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Next: What happened later? When Up: The Geheimschreiber Secret Arne Previous: Interception and preparation

On the eve of Operation Barbarossa:
How was the intelligence used?

What has just been described, it must be emphasised, was a spectacular performance even on an international scale. As far as known the Siemens Geheimschreiber was not broken in any other country.[9] It was also an extraordinary yield based on a relatively limited investment. Beurling's reluctance to explain how he did it could be due to the fact that he solved the problem so easily and quickly that he found it too easy to arrive at the solution. But in reality genius shows itself in simplicity and its accompanying excellence.

In 1940 the crypto department had been developed with mostly rather new staff. Its technical and organizational achievements were therefore considerable, since during autumn that year it began to distribute German messages in ever-increasing numbers. German unit compositions and their position, together with military and political deliberations and directives were in this way known to the Swedish authorities, sometimes almost at the same time as the real addressee.

The German traffic was not particularly alarming during the autumn of 1940. Hitler was hardly interested in Sweden politically. The planning for the attack on the Soviet Union was still in its infancy. The directives for Operation Barbarossa were first drawn up in December 1940. This gave the crypto department a respite that was used to build up and render more effective the breaking, analysis and delivery routines. The Defence Staff could therefore prepare methods for handling the decrypted material at a time when it was not under any particular pressure.

Texts ``of strategic importance or of an obviously secret nature'' were delivered directly to Adlercreutz, as chief of the intelligence department, who normally submitted them to his superiors Commander-in-Chief General Olof Thörnell and the chief of the Defence Staff Major-General Axel Rappe. Then the texts went to the intelligence department's own sections. Routine messages went there directly. Afterwards the messages were burned, apart from those judged to have long-term value or that were of great strategic importance. Otherwise, distribution within the Defence Staff was very restricted. A distribution list was never established. The material was delivered to the recipient after an assessment in each particular case. (Comment: Destruction of the decrypted original texts has probably created problems for modern historical research.)

Distribution outside the Defence Staff, to the Foreign Office and the Security Service, took place in the beginning through Adlercreutz's personal service. The distribution to UD (Utrikesdepartementet = Foreign Office) was very restricted as Adlercreutz doubted the Foreign Office's security consciousness. However, that the co-operation between the Foreign Office and the crypto department was as good as it became, was due to the fact that foreign minister Richard Sandler (1932--1939, later governor of Gävle) was a very keen amateur cryptologist although, as a cryptanalyst he had no real success. His great services consisted of arranging for UD to inform the crypto department when important events were under way and when encrypted messages might be sent to Germany. This could assist the cryptanalysts, by allowing them to check that the decrypts were correct.[10]

Different considerations contrasted with each other here. The necessity to deliver information to suitable Swedish authorities conflicted with the requirements for secrecy in order to minimize the risk of betrayal of this unique intelligence source.

As the decryption work was done by a department in the Defence Staff, Adlercreutz wanted the intelligence department to be the first to receive all information and even to have a right to direct the work in the crypto department. However the crypto department successfully resisted these attempts to boost the intelligence department's power.

In the beginning, few objections were raised against Adlercreutz's control over distribution. But when the German preparations for Operation Barbarossa eventually came to their final stage, the Foreign Office started to feel that they did not get all the intelligence that they needed. The chief of the crypto department then decided to change the distribution routines after consultation with the Foreign Office, who also suspected that they did not get all the information in time.

During the winter of 1941 the incoming information became more and more alarming for Sweden, much more so than during the autumn and winter of 1940. However, it was now possible to get a continuously clear view from the decrypts of the groups, composition and combat readiness of the German forces in Norway and therefore also of changes in the situation. A lengthy force enumeration, intercepted on 21 April 1941, indicated a general movement of troops towards the north. Nevertheless, as on previous occasions no concentrations or deployment could be shown to be directed against Sweden. Nor was there any indication in the numerous reports from military border patrols, customs officers, police commissioners and officials interrogating Norwegian refugees that a German offensive against Sweden was imminent. The decrypted diplomatic traffic gave no special reason for alarm. The repeated German threatening warnings to Swedish contacts were reflected neither in the incoming intelligence nor in their own signals. During a period when German-Soviet tensions increased rapidly, it was nevertheless impossible to ignore the warnings. The government, principally the prime minister and the foreign minister, as well as the military command, were not prepared to cause trouble and accordingly create German irritation. It was not therefore apparent that they reckoned with a German-Soviet war.

Many analysts consider that war preparations serve only as instruments of pressure during negotiations. However, that ignore the dynamics of future military developments which are created by a deployment as large as that which occurred here. Economic factors and military logistics make it almost impossible to keep large, inactive troop concentrations in place as a trump card during long negotiations, just as it is damaging for the units' fighting spirit. It is too expensive not to use the troops, therefore they must either be used in combat or be demobilized and returned to civilian life. Only victory justifies the price -- even if it is high. For example, consider the collapse of the economic, political and ecological systems now affecting the states of the former Soviet Union as a consequence, during a long period, of a highly forced ``war economy'' that did not result in any gains.

On 4 June a message was received indicating that strong German forces would in the near future be transferred east of Rovaniemi in northern Finland. Units would come from Germany as well as from Norway. The deployment was to be ready for 15 June. However, no demands on Sweden for the transit of troops could be gathered from the messages. Two divisions would be transferred by sea to Stettin, then in turn to Oslo and on to Rovaniemi.

The information in the decrypted messages clearly indicated a German attack on the Soviet Union.

On 11 June three further messages came which showed that this assumption was probably correct, as well as other intelligence revealing that Finland could not avoid becoming involved in the war. On 16 June came a teleprinter message that AOK (Armeeoberkommando) Norwegen had taken military command of Finnish Lappland and that the troop transports were going as planned. The same day, 16 June, the teleprinter connection Berlin - Helsingfors via Stockholm was established following an earlier request. In spite of different speculations about a negotiated agreement, the incoming messages in the week before 27 June increasingly pointed towards an imminent outbreak of war.

Despite the intelligence, the Defence Staff did not cancel leave for the mid-summer weekend. An assessment that there would be a negotiated settlement, which would not require a high military preparedness, clearly had some validity. However, it is also possible that when the assessment was made that the war would not affect Sweden, it was more important to conceal the possession of this extraordinary source, which consisted of access to the Geheimschreiber traffic. Perhaps, therefore, they took it easy and allowed themselves to be ``taken by surprise''.

next up previous
Next: What happened later? When Up: The Geheimschreiber Secret Arne Previous: Interception and preparation

Frode Weierud
Fri Jul 11 11:23:37 METDST 1997