The Labyrinth

Title:                      The Labyrinth

Author:                Walter Schellenberg

Schellenberg, Walter (1956, 2000). The Labyrinth: Memoirs of Walter Schellenberg, Hitler’s Chief of Counterintelligence. Boulder, CO: Da Capo Press

LCCN:    99042049

DD247.S338 A3 2000


Date Updated:  October 18, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Schellenberg died in 1952; what was published in this book is not a translation of the complete manuscript he left. Alan Bulloch, who wrote the introduction, cautioned that other omissions and additions may have been made between his death and the work’s appearance in a publisher’s office. Bulloch additionally cautions that it would be wise not to accept Schellenberg as a trustworthy witness of events unless there is corroboration. Others believe Schellenberg wrote a self-serving account of his life and of the intelligence and security case he treats; he is least reliable where he was not a participant or is not writing from first-hand knowledge.

It is wise to heed these warnings. One would have thought the man who headed the SD foreign intelligence department and later, with the removal of Admiral Canaris, was head of all German espionage would be reliable on the Scapa Flow matter and about the existence of the supposed German agent there; but we know that what he wrote of this and of Albert Oertel is false. Kahn in Hitler’s Spies[2] contests his claim that the material provided by the agent Cicero in Turkey helped break part of the British diplomatic code. And this, it must be kept in mind, was an SD operation. Bernard Newman, who studied the case of Lieutenant Colonel Sosnowski, stated that Schellenberg’s record of it was “hopelessly inaccurate and in parts fantastic.” There are, moreover, significant omissions and gaps. He has nothing to say of the important Czech penetration into German intelligence, Paul Thiimmel, or A-54 as he was known to the Allies; there is no mention of how the Germans “burned” Colonel Sosnowski with his own service, as we learn from reading Leverkuehn’s German Military Intelligence[3]. There is less than a page on the agent Klatt—whom the Germans considered their most important agent of the eastern front, whose work Schellenberg called “masterly,” and whose reports were “of special significance” and dealing with “large scale strategic plans as well as details of troop movements.” He has nothing to say of German espionage in the United Kingdom during the war. Perhaps that is just as well, for he probably would have gotten it all wrong. On the other hand, his accounts of operations such as the Venlo incident in which he personally took part and his description, from personal knowledge, of Nazi intelligence and security personnel and of the bureaucratic jungle and jockeying for position within the Nazi regime and its services are accepted as useful additions to our knowledge. However, experts caution that the author’s biases should be kept in mind even when he discusses the inner workings of the Nazi secret services. The chapter on Sorge provides one possible explanation of how Sorge managed to get to Japan as a journalist despite his communist past.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[4]

A most revealing account of certain aspects of German intelligence by an important Nazi intelligence official. Schellenberg headed the foreign intelligence department of the Sicherheitsdienst of the Nazi party’s Security Administration; he assumed control of all German military espionage (Abwehr) as well in 1944.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[5]

The authentic but sometimes misleading and self-serving memoirs of the man who in his twenties became the protégé and deputy to Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler’s chief of intelligence. After Heydrich’s assassination, Schellenberg replaced him. Some interesting insights into the bureaucratic struggle between Nazi party foreign intelligence and the Abwehr, Wehrmacht military intelligence.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 399-400

[2] Kahn, David (1978, 1985). Hitler’s Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War II. New York: Collier Books

[3] Leverkuehn, Paul (1954). German Military Intelligence. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

[4] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 55

[5] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 161


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6 Responses to The Labyrinth

  1. Pingback: The Venlo Incident | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: The Enemy Within—German Sabotage | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: The Case of Richard Sorge | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  5. Pingback: German Military Intelligence | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  6. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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