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17 de febr. 2019

Gestapo in Spain, by Hans-Jurgen Koehler (1941)

I have found an internet transcription of a book which includes a chapter on the activities of the Gestapo in Spain, from the second half of 1934 to 1936, during which the German Nazi regime meticulously planned the right-wing revolution: the coup d'état by General Franco that started the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
Click here if need be to read the whole post

Inside the Gestapo: Hitler's Shadow Over the World 
Hansjürgen Koehler  
Pallas Publishing Company Limited, 1940



Gestapo in Spain.

It is far from my intention to maintain that my activities in Spain from the second half of 1934 to 1936 had an essential importance in preparing the Spanish insurrection. I had been acting on behalf of the Gestapo as usual, holding a special appointment from Heydrich himself. But I think that the following pages offer a true sketch, a series of irrefutable episodes, facts and personalities which may help to prove that the idea of the Spanish Civil War was first conceived in Berlin and directed for years from Germany. Perhaps some later historian will find some useful data in this chapter if he wants to write an un- biased account of the tragedy in the Spanish arena. . .

When in 1934 I sent my first report about my experiences in Spain I viewed the situation of the German organisation on the Iberian Peninsula rather pessimistically. The different German institutions and agencies were in a very bad state.

Gil Robles, who came to power in 1933, had helped the German interests, as he was a dyed-in-the-wool Fascist. Their leaders had an easy time and earned huge sums. But for this very reason they intrigued against each other and fought like wolves. For every good job there were dozens of self-appointed candidates who schemed against each other. The man who had good connections progressed rapidly. Hardly had he filled some job, when he flew out again, however—unless he had had the necessary pull and skill.

To cite an example: Consul Rehmann lost his job in San Sebastian through the intrigues of Group Leader Beisel because the latter was a friend of Zuchristian, chief of the whole organisation. Rehmann was followed by Leistert—and the first act of the new consul was to dismiss the man (Beisel), who had intrigued against his predecessor and whom, after all, he had to thank for his own promotion. A similar fight-for-all-comers was going on everywhere.

For clever men such a confusion was simply an advantage. Herr Steffin, for instance, who conducted the German secret group in Madrid, embezzled huge amounts, whereupon an investigation was started against him. But he simply bribed the investigators and was—promoted and transferred to the Madrid Labour Front. Here he again embezzled some money, another investigation followed; and the result? He was again promoted and transferred to an important post of the South American organisation.


Even dirtier and more scandalous things happened in Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga and Saragossa. The leaders denounced each other secretly. If they did not succeed in blackening their rival’s character in Germany, they turned to the Spanish authorities. There was hardly one among them who had not something to hide and this method of intrigue and counter-intrigue proved very effective. In the worst cases the Nazis, in order to avoid scandal, were forced to shield or help the victim to escape. Naturally all this damaged the work of German penetration and propaganda.

The German organisations in Spain were—up to 1936—under the authority of the Hamburg Political Police. The agents of the Gestapo were placed everywhere in offices and agencies, working under the cover of the “Harbour Service.” Now the foreign organisation of this “Harbour Service” demanded the right to conduct the whole work as the Spanish representative of the Nazi Party, supervising all activities; even tried to claim the right of appointments and promotions for those Gestapo agents who were detailed for duty within its territory.

In Madrid I found a number of Gestapo agents who were almost desperate; they felt they were only puppets of the “Harbour Service.” Of course Himmler and Heydrich were far away in Berlin, while this organisation was on the spot. Whether it was the kidnapping of a Communist worker or espionage against some factory, everything had to be reported to the “Harbour Service” and its instructions taken into consideration. Koerner, the leader of the Madrid branch of the Gestapo, did not know what to do.

A Sudden Change.

We had to go about the thing cautiously. I visited the leaders of this rival organisation and explained my anxiety about the dangers of double correspondence. All the secret letters went on two different routes to Germany, through the “Harbour Service’s” foreign organisation to Hamburg and through the Gestapo to Berlin. They accepted my objections and offered to simplify matters. All correspondence should go through the diplomatic couriers and they would send on the copies from Hamburg to the Berlin Gestapo centre. I avoided giving a decision, saying that this was Koerner’s business. Next day Koerner received a polite note demanding that all correspondence should be thereafter sent to the “Auslandsorganisation.” Koerner asked my advice. I told him that I would not interfere with administrative matters, but it was better not to provoke the anger of the Party—and the “Harbour Service” did represent the Party. This was Koerner’s opinion, too, and he acted according to it.

But only for a short time. Heydrich became furious when a few days later he noticed the meddling of the “Auslandsorganisation” and that it was remitting the correspondence of the Gestapo. The first victim was Koerner, who was dismissed at once.

