Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

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Steve
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Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by Steve » 27 Mar 2022 17:37

The following is from the book Memoirs of a Master Spy - The Great Game by Leopold Trepper 1977.

Trepper was a Polish Jew who started organising a Soviet Intelligence network across much of Western Europe prior to WW2. In the summer of 1942 the Germans started breaking up the organisation and Trepper was captured in November.

The following is taken from page 123. “A few days before the invasion of Poland Schulze-Boysen transmitted the Wehrmacht’s plans for the offensive to a Polish liaison in Berlin”.

In 1939 Schulze-Boysen was a Luftwaffe officer in the German Ministry of Aviation. He had married Libertas Haas – Heye in 1936. A friend of the Haas – Heyes family was Herman Goering who apparently gave Libertas away at her wedding.

What did Polish intelligence know about the German invasion plans? Did the Polish military base their planning on what their intelligence service was telling them or on what they thought would happen?

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by wm » 01 Apr 2022 07:24

It says something about Nazi Germany if an overt leftist, libertine, and open marriage aficionado Schulze-Boysen was able to become a high-rank Luftwaffe officer (and a friend of Goering) there.
Such people generally regarded Poland to be a fascist state so it's somewhat unlikely he transmitted the plans but who knows.
Anyway "a few days" couldn't change anything, it would be too late for anything.

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by gebhk » 01 Apr 2022 11:39

Hi Steve

With regard to Schulve Boysen, I am with WM. The transmiussion a few days before would have made zero difference because, even if we ignore the time necessary to verify such intelligence (ie to ensure as far as possible that it was genuine and not disinformation) and the time necessary to consider it properly, there would simply have not been enough time for anything other than the smalleest corrections to the existing defensive plan. Also, given the massive disproportion in resources, there was little that could be done even if new threats became apparent with a goodly lead time. Classically, one has to but observe what was possible to do when the threat of attacks through Chechia and Slovakia became a threat as early as March 1939.

On the wider question, it would seem that, based on the whole range of intelligence gathering and on logic, the Polish Military had a fairly accurate picture of the broad German intentions. What was an unknown and a surprise to pretty much everyone, was the speed with which these could be (and were) carried out. Also, with a vast superiority in communication, mobility and numbers, the Germans could redirect or fine-tune their effort if required far more quickly than the Poles could react.

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by Steve » 02 Apr 2022 01:47

I think Schulze-Boysen was a lieutenant and it was his wife’s family that were friends with Goering who took an interest in him and had him sent to the Herman Goring Research Institute. Schulze-Boysen was hanged and his wife was guillotined for their espionage activities.

Even if the German plans arrived a few days after September 1st they should have at least told the Polish command what the Germans were aiming for. However, the Polish collapse was so quick and catastrophic that even if the Germans had given the Poles their plans it probably would have made no difference.

The Poles may have had another source on German invasion plans, the British. In February 1936 a German Abwehr officer Paul Thummel approached the Czech intelligence service. He would provide them with among other things information about plans for intervention in the Sudetenland and action against Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939. After the Czech intelligence service moved to London in 1939 he continued to provide the Czechs and now the British S.I.S. with information. According to the history of British intelligence “from the spring of 1939, for the attack on Poland” unfortunately the history says no more. The British War Office was told on 11 August that Germany intended attacking “some time after the middle of August”.

According to this website -
https://www.history.co.uk/articles/the- ... nigma-code
“the Polish knew 95% of the Germans’ order of battle before the invasion of Poland on the 1st of September 1939.” If the Poles knew the German order of battle were their forces positioned where you would expect someone who knew the enemies’ order of battle to position them? I never had that impression.

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by gebhk » 02 Apr 2022 13:39

Hi Steve
Even if the German plans arrived a few days after September 1st they should have at least told the Polish command what the Germans were aiming for.
Perhaps a subtlety, but no, it would not have 'told them' because this was something that they already knew from the whole range of intelligence gathering that they had done, not least through decrypting Enigma messages. It would, of course, undoubtedly have been welcome reassurance. On the other hand if, unlike in reality, the actual German plans had been significantly different to what the Poles had predicted, there was little that could be done about it at that stage. However, because the Poles failed to penetrate adequately the highest echelons of Nazi government, there were a number of crucial 'known unknowns'.

Firstly, up until the last days of August, it was not known whether Hitler planned to destroy Poland entirely or merely annex Danzig, the corridor, perhaps other disputed territoties and satisfy himself with that. This had obvious impact on the disposition of Polish forces, for example those of Army Pomorze. However, clarification of this issue would only have been useful if it occurred substantially before the outbreak of hostilities. By the end of August, let alone after the outbreak of war, the Poles knew the answer and, QED, it was much too late to do anything about it.

