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FA (Nazi Party)

The most unusual fact about the FA (Forschungsamt, nicknamed Göring's Research Bureau) was that the existence of this agency was unknown to Allied intelligence until a tipoff was given to TICOM during its initial interrogation of Per ZS personnel at Burgscheidungen. On 9 May 1945 TICOM team 1 discovered the abandoned quarters of the FA on the airfield at Kaufbeuren, southwest of Munich, and captured a file of administrative papers revealing the basic details of the organization.

The FA has been described as by David Kahn as ‘…the richest, most secret, the most Nazi, and the most influential of the …agencies….’ (p.180).  Created in 1933 when Gottfried Schapper, a dissatisfied employee of the Defense Ministry cipher bureau, along with two other Nazi sympathizers, approached Reichsmarschal Herman Göring with the idea of creating a new centralized civilian signals intelligence agency free of the influences of the traditional government ministries. Göring saw this as an opportunity to centralize his own power and approved the creation of a ‘Research Bureau’ under the cover of the German Air ministry, but in fact, it was independent of the ministry.

Reporting directly to Göring it functioned as the Nazi Party’s SIGINT agency, its work focused on diplomatic and internal security interception. Before the war the FA was reportedly involved in various Nazi political operations, including the 1934 ‘blood purge’ and the Anschluss (March 1938).  As early as 1933, Hitler assigned all telephone monitoring within the Reich to the FA. An example of their product was a book produced in September 1941 that listed the names of all foreign diplomats in Berlin, with whom they were conversing with, and a summary of all their conversations. In addition, they established a deciphering department to work on diplomatic and commercial communications along with a broadcasting monitoring service.
        The FA organization consisted of a main office in Berlin and various liaison offices, regional offices and intercept stations. The Berlin office had six main sections dealing with Administration, Personnel, Intercept, Codes and Ciphers, Evaluation, and Technical matters. Each of the main sections contained a number of specialized subsections; for instance, the Technical section had subsections dealing with development of IBM type machinery and another to evaluate captured enemy machinery. The Code and Cipher section did cryptanalysts, and among its successes was the interception and reading of Chamberlain’s messages to London during the Munich negotiations, the solving of a Russian teletype machine, and some commercial systems, including the Swiss Interbank code. The Evaluation section produced the finished intelligence product of the FA, the ‘brown reports’, which were sent to the highest officials such as Keitel, Doenitz, Ribbentrop, and Göring himself. The main office intercept section had two units, one to supervise and administer the FA’s intercept efforts, the other a message center to sort and distribute the incoming traffic, employing about 200 people, and operated a large number of small intercept stations throughout Germany. They were of various types, including wireless intercept, teletype and telegraph, telephone intercept, radio broadcasting monitoring, and mail censorship. Much effort pre-war was put into telephone interception; they maintained approximately 1000 telephone taps, half of them in Berlin. However, once the war started and international telephone service became interrupted, the FA had to resort to a greater emphasis on wireless interception.

    The FA attacked a number of foreign diplomatic systems, often with the cooperation of the other German SIGINT agencies. TICOM concluded that the FA possessed copies of a surprising number of foreign codebooks, although there was no information in the documentation as to how the FA acquired them.   FA informants stated that some low-grade US systems were read, including a plain five-figure system, the American State Department system, and a Joint American-British system concerned mainly with ship movements. Some British Diplomatic systems were read when captured books were available early in the war, and they managed to break the Bank of England code in 1941, in addition to the previously mentioned Interbank code. Most of its work against commercial codes concerned the traffic of German firms to foreign countries prior to the war. Against the Russian target, in addition to a machine teletype code, the FA greatest success was against internal Russian supply and logistic codes. The diplomatic systems of many other minor powers were attacked, including Bulgarian, French, and Italian, Chinese, Finnish, Danish, Japanese and various Latin American systems.

Overall, cryptanalysts supplied less than 20% of the information delivered by the FA, and there was a shift from telephone monitoring to commercial and press traffic as the war progressed. It's primary product was known as "Brown Sheets", daily intelligence reports circulated via Göring to the Nazi leadership. 

The FA's relationship with other SIGINT agencies was sometimes strained, with turf protection and mistrust often influencing the attitudes of higher leadership, perhaps as a result of the FA's role in telephoning monitoring and internal security for the party in the pre-war era. However, the were many cases on the operational level where the FA passed traffic to the other agencies and requested assistance in breaking foreign diplomatic codes. In one particular case, the FA first detected the "Russian Fish" encrypted teletype signals, and upon encountering difficulties, turned the project over to the Army.

The FA, like its fellow agencies, was forced to evacuate Berlin due to the heavy bombing. By the end of January 1945 most departments of the FA relocated to Breslau, Luebben (site of an FA intercept station) and Jueterbog. By March, a further movement sent the remnants to Kaufbeuren with a small detachment ending up at Rosenbeim. From an original workforce of 2000, only some 450 persons continued on to Kaufbeureg and a mere 100 odd were left at Rosenheim. Five departmental chiefs left in Berlin ended up in Flensdburg working for the Kreigsmarine until they were captured at the end of May. In Kaufbeuren the FA occupied a block of six buildings at the barracks on the local airfield where they were discovered by TICOM Team 1. However, the FA had been disbanded and all documents burned shortly before the arrival of the American Army. A small handful of documents discovered after an extensive search provided confirmation of the existence of the FA and provided a basic outline of its organization.
This basic information was augmented after the capture of the FA's director Gottfried Schapper and one of his department heads, Erwin Rentschler. These and other interrogations, along with a later questioning of Herman Goering himself, and ancillary information derived from the examination of the other German SIGINT agencies, provided the bulk of the intelligence derived by TIOCM on the FA.




European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II .... Volume VII: Göring's "Research " Bureau
TICOM Team 1 report on the RLM/Forschungsamt


David Kahn, Hitler's Spies. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1978.

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