By Eric Vandenbroeck 11 Dec. 2012

 

When Himmler attempted to have Hitler murdered

 

Convinced since early 1942 that Germany would loose the War, in August 1942 Himmler proceeded to Zhitomir where he explained the head of the "Sicherheitsdienst" Schellenberg, how to unseat Hitler in a putsch that would be followed by a secret deal for a negotiated peace with the Western Allies in exchange for license to continue Germany's war with the Soviet Union. See Picture on the left for his arrival at Zithomir. The second picture shows Schellenberg (far right), a witness at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, sits with former subordinates in the Sicherheitsdienst-foreign intelligence-including Wilhelm Hoettl (on his right), who handled Balkan intelligence for Schellenberg.

 

Ein Bild, das Kleidung, Foto, Person, Militäruniform enthält.

Automatisch generierte BeschreibungEin Bild, das Foto, Person, Text, darstellend enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

 

Led by the young Walter Schellenberg Heinrich Himmler proceeded by building his own intelligence arm hence called Office VI, that contributed to the general ruin of Third Reich. Plus maybe the story of his marriages best represents Schellenberg's overall ambition and his eagerness to fulfill the preconditions necessary to achieve what he believed he deserved and was owed. His premarital relationship to his first wife is best described with an untranslatable German term; theirs was, in the truest sense, a Bratkartoffelverhältnis, a relationship in which an older woman caters to the financial and sexual needs of an ambitious younger man, hoping to gain respectability through marriage once the man finishes his education. While such a relationship may not necessarily be devoid of emotion, it is an inordinately risky relationship for the woman.

For several years after the end of his studies and while advancing rapidly within the SD, Walter Schellenberg did not hold up his end of the bargain. Instead, he kept her as a mistress. He only married her when his supervisors began to pressure him to legalize this long-standing relationship. Schellenberg complied, bringing his personal life into a shape worthwhile of his public persona as one of the rising stars of the SD. The marriage did not last long; Schellenberg quickly realized that his new wife--unsophisticated, old, and not very glamorous--would be a dead weight in his effort to rise in Nazi society. Before the divorce was finalized, Frau Schellenberg sought appointments with Heydrich and Himmler, succeeding only with the former. Apparently, she understood Schellenberg's vulnerability--reconciliation was possible if her husband's supervisors issued the adequate order. However, her hopes did not come to pass. Schellenberg's second marriage was by far more suitable: the bride was young, by all accounts attractive, and bore several children in short order. There is no way to pass judgment on these marriages from the little information that is available, but it is apparent that Walter Schellenberg's matrimonial life was tightly connected to his professional ambition. He did what was best for himself and his career.

The depth of Walter Schellenberg's ideological convictions is hard to grasp. In other words, he was neither Werner Best, whose programmatic writings make it possible for historians to discern the extent of Best's Weltanschauung nor Otto Ohlendorf, whose decision to lead one of the Einsatzgruppen and later defend his activities in court leave little doubt about his politics. Telltale signs of epic proportions are missing in Schellenberg's biography, yet there can be little doubt that Schellenberg consistently engaged in the ideological policies.

Schellenberg started his career with the SS and the SD as an ideological speaker in Born. There is no indication that he was involved with National Socialist policies before the spring of 1933, but his immediate utilization--and presumably talent--as an ideological speaker suggests that Schellenberg knew how to acquire a conviction quickly or how to turn in a very convincing performance. It is hard to fathom that the "ideological speaker Schellenberg," convincing enough to garner the attention of SD hierarchy in Berlin, was based on playacting alone.

In his book on the early Gestapo and Security Service, George Browder proposed the existence of "ideological conjunctions," shared assumptions, values and beliefs which were defined by anti-liberal, anti-Marxist, nationalist, racist, and anti-Semitic mentalities. These assumptions created a climate favorable "for some type of police state" and "extreme reaction to perceived racial, genetic, cultural, and ideological threats." Indeed, Browder argued, these "ideological conjunctions" allowed National Socialism to "reach well beyond a relatively few radically racist Nazis to suck in vast numbers of allies. (George C. Browder, Hitler's Enforcers: The Gestapo and the SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press.)

