Military Review

How Schellenberg and Köstring chopped up

In the autumn of 1940, the German General Staff of the Ground Forces was busy at work: a group of officers led by Major General Erich Marx, following Hitler’s order, developed a plan of attack on the Soviet Union. Obviously, German intelligence reports that the USSR was not ready for war and the victory of the Wehrmacht was guaranteed played a significant role in making this fateful decision for the Third Reich.

On what basis did the Germans draw such conclusions? The fact of the matter is that there was no reason for it. However, on the eve of the war, a striking complacency reigned in Germany's higher spheres: for some reason everyone was fully confident that the upcoming military campaign would end - and very quickly - with the unconditional victory of the Wehrmacht. The most amazing thing is that in such blissful ignorance there were not politicians bawlers, but professional military men, including those with general shoulder straps. For example, the German military attache in the USSR, General Ernst Köstring, naval attache Rudolf Baumbach, and other high-ranking officers of the German embassy in Moscow.

How Schellenberg and Köstring chopped up

Ernst Köstring

The content of their conversations is not known to us in retelling, but literally word for word. This was taken care of by the Soviet intelligence officers, who installed the wiretapping right in the mansion of the German military attache. To this end, in the spring of 1941, a repair was started in the semi-basement of a neighboring building, explaining to residents that water pipes had to be changed. Under the guise of repair, employees of the Counterintelligence Directorate of the NKGB of the USSR, under the direction of Peter Fedotov, dug an underground passage into the basement of the mansion, from there they penetrated into the office of the military attache and instructed the “bugs” there. Thus, the Soviet special services were able to listen daily and record confidential conversations conducted by Koestring with his colleagues, as well as with diplomats from other countries.

The fact that every word spoken in the office of the military attache became known to the future enemy was known to the Germans only after the war, when some documents from the archives of the KGB of the USSR were declassified, including transcripts of the Koestring talks with their colleagues. You read these papers and you wonder: in every phrase the Germans uttered about Russia, there is an absolute ignorance of the real situation in the country and in the army.

Here, for example, Köstring and Baumbach's arguments about the state of the Soviet Union aviation industry. In April 1941, a German military delegation visited a number of Moscow aircraft plants. The Germans were welcomed as friends, taken to workshops, and shown planes. And after the visit, the contented Germans returned to General Köstring’s mansion in Khlebny Lane in Moscow and began to discuss what they saw at Soviet aircraft factories.

At first it was about traditional Russian hospitality, then the conversation went to the point. According to the assistant of the German aviation attache Wunderlich, “we now have an accurate idea of ​​Russian aviation, of their engineers and technicians. Berlin will now have a valid picture of Russian air fleet". Baumbach asks the question: “Tell me, if they will work the same way for ten more years now, will they be able to catch up with us?” Wunderlich’s answer: “I think they need more than ten years.” Baumbakh is not appeasing: “Can you count on the good quality of Russian engines?” Answer: “Russian engines are very heavy ...” Question: “In general, their quality is not as good as ours? Ten years will not be enough for us to achieve our quality? ” Wunderlich’s conclusion: “Ten - no. What stretches for them for a long time is the construction of factories. ” And so on, in the same vein ...

The mansion of the German military attache in Moscow

How quickly they could build factories in Russia, the Wunderlichs and Baumbachs were able to make sure a year later, when Soviet industry, under the most difficult conditions evacuated to the east, began to produce quite competitive airplanes of various brands. Including those that the Germans never even dreamed of, for example, Ilyushinsky attack aircraft. But the epiphany will come later, but in the meantime, in the spring of 1941, the Germans are euphoric: where is this Russian before us! Ten years is not enough for them to reach our level!

Further more. In mid-May, the Germans were already openly discussing the military invasion of the USSR. In one of the transcripts of the conversation between Köstring, Baumbakh and the assistant military attache Shubut, we read the following. Shubut: “We must get to Narva quickly. This must, however, decide Berlin. For us it is important that the Russians rarely change their location. They remain in one place for two or three years. And therefore you can say - we will beat Russia ... "Köstring:" To attack is the only right thing. Of course, the Russians are against the war. I think that they are still afraid ... ”Baumbakh:“ I got the impression that the Russians are still calm. ” Köstring: “The case about which we spoke should remain in absolute secrecy. Natural resources! These will be our natural conquests, which we have publicly declared in international circles. ” Baumbakh: "I still want to say that they are politically strong." Köstring: “It means nothing. We will be able to negotiate with England and America, as well as use the French and Norwegians. I am convinced that in this matter we will emerge victorious - we will ride through this Union. We will fight the war until, at least, we do not overrun Ukraine. ”