But his successor received strict orders that the only instructions which he was to follow must come from the Gestapo. I was sorry to have sacrificed Koerner, but there was no alternative. But thereafter work went on smoothly. At last the Gestapo became independent in Spain.

This was the situation in 1934—but it changed suddenly. All the organisations were headed by energetic, efficient men who had the full confidence of the Party. Nobody could suspect the things which were brewing; but everybody knew that these large-scale preparations were
not inspired by purely commercial reasons. It was no longer our task to cover the Spanish market and to silence a few meddlesome refugees; all of us felt that it was something bigger, something more important. Yes, something was brewing...

About this, time—it was my second trip to Spain—the Gestapo sent a whole “general staff” to the Iberian Peninsula to organise the well-tried network of the Gestapo in the country. The main task was to hide the Secret State Police in the different organisations, firms, associations, where it could not be discovered. The most important institution was the so-called “Harbour Service.”

There was hardly a German merchant, firm, or enterprise in Spain which had not something to do with shipping, and a German organisation serving this purpose could not raise any objection among the Spanish authorities.

The Terror Brigade.

This was an excellent method not only in Spain, but in many other countries. The chief of all these “Harbour Services” was Kurt Wermke, highly valued collaborator of Himmler and Heydrich. His Berlin office was the centre for the activity of the Gestapo in Spain. Our organisation was under his administrative authority except the special branches.

The outward structure of the “Harbour Service” was very complicated. Only the main departments figured in it, because there was no serious danger even if they were unmasked.

But the most important work was done in the sub-departments which were independent units and belonged to the territory of the local “Harbour Service” centres. These subdepartments which did all the dangerous jobs (espionage, etc.) were masked by private firms or innocent associations. One of the most important was the Academic Exchange Service (Akademischer Austauschdienst) which, under the cover of scientific exchanges, conducted part of the industrial espionage. Military espionage was pursued by an engineering firm called “Windkraft Centrale” (Aircraft centre) which had branches and representatives all over the country. But our men worked in a great many other private firms.

The five main departments of the “Harbour Service” did the supervision, the observation of its own association, refugees, suspected persons, and that of the Spanish political parties. Even our highest party members, the consuls and the members of the legation had to be watched. The rest of the work consisted in spying at the postal communications and the supervision of the S.A. men who had already been introduced secretly. The real espionage was the task of a special subdepartment.

The most important fighting organisation was the so-called Public Security Branch, whose members were the toughest and strongest S.A. men. I might almost call it also the “terror-brigade.” Often rebellious or suspicious people had to be sent to Germany. Sometimes dangerous refugees had to be dealt with who could have easily demoralised the Germans in Spain by describing the situation at home. Again sometimes from here German smugglers directed the illegal removal of currency and property still locked up in Germany. Sometimes the withdrawal of a passport sufficed. At other times we had to use stronger methods, as, for instance, in the case of Ludwig Felsenstein.

Felsenstein had got into hot water in Berlin, where he commanded an S.A. group. But he succeeded in escaping to Switzerland and from there to Spain. The Gestapo ordered his return. But this man was possessed of devilish cunning; we did not succeed in luring him to a German ship. Then two Gestapo men became acquainted with him in Barcelona. They went to a harbour inn and began to drink. A nearby motor boat was waiting to take him to a German ship. But Felsenstein could carry his drink very well; in the end the two Gestapo agents “passed out,” while their victim remained more or less sober. But even he felt the effect of alcohol: he paid for the drinks from the money in the wallet of one of the Gestapo men and replaced it by an ironical note stating the fact. Then he left in high spirits.


Next day the Spanish police arrested him—for theft. The two Gestapo men had denounced him for felony and slander because he had called them German agents. Felsenstein was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment. But while he was sitting in a Barcelona prison, an employee of the consulate appeared and demanded his extradition, proving with documents that Felsenstein had embezzled seven hundred and fifty marks in Berlin from the firm where he was employed. In truth Felsenstein had never worked for the firm. But he protested in vain; the court believed the well-dressed and suave attorney of the consulate and not the ragged tramp who hardly knew any Spanish and who was also proved to have been an S.A. man in Berlin. He was extradited and Spanish gendarmes took him to a German ship. Sometimes a man had to be taken on shipboard by force. There were innumerable methods for this. A dangerous refugee would roam the harbour trying to find work. A Spanish boat which was unloading would offer him a job. He would go on deck, where he was hit with a rubber truncheon; he lost consciousness. Charitable Germans put the “poor sick man” into a motor boat and hurried to the German ship waiting in the outer harbour. Nobody ever asked for him.

