Why is the Abwehr misunderstood? Explaining the historical controversy over German military intelligence, 1935-1945
Literature on German resistance and its central actor, the Abwehr (German military intelligence), during the Nazi regime is in abundance available, but no universally accepted history of the Abwehr and its leadership exist. Vehement controversies are found in historical literature regarding the Abwehr’s and its leadership’s aims, motives, roles and performance, its support for the Allied war efforts and its influence on the war’s outcome. By reading through literature, one finds that the Abwehr is misunderstood due to narrow views, social and political circumstance, political gains, intellectual snobbery and preconceived opinions about intelligence and classes. Several factors contribute to the mishandling of facts by historians and the misinterpretation of the Abwehr. Historians’ inadequate engagement with the complex and contradictory double-role of the Abwehr as intelligence organization and simultaneously as centre of resistance and the refusal among British historians to acknowledge intelligence cooperation between enemies and the Abwehr’s support of the Allied war efforts, indicating British intelligence supremacy, lead to the grave contradictions in literature.
A critical evaluation of different strands in the history of WWII is presented, enabling the development of a more historically grounded and broadly contextualized perspective through profound engagement with the literature. By considering availability and choice of resources, the influence of social, cultural, political, intellectual and personal factors on historian’s interpretation, the thesis contributes to the understanding of the dynamics of the historiography of the Abwehr and exposes the reasons for misinterpretations, thereby contributing to history’s intellectual history, epistemology, and craft.