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Search For German Spies In Kansas, 1935

Draft by George Laughead, copyright 2005-2010

In June 1935, a group of Germans traveling on the German North Lloyd ship "Berlin" landed in New York (covered by the New York Times ship arrival page) and started on a tour of the USA, from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, and back to Virginia. They took hundreds of photographs and made a movie.

The reason for the trip to see "every Hanover in the world" -- as stated by the Landeshauptmann (President) of the state of Hannover, Germany, in his introduction letter -- "was to meet people and bring them together." They said they were from the Institute of Civic Development of Hannover, and that three of them were "a historian, a geographer, and a photographer" -- by name, Dr. Norbert Zimmer, Prof. Doctor Kurt Bruening and Hans Wagner.

The trip took them within miles of virtually every important US army base, army airfield, and navy port that existed in 1935. Was this the first Abwehr spy trip in the USA? Was this the spy trip that allowed Hitler to plan his war timetable for the Third Reich?

Sixty-years ago, Zimmer and Wagnor sent back a leather-covered book of photographs. The album was sent to the mayor of Hanover, Kansas, in July 1936, as a "thank you" for their visit in August 1935. There are over a 100 black and white pictures -- fixed and non-yellowed after decades. They include photographs of German Navy uniformed men and a party flag over their car hood, outside of Hanover, Kansas. [Photographs being scanned.]

Included are 16 photographs of Hannover, Germany; over 40 of Hanover, Kansas; and the rest are of Hanovers in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Ontario, Canada.

By accident of buying this small book in November, 1993, at a Dodge City, KS, antique store, I started a search for an unknown and very early chapter of World War II -- Hitler's earliest espionage after he Nazified the Reichwehr Abwehrablienten, know as the Abwehr, in January 1935.

This search had lead me to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Captured German Document division, and the Bundes Militararchives of Germany. I have been helped by leading experts, including: Dr. Robert Wolfe, head of the NARA German Captured Documents Division (retired); Dr. Robin Higham, Kansas State University History Professor Emeritus and a world expert on the Second World War; Dr. Lynn Nelson, University of Kansas History Professor Emeritus, and Capt. (ret.) Terrance Van Meter, Director, Ft. Riley Army Museum.

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Return to the Kansas History Web Sites directory or the Kansas Heritage Group.
Posted: 10 November 05; updated: 08 July 2010 (yup, new Russian spies in Cambridge, MA); 15 Nov 2017
(©2005-2017 George Laughead)