Peter Fedotov. That his subordinates installed "bugs" under the nose at Kestring

Surprisingly, this is not reasoned by the philistines, who heard the speeches of Goebbels, but by people in military uniform, who are obliged to know more about duty than a simple frequenter of a Munich beer house. Moreover, these people have been living in Russia not for the first year and, it would seem, they should have at least a little understanding of the psychology of the Russian people and the possibilities of the Russian people. Russia is not for you the principality of Monaco and the duchy of Liechtenstein. About Russia broke off his teeth and Charles XII, and Napoleon Bonaparte. And the Germans themselves in 1914 – 1918 were able to make sure that you can’t take Russians with bare hands. “Let's take a ride on this Union” ... What did they even think about: a war with a serious and intelligent opponent or a tourist trip?

And the passages about England and America? Why did the Germans get the idea that they would be able to agree with the Anglo-Saxons? Towards the end of the war, attempts to conclude a separate peace were indeed made, but in 1941, Stalin, and not the Fritz, managed to reach an agreement with America and England. So, in this matter, German diplomats misconceived the nearest historical perspective.

How do you like the phrase that the Germans will continue the war until they seize Ukraine? Suppose they captured Ukraine: during a real war, the way it happened. And then what? Took Ukraine, and the war itself will end? Or did the Germans believe that, apart from Ukraine, Russians had nothing more to defend?

An amazing thing: in preparing for war with Russia, the Germans did not give a thumbs-up to learn anything about Russia. But to collect objective information about your opponent for German intelligence was not difficult. In the 1930s of the Germans in the USSR, there was a dime a dozen: German tank crews were trained in Kazan, and pilots in Lipetsk. Military delegations of the Third Reich regularly visited Soviet industrial facilities, for example, the Moscow aircraft factories mentioned above. And indeed, on the eve of the war, the Germans felt very free in Russia and even had the opportunity to move relatively freely around the country. In short, it was where the information to collect.

Especially since large sums of money were periodically allocated to military diplomats from the treasury of the Reich for these purposes: two to three million Soviet rubles each. Considerable funds were made available for the maintenance of the vast state of the Sixth Directorate of the RSHA (political intelligence), led by SS brigadeführer Walter Schellenberg. If this money were spent on the organization of serious intelligence work, you see, in the mansion of General Köstring would not give up empty promises to ride through the Union and beat Russia.

However, the German strategists of the beginning of 1940 were partly excused by one circumstance: they were typical Europeans and, like every European in their kin, showed a dense ignorance in all matters beyond the limits of the European world. Especially when it comes to such complex phenomena as Russia and the Russians. There are no examples of this.

Here are the British maps of Eurasia, published at the end of the XVIII century. On them, the vast territory east of the Vistula is marked with one white spot called Tartary. The authors of these geographical masterpieces did not bother at all that on the lands east of the Vistula for at least half a century there existed a state called the Russian Empire. Apparently, the British geographers did not know that the Russian Empire in the second half of the 18th century led an active foreign policy, consolidated in the Crimea and the Northern Black Sea region, regained the territories seized by the Poles, successfully mastered Siberia, the Far East and even Alaska. For proud British people, all these facts are insignificant, of little interest, unworthy of the attention of a Western person. In short, Tartaria! But with what punctuality the British plotted on the map the islands lost in the Pacific, discovered by Cook and attached to the British Empire!

And what about modern American films about Russia? Everything is confused in them, starting from elementary Russian phrases and ending with historical facts. The most amazing thing is that such a film is being shot in a country where it is full of immigrants from Russia. Do not a simple thought come to the heads of Hollywood producers: to invite at least one of the millions of Russian-speaking Americans as a consultant so that outright nonsense doesn’t sound from the screen?

The Germans on the eve of the war talked and acted in the same way as British cartographers and American filmmakers. Confident in their superiority over the Russian barbarians, Schellenberg and Köstring simply did not bother their brains and memory with such a trifle as the Soviet defense potential.

Instead of collecting objective information about his opponent, German intelligence officers and diplomats composed any bullshit about inferior Slavs who did not know how to build factories. And the brilliant Fuhrer of the German people, reading the reports of his intelligence, made certain conclusions: if these Russians are so weak and helpless, then it is time to attack them ...

