Walter Schellenberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Walter Schellenberg
Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Alber-178-04A, Walter Schellenberg.jpg
Schellenberg as a SS-Oberführer
Born 16 January 1910
Saarbrücken, Prussia, Germany
Died 31 March 1952(1952-03-31) (aged 42)
Turin, Italy
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service 1933–1945
Rank SS-Brigadeführer Collar Rank.svg Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei
Unit Sicherheitsdienst
Commands held Chief of Amt VI, Ausland-SD
Awards Iron Cross First Class
Iron Cross Second Class
War Merit Cross First Class with Swords
War Merit Cross Second Class with Swords

Walter Friedrich Schellenberg (16 January 1910 – 31 March 1952) was a German SS-Brigadeführer who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944.


Schellenberg was born in Saarbrücken, Germany,[1] but moved with his family to Luxembourg when the French occupation of the Saar Basin after the First World War triggered an economic crisis in the Weimar Republic.

Schellenberg returned to Germany to attend university, first at the University of Marburg and then, in 1929, at the University of Bonn. He initially studied medicine, but soon switched to law. After graduating he joined the SS in 1933.[2] He met Reinhard Heydrich and worked in the counter-intelligence department of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).[2] From 1939 to 1942, he was Heinrich Himmler's personal aide and a deputy chief in the Reich Main Security Office under Heydrich who answered only to Himmler.[3] In summer 1939, Schellenberg became one of the directors of Heydrich's foundation, the Stiftung Nordhav. Schellenberg was mentored by Herbert Mehlhorn while at the SS-Hauptamt.[4]

After Heydrich's death in June 1942, Schellenberg became the "closest professional confidant" of Himmler.[5] Himmler bestowed upon Schellenberg a unique position beyond that of a simple aide, making him his special-plenipotentiary (Sonderbevollmächtigter). Since Himmler held the position of general plenipotentiary to the whole Reich's administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), this gave Schellenberg enormous influence within Nazi Germany.

SD operations[edit]

In November 1939, Schellenberg played a major part in the Venlo Incident, which led to the capture of two British MI6 agents, Captain Sigismund Payne-Best and Major Richard Stevens. Schellenberg posed as a "Major Schaemmel" claiming to be part of an anti-Nazi group of officers planning a coup against Hitler. At Schellenberg's third meeting with Stevens and Best in the German-Dutch border town of Venlo, the trap was sprung; the two British agents were captured.[6] Hitler awarded Schellenberg the Iron Cross for his actions.[7]

According to his memoirs, in June 1940 he was charged with compiling the Informationsheft G.B., a blueprint for the occupation of Britain after a proposed invasion by Nazi Germany, the ultimately abandoned Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe). The extent of his direct involvement in compiling the book and its supplement, however, has been disputed.[8] The supplement is the "Special Wanted List, GB" (Sonderfahndungsliste G.B., also known as "The Black Book"), which is a list of 2,300 prominent Britons to be arrested immediately after the successful invasion of Britain.[9] He also arranged many other plots of subterfuge and intelligence gathering, including the bugging of Salon Kitty, a high-class Berlin brothel.

In 1940, he was also sent to Portugal to intercept the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and try to persuade them to work for Germany. The mission was a failure; Schellenberg managed only to delay their baggage for a few hours.[1]

In March 1942, Heinz Jost was fired from his position as RSHA Chief of Amt VI, SD-Ausland (SD foreign intelligence).[10] In his place, Schellenberg was appointed chief of SD-Ausland by Heydrich. According to his memoirs, Schellenberg had been a friend of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr (military intelligence).

However in 1944, the sections of the Abwehr were incorporated into RSHA Amt VI SD-Ausland and therefore placed under Schellenberg's command.[11] He was infamous for his "office fortress" desk, which had two automatic guns built into it that could be fired by the touch of a button.[12]

By the time that he led the hunt for the Soviet spy ring Red Orchestra, Schellenberg had become a general (Brigadeführer) in the Allgemeine-SS (General-SS). Schellenberg had been involved in planning operations in neutral Ireland including Operation Osprey, a plan involving No.1 SS Special Service Troop.[13]

Operation "Modelhut"[edit]

Allied military intelligence documents dating from World War II, previously classified top secret, have been unearthed linking French couturier Coco Chanel to espionage activity in concert with Schellenberg. In 1943/44, an operation codenamed "Modelhut" was conceived to capitalize on Chanel’s long-standing associations with British aristocracy and specifically her friendship with Winston Churchill himself. Schellenberg, one of Chanel’s wartime lovers,[14] recruited her to act as an intermediary in a plan whose ultimate goal was to broker a separate peace between Nazi Germany and Britain independently of other Allied powers, but Operation Modelhut ultimately proved a failure.[15]