Claudia Koonz proposed a similar way of understanding the mass appeal of National Socialism. She suggested that National Socialism should be regarded as an "ethnic revival" or "ethnic fundamentalism," which pitted a shared vision of a German Volk under attack against its vile enemies. Seen in this context, the well-being of Aryans became the benchmark of moral reasoning. "The road to Auschwitz was paved with righteousness," Koonz succinctly summarized. Inhumane policies directed against the enemies of the Volk were recast as defensive acts, devoid of any malicious intent. If Schellenberg was not a convinced follower of National Socialism in 1933 and 1934, and there is no indication that he was, it is still very probable that he was in basic agreement with many of its policies. He shared certain mentalities and, judging from his postwar writings, which described in some detail Germany's dire situation after the Great. (See Claudia Kooz, The Nazi Conscience (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 2-13.)

War and the burden this brought onto its people, Schellenberg believed in the need for a German "ethnic revival." However, his activities as an ideological speaker came with very tangible advantages as well: Schellenberg was excused from military exercises, and his was a highly visible position with great promise for his professional future.

Beginning in the summer of 1938, Schellenberg began to take a prominent role in fomulating the future shape and trajectory of the Security Service and Security Police. Heydrich took increasing note of Schellenberg and his abilities, and, by early 1939, Schellenberg was doing Reinhard Heydrich's ideological bidding in his conflict with Werner Best. However, for all of his ability to argue ideologically, especially in the conflict with Best about career paths in the Security Police and the SD, Schellenberg appeared to be sitting on the fence for a very long time. Adept at reading Heydrich, much as he later learned how to read Himmler and cater to his wishes, Schellenberg joined forces with Heydrich when he realized that, even if the current conflict would end in a draw, as, to some extent, it did, Heydrich would be the better patron to have. Indeed, almost simultaneous to the protracted debate about the career paths, Schellenberg received the bureaucratic assignment of a lifetime: he was to draft plans for the amalgamation of the Security Service and Security Police into the Reich Main Security Office. As before, Schellenberg's ideological leanings were carefully calibrated and far from overt, but there nonetheless for Schellenberg to expound on when they benefited his career.

In the fall of 1939, Schellenberg reaped the first substantial benefits of his earlier work; he was appointed as the head of the Gestapo's counterespionage department. Most   his activities as the head of this department were clearly informed by a new, nazified definition of counterespionage. Germany's enemies were defined in political and racial terms; and Schellenberg and his department took a prominent role in their—preventive—removal, and, quite frequently, their murder, as it was the case in the so-called A-B Aktion in Poland. If Schellenberg had any compunction about this approach or his personal and quite intimate involvement in it, it certainly never showed. Rather, his role afforded him with an increasingly closer relationship with Heinrich Himmler.

In his interrogations and postwar writing Schellenberg is astonishingly persuasive in portraying himself as the apolitical bureaucrat who got things done when they were deadlocked. A prime example certainly relates to his involvement with the Einsatzgruppen negotiations in preparation for the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Schellenberg never gave any indication that he knew about the function of the Einsatzgruppen as mobile killing squads; the closest he ever came to admitting that anything was askew was when he related after the war that Heydrich and Wagner retreated to a different room to discuss an additional, secret Führer order. This assertion is simply unbelievable, but, unless new documentation surfaces, cannot be completely dismissed either. Interestingly enough, almost sixty years ago, the judges at Nuremberg came to the same conclusion.

Schellenberg must have known more than he let on. For all intents and purposes, he was a member of an Einsatzgruppe when he arrived in Vienna with Eichmann and Himmler in March 1938, and he was involved with the Einsatzgruppen deployment in Czechoslovakia a few months later. Less than a year later, he was among the men who gathered in Heydrich's private residence to discuss the deployment of Einsatzgruppen in the war against Poland. His role in the negotiations with Wagner was a logical continuation of his earlier involvement and Schellenberg's protestations of ignorance ring hollow. At the very least, Schellenberg must have known that the Einsatzgruppen would be involved in executive activities that were endemic to Nazi ideology and went to its core policies. He never indicated any objections.