Less than five years later, these “inferior” Russians filled their “superior race” face and hoisted the Victory Banner over defeated Berlin. And the fact that the Third Reich did not even live to maturity is a considerable merit of German intelligence, who poorly imagined the true capabilities of her opponent.
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  1. aszzz888
    aszzz888 3 October 2015 06: 48
    I really hope that at present, OUR intelligence is at its best.
  2. Chak
    Chak 3 October 2015 07: 48
    Never neglect your opponent! Russia, which after the collapse of the USSR it was customary to ignore, has once again become a mystery for the "civilized world." But A.S. Pushkin warned - "here the Russian spirit, here it smells of Russia!"
  3. dudinets
    dudinets 3 October 2015 09: 55
    Western European civilization is the most cruel and bloody in the history of mankind. the most bloody wars started by them. the most cynical robbery and genocide of the peoples of Asia, Africa, both Americas on the conscience of Europeans. snobbery and swagger of Europe is, in fact, a contempt of a bandit for hard workers and intellectuals.
  4. parusnik
    parusnik 3 October 2015 09: 57
    I remember that there are 17 moments of spring in the film, there is a dialogue, I don't remember who with whom .. but I remember it .. "I was in Alma-Ata and watched a Soviet film, where the Germans are shown as fools .." The article is somewhat similar ..
    1. Alex
      Alex 3 October 2015 23: 34
      Quote: parusnik
      I remember that there are 17 moments of spring in the film, there is a dialogue, I don’t remember who with whom .. but I remember .. "I was in Alma-Ata and watched a Soviet film, where the Germans are shown as fools .."

      Shtirlitsa at the interrogation of Ket.

      And the rest ... The Germans, of course, were not complete fools, but in relation to the war with the USSR they were in a state of unreasonable euphoria. For which, in fact, they paid.
  5. Whowhy
    Whowhy 3 October 2015 10: 07
    Yes, a strange article ... The intelligence of the Germans was very good. Agents throughout the USSR were unmeasured. And the reports, for sure, were correct. Another thing is political conjuncture.
    And we had one to one: "in foreign territory, with little blood." The whole country had been preparing for war for many years, and, as a result, was not ready.
    1. sherp2015
      sherp2015 3 October 2015 10: 29
      Quote: whowhy
      The intelligence of the Germans was set very well. Agents throughout the USSR were unmeasured. And the reports, for sure, were correct. Another thing is political conjuncture.
      And we had one to one: "in foreign territory, with little blood." The whole country had been preparing for war for many years, and, as a result, was not ready.

