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Pers ZS (Foreign Office)

The Foreign Office was the oldest, but smallest of the German services, employing between 180-200 personnel in 1945. Pers ZS traces its roots back to the Political Intelligence Bureau of the Foreign Office of the immediate post WWI period. A handful of its 1919 employees were still on the rolls of the agency in 1945; thus Pers ZS, although small in number, was highly experienced. Pers ZS was the cryptanalysts branch of the Pers Z section, which also included cryptographic, communications, and administration sections. Their principal effort was the cryptanalysts of foreign diplomatic codes and ciphers, attacking the diplomatic systems of approximately 50 countries and despite its small size was able to read substantial segments of the medium grade systems of a number of major powers including England, the United States, France, Italy, China and Japan. According to TICOM, Pers ZS ‘evidenced an extraordinary degree of competence’.


The cryptanalytic effort divided between a mathematical subsection and a linguistic-cryptanalytic subsection, further divided into approximately 9 groups organized along geographical and linguistic lines. Its greatest success was, ironically on Germany’s ally, Italy. Pers ZS was able to read all major Italian diplomatic codes from 1935 until late in 1942. They were also able to read the Japanese ‘Red’ machine until February 1939, when the traffic became unreadable due to the switch to the ‘Purple’ machine.


The leading personalities of Pers ZS as of 1945 were:

·         Rudolf Schautfler, with over 20 years of service, was the nominal head of Pers ZS. He joined the branch immediately after the First World War and was promoted to Senior Specialist in 1937.  Originally a mathematician his main interest was in theoretical research on cryptologic methodology, but he also had a knowledge of Japanese and Chinese. He often represented the Foreign Office in Army-Air-Naval Security Coordinating conferences.

·         Dr. Adolf Paschke, head of the Linguistic-subsection, was junior to Schautfler, but gained in influence throughout the war and by the end was the de facto co-leader of Pers ZS.He had worked for the Foreign Office since 1919, was a party member and was responsible for book building (discovering the meaning of codes through cryptanalysis), headed the subsection organized by countries and languages, and had a knowledge of Russian and Italian. TICOM investigators described him as “A man of undoubted competence, possessing a strong personality and fierce energy.”

·         Dr. Herrman Scherschmidt, another old timer who joined in 1919, was a specialist in Slavic and near eastern languages, he headed both the Turkish and the Slavonic groups during the war.

·         Dr. Ursula Hagen, was one of the few women in a professional position in Pers ZS.  She was head of the group that specialized in England, Ireland Spain, Portugal and Latin American countries. Although supervising a group of 12 people, she was never promoted to a rank comparable to her responsibilities.

·         Dr. Werner Kunze, was the senior mathematical cryptanalysis. A military cryptanalyst in WWI, he joined the Foreign office in 1919 and had over 25 years of experience in Pers ZS. In addition to leading the Mathematical Cryptanalytic subsection, he was also responsible for the bureau’s IBM machinery. His subsection employed 20 people in 1939.


Pers ZS also had one small intercept station, Landhaus in Dahlem, under its control, but OKW/Chi and the FA provided the bulk of its intercept traffic. There was no effort given on intercept control or traffic analysis.


Perhaps Pers ZS’s greatest failure was in the intelligence analysis of its own product. TICOM concluded, ‘The organization seemed overly preoccupied with cryptanalysts as a science, and apparently did not think in terms of cryptanalysts as a prime source of intelligence.’ The impression given is that Pers ZS leaders were professorial types more interested in the problems of decryption than the practical value of the intelligence. There was no central clearinghouse in the organization, and there was divided responsibility with as many as five people involved in the passing of decrypts to the Foreign Office. There was also a lack of feedback and recognition from the Foreign Office, which made it difficult for the cryptanalysts to focus their work.


At the end of 1943, Pers ZS, like the other German intelligence agencies, evacuate Berlin due to the bombings. They were split up into three groups. The main group, consisting of most of the Linguistic-Cryptanalytic Subsection remained in Berlin. Another part of this subsection, covering some of the more minor language targets, was sent to Hirschberg in south Germany. Dr. Kunze’s Mathematical-Cryptanalytic Subsection was moved to Hermsaorf in Silesia. In the spring of 1945, as the Russians advanced, all three of the Pers ZS groups once more were evacuated and most ended up in the Burgscheidungen area with a few splinters in Zschepplin. No new intercept traffic was received after March 1945 and only old material was worked on after that.


            Allied intelligence had little information on the Pers ZS organization and was not even certain of its existence until TICOM Team 3 captured it in late April 1945. The TICOM reporters were apologetic about this lack of background information and felt it limited the utility of the intelligence derived from Pers ZS. Many records were destroyed prior to capture and in addition ‘…the TICOM principle of requiring prisoners to do extensive ‘homework’, that is, write papers, as detailed as possible and in their own words, was not fully developed.’


 European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II....Volume 6--The Foreign Office Cryptanalytic Section


TICOM I-208  "Interrogation Report on Kurt Selchow, former head of' PERS ZS”




David Alvaez. ‘Diplomatic Solutions: German Foreign Office Cryptanalysis, 1919-1945’: International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 9(2) 169-185


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