It appears that somewhere along the line Schellenberg had managed to persuade himself of the benign nature and basic righteousness of his own involvement with the Einsatzgruppen and many of his other activities during his career. Presumably, this enabled Schellenberg to maintain his rendition of the events over the years and present it ever so convincingly. Interestingly enough, he apparently had a more difficult time squaring aware his role in the abductions at Venlo and, later on, in the arrest of Canaris; these incidents were among the very few where he claimed that he could not act against orders. He found it more difficult to follow the party line when he had to do the deed himself.

Schellenberg's role as the head of the Gestapo's counterespionage department afforded him a close relationship with Heinrich Himmler and served as his penultimate stepping-stone towards stewardship over Nazi Germany's entire foreign intelligence complex. In this position, he clearly catered to Himmler's ideological needs and his own professional inclinations; incidentally, the two tended to overlap. Schellenberg understood Himmler well enough to gain his support with well-placed ideological arguments, for example, when he reinforced Himmler's belief that negotiations with Western relief organizations about the fate of the Jews would lead to peace negotiations with the West. There is no way of knowing the depth of Schellenberg' ideological convictions, and it is palpable that Schellenberg's ideological convictions were heightened by his professional ambitions. However, a career as illustrious as Schellenberg's could not be achieved on playacting alone, as he insinuated time and again after the war. It is in Schellenberg's small, almost off-hand comments after the war, in interrogations as well as in his memoirs, that his ideological reasoning shines through. Paradoxically, Schellenberg sometimes used reasoning that can only be described as ideological to try to distance himself from core polices of Nazi Germany, such as the Holocaust. For example, when he was interrogated about the emigration ban he signed in, 1941, he argued that the ban had nothing to do with the pending Final Solution, but was simply necessitated by Jewish black-marketeering and espionage efforts. Similarly, when discussing Admiral Canaris' personality in his memoirs, Schellenberg argued that Canaris' taste for conspiracy was a function of his being unduly influenced by the Vatican. And Schellenberg's anti-Bolshevist and racist attitudes were clearly in evidence whenever he discussed real or imagined Soviet policies. However, they were most stunningly on  display when he tried to blame "German atrocities," his code word for mass killings, on the Eastern front on Soviet Secret agents infiltrating local German military posts, compelling them to embark on these horrendous activities. (See Walter Schellenberg, The Labyrinth: Memoirs of Walter Schellenberg. Hitler's Chief of Counterintelligence, intr. Allan Bullock, trans. Louis Hagen (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956; reprint, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2000), 265-266.)

Walter Schellenberg was certainly not as far removed from Nazi ideology as he would have liked the world to  elieve after the war, and as he apparently believed himself to be. Rather, Walter Schellenberg's career exemplifies most stunningly that "ideological conjunctions" enabled National Socialism to gain more than compliant allies. In some cases, it netted leaders of exceptional ambition and ability.

In the 1970s, Wilhelm Waneck, a former ranking member of Office VI, crafted a manuscript about the foreign intelligence service. Contemplating the nature of the office and its personnel, Waneck wrote: "We, who were in its employ, were National Socialist, be it for ideological or political reasons or be it for material reasons or for reasons of personal ambition, remains debatable here." (See Wilhelm Waneck, Der Auslandsnachrichtendienst, ms., 1970s, IfZ, ZS 1597/II. The quote reads: "Wir, die wir in dessen Tätigkeit standen, waren Nationalsozialisten, ob aus weltanschaulichen oder politischen, ob aus materiellen oder aus persönlich ehrgeizigen Gründen, sei hier dahingestellt.")

Schellenberg presumably belonged to the latter category; he was a National Socialist for reasons of personal ambition, or as Waneck put it, "maybe at the bottom of his heart. Schellenberg was never a National Socialist, but an eager swot for power and influence." (See Wilhelm Waneck, Der Auslandsnachrichtendienst, ms., 1970s, IfZ, ZS 1597/II.)

