12 July 1945
1. Subject: A Caracter Sketch of Schellenberg, Chief of Germany’s Espionage Service.
2. Source: SS-Sturmbahnführer Dr. Wilhelm HOETTL, chief referent Group IVE, RSHA
1. Schellenberg’s meteoric rise to power, despite the initial handicap of youth and a high party number, has been considered a remarkable feat by his admirers as well as by his detractors. To a very large degree it can be attributed to sheer ability and and indomitable industry, the hallmarks of success in all free countries, but not necessarily in nazi Germany where the accidents of race and political background weigh heavily.
2. Schellenberg had his start in politics in his hometown of Saarebrükken, where he taught Weltanschauung in the local unit of the Allgemeine SS. In 1934 he was taken on by the Sicherheitsdienst and posted to the personnel department of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Amt I) At that time the SD was still in its formative stage and consequently Amt I was of pivotal importance. Behind the narrow confines of a second-string position, Schellenberg held at first, he soon began to exert considerable influence. His conspicuous talent for organization did not escape the attention of the all-powerful chief of the Sicherheitspolizei Heydrich, who soon took him under his wings. In the course of time the relationship Schellenberg-Heydrich deepened and besides being counted among Heydrich’s most trusted co-workers, he enjoyed the rare privilege of invitations to his chief’s home. He stood high in the favor of Frau Lina (Heydrich’s wife whose frown sufficed to make the hangman shake in his boots), so much that it was generally expected he would marry the widow after Heydrich’s death. Alas with her husband’s timely demise Frau Lina had outlived her usefulness for Schellenberg.
3. Schellenberg’s career took a decisive turn in the direction of where his real talents lay when he was transferred to Amt IV (Geheime Staatpolizei) and appointed group chief IVE (later IVA3 was the counter-intelligence branch of the RSHA), the ideal proving ground for new and untried methods of espionage work developed on the enemy side. Schellenberg never busied himself with routine Gestapo matters and his most outstanding attainment in that period, the abduction of two prominent British agents STEVENS and BEST (Venlo-Unternehmen), was an Amt VI undertaking, with Schellenberg as the only Amt IV man taking a decisive part in the planning. At the time he moved to Amt VI, his reputation as a “Nachrichtenmann” was established and, besides, he had worked himself up to a position of the, next to SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Mueller (Chief Amt IV), most powerful man in Amt IV.
4. It seems worthwile describing the circumstances surrounding Schellenberg’s accession to power in Amt VI at some length, because they bring out some of his most salient characteristics, among them the conspicuous absence of moral scruples in pursuing his ends.
Already in 1940 Heydrich had made up his mind to oust the then chief of Amt VI – SS Brigadeführer Jost – of whose ability he had a low esteem. At that time the main stumbling block was SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Stahlecker, the most serious candidate a vacancy left by Jost. Heydrich, who feared that Stahlecker cast his net even wider, decided for the lesser evil and on to Jost while waiting for more propitious circumstances in which to effect the change-over.
5. In Autumn 1941, the time appeared ripe. SS Sturmbannführer Schellenberg was appointed deputy chief Amt VI (he signed all official documents a Chef VI/V) and given the specific mission by Heydrich to build up a damaging case against Jost. Schellenberg went about this task with his customary circumspection. Regierungsrat SEBASTAIN who together with Dr. HAEUGH (chief investigator of the RSHA), had been told to concoct the frame up and put it on a legally sound basis, was attached to Schellenberg. The three let no grass grow under their feet and in due time managed to ‘uncover’ certain misdemeanor, on the part of Jost. Jost, as it turned out, has been wanting to build a little house for himself in Berlin. He lacked ready cash and accepted the offer of SS-Obersturmbannführer Vollheim, Group chief VI.C to arrange for a cheap credit with a banking house in Prague. This rather innocent transaction emerged after the trio had given matters the proper slant, as a full-fledge case of bribery, implicating beside Jost SS- Obersturmbannführer Filbert and SS- Sturmbannführer Lapper. Pending investigation they were to drag on for years, Jost was relieved of his post, and in October 1941, Schellenberg appointed deputy chief Amt VI.
6. Schellenberg’s appointment was to be a milestone in the history of the German history of espionage service. He has set his sights high: his aim was no less than the creation of an all-inclusive espionage service in Germany, doing away with the nefarious duality of political and military espionage, the latter the exclusive domain of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht through its Amt Abwehr. His endeavor towards that aim was at first none too successful. Schellenberg himself is to blame for that. In his eagerness to clean the Augean stables of Amt VI, his innate distrust of man and man’s motives drove him too far. He purged most of the experienced group chiefs from his staffs and replaced them by young inexperienced men whose talents lagged considerably behind the enthusiasm they brought to the job.