Another refugee met a jovial Portuguese gentleman who on a Sunday afternoon invited him to a little sailing trip. When they were far enough from shore a motor boat appeared and gunmen forced him to follow them... Next day the Spanish building firm which employed him received a letter in his handwriting; his affairs had called him unexpectedly to Norway. There could be no doubt about the authenticity of the letter. His Spanish chief had no reason to run to the police.

Of course sometimes a kidnapped man never arrived in Germany. If scandal had to be avoided, he vanished silently somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, weighted with a sack of coal or some scrap iron; and if the log had to contain his name he was accounted for as a victim of appendicitis who had died suddenly.

Observation and supervision work was much simpler. I have always found that most people are too comfortable to be cautious and they trust everybody—or at least suspect very few strangers. Let us take a well-frequented cafe. Nobody could imagine how much information the lady who sits in the telephone exchange, or even the guardian of the cloakrooms, could supply. . . Not to mention an elert waiter!

In families we often succeeded in “planting” a modest, quiet, diligent German nurse who had wonderful references and took care of the children for a ridiculously small sum. After a few weeks she proved herself so loyal that she was trusted completely. The master of the house did not hide his letters or business papers, as the nurse “didn’t know any Spanish,” except the little she had picked up during her short stay. It was so much better for the children; they were certain to learn German. But three months was quite enough; the reports of the “nurse” gave an exact picture of the whole life and secrets of the Spanish businessman, industrialist, or politician. He would be most amazed to see it. The report included everything; sometimes even his wife’s lover, with all the proofs and photos which might force the lady to serve the Gestapo if necessary.

And now the “nurse” suddenly receives news of urgent and tragic family affairs. With tears in her eyes she asks permission to leave. She is certain to receive the very best references and will have no difficulty in getting another position in a different city with a distinguished Spanish family to whom some rich German friend, priest, or the Consul himself recommends her independently.

The Gestapo was interested in every confidential matter and secret; not only among the German subjects, but also among the Spanish. Several thousand workmen, business employees, engineers, agents, and other people, had found jobs in Spain. All of them were members of some German association: the German Labour Front or the League of German Business Employees; at other times it was the Association of German Engineers, some insurance club, cultural league, scientific corporation, or the German church.

The Gestapo had one or two men in every such institution. These gave the different members the necessary instructions and drew up questionnaires to which the German employees in Spain had to supply answers. Very few masters could have secrets from their bookkeepers, shop assistants, or engineers. Often such an employee was even able to give information of rival or associated firms. All these clubs and associations collected thousands of such questionnaires, followed by the preparation of extracts and graphs which gave a precise picture of economic life in Spain.

Double Lives.

The same work was done by the German business men and the branches of big German firms who were in contact with hundreds of Spanish enterprises and factories. All the branches of the great electrical, chemical, hardware factories of Germany became a highly efficient source of industrial espionage for the Gestapo. Then there were the German banks which could ask and receive information unobtrusively just like the chambers of commerce. Soon in the files of the “Harbour Service” everything was collected which was worth knowing about Spain. Our work began on the basis of these details.

The first organisation I must mention was the Foreign Trade Post (Auslandshandelstelle) which was founded to help German exports and kill the rivalry of foreigners, rob them of big orders, and chase them off the market. But this Foreign Trade Post could be useful in betraying the secrets of rivals. The selected victim began to notice that strange rumours were being spread about him, destroying his credit; his offers were refused; when he went bankrupt nobody suspected that he was not a victim of depression, but that of the German economic war. He had been “eliminated” so that a German firm or one with overwhelmingly German control could take his place.

In 1935 and 1936 there were several business failures in Spain which attracted attention even abroad. Huge concerns closed their doors on account of the “economic crisis.” Out of the nineteen large bankruptcies, twelve were the immediate result of German activity, while in the case of the rest it sufficed to “help to bit” by secretly destroying credit and exercising unfair competition. Their places were taken by firms well under German control. During these months the German organisation was completely finished in Spain and had stood its trial.

Almost every German in Spain led a double life, his peaceful private existence and his work for the Nazi Party. If someone was not a member either because he was a Jew or unreliable he was exposed to the most tenacious persecution, expelling, kidnapping, etc. Every German and Germanophile door was closed to him. But most of the Spanish doors, too, because if such a man found work, he was soon slandered, his name blackened; reduced to the direst poverty he either committed suicide or left the country. Every German association, club, or league, whether official or not, worked feverishly and collected all necessary data.

Lavish Propaganda.

