Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Head of German Armed Forces Intelligence
The Abwehr was an interservice organisation, whose officers, NCOs, and ORs belonged to and (when in uniform) wore the uniforms and rank insignia of the German army, navy, and air force variously. The Abwehr, commanded for most of the war by Admiral Canaris, answered directly to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces [OKW]) in the person of its commander, Field Marshal Keitel.
Unlike the SS Foreign Intelligence Service (SD or RSHA Amt VI), the Abwehr had a central headquarters at one geophysical location, which served as the hub of the service. Until evacuation to Zossen in April 1943, in the very heart of Berlin just south of the Tiergarten at Tirpitzufer 72-76, on the north embankment of the Landwehr Canal (now known as the Reichpietschufer), Abwehr HQ itself was a topsy-turvy old warren of uncomfortable offices, labyrinthine corridors, innumerable staircases, and a splendid Classical facade that also concealed behind it the offices of the German admiralty (Oberkommando der Marine [OKM]).
However, whilst the Abwehr had a central HQ with a centralised administrative branch (Abwehr Z under Hans Oster), it could never be described as a centralised organisation because under Canaris’s leadership it exercised no central control over its widely dispersed stations, each of which was encouraged to operate independently of the others and to develop its own set of special intelligence interests, often inspired by individual station chiefs. Thus the Abwehr is best understood organisationally through the spatial paradigm of the defensive musk-ox circle: outward-looking but based on a German or European focal point, each station would dispatch its intelligence officers and agents to selected territories and regions across the world, as far afield as South America and South Africa. Thus, when examining as this study does the geophysical locations of stations in Greater Germany with competencies outside Greater Germany, there usually appears to be no ostensible relation between their domestic locations and their foreign responsibilities.
Ruined concrete bunker house at Camp Wünsdorf, Zossen