      The country was getting ready. But for many years the devastation after the revolution of 17 made itself felt
      And also because Germany was financed by Anglo-Saxon creatures and world money-lenders in full, hoping in the end to tear our country apart and plunder ...
    2. kotvov
      kotvov 3 October 2015 20: 24
      The intelligence of the Germans was set very well,
      probably, but it seems to me that arrogance and faith in the Fuhrer failed the Germans. Recently there was a film, the memory of the former German military. They really believed in the genius of Hitler. They were against the war with France, and then the commander in chief ordered France at his feet. We thought that and it will work the same with the USSR.
  6. bayard
    bayard 3 October 2015 10: 13
    I respect the author's patriotism, but taking on the topic of German misconceptions on the eve of the war, one should know that all those samples of military equipment on which we won the war appeared just in the 39-40s: T-34, KV, MiG-1, Yak , LaG (La fighters appeared during the war on its base and with a different engine), Tu-2, Pe-2, T-60 and T-70 tanks, and much more. In the 39th - 40th years in the army there were sheer anachronisms: T-26 and BT with paper armor, the peak of perfection seemed to be the T-28 (by the way, it was not very bad) and the huge clumsy T-35 (with five towers and 11- crew members), the main fighters I-15 and I-16 were inferior in speed to modern German bombers. From 1939 to June 1941 Germany supplied the USSR with a huge amount of equipment (like the USA) for the defense industry, patents, technologies and weapons, built an aircraft engine plant ... believing that we simply will not have time to launch all this, because "by nature are stupid, lazy and slow." History judged who was right, and the adversaries were mistaken not only from their arrogance, but also thanks to the competent work of Soviet counterintelligence and diplomacy. Everything was done according to the precepts of Sun Tzu and the commandment of Julius Caesar "Better to be than to seem".
  7. dvg79
    dvg79 3 October 2015 10: 27
    Apparently, the Germans communicated with our intelligentsia and judged the whole country from it. But as for the Anglo-Saxons, they actually promised to see them, however, they deceived them as well as during the First World War.
  8. Cap.Morgan
    Cap.Morgan 3 October 2015 10: 37
    Digging an underground passage and instructing the bugs in the ambassador’s office is strong. The bugs were then the size of a suitcase. That is, the agent got out of the basement, calmly went into the ambassador’s office and put his suitcase under his bed. I do not believe. Rather, it was somehow different, but how we will never know.
    I agree that the Germans delivered us production equipment before the war, introduced us to weapons. And with regard to the military potential of the USSR, Hitler was well informed. It is enough to read Soviet magazines of those years. Everything is written there.
    In the Technique of Youth for 40 and 39 years, the tactics of the upcoming war are correctly evaluated, many options for its conduct are predicted.
    The more I am interested in this time, the more I am convinced that there was no war with Hitler than something predetermined. Relations with the Anglo-Saxons were 100 times worse.
  9. alicante11
    alicante11 3 October 2015 11: 05
    The author, of course, is strong in hindsight. But let's digress from the knowledge that in the 45th year we took Berlin. What did Hitler know about Russia in 1940? A huge agrarian country that is trying to break out into the industrial rank. He builds huge factories, in the shops of which he installs by hook or by crook the machines bought or discounted in the developed West. Where illiterate unskilled workers work. Was the industrial capacity of the USSR comparable to the capacity of the whole of Europe, which worked for Hitler? Moreover, most of this industry is concentrated in the European part. Most of the explored and developed resources are also located west of the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line. What was the Red Army like? An army with all known growing pains. Universal conscription has recently been reintroduced. Lieutenants in a few years begin to command the regiments (exaggerating, but not by much). At the same time, the Red Army, unlike the Wehrmacht, has no experience of modern warfare. And the way she showed herself in conflicts with the Japanese and especially with the Finns, frankly speaking, is not particularly inspiring to make "bets" on her. Add to this a huge number of old and new tanks and aircraft, and poorly developed infrastructure and logistics. Especially in the field of providing mobile connections. Yes, they have bright minds, both among engineers and among the military, but the possibilities to implement these developments are minimal.
    And all these real problems are superimposed on psychological moments. Here is the WWI, which began for Russia as a catastrophe of Samsonov’s army, continued with the Great Retreat and ended with the Brest Peace. And all our successes were achieved against the Austrians and Turks. That’s the current state, when the Russian leadership is torn between Trotskyism and Stalinism, they have just cleaned out a bunch of scum who have been dug in there since the Civil War, and you won’t prepare new smart administrators in a short time. And here the White Guards sing in their ears that the Russian people are just waiting for someone who will help him throw off the Judeo-Communist yoke.
    It was possible, having such information, to assume that the Soviet leadership would be able to carry out an epic evacuation of industry, and even increase its capacity, to recreate the personnel of the Red Army almost completely killed by the 1941 in boilers, and also improve its combat efficiency and equipment. How does the painted picture seem more terrible than the situation in Poland or France? Is there at least one indicator that this country is ready to repeat its exploits of the time of Peter the Great and Kutuzov, and not fall apart like Poland, or capitulate like France after the first defeats?
    The same can be said about the claims of the author against the German generals. They also remember how the Russian guns, which had no shells, were silent in the 1915 on their firing rampart, how imperfectly the battles, tsarist generals lost. In the end, they were right in their calculations. During the 1941 summer campaign of the year, they defeated the personnel of the Red Army and, as a result, practically reached the Arkhangelsk-Astrakhan line set as the goal. So what are their complaints? All claims to us that we Russians are so unpredictable.
    1. dmb
      dmb 3 October 2015 19: 14
      There is little to add to your assessment. Well, perhaps only that the German generals therefore hoped for a blitzkrieg that they understood that Germany would not pull a protracted war. But if we recognize the article not as a fantasy but as a reality, then once again the question arises of the reasons for the collapse of June 1941. How many other sources should have received information for the country's leadership to stop broadcasting about not giving in to provocations? Obviously, this does not diminish the guilt of Pavlov and Kopets, but the rumors that have recently appeared about the "deceived tsar" and "disobedient boyars" testify more to the violent imagination of their authors than to historical reality.
  10. RuslanNN
    RuslanNN 3 October 2015 20: 55
    I am interested in one thing. why, owning information, such intelligence, the country was completely READY to war with Germany, suffered such monstrous losses?
    1. sigdoc
      sigdoc 3 October 2015 21: 26
      And name at least one country that was ready for war better than the USSR?
      1. Bakht
        Bakht 3 October 2015 22: 50
        Well, for example, France.
        1. sigdoc
          sigdoc 4 October 2015 14: 18
          This is a joke? France, with direct military support from the armies of England and Belgium, lasted 40 days. The Germans in the USSR, 40 days later, were near Smolensk.
          1. Bakht
            Bakht 5 October 2015 08: 55
            It's not a joke. The French army was not badly prepared for the war. The quantitative composition in terms of personnel and technology was not inferior to the German, fortified areas along the entire border, developed industry. What other criteria do you put into the concept of "readiness for war"? Plus the favorite songs of the liberals. There were no repressions in France, no personnel purges. The command staff for the most part had the experience of the First World War.

