THE SERVICE: The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen by General Reinhard Gehlen

THE SERVICE: The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen

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KIRKUS REVIEW

General Gehlen's memoir of his quarter of a century as master German intelligencer, published serially last year in Die Welt, has already been stoutly denounced by such disinterested historians as E. H. Cookridge (Gehlen, p. 35) and Heinz Hohne (The General Was a Spy, p. 174), not only for its reticence on the full scope of the General's activities during both the Nazi and postwar years but, more importantly, its startling albeit undocumented disclosures -- most notably the recent headliner about Martin Bormann, Hitler's trusted deputy, who Gehlen claims was in fact for many years a Russian counteragent. Others -- like Dr. Otto John, the alleged double defector whom Gehlen personally vilifies -- have strongly questioned the memoir's factual reliability while consigning the sensationally revelatory material to the category of fiction. Doubtless the debate over Gehlen will continue and, as is history's wont, the real truth might never be known. But a careful, dispassionate reading does point up one potentially important and omnipresent clue -- the General's alternatingly whiny and vain defensiveness about his ""org"" and his special role as leader, and it does not seem unfair to speculate that if indeed Gehlen has fiddled the truth his sulky professional pride might well be the reason. Time and again he complains that officials (from Hitler to Erhard with the Americans in between) did not heed his intelligence reports, did not defend his operation against press ""smear"" campaigns and meddlings by the ""ignorant bureaucracy,"" did not give him sufficient latitude and were constantly maneuvering to replace him (though Hitler, in a rage, is the only one who actually did, an act which surely saved Gehlen's career). The General is more mysterious than complicated, more a dedicated organizer of information than an ideologue, but it is logical that the latter fifth of his memoir should be a cautionary testament addressed to the leaders of the west, expounding the one and only guiding political notion he ever had: beware the Russians for they seek world domination, a machination which can at least in part be thwarted by building strong espionage ""services."" This memoir is the only personal statement by Gehlen we are likely to have. That alone makes it a valuable historical document, despite its suspicious veracity.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1972
Publisher: World