Sunday 25 March 2018

Who was Harry Welsch?

I know very little about Harry Welsch but what I know makes me curious and eager to know more. During the Second World War Harry Welsch worked as a cryptographer and mathematician for OKH In 7/VI, the cryptanalytical service of the German Army. That he was a codebreaker and cryptanalyst is known and we shall see that he also had a good mathematical knowledge, but was he a mathematician? For the personnel officers of OKH In 7/VI the term mathematician had unfortunately a very broad meaning. It included professors in mathematics, people with mathematical doctorates, insurance mathematicians, actuaries, high school mathematics teachers and possibly others with above normal mathematical abilities. So when these people say Harry Welsch was a mathematician we in reality know very little about his real mathematical abilities, his mathematical education or past  mathematical experience.

Of course I don’t know what he he looked like and I don’t know when he was born, but as he undoubtedly had a higher education, possibly at university level, it is reasonable to think that he was at least 20 years old when he started working for In 7/VI. He started working in In 7/VI Referat 1 (section 1), General cryptanalysis, on 3 April 1941 with the military grade Funker (private). This might indicate that he had been drafted into the army and that he had already had a short military service, or that he during the army selection process had been selected for signal intelligence work. However, even this is not sure as other people entering the service directly from academia also sometimes initially would be registered as private (Funker).

Referat 1, the General cryptanalytical section, was led by Friedrich Steinberg an insurance mathematician. He previously worked for the life insurance company Allianz and he was hired by In 7 already on 21 October 1939. Other insurance mathematicians hired at that time was Dr. Carl Boehm (21.10.1939 — department head at Victoria insurance company) and Fritz Malleck (06.10.1939 — sub-manager of Winterthur insurance company). The history of OKH In 7 is rather convoluted and I will leave the finer details of that history to some future time, but when Fritz Steinberg and his deputy Dr. Hans Pietsch were hired in 1939 they were hired to In 7/IV Referat 4. Referat 4 in department IV, Funkwesen — radio communication, dealt with German army codes and ciphers, but it also had a small cryptanalytical group that looked into the security of the German army ciphers. Furthermore, it was responsible for the surveillance and control of the German army's radio and cipher communications. Signal intelligence and cryptanalysis against enemy targets was the task of department V, Horch-Leitstelle — the Intercept Control Centre. 

Group VI was formed with effective start from 05.01.1941 by a group order dated 11.01.1941. The new cryptanalytical group took over the work of In 7/IV Referat 4 and the codebreaking work that had until then been done by the Horch-Leitstelle (Y-service control centre). Group VI was created with nine sections (Referate) and its staff came initially from the Horch-Leitstelle, 95 persons, and from In 7, 22 persons. It is perhaps nevertheless interesting to show the structure of Group VI as it appeared in the spring of 1941.

The situation of In 7/VI’s sections in March 1941:

Referat Z, Personnel administration,  Leader: Obltn. Franz Herbrüggen, Deputy: Ob.Insp. Weiland
Referat 1, General cryptanalytical, mathematical, Leader: Friedrich Steinberg,
Deputy: Dr. Hans Pietsch
Referat 2, English, Leader: Ob.Insp. Ernst Liedtke
Referat 3, French, Leader: Insp. Kühn
Referat 4, Italian, Leader: Hptm. Dr. Fiala
Referat 5, Area X — Russia, Leader: Max Bleschke
Referat 6, Balkan, Leader: Reg.Rat. Rudolf Bailovic
Referat 7, Security of German ciphers, Leader: Dr. Carl Boehm, Deputy: Dr. Hans Pietsch. 
Dr. Pietsch became the new leader in April 1941.
Referat 8, German radio and cipher monitoring, Leader: Obltn. Steinen
Referat 9, IBM (Hollerith) machines, Leader: Kv.Rat. Walter Schenke

The leader of Referat 7, Dr. Carl Boehm, left In 7 altogether on 19 April 1941. The reason for his discharge is not mentioned, it could have been due to poor health, other personal problems or possibly politically motivated.
Harry Welsch did not stay long in Referat 1 already on 24 April 1941 was he transferred to Referat 3, the French section at Matthäikirchplatz 4 under the leadership of Inspektor Kühn. What he worked on here is not known but the section was working on French (de Gaulle traffic) hatted diplomatic codes and Swiss commercial Enigma messages. But then Harry Welsch falls ill. We do not know what kind of illness he suffered from, but it appears to have been serious. He is reported ill from 29 May 1941 and during the months of June, July and until the 25 August he is in hospital. August 26 he is going on vacation and he is away until 19 September when he reports back for work, but already a week later, on 25 September he is again reported ill (sick bay). This lasts until 3 October when he seems to have recovered and he is again back at work. In November, from the 5th to the 16th, he is again ill, but after then he seems to have fully recovered and there are no more reports of him being off work due to illness for the rest of the year.

However, 1 January 1942 Gefreiter (lance corporal) Harry Welsch is promoted to the civilian grade Sonderführer (G) equivalent to a non-commissioned officer (NCO). Seen in light of all the time he had been away due to illness, this promotion seems very rapid and this is probably an indication that he must have been doing very in his cryptanalytical work.

His new responsibilities seems to have included the security of the Enigma. On January 17 and 19, 1942 there was a conference in Referat 7 on the security of the Enigma, and from Referat 3 the following people attended: Sdf. (Z) Kühn, Uffz. (Unteroffizier — Corporal) Otto Buggisch and Sdf. (G) Harry Welsch. Then we don't hear more about him before he in June is listed as being on vacation from 15 - 30 June. Again we do not know what his duties were but at least he seems to have performed well because on 1 November 1942 Sdf. (G) Harry Welsch is promoted to Uffz. (Corporal).

