Saturday, April 27, 2013

Decoding Prime Minister Chamberlain’s messages

In the 1930’s Hitler’s foreign policy was focused on dismantling the Treaty of Versailles that was keeping Germany militarily weak.

First compulsory military service was reintroduced in 1935, then the Rhineland was remilitarized in 1936 and finally the Sudeten territories of Czechoslovakia were annexed by the Reich in 1938.
In the diplomatic field the Germans were able to outmaneuver their British and French adversaries mainly thanks to two factors.

One was a disinformation campaign that convinced Western leaders of the Luftwaffe’s destructive power. 
The other was their success in acquiring secret intelligence. The Forschungsamt, Goering’s personal intelligence agency, was able to decode French diplomatic communications (probably physically compromised) and eavesdrop on telephone conversations of politicians and diplomats (especially Czech president Benes and his ambassador in London Masaryk!). Thus Hitler was always one step ahead of his rivals.

In addition to these successes ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ volumes 1 and 7 reveal another very interesting case. Apparently during the negotiations regarding the fate of the Sudetenland German codebreakers were able to solve Prime Minister Chamberlain’s messages to London. EASI vol1, p21 says that ‘Hitler once delayed a conference with Chamberlain for several hours in order to get such decodes’.
The source for this information is listed as IF-132 Das Forschungsamt des Luftfahrtminsteriums  - Hq USFET Weekly Intelligence summary # 12, 4 Oct. 1945’ .

Unfortunately page 5 of that document repeats the same story without giving more details.

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