Nineteenth-century History

Reinhard Gehlen

This semester I am taking a historical methods class in which the focus is the history of espionage. In this class, we are required to choose a topic related to the history of intelligence and do a research paper based on that. The topic I have chosen to do is Reinhard Gehlen who held a high rank in the German military as an intelligence gatherer during World War II and then was used by the CIA after the war to collect intelligence on the Soviet Union in East Germany.

Reinhard Gehlen in 1945

Reinhard Gehlen in 1945

Gehlen was instructed to create a spy ring based in West Germany that would gather intelligence on Soviet affairs. Because of this he was excused from any warcrimes he had committed during the Nazi era. His spy ring became known as the “Organisation Gehlen” and included many of his former colleagues whom he worked with during the second World War. The Organisation Gehlen essentially became the forerunner for the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), or the Federal Intelligence Bureau, which is in many respects the German equivalent of the CIA. Gehlen served as the BND’s first president.

For more about Reinhard Gehlen, see the Reinhard Gehlen article on Wikipedia.

As part of this particular assignment, we have to include memoirs from the person involved. Reinhard Gehlen wrote his memoirs in 1971 under the title of Der Dienst: Erinnerungen 1942-1971 (The Service: Memoirs 1942-1971). The library here does not have a copy of the book in English, so I have to resort to reading it in German. It shouldn’t really be a problem, but it will take a little longer to plough through all 400 pages of it.

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