Abteilung III b

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Abteilung III b was the military intelligence branch of the Imperial German Army from 1889 until the end of the First World War.


The service was created in 1889 as a section in the Prussian General Staff, given the name Sektion IIIb. At the beginning of World War I, the section was upgraded to a department and renamed Abteilung IIIb. Its initial responsibility solely consisted of counterintelligence, and its foreign intelligence capabilities was limited. The focus was on France and Russia (the Navy being responsible for intelligence on Great Britain).[1]

In 1917, an explicit authorization for domestic education was adopted. The secret III b developed under its last head, Walter Nicolai, as war increased the need for a secret police force. Never before had a German intelligence group held such influence in the German Reich. At the end of the war, the division was disbanded.

After the war began, the network of agents in enemy countries was quickly removed as the agents were arrested. The Secret Service could not provide information about enemy intentions and operational deployment plans. The enemy situation Editor of News Department (from 1917 Foreign Armies) at the General Staff were more suspicions delivered as facts. Often the reports of the intelligence proved wrong. Therefore, there was in the assessment of the enemy situation a mishap after another. The fundamental error lay in the separation of news gathering and analysis.

As the war progressed, it increasingly became a secret police and propaganda organization. The head of the secret Nicolai was in the left press, among other things as "father of lies" and disinformation.

In addition, the A III b a massive competition from the Naval Intelligence (also called "News Department") and the intelligence operations of the Foreign Office was exposed.


During the First World War, the division was significantly upgraded and divided into press, propaganda, intelligence and defense:


  • Heinz Höhne: Canaris - Patriot in the twilight. Bertelsmann, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-570-01608-0.
  • Markus Pöhlmann: German Intelligence at War, 1914-1918. In The Journal of Intelligence History. Vol 5 (Winter 2005), pp 25–54..
  • Jürgen W. Schmidt: Against Russia and France. The German military intelligence 1890-1914. 3rd ed., Ludwigsfelde of 2009.
  • Jürgen W. Schmidt (eds.): Intelligence services, the military and politicians in Germany. 2nd Edition, Ludwigsfelde of 2009..
  • Florian Altenhöner: Total War - Total Control? German Military Intelligence on the Home Front, 1914-1918 . In: The Journal of Intelligence History. Jg. 5 (Winter 2005), pp 55–72.
  • Robert T. Foley: Easy target or Invincible Enemy? German Intelligence Assessments of France Before the Great War . In: The Journal of Intelligence History. Jg. 5 (Winter 2005), pp 1–24.
  • Jürgen W. Schmidt: Against Russia: Department IIIb of the Deputy General Staff in Berlin - Intelligence, Counter-intelligence and Newspaper Research, 1914-1918. In: The Journal of Intelligence History. Jg. 5 (Winter 2005), pp 73–89.
  • Hanne Hieber: 'Mademoiselle Docteur': The Life and Service of Imperial Germany's Only Female Intelligence Officer . In: The Journal of Intelligence History. Jg. 5 (Winter 2005), pp 91–108.


  1. ^ Pöhlmann, Markus (2 March 2017). "Abteilung III b". 1914-1918 Online. Retrieved 15 February 2020.