However, that did not mean that his convictions embraced for reasons of personal advancement were any less influential on his professional bearing or made him any less of an asset of first, Reinhard Heydrich, and later, Heinrich Himmler. Indeed, for many of the traditional elites or, in the final stages of the war, Western representatives dealing with Himmler and Heydrich by way of Schellenberg, his ideological half-heartedness or perfectly reasonable pragmatism,  flaunted by Schellenberg when it appeared opportune, made him the more difficult person to deal with. His insidiousness was less obvious.  Schellenberg's domain, Office VI of the Reich Main Security Office, was a deeply ideological entity. At first glance, this should not surprise, as it grew out of the Security Service of Heinrich Himmler's SS, arguably Nazi Germany's most ideological body. However, during its existence, the office's members certainly believed that their reporting was unobjectionable, indeed, "unobjectionable" was the word most frequently used to describe the service's operatives and their reports. Like all true ideologues, these men did not believe that their judgment was impaired by their ideological worldview at all. Knowing that some of their activities did not gain support from Hitler or Himmler, or even evoked their ire, only strengthened this conviction. Consequently, after the war, these experiences helped ranking members of Office VI to construct their experiences and their activities as insufficiently nazified or above the ideological fray. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

Office VI, as well as its forerunner, the foreign department of the SD, took a decidedly ideological approach towards matters of foreign intelligence. This approach was, in fact, the office's main claim to fame, distinguishing this new and untried service from older, better established, and better-funded foreign intelligence entities. The SD's foreign department as well as Office VI selected operatives on all levels based on criteria  influenced by Nazi ideology. The topics of the reports were selected according to Nazi ideology, and, although there never was a central evaluation division, incoming material was evaluated ideologically. Schellenberg was by far more adept than his predecessor Jost at projecting professionalism, but their basic ideological approaches were similar.

Indeed, it appears doubtful whether Office VI should be investigated and evaluated alongside other foreign intelligence entities active in Nazi Germany, as the literature has done to date. Rather, I would argue that the office's many idiosyncrasies are much better understood if it is evaluated in the context of its SS and SD pedigree. Office VI was an ideological reporting and policing organization operating abroad; its loyalties did not lie primarily with Nazi Germany as a whole, or with Germany, but with Himmler and the SS. Particularly under the stewardship of Schellenberg and in the later years of the war, Office VI came to function as an alternate foreign policy agency for Himmler, intent on realizing Himmler's wishes. In short, Office VI was more than a foreign intelligence service and less: it never provided reliable foreign intelligence nor was it particularly successful at forging an independent foreign policy. However, under Schellenberg's leadership, the Office VI provided the illusion of both.

Good, reasonably reliably foreign intelligence relies on the operatives' and analysts' ability to see and appreciate options and alternatives that might be in stark contrast to their preconceived notions. Nazi ideologues made particularly poor intelligence officers, as the ideological rejection of the racial and political "other" created a service seriously blinded to any development that did not conform to Nazi ideology. Thus, ideological conviction coming from within the office and Permeating each and every one of its crevices appears as the single most important reason for Office VI's failure as an intelligence service. Many reasons, such as the nature of Nazi Germany's' bureaucracy or the unwillingness of the leadership to appreciate foreign intelligence,  contributed to the failure of Nazi Germany's foreign intelligence efforts. (See David Kahn, Hitler's Spies: German Military Intelligence on World War II (New York: Macmillan, 1978; reprint, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2000), 524-536.)

In the final analysis, however, it is the reliance oil Nazi ideology at every level of the service and in all its major activities that doomed Office VI and its predecessor from the start.

Any intelligence service can only see what it knows, and in the case of the SD and later Office VI this knowledge--by pedigree, training, and conditioning--was ideology, indeed the idelogical vanguard of Himmler's SS. Thus the SD was even blinder than other services and much, much blinder than the services of the West.

