German code breaking during WW2, Part Eight

well_chuffed, Going Postal
The Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or Reich Air Ministry on Leipziger Strasse in Berlin in 1938

The Forschungsamt (or Goering’s Research Bureau) was the reason I was hunting around for information , its name popped up now and then but there was very little information about it.

This was Goering’s pet project. With his massive ego and vanity to match , it is not always easy to separate fact from bombast when it comes to this Organisation. Allegedly created in 1933 when two cryptanalysts defected from the Abwehr complaining about its culture and approached Hermann with the proposition to set up his own Intelligence service. This would have appealed to the number 2 in the Nazi hierarchy , he could also use it to keep tabs on his enemies in the Party ; it is legend that most of them were at loggerheads with each other as they jostled for promotion.

The existence of this Bureau was unknown to the Allies even as they organised their TICOM teams at the end of the war , what was found of it was by chance. Almost no paperwork or equipment related to it was discovered so the details were gleaned mainly from PoW interrogations as well as references in other Organisations’ paperwork.

The intelligence gathered by the FA was distributed on brown paper , these were known as Braunblätter (brown sheets/leaves). Weirdly when the recipient had read them , they had to be handed back presumably so that only the recipients had access to them. We are assured that Adolf read them avidly though he insisted on the raw data rather than any analysis of it.

well_chuffed, Going Postal
Göring addressing the Reichstag

Goering’s vision was of a Nazi Party controlled central collecting service for signals intelligence , you can see where he is coming from , control the message and you are King. It would not have hindered his quest for power nor seeing off any of his competitors.

The FA was charged with providing the Nazi State with reliable diplomatic , economic and political information to be derived from monitoring all internal German telephone , telegraph and wireless communications including those to foreign countries ; foreign wireless communications of a commercial or diplomatic nature ; foreign press and news broadcasts and speeches of politicians ; and study of available newspapers and periodicals. Quite a wide brief then.

The FA operated its own intercept and monitoring service.

The British stumbled upon its existence when interrogating members of the Foreign Office Cryptanalytic section on 28 April 1945 and on 9 May 1945 its abandoned headquarters were discovered. A file of administrative papers were found which gave the organisation of the Bureau. It has to be said that after the July 1944 attempt on Adolf’s life , there was wholesale butchery of people in all Signals Intelligence units and as the bombing of Berlin worsened , units were relocated so the entire setup was a disaster by April 1945.

Officially the FA was part of the Air Ministry but in fact it was a self contained organisation used by the Nazi Party to rival the military organisations. Depending on who you believe , it was not very successful , it had a list of achievements as long as your arm , nobody took much notice of it , its reports were hungrily devoured , it didn’t do much cryptanalysis , it broke various codes and so on. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Although there was cooperation between the FA and the other Signals Intelligence agencies , there was always a strained official relationship , the others may have viewed it as an upstart. In line with most other things , Himmler tried to take it under his wing , rather an ambitious man was Himmler.

The TICOM report lists many successes for the FA but many of them have also been attributed to other organisations , could it be that Goering’s exaggerations were also adopted by his minions or was it really so successful. I have doubts because the FA had about 2,000 people working for it at maximum and it covered a very wide variety of activities. Perhaps these successes were from its function as a kind of clearing house for information. It was certainly heavily involved on the pre war diplomatic side , especially when it came to the Anschluss and annexation of the Sudetenland. Telephone monitoring was very influential in allowing Adolf to keep to the secure path and not misjudge others’ reactions. During the war , the intercept function of the FA was very active , it provided a significant quantity of enemy messages for the Foreign Office and even the Armed Forces.

As far as the recipients of the intelligence go , von Ribbentrop was very dismissive of the FA’s output (he and Goering were not the best of friends) , Goering stated that Adolf thought they were very reliable. To quote Goering on the subject of intercepted telegrams

“The intelligence resulting from decoded telegrams was not always useful , they often consisted of absolute rubbish ; the extent to which the members of the diplomatic corps spread and retailed fantastic rumours was surprising. He himself had often made arrangements to have rumours planted and within a few days he observed them being passed on and spreading.”

The FA also supplied summaries of foreign news outlets reports. Initially to quite a wide distribution but later on , as the situation deteriorated and the news got worse , the list of recipients was restricted to only a few of the top people.

It has to be said that Goering’s FA was useful to many , not just Goering’s ambitions. It seems they made an effort to help other Signals Intelligence people and notwithstanding the friction between some of the higher level staff , they did make a contribution to the German efforts in this area.

© well_chuffed 2018