Linked to the first, secondly, the exact date of the invasion was not known. This is, arguably, of greater import because had the Poles known this, even a few days before the outbreak of hostilities, they would not have bowed to Franco-British pressure to delay general mobilisation until it was too late for a number of crucial units (only circa 75% of the Polish armed forces were mobilised by 1.9.39). This was undoubtedly one of the contributing factors to the debacle of the Prusy Army, to quote prehaps the most notable example
The Poles may have had another source on German invasion plans, the British.
I've not come across any evidence of such. Gill Bennet, in her contribution to Intelligence co-operation tween Poland and Great Britain in WW2. Report of ther Anglo-Polish Historical Committee. Vol 1; p 142, notes that Thummel provided information on the condition and disposition of the German forces, on the plans for mobilisation potential and on Luftwaffe equipment - and warned of Hitler's intentions with regard to Czechoslovakia and Poland. There is nothing to suggest that even if Thummel had passed on any specifics of the sort I outlined above (and I doubt that he did), that these were passed on to the Poles. I doubt very much that the British would have been leaning on the Poles to delay mobilisation on 30 September if they knew that Hitler was going to attack on 1 September regardless of what the Poles did, or that the Poles would have agreed to do so. That being said, there was clearly a lively two-way exchange between British and Polish Intelligence of information about German mobilisation and dispositions albeit it would seem that more of it was going from Poland to the UK than vice versa.
If the Poles knew the German order of battle were their forces positioned where you would expect someone who knew the enemies’ order of battle to position them? I never had that impression.
I am not sure I share your pessimism. I am aware of many theoretical attempts (some better some worse, some more intelligent than others and some more professional and others not so much - the internet has been a hotbed of this sort of activity !) to re-position the Polish Armed Forces prior to 1.9.39. When tested in campaign models, the outcome was, at best, the same and more often than not worse than the historical one.

That being said, to assess the dispopsitions that were made you have to take into consideration two essential facts:
Firstly - the speed of the German attack. This was cleraly miscaculated and, therefore, namy Polish units were not in place where it was planned they sould be by the time the Germans got there - either because they could not be mobilised in time or because the Germans simply outmanoevred them.

Secondly; to harp on the same theme again, because of the delays to mobilisation at the behest of Britain and France, many essentail units simply did not yet exist.

Ultimately, it is probably worth saying that regardless of how one judges the dispositions made by the Polish Main Staff, any mistakes were not due to a lack of knowledge of the German O de B and dispositions or, indeed, of the German plan of attack.

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by Steve » 03 Apr 2022 18:36

Hello gebhk,

“they already knew from the whole range of intelligence gathering that they had done, not least through decrypting Enigma messages.” The official history of British of intelligence tells us that the Poles told the British in July 1939 when Enigma was discussed “by mid December 1938 they had ceased to be able to read the traffic”.

“We have seen that in September 1938 the Germans made a change of procedure that was not too difficult for the Poles to recover from. But in December 1938 they introduced two new rotors from which the three actually placed in the machine were chosen. This threw the Poles off badly since, for example, they now had to allow for 60 rotor orders instead of 6. They started to deal with the workload forced on them, since after all the change was one of quantity not quality, but events overtook their efforts.” https://www.ams.org/publicoutreach/feat ... fc-2013-12

Is there any information out there on what intelligence sources in Germany the Poles were receiving information from in 1939? Were they just using their military attaché and agents along the border or whatever to come up with something?

The German attack was originally scheduled for August 26. At a meeting on August 19 Halifax was told the German attack would be on August 25. At a cabinet meeting on August 26 Halifax said ”Fairly precise information from sources alleged to be reliable had reached us to the effect that Germany intended to march into Poland that night or next morning.” Clearly they had a highly placed intelligence source but who was it? The British were almost certain in August the Germans would attack, for example on August 22 “most stringent instructions” were issued for which German targets could be bombed.

It would seem the new attack date of the 1st was not known but the British were assuming that something was likely to happen very soon while hoping it would not. Knowing an attack was almost certain why were the Poles asked to delay mobilisation? The British were prepared to almost bend over backwards to avoid war. They hoped the Poles would make concessions on Danzig and the corridor. Small countries next to big countries should bow to the wind.