Peace negotiations and capture[edit]

Himmler, 1942

During early 1945, Schellenberg encouraged SS chief Heinrich Himmler to overthrow Hitler in order to negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, using as an excuse Hitler's poor health; however, Himmler never took action toward doing it.[16] At the end of the war, Schellenberg was able to persuade Himmler to try negotiating with the Western Allies through Count Folke Bernadotte.[17] Schellenberg had earlier in the year worked as an intermediary between Count Bernadotte and Himmler for the release and safe passage of a number of prisoners and inmates held in concentration camps through the Swedish Red Cross.[17]

In the spring of 1945, Schellenberg instigated further meetings with Count Bernadotte as an opening to the western powers.[17] He personally went to Stockholm in April 1945 to arrange the meetings for Himmler. To foster goodwill Schellenberg, with Himmler's consent, organised the transport of 1,700 Jews out of German controlled territory to Switzerland and Sweden.[18] Hitler found out and put a stop to further evacuations.[19]

At war's end, Schellenberg was in Denmark attempting to arrange his own surrender when the British took him into custody in June 1945. The U.S., British, and Soviet intelligence services had all been searching for him as a valuable intelligence asset. Captain Horace Hahn, a member of the OSS, was one of the few Americans allowed to interrogate Schellenberg.[20]

Nuremberg trials[edit]

Schellenberg as a prisoner before the Nuremberg trials

During the postwar Nuremberg Trials, Schellenberg testified as to the SS organisation and Nazi leaders.[21] In the 1949 Ministries Trial he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoirs, The Labyrinth. He was released after two years on the grounds of ill-health, due to a worsening liver condition, and moved to Switzerland, before settling in Verbania Pallanza, Italy. He died in Turin, Italy in 1952.[22]

Summary of military career[edit]

Dates of rank[edit]

Notable decorations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hamilton 1996, p. 64.
  2. ^ a b Weale 2012, p. 141.
  3. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 80, 140, 398.
  4. ^ Reinhard R. Doerries; Gerhard L. Weinberg (18 October 2013). Hitler's Intelligence Chief: Walter Schellenberg: Walter Schellenberg. Enigma Books. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-1-936274-13-0. 
  5. ^ Weale 2012, p. 398.
  6. ^ Weale 2012, p. 147.
  7. ^ "The Venlo Kidnapping", The Times, 19 February 1948
  8. ^ Doerries, Reinhard R.; Weinberg, Gerhard L. (2009). Hitler's Intelligence Chief: Walter Schellenberg, The Man Who Kept Germany's Secrets. New York: Enigma Books. p. 33. 
  9. ^ Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 965.
  10. ^ Doerries, Reinhard R. (2003). Hitler's Last Chief of Foreign Intelligence: Allied interrogations of Walter Schellenberg, Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass Publishers, pp. 21, 80. ISBN 0-7146-5400-0
  11. ^ Weale 2012, pp. 398, 400.
  12. ^ Infield, Glenn B. (1981). Skorzeny, Hitler's Commando. New York: St. Martin's. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-312-72777-2. 
  13. ^ Later becoming 500th SS Parachute Battalion a/k/a/ SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500, an amalgamation of No. 1 Troop and various SS penal battalions. Notably participating in Operation Rösselsprung, the raid against Tito's HQ in 1944.
  14. ^ Zeitz, Joshua M. (8 May 2005). "The Nazis and Coco". New York Times. 
  15. ^ Vaughan, Hal (2011). Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War. New York: Knopf. pp. 163–75. ISBN 978-0-307-59263-7. 
  16. ^ Padfield, Peter (1990). Himmler: Reichsführer-SS. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-1476-4. 
  17. ^ a b c Kershaw 2008, p. 943.
  18. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 944.
  19. ^ Rumbelow, Helen (17 September 1999). "SS Chief tried to sell Jews". The Times. 
  20. ^ Doerries, Reinhard R. (2003). Hitler's Last Chief of Foreign Intelligence: Allied interrogations of Walter Schellenberg. London: F. Cass. p. 360. ISBN 0-7146-5400-0. 
  21. ^ Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Twenty-Seventh Day, Yale University's AVALON Project (cited 15 April 2016)
  22. ^ Hamilton 1996, p. 66.


  • Hamilton, Charles (1996). Leaders & Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 2. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0-912138-66-1. 
  • Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6. 
  • Schellenberg, Walter (1956). The Schellenberg Memoirs, translated by Louis Hagen. André Deutsch.
  • Schellenberg, Walter (2000) [1956]. The Labyrinth: Memoirs Of Walter Schellenberg, Hitler's Chief Of Counterintelligence, translated by Louis Hagen. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306809279
  • Weale, Adrian (2012). Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York: Caliber Printing. ISBN 978-0-451-23791-0. 

External links[edit]