Gehlen Organization or Gehlen Org was an intelligence agency established in June 1946 by U.S. occupation authorities in the United States Zone of Germany, and consisted of former members of the 12th Department of the German Army General Staff (Foreign Armies East, or FHO). It carries the name of Wehrmacht Major general Reinhard Gehlen, head of the German military intelligence in the Eastern Front during World War II.
Reinhard Gehlen had all along been under the tutelage of US Army G-2 (intelligence), but he wished to establish and succeeded in establishing an association with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in 1947. In alliance with the CIA, the military orientation of the organization turned increasingly toward political, economic and technical espionage against the Eastern bloc and the moniker "Pullach" became synonymous with secret service intrigues.
The Org was for many years the only eyes and ears of the CIA on the ground in the Soviet Bloc nations during the Cold War. The CIA kept close tabs on the Gehlen group: the Org supplied the manpower while the CIA supplied the material needs for clandestine operations, including funding, cars and airplanes.
Every German POW returning from Soviet captivity to West Germany between 1947 and 1955 was interviewed by Org agents. Those returnees who were forced to work in Soviet industries and construction and were willing to participate, represented an incomparable source of information, a post-war, up-to-date picture of the Soviet empire as it evolved.
The Org had close contacts with East European émigré organizations. Unheralded tasks, such as observations of the operation of Soviet rail systems, airfields and ports were as important as was infiltration in the Baltic States using former Kriegsmarine E-boats, manned by German crews and skipped by Lieutenant-Commander Hans-Helmut Klose. Another mission by the Gehlen Organization was "Operation Rusty" that carried out counter-espionage activities directed against dissident German organizations in Europe.
The Org's "Operation Bohemia" was a major counter-espionage success. By penetrating a Czech run operation, the Org uncovered another network – a spy ring run by the Yugoslav secret service in several cities in western Europe. The Gehlen Organization was also successful in discovering a secret Soviet assassination unit functioning under the umbrella of SMERSH. An Org's informant in Prague reported that the Red Army had been issued an advanced, multi-usage detonator of Czech design but was manufactured in a defense plant in Kharkov. The CIA showed interest. Several weeks later Org’s couriers presented the detonator, with complete technical data to the CIA liaison staff at Pullach. Just after, the Czech engineer and his family were smuggled across the frontier into West Germany and on to the United States. By identifying people who suffered under the new communist regimes in eastern Europe, the Org recruited many agents who "wished nothing more than to drive the Bolsheviks from Europe."
The Gehlen Organization was severely compromised by East German communist moles within the organization itself, and communists and their sympathizers within the CIA and the British MI6, particularly Harold "Kim" Philby. The WIN mission to Poland was a failure due to the compromising of the mission by counter-spies; as it turned out, the so-called Fifth Command of WiN organization within Poland had been created by the Soviet intelligence services.
The Gehlen Org employed hundreds of ex-Nazis. Gehlen initially rejected hiring ex-SS personnel, but later as justification for their recruiting he pointed out that the East German State Security Service had been largely run by ex-SS personnel, i.e., it takes one to catch the other.
Once the Org emerged into the public eye, Gehlen and his group drew criticism of varying quality from both sides, the West and the East. The British in particular had a problem with Gehlen and segments of the English press made sure it became known. Beginning with an article on 17 March 1952, Sefton Delmer, senior correspondent for London’s Daily Express, dragged Gehlen into the news. On 10 August 1954, Delmer would set the tone by announcing that "Gehlen and his Nazis are coming." Delmer, incredibly, implied in his story that a continuation of nothing less than Hitler’s aims was at hand through this "monstrous underground power in Germany." In more recent days, after reviewing selected declassified CIA documents on the Gehlen Org, a Guardian article offered a new perspective on this attempt to fight the new tyranny with some of the agents of the previous one "... for all the moral compromises involved [in hiring former Nazis], it was a complete failure in intelligence terms. The Nazis were terrible spies." The communist East as expected, castigated Gehlen’s group as fanatical and virulent agents of revenge and of American imperialism, fitting the party's general line that the West was plotting a revival of Nazi power.
There was also Alois Brunner in Syria, alleged to be an Org operative, who was responsible for the Drancy internment camp near Paris and for the death of 140,000 Jews. According to Robert Wolfe, historian at the US National Archives, "US Army intelligence accepted Reinhard Gehlen's offer to furnish alleged expertise on the Red Army – and was bilked by the many mass murderers he hired." It appears that this last quote conflates two issues, because the CIA Studies in Intelligence review article asserts that the Org was a capable collector of information on the Red Army but this does not rule out the possibility that U.S. Army intelligence may have been 'bilked' on other issues.
On April 1, 1956, the Gehlen Org was formally established as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (or Federal Intelligence Agency) of the Federal Republic of Germany, which still exists. Reinhard Gehlen stepped down as president in 1968 after reaching retirement age.
In 1948, the Gehlen Organization had an annual budget of US$1,500,000 (inflation adjusted US$14.7 million present day).
- Höhne, Heinz; Zolling, Hermann (1972). The General Was a Spy: The Truth about General Gehlen and his spy ring. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. ISBN 0698104307.
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 86
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 76
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 82
- Dorril Stephen (2002). MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service. Simon and Schuster, pp. 190-91. ISBN 0743217780
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 157
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 139
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 141
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 31
- Höhne & Zolling, p. 172
- There was no discussion of the largely-SS-manned East German intelligence service. "Why Israel's capture of Eichmann caused panic at the CIA", The Guardian, June 8, 2006.
- Höhne & Zolling, Introduction, H.R. Trevor-Roper
- Biography at the Jewish Virtual Library
- James H. Critchfield: Partners at Creation: The Men Behind Postwar Germany's Defense and Intelligence Establishments. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. ISBN 1-59114-136-2.
- Anonymous (2 July 1996). "The Service: The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen by Reinhard Gehlen. Book review". CIA Historical Review Program (Release in Full). CIA. Retrieved 18 December 2012.