In spite of the Rendezvous at Zithomir with Himmler (seen above): and for all the contact with Western representativs that had been established by this point, Schellenberg recalls in his published memoirs, that he found himself facing the same old problems when it came to Himmler and his attitudes. Himmler listened to Schellenberg's plans, even agreed with them or went along for some time, but ultimately his bond with Hitler remained unbroken, leaving Schellenberg with out a mandate for anything beyond setting up yet another meeting between Himmler and neutral representatives.

Schellenberg recalled Himmler, did not feel he could shoot Hitler, the Führer to whom he had pledged allegiance; he could not poison him, nor could he arrest him in the Reich Chancellery using SS troops. Any such action would cause the whole military machine to come to a halt. That would never do if Germany hoped to resist-even defeat-the Russians. Himmler complained that if he tried to talk Hitler into resigning, the Führer would become enraged and shoot him out of hand.

Finally Himmler and Hitler had a meeting, demanded by protocol, on April 20, 1945,to give Hitler birthday greetings. Himmler had seized the occasion to talk alone with Dr. Stumpfegger. What passed between them is not reliably known, but Amt VI intelligence officer Wilhelm Hoettl later claimed in his postwar memoirs that his boss, Schellenberg, had told him: "Himmler tried to persuade his friend [Stumpfegger] to get rid of Hitler by means of a lethal injection." (Wilhelm Hoettl, The Secret Front: The Story of Nazi Political Espionage, New York, 1954, pp. 55, 56.)

Under postwar interrogation, Schellenberg stated that on the night of April 24-25, during a meeting between Himmler and Bernadotte, the Reichsführer formally asked the count to convey to the Swedish government for onward transmission to General Eisenhower a message expressing his willingness to order a cease-fire on the Western Front. But Himmler's statement, as remembered by Schellenberg, made Allied acceptance impossible because of its special enmity shown toward the USSR. The text read: "To the Russians it is impossible for us Germans, and above all for me, to capitulate. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, RG 165, July 1945, declassified January 1995, "Report on the Case of Walter Friedrich Schellenberg," British-U.S. interrogation of Schellenberg.)

According to Schellenberg's interrogation report, "Himmler also declared that he had the authority to make these declarations to Bernadotte for further transmission at this time since it was only a question of one or two, or at the most three, days before Hitler gave up his life in this dramatic struggle." Hoettl confirmed this, asserting that Himmler made this statement to Bernadotte during the night of April 24-25. Hoettl later also confirmed that "Schellenberg considers that there is a connection between the Himmler-Stumpfegger conversation and the statement to Bernadotte; and that Himmler had Stumpfegger's promise to give a lethal injection within that specified period ." (Hoettl, The Secret Front, p. 56.)

Hoettl added in his memoirs that immediately after his talk with Bernadotte, „Himmler had a long telephone conversation with Stumpfegger in Berlin, and may have had a plan-obviously never carried out-to murder the Führer!”

After hypocritically describing how he had remained loyal to the Führer, Himmler had rationalized that now Hitler was on the edge of death, it was up to him to act soon to save what was left of Germany. That was why he asked Bernadotte to send a message from him to the Swedish government for transmittal to Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower surrendering German forces on the Western Front.

Bernadotte's version of these events appeared in his 1945 book The Fall of the Curtain, rushed into print as the War ended. In it, he told how he had on April 23. Bernadotte found Schellenberg on the phone line, wanting to arrange a meeting that afternoon to discuss a most urgent matter. When they met, "Schellenberg lost no time in letting off his bombshell: Hitler was finished! It was thought that he could not live more than a couple of days at the outside."  Count Folke Bernadotte, The Fall of the Curtain (London: Cassell, 1945), pp. 54, 55, 56.)

Hearing from Schellenberg that Himmler wanted him to see Eisenhower and tell the Allied commander that the Reichsführer was prepared to assume command of German forces in the West and order them to capitulate, Bernadotte insisted that German forces in Norway and Denmark be ordered to surrender as well. And he warned Schellenberg that the Western Allies would never recognize Himmler in any capacity except war criminal-certainly not as Germany's head of state. There were many things to talk about, so a meeting between Himmler and Bernadotte took place.

