I wrote about Elsbeth SCHRAGMÜLLER (1887-1940), das Fräulein Doktor, here and there. In a totally different connection I came across Oberst NICOLAI (1873-1947) (Ger., Eng.) again, her chief through the Great War and the head of section III B. He is mentioned in a Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich*, because he was a member of the board of the Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des Neuen Deutschland (Ger.), a pretty unsavoury institution.
III B was the military intelligence service of the Prussian and later the German army. It was founded 1889 as a section in the Generalstab and later became an own departement (Abteilung), steadily growing. NICOLAI was the head of this organization from 1913 until the end 1918. III B always was in competition with the Navy (Marinenachrichtendienst, Ger., Nachrichtenabteilung des Admiralstabs, founded 1889) and the different sections of the Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt, Ger., Eng.).
As a kind of forerunner of NICOLAI Wilhelm STIEBER (1818-1882) (Ger., Eng.) can be seen. But STIEBER is basically a police man of the Criminal Division, who in the times of the 1848 revolution also did domestic intelligence avant la lettre, working seemingly with the Preußische Geheimpolizei (Ger., Eng.) too. Later (in the 1860s) he became head of the Feldgendarmerie (Ger., Eng.) and so was responsible for the counterespionage corps. STIEBER played a role in the running of the Central-Nachrichten-Büreau, the very first structured German intelligence organization. I read somewhere that it was part of the Foreign Office**, but am not sure, I have not yet looked for a history of this organization. After all in those years around 1871 the institutions are still in a liquid state of forming.
When NICOLAI took over 1913 he found a working organization, but with large room for improvement. Generally it was not overly successful throughout the war, with SCHRAGMÜLLER’s work as notable exception. NICOLAI’s last second in command was Major Friedrich GEMPP (1873-1947) (Ger.), the first head of the Abwehr (Ger., Eng.), who also died in Moscow, one week before his old chief.
* KLEE, Ernst: Das Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945, Frankfurt a.M. 2007, 433.
** The Foreign Office established an independent historical commission some years ago, the final report will be available in the coming days: Das Amt und die Vergangenheit. Deutsche Diplomaten im Dritten Reich und in der Bundesrepublik. Here’s an interview with Prof. ZIMMERMANN.