7. In 1943, the personnel crisis had been finally overcome and the ascendancy of Amt VI within the RSHA began to make itself felt. It coincided with the appointment of Dr. Kaltenbrunner to Commandeur der Sicherheitspolizei. In contradistinction [sic] to Heydrich, Kaltenbrunner showed a lively interest in the foreign espionage branch of the RSHA, putting the full weight of his position behind the expansion of Amt VI and the improvement of its services. As a matter of course, the preferential treatment accorded Amt VI came in the open and the former had to be handed a sizeable sop in form of a slice of Abwehr III., Still, in spring 1944, after the merger with the military Abwehr had been consummated, Schellenberg had risen to a position of uncontested power in the RSHA, a position he managed to reinforce in the aftermath of the 20th July.
8. To form a correct estimate of Schellenberg’s character, one must have known him over a considerable period of time. This might sound like a truism, if it were not for the fact that his character is of inordinate complexity, masterfully disguised. Snap judgements are bound to be either superficial or erroneous. E.g. to cast Schellenberg in the common mould of a Nazi youngster carried up through a vagary of fate, would be missing the main point. Neither he nor Kaltenbrunner conform to type, they are both sui generis.
9. Schellenberg is a consummate actor. He can turn on the charm and when he does, the impression of being face to face with a nice, harmless and quite ingenious young man is all but irresistible. Schellenberg has a habit of looking the person he talks in the eyes as if he were trying to convey: “look, what I’m telling you here really springs from the depth of my heart; since you caught me in a weak moment, I might as well confess to it”. In real life Schellenberg is an ice-cold ever calculating realist, who leaves nothing to chance and who, even in his ‘weak moments’ knows how to regulate the impression he sees fit to give. Schellenberg knows what he wants, he knows how to get there if need be over corpses. For Schellenberg the words ‘friendship’ and ‘loyalty’ bear no meaning, nor does he expect them from others.
10. The dream in Schellenberg’s life was the creation of one single espionage system omnipotent in the field of political decision and comparable to what he conceives the British SecretService to be. To make this dream come true, he was willing to sacrifice everything, not excluding his health and the happiness of his family life. For years he had never, not even for a matter of hours, taken time off to relax and enjoy life. He knowingly drove himself to physical collapse and his gall-blader ailment is primarily due to overstrain.
11. Schellenberg’s private life, if there is such a thing, is impeccable. He neither smokes, nor drinks, nor craves female companionship. He lives an ascetic’s life and the emoluments of his position have never tempted him. He lived within the limits prescribed by his ration coupons and if his private secretary had not taken care of him, symptoms of malnutrition might have taken in serious proportions. His asceticism, however, did not stem from any higher ethical motives. He merely felt that continence would be his most powerful weapon in holding off his detractors who would gladly have seized upon just any circumstance liable to reflect upon his integrity.
12. Schellenberg was inconsiderate not only to himself but also to his family. He divorced his first wife when her age made it appear likely that she would be unable to bear any more children. By all means he had to please his great protector Himmler, who liked to see his subordinate spawn in a big way. In short order he begat three children in bland disregard of his wife’s poor state of health. After the last child had been born – the delivery happened to be particularly difficult Kaltenbrunner had to give a direct order to bring Schellenberg to his wife’s bedside.
13. His rivals, potential and actual, Schellenberg fought with incredible pertinacity, single-mindedness and deliberation. In order to gain control over the military espionage system (Abwehr) Schellenberg patiently went about gathering incrimination evidence against Admiral Canaris and his closest collaborators. At the same time he went out of his way to prove to Canaris that despite the prevailing spirit of competition, his feelings were the ones of a friend dealing with friends. No doubt that Schellenberg can claim major credit, if in the wake of the VERMEHREN incident (desertion of Abwehr personnel in Turkey to the British), Kaltenbrunner was able to dethrone Canaris and annex the Abwehr. After all it was Schellenberg who had systematically gathered evidence to prove that close connection between the Abwehr and the enemy powers had grown beyond the experimental stage.
14. Schellenberg never confided in the new chief of the Amt Mil (the successor of the Abwehr), Oberst i.G. Hansen. He either must have known about Hansen’s England connections or must have suspected their existence. His conduct after the plot of the 20 July blow up, was certainly not prompted by disapprobation. As one of the very few leading men in Germany Schellenberg clearly perceived that Germany’s military fortune were on the wane and he would not have hesitated to act on that conviction and strike a bargain with his opposite numbers. Therefore his dominant reaction upon the 20 July was one of petulance rather than of down-right indignation. What irked him most was Hansen’s double-cross and to have been accorded pride of place on the liquidation roster of the new government.