Bernadotte did, allow for the fact that Himmler's involvement might prevent Germany from falling into complete chaos. Bernadotte presented a number of conditions under which he would be willing to go to Eisenhower. First of all, Bernadotte expected an announcement by Himmler that Hitler, who had stepped down for medical reasons, had chosen him as his successor. Secondly, Himmler was to dissolve the Nazi party, remove all of its functionaries, and instruct the cessation of all Werewolves--Nazi guerilla--activities. Lastly, true to his own initial mission, Bernadotte expected Himmler's permission to transfer all Norwegian and Danish concentration camp inmates to Sweden. This discussion with Schellenberg took place at the very beginning of April 1945, and Bernadotte stressed that it would have meant the end of Nazi Germay.

Schellenberg Bernadotte wrote "did not hesitate, he told me thath he would try to induce his chief to accept them." This shows however that Schellenberg might have played a double game.

After Bernadotte had left, Schellenberg met with Himmler again, this time planning, albeit in vague terms, for the time after Hitler's death. In the afternoon of 22 April 1945 Himmler relented and allowed Schellenberg to contact Bernadotte again. This time, Himmler was willing to request that Bernadotte transmit a surrender offer to the Western powers in his name. (Final Report on the Case of Walter Schellenberg, National Archives, RG 319, IR.R, XE 001725, Walter Schellenberg, Folder 7 and 8; Autobiography, NA, RG 226, Entry 125A.)

Regardless of whether Himmler was acceptable to the Western Allies, whether the Allies were interested in separate surrender negotiations at all, or whether Bernadotte deemed them useless, Schellenberg had achieved what he wanted and needed most at this point in time. He was the man who had convinced Himmler to offer Nazi Germany's surrender.

During the meeting in Lübeck, Himmler declared that he had the authority to offer , surrender as he expected Hitler to be dead within a matter of days. He emphasized, however, that he was by no means surrendering to the Soviet Union, stressing that the German army would keep fighting in the East until the arrival of the Anglo-American relief troops. (Final Report on the Case of Walter Schellenberg, NA, RG 319, I, XE 001725, Walter Schellenberg Folder 7 lind 8; Autobiography, N1\ RG 226, Entry 125A, Folder21.) Despite the obvious friction, Bemadotte agreed to transmit Himmler's message to the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, as long as Himmler was willing to include Denmark and Norway into the surrender. Himmler agreed and proceeded to write down his offer.

The conditions under which Himmler made his final bid are worth considering.

He obviously assumed that Hitler was dead or would be within a matter of days; he considered himself Hitler's rightful successor. Himmler simply assumed power before the preconditions, namely Hitlers death and Himmler's official nomination as the successor, were fulfilled. Secondly, Himmler offered unconditional surrender to theWest alone. Moreover, he expected the Western Allies to join the German army in their battle against the common enemy of Bolshevism. Himmler's surrender offer created a temporary stir among Allied leaders, but it was ultimately rejected.

Himmler's offer of surrender was the topic of a telephone conversation between Churchill and Truman on 25 April 1945 in which the two Western leaders decided immediately to inform Stalin about Himmler's offer. In his reply of 26 April 1945, Stalin made it clear that the offer should also be extended to the Soviet Union according to the common policies adopted at Casablanca. The same day, Truman requested the American Minister in Sweden, Johnson, to "inform Himmler's agent that the only acceptable terms of surrender by Germany are unconditional surrender on all fronts to the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States." For the exchange of telegrams as well as for the phone conversations between Churchill and Truman, see Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers 1945, Volume III, European Advisory Commission, Austria, Germany (Washington, D.C.: GPO. 1968), 759-769.