At the same time the most stubborn propaganda went on against any Communist, Socialist, Liberal, or Freemason movement, and for the right-wing, loyalist, and monarchist parties. Everybody was labelled a Jew, Freemason, or Communist if he was not a friend of the Spanish Fascist Parties. The German Ministry of Propaganda sent millions of pamphlets to Spain; the agents of the “Harbour Service” smuggled these papers from German boats into the country. The hand- bills and pamphlets were distributed by German workers and clerks everywhere; on trams, in cafes, restaurants, streets. Every right-wing Spanish Party received as much of this material as it wanted. There were unselfish German gentlemen who even covered the cost of distribution. There was no post box, open window, or door, into which such a printed sheet was not slipped; slowly they poisoned the minds of the Spaniards, making them hate their own Government, their own Liberal and Labour Parties.

Slowly they were recruited for the Fascist Parties, and these gratefully accepted the “unselfish help” of the Germans in their campaign against the “Reds” and were willing to return the service. This service was only “information” about the “Jewish-Communist-Freemasonic” Spanish enterprises. The most patriotic Spanish firms rivalled each other in industrial espionage for Germany—without suspecting it.

At the same time various other activities were pursued, but in the first place military espionage. As I said, there was a separate department for this in the “Harbour Service,” and the German General Staff sent a great many secret agents to Spain.

I belonged to the very few who had been told quite early what Germany was doing in Spain; but I must confess that I had no idea of any object beyond the enlarging of German commercial influence. It was only later that I understood: military espionage was needed on the distant Iberian Peninsula for the purpose of helping insurrection to a swift victory.

The “Cell” System.

The special centre for military espionage was in Barcelona, under the cover of an engineering firm, the Aircraft Centre (Windkraft Zentrale). The Barcelona branch of the Berlin Wilhelm Teubert firm worked here under the name of Central de Fuerza Motric Aerea W. Teubert, its leader was the former Lieutenant, Hans Gunz. In parallel Captain Konrad Heerdt pursued his activities; if anything should happen to Gunz he would take charge. The Madrid branch was headed by Wilhelm Gefaell, in Alicante Joachim Knobloch, in Malaga ship-chandler Petersen, in Morocco Heinrich Hoffman (the latter at Ceuta) was responsible for the work.

The leaders of the different centres had all some more or less important position in the Nazi Party. They did not know anything about each other’s secret work, and could not betray each other in a tight spot.

This method had the advantage that Gunz and Heerdt; could give the same task to two different groups who supervised each other unconsciously. Every group formed several small “cells.” The chiefs and members of these cells did not know each other. If the Spaniards caught an agent it did not matter much. The other groups could continue their work without danger.

Two independent sections of the“Aircraft Centre” pursued naval and aerial espionage; these two were connected not only with the Barcelona centre but directly with Berlin.

Of course we were not satisfied with the work of German agents only; we had a great many Spaniards and South Americans employed.

The “Windkraft Zentrale” worked most efficiently. But it had another important task which made its activity even easier; it supplied war material to the Spaniards, took part in every important State order, and did immense service for the German armament industry.

Inside Information.

Captain Heerdt, the deputy chief of the “Aircraft Centre” in Barcelona, had married the daughter of a Spanish general whose father was the leader of the artillery section in the Ministry of War. His father-in-law took good care that his son-in-law’s firm should be given a fat share of State orders and notified him of every movement of his rivals. But even he did not suspect that his daughter’s husband thus acquired the most important military and engineering secrets.

Lieutenant Gunz also succeeded in getting into the Ministry of War through distinguished patrons, where he formed his connections under title of a supplier of armaments. A wellknown Barcelona lawyer, Juan Salvo, helped Gunz not only to obtain important orders, but also essential military secrets. Even more useful was the friendship which Gunz formed with Alvares Malibran and his brother, a very distinguished member of the Spanish General Staff. The two brothers were familiar in the highest circles of Spain. Through them Gunz was always notified of the changes in the Spanish garrisons, of every manoeuvre, of the exact placing of war materials and munitions.

As for naval secrets, Enrico Fricke did the good work. He had a huge export and import business in Carthagene. During the war Fricke had served in the Naval Intelligence Service of Germany; for a time he worked in the Kiel Admiralty. Carthagene was one of the most important Spanish naval bases. The naval officers sent from Berlin were all employed by Fricke, and in his office was collected the necessary data. Fricke took over the Carthagene agency of the Bremen Neptune shipping line, and this made his work very easy. Fricke knew Spain very well, having worked there for part of the Great War. His dangerous job had been to plant bombs in the ships of the Allied Powers which arrived in the neutral ports.

