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German Intelligence and Security Service 1920-1944 - this page is a stub

The Abwehr (English: Defence) was a German military organisation which existed from 1920 to 1944. Although the Germans were not allowed to form their own intelligence organisation, as a result of the Treaty of Versailles 1 following WWI, they secretly established an espionage group within the German Ministry of Defence in 1920. The initial purpose of the Abwehr was defence against foreign espionage, but this later evolved into domestic and foreign information gathering.
In 1929, under General Kurt von Schleicher, the existing military service intelligence units were combined and placed under his Ministry of Defence, basically forming the foundation of the Abwehr. The organisation had offices in every army district, but also in some neutral countries and in the occupied territories once the war had begun. Most of the information gathering was done by means of human intelligence (HUMINT).

On 1 January 1935, (then) Vice-Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was given command of the Abwehr. In June 1938, German Führer Adolf Hitler replaced the Ministry of War with the Ober­kommando der Wehrmacht 2 (OKW), and made the Abwehr, under Canaris, part of his personal working staff.

 Canaris on Wikipedia
Vice-Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Spy radio sets
During WWII, the Abwehr played an important role in international espionage, with agents in every corner of the world, gathering information and reporting it to OKW in Berlin by means of so-called spy radio sets. Most of these spy radio sets were developed especially for the Abwehr.
Abwehr spy radio sets on this website
Abwehr spy radio set SE-98/3 Abwehr spy radio set SE-109/3 Siemens R-IV (R4) wartime intercept receiver

 Complete overview of Abwehr spy radio sets

Cipher systems
In order to keep the contents of their message secret, the Abwehr used a variety of manual and machine-based cipher methods. For traffic between OKW and foreign outstations, e.g. in Argentina, the Abwehr used the Enigma G31, which is therefore commonly known as the Abwehr Enigma. 3

 More about the Abwehr Enigma
Close-up of Enigma G

  1. After Germany lost World War One, the Treaty of Versailles was signed to confirm peace and to prevent Germany from developing a military (assault) organisation and high-end technology. → Wikipedia
  2. OKW = Supreme Command of the Armed Forces.
  3. The Enigma G was also used by other countries such as Hungary and The Netherlands.

Chiefs of the Abwehr
  • 1921-1927
    Colonel Friedrich Gempp
  • 1927-1929
    Major Günther Schwantes
  • 1929-1932
    Lieutenant-Colonel Ferdinand von Bredow
  • 1932-1935
    Rear Admiral Konrad Patzig
  • 1935-1944
    Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
  • 1944-1945
    Walter Schellenberg 1
  1. Schellenberg was Brigadier General (Generalmajor) of Police and SS Brigadeführer.

  1. Wikipedia, Abwehr
    Retrieved August 2016.

  2. Arthur Bauer, Some Aspects of the German military Abwehr wireless service...
    ...during the course of World War Two
    15 September 2003.

Further information

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Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 11 August 2016. Last changed: Monday, 12 June 2017 - 06:20 CET.
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