little rolling-stock intact on the railways, and the German railway engines were not built for the Russian climate which severely hindered supply logistics. Those trains that did not freeze or break down were usually ambushed and destroyed by the guerrilla units.
Stalin to his credit quickly realized the superior quality of his intelligence services and began to take seriously their reports. On July 2 Richard Sorge sent a report to Moscow that the Imperial Conference in Japan had decided on maintaining neutrality in the Russo-German war.(66) Stalin, now having faith in Sorge and the reliability of his information, was able to move reserve units from the Far East Armies to defend Moscow and eventually turn back the Germans when the Russian counteroffensive began on December 5, 1941.
In many respects, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were blindly leading their countries into one of the worst wars ever fought. Hitler, riding on the momentum of easy victories, collided with the Soviet Union impatient with and intolerant of reports of Russian strength and fighting ability. Hitler was so convinced of his own infallibility that he ignored the warnings and strategic advice of his generals, compounded error with error and led Germany ultimately to "unconditional surrender." Stalin was a victim of the system he created, blind to what was happening because trust was an impossibility. He recklessly threw Russian forces into the opening battles, needlessly wasting them in battles they were ill-prepared to fight. From the viewpoint of people killed and property destroyed, Operation Barbarossa constitutes the most costly military intelligence failure in history.
Military intelligence is a difficult profession and an imperfect science at best. But an organization needs to be in place far in advance of a battle to fully prepare for that battle. Such an organization must have information on every aspect that may impact the course of the battle. There must be system in place to ensure that the vital information available on the enemy reaches the men who are fighting the battle. The organization must also ensure that those commanders receiving the information know how to properly utilize it. This organizational efficiency must be incorporated from the highest levels of power for it to be effective. All parts of this organization must work in unison and with the full support of national and military leaders to be truly effective. The leaders themselves must place faith in the professionals within their intelligence operations and lend credence to their information and recommendations. Had Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin heeded the information presented to them about the other, and trusted the intelligence systems they created, the outcome of this epic battle, the war, and the Twentieth Century itself may have been drastically different.
(4) Robert Herzstein, The Nazis, (Alexandria, VA, Time Life Books, 1980), 165
(5) Ibid., 169
(6) Clark, Barbarossa, 117
(7) Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany at War, (London, Longman, 1995), 135
(8) Ibid., 156
(9) Ibid., 157
(10) Lauran Paine, German Military Intelligence in World War II: The Abwehr, (New York, Stein & Day, 1984), 89
(12) Ibid., 111
(13) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 178
(14) Kitchen, Nazi Germany at War, 182
(15) Paul Leverkuehn, German Military Intelligence, (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1954), 80
(16) Ibid., 83
(17) Paine, The Abwehr, 116
(19) Leverkuehn, German Military Intelligence, 136
(20) Seweyrn Bailer, Stalin & His Generals: Soviet Military Memoirs of World War II, (New York, Pegasus, 1969), 178
(21) Paine, German Military Intelligence, 146
(22) Ibid., 151
(23) Gerhard Weinberg, Germany & the Soviet Union 1939-1941, (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1972) 168
(24) Ibid., 187
(25) Clark, Barbarossa, 211
(26) Ibid., 227
(27) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 216
(28) Clark, Barbarossa, 267
(30) Kitchen, Nazi Germany at War, 179
(31) Ibid., 181
(33) Bailer, Stalin & His Generals, 186
(35) James E. McSherry, Stalin, Hitler & Europe, (Cleveland, World Publishing, 1970), 106
(36) Bailer, Stalin & His Generals, 228
(37) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 66
(38) Ibid., 71
(39) Ibid., 93
(40) John Keegan, The Second World War, (New York, Penquin Books, 1990), 289
(41) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 101
(42) Bailer, Stalin & His Generals, 190
(44) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 113
(45) Ibid., 115
(46) McSherry, Stalin, Hitler & Europe, 118
(47) Ibid., 121
(48) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military, 128
(49) Clark, Barbarossa, 278
(50) Ibid., 281
(51) McSherry, Stalin, Hitler & Europe, 138
(52) Kitchen, Nazi Germany at War, 167
(53) Paine, The Abwehr, 127
(54) Keegan, The Second World War, 289
(55) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 216
(57) Ibid., 221
(58) Ibid., 228
(60) Keegan, The Second World War, 313
(61) Weinberg, Germany & the Soviet Union 1939-1941, 204
(62) Ibid., 238
(63) Clark, Barbarossa, 305
(64) Ibid., 313
(66) Glantz, Intelligence in Soviet Military Strategy, 287
- In memoriam
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I can only argue with two points in that text, which I think might portrait things a bit too one-sided.
The first being the speculations about Hitler's and Stalin's psychological dispositions. Arguments about their personal motives, confidence and who they trusted must be hard to prove.
Secondly, having competing agencies with overlapping responsibilities, something which Hitler obviously favoured in many areas, could also have advantages. In the short run, the negative effects of suboptimization and "feuding" are easy to criticize. However, in the long run such a climate might help improve quality, much like competition drives the development of firms. Also, decentralization might have been an obsticle to enemy intelligence in some instances.
These minor points aside, I think that the text makes clear that it was Soviet's access to an immensly large worldwide net of sources that provided their success. One could assume that the UK and US were (are?) victims of similar infiltration, only that this has not become public in the same extent for obvious reasons.