“any mistakes were not due to a lack of knowledge of the German O de B and dispositions or, indeed, of the German plan of attack.” The Poles knew the German plan of attack?

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by gebhk » 04 Apr 2022 13:50

Hi Steve

Before going further, we should probably clarify what we mean by diferent types of military intelligence. For the purposes of this discussion I would suggest that the 4 most relevant categories are:
(i) OdB - that is the size, structure and organisation of the enemy armed forces
(ii) Dispositions: that is where these forces are located in space and time
(iii) Plan of attack - the where and how the enemy will strike
(iv) Overall command decision making - that is things like what the overall war aims of the leadership are and timing and scope of attack.
Of these the Poles had a sound picture of i-III. Unfortunately not of iv. You are, of course, quite correct about the limitations of Enigma information in relation to ii - iv above due to the German improvements to the Enigma system at the end of 1938. However, clearly it provided a great deal of information up till then about the German OdB (ie i), which was still valid in 1939.
Is there any information out there on what intelligence sources in Germany the Poles were receiving information from in 1939? Were they just using their military attaché and agents along the border or whatever to come up with something?
Alas, not a subject I have ever delved into albeit I suspect specific information on these matters is going to be scarce at best due to the nature of the operations. AFAIK all of the above plus monitoring of radio traffic, aerial observation and using agents throughout the German armed forces up to but not including the highest levels.
The German attack was originally scheduled for August 26. At a meeting on August 19 Halifax was told the German attack would be on August 25. At a cabinet meeting on August 26 Halifax said ”Fairly precise information from sources alleged to be reliable had reached us to the effect that Germany intended to march into Poland that night or next morning.” Clearly they had a highly placed intelligence source but who was it?
If the Briotish had such information, it seems unlikely that they passed it to the Poles and, as I mentioned previoulsy, it is at this level of intelligence gathering, that the Polish intelligence apapratus failed to make sufficient headway.
It would seem the new attack date of the 1st was not known but the British were assuming that something was likely to happen very soon while hoping it would not.
That seems to be parallel to the thinking in Poland at the same time, albeit the Poles seem to have had a clearer notion that war was inevitable no matter what, while the British seemed to think that it could be deferred by making concessions or even possibly avoided.
They hoped the Poles would make concessions on Danzig and the corridor. Small countries next to big countries should bow to the wind
.
The Polish optic was that Danzig and the Corridor were meaningless, that Hitler's plans were the elimination of Poland as a sovereign state and that making minor concessions would only lead to greater demands with the fate of Czechoslovakia a good signpost to what would come next. At the same time, the Polish leadership judged that the spines of the British and French had stiffened sufficiently to declare war on Germany if she invaded and who knew to what extent they would soften again in a few months time. It is difficult to say these assumptions were entirely wrong or the conclusions invalid.
The Poles knew the German plan of attack?
As far as I know (and I would be delighted to be proved wrong) the text of 'Plan Z' has not survived so we have to rely on the recollections of participants, of which the contributions of Waclaw Stachiewicz are particularly valuable. Clearly the planning of a defensive campaign had to be based on a forecast of the enemy's plan of attack ie attack axes, forces used etc. This forecast appears to have been quite accurate, although to what extent it is based on a penetration of German planning by military intelligence and to what extent on happily sound deductions and inferences from logical assumption and known German dispositions, I don't know.

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Re: Was Polish Intelligence Given The German Invasion Plan?

Post by Steve » 19 May 2022 09:39

The link below should take you to an article which looks at pre war Polish intelligence activities in Germany and the USSR. Though the Poles had a large network in Germany only two agents are mentioned as being able to provide high level intelligence. One of these was Pauline Tyszewska who was the “life partner” of the deputy head of the Abwehr in Danzig. The other was Wiktor Katlewski who worked at the Naval Weapons Department (Marinewaffenamt) of the German High Command of the Navy in Berlin.

In September 1939 occurred what if taken at face value must surely be reckoned as one of the worst Polish intelligence blunders of the war. Their intelligence archive in Warsaw fell into German hands. This of course resulted in Pauline Tyszewska and Wiktor Katlewski being killed. You would also expect this to have led to the capture and probable execution of all Polish agents in Germany. It must also be likely that the Germans gave the NKVD a list of all Polish agents in the workers’ paradise.

Does anyone perchance have any information on how the Germans were able to achieve their intelligence coup in Warsaw?

I have had problems with the link as it does not like the AHF but it did work for me after putting it into Firefox or Chrome.

file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/10966-Article%20Text-25078-1-10-20200424.pdf

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