It is an interesting addition to Fricke’s portrait that during the war he had been imprisoned by the Spaniards for espionage. When they released him, he returned to Germany and demanded his pay. As he was refused, he simply sued the German Republic. This was the first case of which I know when a spy dared to do this. The German War Office was forced to pay as Fricke proved his services. When he got his money he found it advisable to vanish from Germany. He returned to Carthagene, and when Hitler came to power Fricke was one of the first who offered his services to the Nazis in Spain.

A Social Success.

Fricke used extremely simple methods. In and around Carthagene lived a great many high naval officers. Politically they were all rather “right wing.” They were almost swamped with Nazi propaganda.

Everybody was glad to receive a finely bound volume as a gift; was glad to read how thoroughly the “Reds,” the common enemy, had been routed in Germany. Fricke, who in the meantime became German Consul, was naturally invited to every social function and fiesta; his acquaintance with the leading officers slowly developed into friendship; the great, ornate German ladies and gentlemen were often invited to the lavish banquets. Few Spanish naval officers could withstand a “distinguished” and pretty lady. These women agents of the Gestapo procured a large number of naval secrets; they looked over the coastal defences and were shown whatever they wanted to see.

The Spanish Civil War showed what a thorough work Fricke and his men had done in the navy; the Government was practically left without naval officers. All of them joined Franco right at the beginning and made possible his rule in Morocco.

Among the preparations we had to draw up the plans of army movements. This was a much more difficult thing than to worm out secrets of unsuspecting Spaniards.

At the beginning of our work we had little connection with the local military authorities of the country. But there was also nothing to spy out as in other matters. The Spanish Army had never evolved a plan which would serve it against an internal enemy. Therefore we had to create these plans ourselves. But here we met an unexpectd obstacle. For every such plan, manoeuvres were necessary to try out the different theories.

We were sitting in Madrid with the officers of the General Staff sent from Berlin, discussing the problem. Major von Hinze was rather gloomy; bursting out at last, he said:

“Damn it all, I can’t ask the Span- ish Army to lend me a few regiments.”

“Perhaps some of the S.A. men...” someone offered, but I protested.

The Spanish authorities would have swooped down on us at once if they had found out about the S.A. in their country and its military manoeuvres.

Captain Guertler then had a brain-wave. The S.A. could not hold open-air manoeuvres—but what about the Hitler Youth? Could not they “play soldiers”? This plan was soon realised. On Sundays and holidays—of which there were many in Spain—the officers of the General Staff took part in the “outings” of the Hitler Youth organised from the German boys in Spain. As they were not very numerous, we soon recruited a number of Spanish children; in the first place those who were pupils of German schools. These received a decorative uniform cheaply and were happy about the excursions. Thus we could try out every military movement, the isolation of barracks, the occupation of important strategical points; we could examine every point without raising the suspicion of Spanish authorities.

Later on General Franco received these plans which he executed with small variations and which for the most part brought swift success. How we had to ascertain the strength of armaments and spy out the equipment of the future enemy...

The largest Spanish munitions factory, the Sociedad Espanola de Armas y Municiones, was the biggest contractor of the Spanish State. There were some Germans among the proprietors and shareholders of the company, among them the most important Adolf Thieme who was also a prominent member of the Nazi Party.

Through him it was easy to get the most important data about the arms possessed by the Spanish Government; a great many of the storage places were also betrayed. The rest was procured by the agents of the “Harbour Service,” and later the Spanish officers supplied data when they joined General Franco.

Air Propaganda.

Spanish aviation was a difficult problem. Most of the young flyers were loyal to the Government.

Therefore the Madrid branch of the Lufthansa and the Junkers Company were appointed to train new pilots. Junkers were especially glad to do this because they hoped that the rich young Spaniards would not only take part in the training, but later buy Junkers planes for private use and thus patriotism could be combined with a little business.

The propaganda for aviation started on a large scale, trying to recruit enthusiasts for civil aviation.

Junkers had their connections with the Spanish private aero-clubs, these they tried to enlarge and develop. It was comparatively simple: a few members had to be selected to whom Junkers made a discreet offer of a very cheap plane which could be bought on long credit; they only had to find new followers for flying and put their machine at the club’s disposal for training purposes. Most of them were happy to accept.

In this way a great many young men—of course all scions of “right-wing” families—were gathered together and taught flying on Junkers planes by German instructors. All of them became great friends of Germany and were easy prey, to well-conducted propaganda. When General Franco started his revolts, these young men were almost without exception ready to join him; they sat in the cockpits of the planes which Junkers supplied and which bombed Spanish cities and villages.

