(01.08.1873 - 04.05.1947)
place of birth: Braunschweig (Brunswick)
Königreich Preußen: OHL,. Oberstleutnant
Imperial German officer Walter Nicolai
was born to the family of a former infantry captain/company commander,
who died when Walter was only four years of age. His mother came from a
simple peasant family but was able to get her son into the cadet corps,
where he spent his formative years. Beginning his military service in
1893 as a lieutenant in an infantry regiment in Gottingen, Nicolai
boosted his service career by marrying his commander's daughter.
As a student at Berlin's Military Academy,
Walter specialized in foreign languages, learning Russian, French, and
English. As an officer assigned to do intelligence work at the Great
General Staff, Nicolai also became proficient in Japanese. Following
the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, he was sent to the military
intelligence section of I. Army Corps in Königsberg where he studied Russian military
doctrine. He also served as a company commander in an infantry regiment
before finally landing in 1912 back with the Prussian Great General
Staff to temporarily head up its intelligence section, a post he would
keep until war's end.
spent his pre-war years in Berlin working with
Ludendorff to build up Germany's intelligence capabilities while
improving relations with sister security services in Austria and Italy.
At war's outbreak, Nicolai became the permanent commander of OHL's
intelligence and counter-intelligence office, Section IIIb, overseeing
90 officers and military civil servants and heading up the war propaganda effort as well. His
chief task during the war, however, remained the managing of the flow
of reconnaissance information. There were some field commanders, most
notably the Crown Prince, who greatly resented Nicolai's "meddling"
when he placed his intelligence officers, or "OHL spies", within the
staffs of numbered armies. Major Nicolai also cultivated a heated
rivalry with Colonel Max Bauer as Section IIIb delved deeper into
Germany's domestic policies.
As the war
ground to a halt, now
Lieutenant Colonel Walter Nicolai took the cessation of hostilities in
stride, but his efforts to find employment within post-war Germany's Reichswehr
proved fruitless. Upon retiring from military service in early 1920, he
received a ceremonial promotion to full colonel and kept the right to
wear a uniform. Reichswehr commander Hans von
Seeckt indicated to Nicolai that he should keep himself ready should
the Fatherland ever need his extensive intel experience, but neither
the Weimar Republic nor the Third Reich
ever thought to call him back into duty. Despite this fact, in 1945 the
Russian NKVD apprehended the former security chief at his home in
Nordhausen, believing that he had been a key figure in Hitler's
intelligence service. Nicolai died in 1947 while still under arrest at
the Butyrka Hospital in Moscow.