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Walter Schellenberg was a SS German Nazi

Walter Schellenberg 16 January 1910 - 31 March 1952 was a SS German Nazi
Walter Schellenberg 16 January 1910 - 31 March 1952 was a SS German Nazi

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


Schellenberg was born in Saarbrücken, Germany, but moved with his family to Luxembourg when the French occupation of the Saarland 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 and worked in counter-intelligence. He met Reinhard Heydrich and from 1939 to 1942 was Heinrich Himmler's personal aide and a deputy leader of the Reich Central Security Office. 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 Reichs administration (Generalbevollmächtigter für die Verwaltung), this effectively gave Schellenberg lots of influence within Nazi Germany.

In November 1939 Schellenberg played a major part in the Venlo Incident, which led to the capture of two British agents, Major Best and Captain Stefens. In 1940 he was charged to compile a list of 2300 prominent Britons to be arrested after a successful invasion of Britain. 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.

By the time he led the hunt for the Soviet spy ring Red Orchestra, Schellenberg had become a Major-General (Brigadeführer) in the Waffen-SS. Schellenberg had been involved in planning operations in neutral Ireland including Operation Osprey, a plan involving No.1 SS Special Service Troop. According to his memoirs, he was a friend of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr whom he replaced in 1944.

At the end of the war Schellenberg persuaded Himmler to try negotiating with the Western Allies through Count Folke Bernadotte and personally went to Stockholm in April 1945 to arrange their meeting. He was in Denmark attempting to arrange his own surrender when Allied troops arrested him in June 1945.

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.

Fictional depictions

In 1976, Schellenberg was portrayed by Helmut Berger in the heavily fictionalized film version of the Salon Kitty incident, Salon Kitty, directed by Tinto Brass. He was also portrayed by Oleg Tabakov in the Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring, and featured in the Jack Higgins novel The Eagle Has Flown. Jack Higgins also portrayed him in his novel The Judas Gate also known as To Catch A King and The Eagle has Flown. To Catch A King was filmed in 1984, directed by Clive Donner and with Horst Janson as Schellenberg. Additionally, Schellenberg is portrayed in the novel The Sands of Sakkara by Glenn Meade and is also depicted in Timothy Findley's 1981 novel, Famous Last Words. He also is featured in Daniel Silva's 1996 spy thriller, The Unlikely Spy. He was also featured as a main character in the Gordon Stevens book, And all the Kings Men. He was also fictionally depicted in German cartoons.


  • Louis Hagen and Andre Deutsch, The Schellenberg Memoirs (André Deutsch, 1956)
  • Walter Schellenberg, translated Louis Hagen, The Labyrinth (Da Capo, 2000)

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