Schellenberg failed to inform Himmler that his involvement was part of the problem. In the end, though, Schellenberg yet again walked away from this meeting with a special task from Himmler; Schellenberg was now ordered to negotiate the cessation of hostilities in the Northern Sector. During their earlier meeting, Bernadotte had indicated Scandinavian interest in that matter, and Schellenberg jumped onto the opportunity this. presented. Himmler all but appointed him as the special envoy for Scandinavia. He was to negotiate with the Swedish government. This was quite a positive development for Schellenberg. Rather than stay in Germany, Schellenberg began to travel between Northern Germany and Denmark while keeping in close contact with Bernadotte and his assistants. Hitler, reeling about the information that Himmler had offered surrender, had appointed Admiral Dönitz as his successor. In the following days, Schellenberg, with Himmler's backing, managed to establish himself on Dönitz' staff, preparing, jointly with Wirsing, a memorandum on the earlier negotiations and future strategies for Krosigk. Judging from the little that is known about this memorandum, Schellenberg still believed that it would be possible to deal with the Western allies only.

This document was primarily intended to demonstrate that the results of any political bargaining with the Western Powers would depend on the internal political measures adopted by the new Government and it also contained the suggestion that Doenitz should dissolve the Nazi Party, the Gestapo and the SD and announce this action by radio. (Final Report on the Case of Walter Schellenberg, NA, RG 319, lRR, XE 001725, Walter Schellenberg, Folder 7 and 8; Autobiography, NA, RG 226, Entry 125A, Folder 21.)

As late as the first days of May 1945, Walter Schellenberg still believed that a peace could be negotiated, hoping that musings by American representatives, dating back to 1943, and . anti-Bolshevist attitudes would be sufficient to sue for a separate peace. In the last days of the war, Schellenberg engaged in a frenzied shuttle diplomacy, going back and forth, between Copenhagen and Northern Germany, discussing the cessation of hostilities in Denmark and Norway with his Swedish counterparts. (Schellenberg, Labyrinth, 406-412)

At one point on 3 May, one of his Swedish contacts noted that the cessation of hostilities in Scandinavia was by now a rather academic question; it was patently obvious that a complete and unconditional German surrender was a matter of days anyway--if it would be that long. (Schellenberg, Labyrinth, 407.)

On 5 May 1945, Schellenberg and his entourage boarded Bernadotte's plane, which brought them to Sweden. While keepenig up the pretense of negotiations, Walter Schellenberg had at least reached one of his goals. Unable to end the war--be it by breaking up the anti-Hitler alliance or by negotiating a separate peace--he had at least achieved his own personal goals: he had established, himself as a humanitarian and as the man who cajoled Himmler into a surrender offer. Schellenberg had it on good authority that this surrender offer would be rejected, but he neither could nor would believe Bernadotte's assertions; he trusted his own, ideologically tainted analysis of the situation.

On 8 May 1945, the Dönitz government finalized Nazi Germany's uncondinonal surrender; the document was signed that night at Karlshorst, near Berlin. General Zhukov represented the Soviet Union; the alliance against Nazi Germany held until the War in Europe ended.

Within days, Schellenberg found himself living at Bernadotte's home, near Stockholm, where he took some time to recover from the "constant journeys and negotiations." Soon. he was busy contemplating his future, mostly with Bernadotte.

Schellenberg initially envisioned creating an outline for a later book, but, realizing that voluntary surrender to the Americans or the British was on the horizon, Schellenberg opted to write an autobiographical summary. Slightly more than nine-tenths of the text discusses Schellenberg's good deeds, in particular his collaboration with Bernadotte, which began in February of 1945. While Schellenberg wrote his own autobiographical text, two other authors were puttng pen to paper: Bernadotte and Göring. Over the years, the question of how much of Bernadotte's account was ghostwritten by Schellenberg has occasionally come up.

Recently, Charles Whiting brought an interesting new claim against Schellenberg's memoirs, suggesting that the manuscript was ghostwritten by the British Intelligence service. This suggestion is absolutely baseless. Charles Whiting, Hitler's Secret war. The Nazi Espionage Campaign against the Allies (London, UK: Leo Cooper, 2000).

The ghostwriting charges are most certainly taking the issue too far. There were differences between the two accounts, which Schellenberg would have smoothed over if he had been the ghostwriter. For example, Bernadotte told him early on the Himmler would not be an acceptable partner for peace negotiations for the West. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that the three men must have discussed their respective writing efforts; therefore, a strikingly coherent picture emerges.

