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  • Partners at the Creation: The Men behind Postwar Germany’s Defense and Intelligence Establishments
  • Deborah Kisatsky
James H. Critchfield. Partners at the Creation: The Men behind Postwar Germany’s Defense and Intelligence Establishments. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. x + 243 pp. $32.95.

This memoir by a veteran of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who in 1949-1955 oversaw the notorious "Gehlen Organization" (or "the Org," as it came to be known) details the turbulent bureaucratic history of that agency throughout the U.S. occupation. The Gehlen Organization, founded by General Reinhard Gehlen, former Nazi German intelligence chief on the Eastern Front, was sponsored by the U.S. Army's G-2 (military intelligence) division beginning in 1945 and then taken over by the CIA in 1949. Shortly after Germany's defeat, Gehlen provided the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) with extensive secret data on Soviet military strength. He did so not merely to ingratiate himself with the victors but to lay the groundwork for an eventual independent German intelligence service under civilian control. Gehlen achieved this goal with the founding of the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst) in 1956, soon after the newly sovereign West Germany's entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. James Critchfield shows how Gehlen's espionage outfit overlapped with the remilitarization plans of key advisers to West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer such as Adolf Heusinger, who allegedly used information gained through his elite membership on Gehlen's staff to bolster the case for West German rearmament. Heusinger later headed the Federal Republic's new Bundeswehr.

The book on the whole does not bear out allegations made by Christopher Simpson and others that Gehlen was a war criminal whose information about the Soviet Union was extracted through torture of Soviet prisoners of war, and that the United States purposefully disguised Gehlen's background in order to exploit his expertise. Critchfield does fault Gehlen for "recruiting politically tainted persons" into his organization (p. 207). The organization's reliance on untrustworthy former Nazi Sicherheitsdienst (SD) members to gain knowledge about Soviet actions in the eastern [End Page 154] zone of Germany facilitated Soviet infiltration of the Org and led to the damaging Heinz Felfe affair of the 1950s. But Critchfield claims that the highest ranks of the Service did not include any "immediately definable Nazis" or "any member of the 'General Staff and High Command'" identified at Nuremberg (p. 84). The picture he paints is that of a determined Gehlen doggedly pursuing U.S. aid and attention in the face of an initial lack of interest (displayed by the first CIC agents he encountered); internal disorganization (especially in 1945-1946, when competing German factions jostled to control the nascent service); distrust (CIA Director Roscoe Hillenkoetter, U.S. Military Governor Lucius Clay, and Chancellor Adenauer all had misgivings about Gehlen and his methods); and financial weakness (particularly in 1945-1948, when the organization relied chiefly on black market sales of American provisions to stay afloat).

Much of this story has been known since 1971, when Heinz Höhne and Herman Zolling first detailed Gehlen's life and work for Der Spiegel magazine. What is new is Critchfield's contention that the Gehlen Organization, through Heusinger, played a crucial and heretofore unappreciated role in shaping Adenauer's security policy. Although a preponderance of scholarship in English and German shows that Adenauer began promoting West German rearmament as early as 1949, Critchfield argues that "nothing was lower on [Adenauer's] list" than building a new German army (p. 123). Not until the Korean War began and far-sighted advisers like Heusinger persuaded the "parochial" chancellor (p. 123) that the Soviet threat to West Germany was imminent—information that "clearly rested on the knowledge" Heusinger had gained as head of Gehlen's evaluations staff (pp. 138-139)—did Adenauer adopt an Atlanticist defense strategy. Corroboration for this claim comes in the form of a complicated narrative chronicling back-channel maneuvers of Heusinger and other generals on matters related to rearmament. But those activities occurred mainly in Bonn, far from Critchfield's daily operations at the Gehlen compound in Pullach (Bavaria), and Critchfield was not a witness to...