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Walther Schellenberg
Schellenberg as a SS-Oberführer
Born (1910-01-16)January 16, 1910
Died March 31, 1952(1952-03-31) (aged 42)
Place of birth Saarbrücken, Germany
Place of death Turin, Italy
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service 1933–1945
Rank Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei
Unit Sicherheitsdienst
Commands held Chief of Amt VI, Ausland-SD
Awards Iron Cross First Class
Iron Cross Second Class
War Merit Cross First Class with Swords
War Merit Cross Second Class with Swords

Walther Friedrich Schellenberg (16 January 1910 – 31 March 1952) was a German SS-Brigadeführer who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944.


Schellenberg was born in Saarbrücken, Germany, but moved with his family to Luxembourg when the French occupation of the Saar Basin after the First World War triggered an economic crisis in the Weimar Republic.

Schellenberg returned to Germany to attend university, first at the University of Marburg and then, in 1929, at the University of Bonn. He initially studied medicine, but soon switched to law. After graduating he joined the SS in May 1933. He met Reinhard Heydrich and went to work in the counter-intelligence department of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). From 1939 to 1942 he was Heinrich Himmler's personal aide and a deputy chief in the Reich Main Security Office under Heydrich who answered only to Himmler.[1] In addition Himmler bestowed upon Schellenberg a unique position beyond that of a simple aide, making him his special-plenipotentiary (Sonderbevollmächtigter). Since Himmler held the position of general plenipotentiary to the whole Reich's administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), this gave Schellenberg enormous influence within Nazi Germany. In summer 1939 Schellenberg became one of the directors of Heydrich's foundation, the Stiftung Nordhav.

SD operations[]

In November 1939 Schellenberg played a major part in the Venlo Incident, which led to the capture of two British agents, Captain Sigismund Payne-Best and Major Richard Stevens. Hitler awarded Schellenberg the Iron Cross for his actions.[2]

The Duke of Windsor in 1945

In 1940 he was charged with compiling the Informationsheft G.B., a blueprint for the occupation of Britain. A supplement to this work was the list of 2300 prominent Britons to be arrested immediately after the successful invasion of Britain.[3] He also arranged many other plots of subterfuge and intelligence gathering, including the bugging of a Berlin brothel.

In 1940 he was also sent to Portugal to intercept the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and try to persuade them to work for Germany. The mission was a failure; Schellenberg managed only to delay their baggage for a few hours.

In March 1942, Heinz Jost was fired from his position as RSHA Chief of Amt VI, SD-Ausland (SD foreign intelligence).[4] In his place, Schellenberg was appointed chief of SD-Ausland by Heydrich. According to his memoirs, Schellenberg had been a friend of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr (military intelligence). However in 1944, most of the sections of the Abwehr were incorporated into RSHA Amt VI SD-Ausland and therefore placed under Schellenberg's command.[5] He was infamous for his "office fortress" desk, which had two automatic guns built into it that could be fired by the touch of a button.[6]

By the time he led the hunt for the Soviet spy ring Red Orchestra, Schellenberg had become a general (Brigadeführer) in the Allgemeine-SS (General-SS). Schellenberg had been involved in planning operations in neutral Ireland including Operation Osprey, a plan involving No.1 SS Special Service Troop.[7]

Peace negotiations and capture[]

During early 1945, Schellenberg encouraged Himmler to overthrow Hitler in order to negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, using as an excuse Hitler's poor health; however, Himmler never took action toward doing it.[8] At the end of the war, Schellenberg was able to persuade Himmler to try negotiating with the Western Allies through Count Folke Bernadotte and personally went to Stockholm in April 1945 to arrange their meeting. To foster goodwill Schellenberg organised the transport of 1,700 Jews out of German controlled territory. Hitler found out and put a stop to further evacuations.[9]

Schellenberg was in Denmark attempting to arrange his own surrender when the British took him into custody in June 1945; the American, British, and Russian intelligence services had all been searching for him as a valuable intelligence asset. Captain Horace Hahn, a member of the OSS, was one of the few Americans allowed to interrogate General Schellenberg.[10]

Nuremberg trials[]

Schellenberg as a prisoner before the Nuremberg trials

During the postwar Nuremberg Trials, Schellenberg testified against other Nazis. In the 1949 Ministries Trial he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoirs, The Labyrinth. He was released in 1951 on grounds of ill-health (a worsening liver condition) and moved to Switzerland before settling in Verbania Pallanza, Italy. The following year he died of cancer in Turin.

During the German occupation of Paris, Schellenberg was believed to have been a lover of Coco Chanel,[11] who paid for the cost of his funeral when he died penniless.[citation needed]

Summary of military career[]

Dates of rank[]

Notable decorations[]

See also[]


  1. Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine — SS, p. 83.
  2. The Times, The Venlo Kidnapping, 19 February 1948
  3. Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 965.
  4. Doerries, Reinhard R. (2003). Hitler's Last Chief of Foreign Intelligence: Allied interrogations of Walter Schellenberg, Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass Publishers, pp. 21, 80. ISBN 0-7146-5400-0
  5. Lumsden, Robin (2002). A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine — SS, pp. 83, 84.
  6. Infield, Glenn B. (1981). Skorzeny, Hitler's Commando. New York: St. Martin's. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-312-72777-2. 
  7. Later becoming 500th SS Parachute Battalion a/k/a/ SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500, an amalgamation of No. 1 Troop and various SS penal battalions. Notably participating in Operation Rösselsprung, the raid against Tito's HQ in 1944.
  8. Padfield, Peter (1990). Himmler: Reichsfuhrer-SS. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0805014764
  9. Rumbelow, Helen. "SS Chief tried to sell Jews", The Times 17 September 1999
  10. Doerries, Reinhard R. (2003). Hitler's Last Chief of Foreign Intelligence: Allied interrogations of Walter Schellenberg, p. 360.
  11. Zeitz, Joshua M. (8 May 2005). "The Nazis and Coco". The New York Times. 


  • Schellenberg, Walter (1956). The Schellenberg Memoirs, translated by Louis Hagen. André Deutsch.
  • Schellenberg, Walter (2000) [1956]. The Labyrinth: Memoirs Of Walter Schellenberg, Hitler's Chief Of Counterintelligence, translated by Louis Hagen. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306809279

External links[]

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