The Spanish Government was not suspicious; they were even glad that youth was becoming interested in aviation. In Saragossa and later in Barcelona private airfields were built; it was not at all difficult for the German instructors to work out plans from these bases which later were used by the insurgents. Of course we could not hope to train all the pilots whom Franco would need. Most of these young Spanish amateurs would probably perish in aerial battles fought with the superior pilots of the Government; especially as there was no way to teach them bombing and machine-gunning.

This was a point we had to take into consideration and therefore we had to count on German flyers who would have to be added to the rebel air force. Therefore it was highly important to smuggle as many German pilots into Spain as possible. They were exchanged for others after a few weeks. We also prepared photographs from the air of every possible strip of territory.

A photographic study was installed in the office of the Madrid Siemens branch where the aerial photos were copied and filed. Work went on very diligently; thousands of shots had to be taken, not only from the vicinity of barracks, but of harbours, more important factories, and different cities. We had to prepare for regular air-raids against the cities where Government resistance would be especially strong. In the possession of photographs it was not difficult to fix the objectives for bombing.

The most trusted Spanish youths were sent to Germany, where their training was completed. Here, of course, they could learn freely the handling of bombs and machine-guns. But their number was necessarily limited because we had to take great care. The young Spaniards were delighted at this German generosity. Of course they had no idea that they would be able to use their knowledge against their own countrymen.


Frankly, the naivety with which the Spaniards viewed all these problems was almost amazing. They believed and accepted everything with childish gullibility. We could hardly avoid the young Spanish aviators talking about the large-scale photography. Sometimes even the original prints came into their hands, but nothing happened.

At the beginning of 1936 the Barcelona “Harbour Service” sent us two photos of the Barcelona port. These pictures had been taken by the German aviation experts. The “Harbour Service” started to investigate at once. We found out that the photos had been procured by Spanish sporting flyers.

One of these gentlemen who took part in such an aerial survey, received two prints which he had reproduced by a Barcelona photographer.

An agent of the “Harbour Service” visited the photographer, had some pictures taken, and began to talk to him. It was easy to steer the conversation around to photography and aerial photos. The photographer soon showed the prints he had made. Our agent asked him what purpose they served.

“The pilots must know the lay of the city,” the photographer replied with perfect seriousness, “otherwise they would easily lose their way. After all, you can’t put signposts or traffic policemen into the air.”

This reassured us. The Spaniards apparently did not think of suspecting us of any serious purpose. Nor did they have any good reason to fear any danger. They were living at peace with their neighbours. They did not dream that distant countries had designs on their land. For centuries they had become used not to fearing any external enemy and if a scaremonger spoke of such a possibility he was rewarded with mockery.

I remember the article of a newspaper discussing the question just before the insurrection. There was nothing to fear, the journalist wrote, not only because there was no great power which would have territorial aspirations in Spain. It was the paramount interest of both France and Great Britain that no other power outside Spain and Portugal should have a foothold on the Iberian Peninsula. That was the reason for Portugal being Great Britain’s oldest ally. Even if Spain had no such agreement with England, a silent appreciation of common interests and the knowledge of Great Britain’s protection was just the same. That knowledge compensated Spain for Gibraltar which Great Britain had to guard—and on account of which she could not let foreign soldiers invade Spanish soil. This great feeling of security was shown everywhere. The Spanish Government gave all its attention to the internal enemy which threatened its home policy from the monarchists and the extreme left. This occupied them too much to notice any foreign threat. (p. 252)

I Guard Hitler.

To return to the problem of aviation, we had to know what air fleet the Government possessed and its capacity. In this question the chief of the Madrid branch of Junkers offered us the greatest help. Carlo Rodatz played an important part in von Bohle’s “Auslandsorganisation” and was entrusted with confidential tasks right from the beginning. Rodatz had himself been a flyer whom Junkers trusted implicitly. He was one of the best armament “salesmen,” and whoever knew these gentlemen knew that they would stop at nothing. It was Rodatz’s doing that for a long time the Italians were unable to compete in Spain with Junkers. He always found some way to annihilate his rivals. He knew perfectly well what the other firm wanted and offered. When “Fiat” or another company had a new model, keeping its details strictly secret, Rodartz had the exact plans in his drawer.

We could trust Rodatz and were never disappointed. He supplied us with comparative ease with the most important data. Through him we found out the precise details of the Government’s air bases. Later he got for us the data on tanks and the description of the anti-aircraft guns at Minorca.

It would be difficult to enumerate the work of all the German organisations, but a few examples might serve just as well. Some time ago a scientific exchange had been installed, sending young students and scientists from Spain to Germany and vice versa. In Berlin its centre was in the Neue Friedrichstrasse, called “Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst” (German Academic Exchange Service), while in Spain its headquarters were at 18 Calle Aribau in Barcelona. This office sent young Spanish students and engineers to Germany where they could study at the universities, were shown the German industrial plants.