In this context, the question of how much influence Schellenberg had over Göring's writing seems to be the much more interesting question. Göring's account, sometimes labeled as excerpts from his wartime diaries, is only rarely identified as what it really was: an "annex" to Schellenberg's writing. As it was, Schellenberg "asked him [Göring] to write an eye witness account, in order to supplement and confirm certain "part of his [Schellenberg's] story."
Schellenberg was Göring's supervisor and the main reason that Göring found, himself (at his fiancee/mistress) on a Swedish estate and not in a British prisoner of war camp in the middle of May 1945. Göring also had reasons to use Schellenberg's last--ditch humanitarian effort and his own role in it to sanitize his own record. At any rate, it is likely that Schellenberg set the tone for both of their accounts, effectively establishing ninety per cent of what will ever be known about these negonatiotis. Therefore, Göring's account should by no means be considered independent confirmation of Schellenberg's statements, as it is sometimes done.

U.S. Assistant Military Attache in Stockholm, Colonel Rayens noted that, Schellenberg had a good influence on Himmler: “this may stem from the fact that Schellenberg, a Catholic, employed an approach that appealed to the Catholic teaching of Himmler's youth." (CMs. E. Rayens; Assistant Military Attache to Military Air Attache, American Legation, Stockholm, Sweden, Subject: Disposition of SS-Brigadier Walter Schellenberg, 8 June 1945, NA" RG 226, Entry 119 A, Box 26, Folder 29.)

Schellenberg was brought to Nuremberg in the fall of 1945. The Allies wanted to prosecute a number of high-ranking Nazi officials to the fullest extent of the law: Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Otto Skorzeny, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Heinrich Müller, who had disappeared at war's end. There was very little doubt among the Allies that these men should be considered war criminals. As Schellenberg's luck would have it, these were precisely the men he had interacted with closely, competed with viciously, and grown to dislike intensely over the years. He had much to say about them and none of it was positive. In addition, Schellenberg was the quintessential insider; therefore, he was able to speak to many other matters in which the Allies were interested. And by 1947 Schellenberg had managed to recast his own role in Nazi Germany as that of a diplomat; no small feat for an early and important member of the SD and the RSHA, and most certainly the more agreeable alternative for Schellenberg personally.

However, Schellenberg was found guilty of "Membership of a Criminal Organization;"as his SS and SD memberships finally caught up with him. However in that day and age, a Persilschein, an affidavit noting that a person was a not a Nazi or had helped victims of Nazi persecution, was a valuable commodity. In the face of prosecution, old animosities were easily shoved aside. High-ranking Nazi officials vouching for Schellenberg assumed, and rightly so, that he would do the same for them. Similarly, Western representatives had something to gain from Schellenberg receiving a lenient sentence: they had dealt with the devil and establishing the negotiation partner in Nazi Germany as a less than completely despicable person also helped to save their own reputations. Everybody won. By 1948, Schellenberg was a sick man however. Having been a frequent patient at the Nuremberg hospital, he was never transferred to the Landsberg prison, as were most of the men sentenced at Nuremberg. Instead, he spent his time in a guarded room in the Nuremberg City Hospital. An operation in the spring of 1949 did not help matters; he was kept alive by very strong doses of penicillin. A subsequent operation was deemed necessary, but Schellenberg was by far too weak and his longterm prognosis was abysmal. On 27 March 1950, the US High Commissioner for Germany, John J. McCloy signed Walter Schellenberg's medical pardon.

When he was well enough, Schellenberg traveled to Switzerland, and managed to see some specialists. In June 1950, the CIA traced Schellenberg to a hospital near Osnabruck. (Heidelberg to Special Operations, 26 June 1950, NA, RG 263, CIA Name Files, Reference Collection, Box 45, Schellenberg. vol. 2.) According to CIA documents, he visited Spain in May 1951, where he was in contact with his old colleague and adversary Skorzeny; nothing else is presently known about this trip. He died of heart failure, liver cirrhosis, and infection of the spleen on the last day of March 1952.

 

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