            What is the criterion by which France was ready for war worse than the USSR?

            What you wrote about Smolensk, so look at the depth of operations on the map. What is the distance from the border to Smolensk and what is the distance from the border to the English Channel?
  11. Bakht
    Bakht 3 October 2015 22: 50
    The truth is that at that time MOST politicians and countries of the world put on the victory of Germany. Not a single person believed that the USSR would survive. English Ambassador Crips spoke of 6 weeks of organized resistance. Churchill hoped that the USSR would last until the fall. Perhaps only Roosevelt bet that the USSR would survive. And he hesitated, and therefore sent Hopkins to Moscow. Not a single European country believed in the victory of the USSR. Where did the Finnish, Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Spanish, French, Norwegian troops come from? Denmark, France, the Netherlands - all were confident in the collapse of the USSR. So the Germans were not the only ones who were deceived.

    The more valuable the Victory.
  12. BISMARCK94
    BISMARCK94 4 October 2015 11: 06
    At the beginning of the war, the army of the USSR was re-equipping with might and main, and the personnel was exhausted by the repressions of the 37th. This was clearly shown by the 41st year. And in the article you can feel a kind of "hurray-patriotism."
  13. Bakht
    Bakht 4 October 2015 23: 07
    The army has rearmament - I can understand. Although not very. The reason for the defeat of the 41st year is not rearmament. Right now the Russian army is rearming. And what? .. The armies are rearmament CONSTANTLY.

    The impact of repression - does not fit into the logic at all. Firstly, because they were not so large for the army. And secondly ... Well, let's say there were no repressions in France. The technique was no worse than German, quantitatively, too, fortified areas throughout the border. There is no need to talk about surprise. About 8 months passed from the declaration of war to the outbreak of hostilities (from September 3, 1939 to May 10, 1940. Plus a preliminary call on April 10, 1940, an attack on Norway. The French infantryman always showed that he could fight. How to explain the defeat of France?

    As for the repression, it is interesting to read the documents of the first days. The commanders had no fear of decision-making. Pavlov, without instructions from Moscow, turned the counterattack of Boldin's group. The commanders of Golubev and Kuznetsov independently without an order decided to retreat. Thanks to Isaev, he puts a lot of documents in his books. So the influence of repression is greatly exaggerated.
  14. Bakht
    Bakht 4 October 2015 23: 23
    The reasons for the defeat of the 41st year are many. Basic again indicated Isaev. Deployment Ahead. Incorrect deployment (troops torn into three unconnected echelons), the transition in the offensive by the Germans by almost all forces. Only 24 (it seems) divisions were left in reserve). During the invasion of France, the Germans had 47 divisions in reserve. Disadvantages in organizing connections. Poor handling.

    And the most correct thing was said by Zhukov. In the late 60s, he met with the writer Elena Rzhevskaya. Had two conversations. And he briefly explained "many of us forget that we fought with the best army in the world." We sing the glory of the Red Army. Quite deservedly so. Nobody could have done what the Red Army did. Nobody in the world. But how the Germans fought ... Until recently. As M. Kalashnikov wrote, "the factories worked even when the soldiers of the Red Army burst into their territory." Dyukov says that in April 45, when the fighting was already in Berlin, a wounded German soldier shouted "we must win anyway."

    And the article is certainly interesting and informative. But the postscript, knowing what happened, is easy to judge. Stalin did not oversleep the beginning of the war. But the head of state cannot make crucial decisions based on the data of some wiretapping.

    Now there is an operation in Syria. The question is why now? Not a month or a year ago? But because we do not all know. And we cannot know everything by virtue of our position. And responsibility is on the Commander-in-Chief. And to the head of state. And all this is one and the same person.
    And in 20-30 years someone will write - he did the wrong thing. It was necessary to do this ... But the French call it "wit on the stairs." We are all smart after the fact.
  15. Pattern
    Pattern 3 August 2017 17: 09
    A lot of incorrect information. A carbon copy from the “studies” of the late 80s and early 90s. In general, complete nonsense!