The Spanish Government was always grateful for this help and supported it in every way. The German students and engineers were welcome in Spanish universities and factories.

We sent only picked men. The official chief of the exchange was Karl Supprian, Professor at Barcelona University, but its real direction was in the hands of General Faupal who later figured as official German Ambassador to General Franco.

An Amazing Personality.

Faupal had had an amazing career in Spain. At the end of the war he was a Brevet-Captain, and as many others of his comrades, he fought in a Free Corps against left-wing movements and took part in the punishment of “traitors.” He joined the Nazi movement fairly early and proved to be a very useful man in the brawls which the S.A. man had during and after the Nazi meetings. He also turned out to be a good organiser. Himmler became his patron. I noticed this man; his suave, brilliant manners did not betray the incredible energy which moved him.

Brevet-Captain Faupal did such brilliant work in this “scientific exchange” that he soon became a general. But his achievement was in a distinct relation to his quick promotion. His men did excellent work in every aspect. His young engineers visited the Spanish factories and mines, showing keen interest. If there was some especially difficult job in industrial espionage, Faupal and Supprian could always manage it. The collection of data on the organisation of armament plants was wholly Faupal’s work.

When revolution started in Spain, a great many important plants had to stop work. A series of acts of sabotage incapacitated them. Often a bomb exploded at a cardinal point; sometimes the electric centre, the factory’s heart was destroyed by powdered iron which had been put into the turbines. All this damage could not be repaired for weeks, sometimes even months. Causing short-circuits, they burnt cables and set fire to whole factories.

The preparation, planning, and execution of all this was carried out by Faupal’s and Supprian’s men. If they had failed, Franco could not have attained his success in spite of systematic military preparations. But this prevented the Government from getting quick supplies of armaments while Franco received plenty of whatever he needed.

Economic Espionage.

Faupal’s organisations, co-operating with the espionage departments of the “Harbour Service,” obtained valuable military information. There were some territories to which he could not send his men without attracting attention; for instance they had nothing to seek in the military garrisons. But Faupal had his brainwaves. He got into touch in Berlin and had the Hagenbeck Circus sent to Spain. For months it roamed the country.

Such a circus has hundreds of employees and the agents of the Gestapo could easily be placed among them. Before the circus arrived in some garrison, its pioneer workers and publicity men could be sent ahead; they could gain access to almost any place. On the lorries of the circus they could drive across districts which were important from a military point of view and could take measurements and photos.

The propaganda which the circus made must not be overlooked. They took tons of pamphlets with them and distributed them chiefly in the south into which part the other German organisations had some difficulty in penetrating. The purely Spanish landed class which would have been susceptible to Nazi propaganda, was very difficult to approach. Of course our salesmen of agricultural implements and artificial manure worked diligently. But for mass-propaganda Hagenbeck’s Circus was the most suitable and fulfilled its task amazingly well.

About the end of 1936 the Gestapo had cleared Spain almost completely of dangerous or harmful German elements. The Party controlled all the German subjects through the Secret State Police; they were willing to fulfil any command. The counter-espionage departments of the Gestapo had acquired through their agents and the German associations all the important data on Spanish economic and industrial units and were able to influence them strongly. The main details of the navy, army, aviation, railways, high roads, and shipping were all in our hands. The Gestapo not only watched closely its own Nazi members, but had its men planted in every important place of both friendly and inimical Spanish Parties who reported every movement.

We had a decisive influence on the most important newspapers. The huge advertisements of great German firms were handled by the German chambers of commerce. If news uncomplimentary to Germany was printed, advertisements were withdrawn at once. Thus we were assured that they would be wary of printing anything detrimental; they were even ready to do us any favour.

Nazi Discipline.

I must mention that the German living in Spain did not put themselves at the Party’s disposal so easily as might be imagined. We had to overcome considerable resistance in many cases. But the Gestapo and the Nazi Party were well experienced in such matters. A very important and simple method was that the Party members were made to believe that almost a hundred per cent of Germans in Spain were in their ranks. Thus nobody dared to lag. Every organisation was forbidden to give information about its roll of members. If some doubting soul wanted to have a look at it, they gave him a list containing the names of all the Germans living in the district, whether members or not. If two non-mambers met, each of them believed that the other was denying his membership on purpose; he became suspicious, afraid of some trap and hastened to join. I could not say that the German colony in Spain joined the Nazi Party through conviction. But I can safely state that practically everybody became a member, sometimes in spite of his convictions, being afraid of consequences and for the sake of his own interests.