15. Schellenberg’s relations with Kaltenbrunner were short of cordial as a type he didn’t appeal to Kaltenbrunner but that did not deter him. By every manner of means he tried to ingratiate himself with Kaltenbrunner. In his personal contacts with the CdC he frequently displayed a rather disgusting servility. In that respect he was typical product of the Heydrich era; Never talk back to a superior and avoid telling him al the bad news. Needless to emphazise, Schellenberg didn’t feel bound by any obligations of loyalty towards his chief.
16. Himmler entertained great personal esteem for Schellenberg. He even nicknamed him: Benjamin. Whenever a suitable opportunity offered, Schellenberg reported to Himmler direct. Kaltenbrunner did nothing to stop that practice. He was much too phlegmatic to make an issue of ‘trifle’ and, besides, he did not consider Schellenberg a serious opponent, although he suspected him of hatching out a plot in conspiracy with SS Obergruppenführer [Gottlob] Berger, Kaltenbrunner implacable enemy.
17. To what extent Schellenberg was able to influence Himmler’s decision is difficult to guage [gauge]. Although he was intellectually far superior to Himmler his natural inclination not to come out into the open with his true convictions tended to minimize his influence. At the same time he developed a remarkable skill at instilling certain beliefs or opinions into Himmler, making him think that it was actually his own original idea which Schellenebrg had merely put into words.
18. As an established fact Schellenberg fanned Himmler’s strong dislike for Kaltenbrunner. His weapons: the sly innuendo in preference to blunt accusations. An aside comment on Kaltenbrunner’s increasing powers and independence, a passing remark upon his strong Austrian proclivities worked wonders with Himmler and Schellenberg knew it.
19. Schellenberg had nobody in the world he could call his friend. When Regierungsrat Sebastian, one of his oldest friends, was subjected to criminal investigation, Schellenberg dropped him like a hot potatoe. All chiefs of the Amter were Schellenberg’s sworn enemies, especially Müller of Amt IV who could not forget that Schellenberg at one time had been his subordinate Schellenberg’s collegues were of course keenly aware of his intellectual superiority. Moreover they began to feel preponderance of Schellenberg’s two Aemter (VI and Mil Amt) in the RSHA In the daily meetings of the Amt chiefs, Schellenberg was the butt of their most merciless attacks and frequently he came back to his office like a broken man. Even in his own Amt nobody fully trusted him with one exception; his faithful secretary Frauelein Schienke.
20. Schellenberg’s enemies in Amt VI were SS-Sturmbannführer Skorzeny and Wanek (VI E), SS-Standartenführer Dr Knochen and Rauff. Skorzeny and Wanek were undoubtedly in the good graces of their fellow Austian Kaltenbrunner, and Schellenberg felt this very keenly. At the same time Schellenberg never hesitated to ask for their help whenever he wanted something from Kaltenbrunner which he dared not ask himself. Then again he played Kaltenbrunner and Skorzeny out against each other with somuch skill that he actually got close to bringing about Skorzeni’s downfall. Quite likely Schellenberg will claim now that he was a prisoner in his Amt, a mere puppet in the hand of Kaltenbrunner’s henchmen Waneck and Skorzeny. That is not true however. Both believed in direct action disregarding channels and banking on Schellenberg’s notorious disinclination to face issues squarely. If he had been less of a coward, he could have forced both Waneck and Skorzeny into line by the sheer weight of his superior intellect and undoubtedly he would have found the backing of Kaltenbrunner
21. Despite his manifold talents and unabased self-esteem, Schellenberg suffers from a bad case of inferiority complex. This is important to bear in mind. In a great many respect Schellenberg is unfit to stand on his own legs. What the casual observer may possibly take for feigned modesty, is in many instances due to lack of self-assuredness. Schellenberg is unable to cope with many of the demands the routine of daily life raises and certain of his mannerisms typical for the “weltfremde Wissenchaftler” are not put on but genuine.
22. From the point of view of professional accomplishment, Schellenberg must be rated as belonging to the top layer of Germany’s leading intelligence men, in fact he probably heads the list. As a matter of fact his forte is not intelligence work, as such, for which he lacks the practical foundations, but his outstanding knack for organization and imparting constructive ideas. Schellenberg has made an exact science of intelligence work He would be the man to teach this science in a University. In spite of the above-mentioned limitations Schellenberg has been most successful in organizing and maintaining his own information net, notably in Switzerland and in Sweden. His lack of experience, it seems, has been amply compensated for by his acumen in judging people and by his judiciousness in dealing with them.
23. To strike the balance on the various elements that make up Schellenberg’s character:
Professionally highly gifted, though not devoid of imperfections. By all counts, a low character without standards of loyalty and common decency.
A man who under no circumstances can be trusted.