This belief and this fear welded the Party into a single, huge machine which worked obediently under the touch of its masters, just as in Germany. But I found that people slowly became used to the situation and excused themselves by believing that they were following the Fuehrer out of conviction and faith.

At the end of 1935 I had to prepare a detailed report about the progress of our work in Spain. I returned to Berlin. During one of my discussions at the Gestapo Rudolf Hess, the Fuehrer’s Deputy, was also present. He seemed to be much interested in all I had to say. He put a great many questions to me, then took a list from his pocket and followed them up with other inquiries, to which I tried to give answers ac-cording to my best knowledge.

Hess, in spite of his frail physique, was an extremely thorough man. I saw from his notes that he had already put the same questions to someone else. He had the answers noted; but it was no news to me that my work was supervised by secret, watchful eyes, although I had the fullest confidence of my superiors. My replies seemed to give satisfaction. One of the most important inquiries was whether we could count on the Spanish Parties of the right and what they would be prepared to undertake against the Government? Before I could reply to this question of Hess, he interrupted:

“Consider well before you answer. I’m willing to wait a little.”

There was no need for consideration.

“The Spanish right wing isn’t united, it’s divided into four parties, and they hate each other more than they hate their opponents... this is the only reason why Spain has a left-wing Government.”

And now the word “revolution” was mentioned for the first time.

“What would they do in the case of an armed revolution?” Hess asked.

Without waiting for my reply, he began to talk, like a man possessed. A revolution was being prepared in Spain.

In Terror.

I felt a cold thrill; to be quite frank, I did not think of the dead and wounded of a probable rising, nor about the flames which such a rebellion would cause to break out in peaceful Spain; I was thinking of myself. Drawing all the necessary conclusions from my past experiences, I took good care not to know too much about the plans of my employers. I tried to remain the self-effacing, unsuspecting instrument even when I saw everything clearly. That was the reason why I was able to serve the Gestapo for such a long time.

In the moment when I was “officially” told such an important secret I felt that the “beginning of the end” had arrived for me. I knew too much to be safe. I had two courses open to me: either I must make myself useful, or begin the inexorable fight for the favour of the “boss,” betray and stab in the back everyone whom I had reason to fear; to be on my guard day and night that they should not be able to intrigue against me.

If I could carry on this game, I could attain anything. But even then I could not live in safety, just as there was no safety for anyone in the Third Reich. Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Heydrich, even the Fuehrer himself were constantly walking on a very tight rope. The number of great men I saw smiling while there was death in their hearts! I thought of General von Epp and Kaufmann, the Hamburg Gau Leader, who I have seen trembling for their lives, weeping maudlin tears, half intoxicated...

I knew that I was unable to play this game, even if my nerves were strong. One must be born for it, and I wasn’t. In this case I had only one road, just as Hanfstaengl and the most skilful of the others had done. To continue the gamble with my whole soul and in the opportune moment—jump out of the line, vanish, hide, try to find a refuge somewhere abroad.

It only depended on whether I should succeed. Hanfstaengl had escaped in time although he knew everything about the Reichstag Fire. He knew that this secret could be fatal. But Edmund Heines and Karl Ernst died—for the same secret.

Von Alvensleben also died, although he had opened the first financial resources for Hitler. All those who had brought Hitler foreign money were killed. Rummler and Stein had risked their lives a thousand times in Russia to contact the General Staff, but when they had done their work, Heydrich considered them too dangerous. Both died, for “dead men tell no tales.”

But now I had no other choice. From the moment when I became a recipient of this secret, I did not cease to seek for the road of escape, because I knew that every achievement was another step towards my grave, while failure meant quick death.

I wanted to explain all this because it might shed light on a great many things I did; on the other hand it was this realisation which has enabled me to set down my memories—instead of rotting in a nameless grave. I now understood the gigantic gamble. Germany was preparing the armed revolt of the Spanish right wing. A Spanish politician or soldier had to be selected who was willing to defy—under German guidance—the Liberal Government and proclaim a dictatorship. This Spanish politician would grant any concession to Germany for the help he received. He would also form a military alliance with the Third Reich.

About this time discussions had been proceeding well with Italy in this matter. Germany had to be assured of the Duce’s consent; alone she would not be strong enough to defy English and French opposition. Mussolini was prepared to offer support, but he demanded a heavy share of the spoils. Not only Germany, but Italy as well, needed the raw materials of Spain, especially copper and quicksilver. Mussolini asked too much. In the first place he protested that no other country except Italy should get a foothold on the Spanish islands of the Mediterranean; he raised no objection to Germany taking anything from the Spaniards west of Gibraltar. Bargaining went on slowly and for a long time.


See also

Churchill and Spain: The Survival of the Franco Regime, 1940–1945

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