On 13 April 1943 a special research section was created, Referat F Forschung. The document below sets out the reason for the creation of the new section, its aims and the immediate tasks.

Creation of Referat F.

The complete original document, Kriegstagebuch — Referat F, and a translation into English is available here. As we can see the new section F consisted of nine people as of 31 May 1943 under the leadership of Lieutenant Dr. Herbert von Denffer and with Corporal Dr. Willi Rinow as his deputy. Among the other people we find Dr. Günther Wünsche and Fritz Hilburg, both insurance and finance mathematicians, and Dr. Kühnel of whom we know very little. In January 1942 he was a member of Referat 7 and it is likely he also was either a statistician or an insurance mathematician. Then we have Harry Welsch and that he is included in this section of mathematically trained specialists is yet another indication that he had mathematical abilities above the average. Then we find three other newly recruited members who we know nothing about, not even their first names. They are private first class Apel and Bringmann and private Diehl, who must also have been mathematicians or at least people with very good mathematical knowledge.

In June 1943 two other people joined, lance corporal Christmann and Hohensee, while private Diehl was lent to Referat 13, the section led by Dr. Heinrich Döring and that analysed enemy machine ciphers and investigated the security of the Germans own machine ciphers. In September 1943, Dr. Hans Salié, joined Referat F; he had joined In 7/VI in 1942 and in May/June that year he is listed on the cryptanalytical course for mathematicians given by Dr. Kühnel. However, not all persons with mathematical abilities were suited for cryptanalytical work. Lance corporal Christmann was such a case. He joined In 7/VI on 11 June 1943, but already on 18 September 1943 is he reported being unsuited for cryptanalytical work and on 22 September he is transferred to Ld.Schtz.Ers.Btl. 3 Landesschutzen-Ersatz-Bataillon 3 — Provincial Protection Replacement Battalion 3. These units were a kind of home guard usually manned with older people not fit for front line service, something which might indicate that lance corporal Christmann was an elder man.

Referat F has been described by some authors as a subsection of Referat 1, but this is totally wrong and is probably caused by a misunderstanding of the organisational structure of In 7/VI in 1943. Referat F was a full section on equal footing with the other sections in Group VI, but it was created with people from Referat 1 and 7 and its allocated tasks meant that it was cooperating closely with Referat 7 and 13 that were responsible for analysing the security of the German hand and machine ciphers. In June 1942 Sonderführer (Z) Dr. Hans Pietsch, who at that time was the leader of the three sections 1, 4 and 7, was transferred to Nachrichten‐Aufklärungs­‐Ersatz‐Abteilung at Frankfurt am Main. The leadership of the three sections was then transferred to Sdf. Friedrich Steinberg, while on 15 August 1942 Oberleutnant David Lüders took over the sections with Dr. Heinrich Döring as his deputy.

On 15 March 1943 Dr. Hans Pietsch returns to In 7/VI but instead of being given the leadership of one of the sections he is given a special position directly under the Group leader Major Werner Metting. Major Mettig's deputy was Captain Franz Herbrüggen, so Dr. Pietsch was not the deputy but instead he had the title "z.b.V. des Gruppenleiters," which means "zur besonderen Verwendung des Gruppenleiters — for special employment of the group leader." His tasks were:
  1. Supervision of the work of Referat F.
  2. Arrangement of the technical cooperation of sections F, 7 and 13 with Group IV according to instructions of the group leader.
  3. Arranging the Afternoon Lectures.
It is probably the new and special supervisory position of Dr. Hans Pietsch, which has made some authors to draw the wrong conclusion that Referat F was a subsection of Referat 1. After the restructuring of In 7/VI in December 1943 Referat F became Referat b1 under the Hauptreferat b    — Main Section b as shown in the December 1943 report.

But what about Sonderführer (G) Harry Welsch, what is he doing? Well that is the problem. Harry Welsch does not make many moves and he seems to fall below the radar almost everywhere. His name does not often appear in the In 7/VI reports and he seems to be completely absent in the post-war TICOM reports. It is like he never existed. However he left one significant trace and that is a report he wrote on 12 January 1944 entitled "Aktennotiz zum Tiefenproblem bei der Enigma— "Note on the problem of depth in the Enigma." The report is signed by Welsch.

Aktennotiz zum Tiefenproblem bei der Enigma.

The report has not been translated by me and it is published here only in the original German version. In 1946 the Army Security Agency made an English translation of this report entitled "Note on the problem of depth in the Enigma" and issued it as TICOM report DF-211. This TICOM report has, as far as I know, still not been released but hopefully this will happen some time in the not too distant future. When that happens I will also publish the English translation here.

However, what the report shows is that Harry Welsch indeed had a very solid background in statistics and that he must have had some university education and probably a degree. It is impossible to really judge anything about his background from this one report; he might have been an insurance mathematician but he might also have been a high school teacher or simply a university student. I have of course looked high and low for trances of Harry Welsch both before and after the war but I have not found any trace of him in connection with mathematics or statistics.

Indeed, the only Harry Welsch I have managed to find in Germany is mentioned in the history of a German football club in Jagdshof in Thuringia, VfR 1931 Jagdshof e.V., (VfR — Verein für Rasensport — Association for lawn sports). Here it is mentioned that a Harry Welsch was their goal keeper in the pre-war times from 1931 to 1939. Another player possibly from the same family (brother ?) was Hilmar Welsch. The history mentions that Hilmar Welsch was one of the players that died during the war but Harry Welsch is not mentioned, which probably means he survived the war but did not continue to play in the club afterwards. If this Harry Welsch is the same man as the one who worked as a cryptanalyst in In 7/VI during the war I do not know, but perhaps some of the readers of this will know the answer. It would be very nice to put a face on Harry Welsch and perhaps learn more about his background and what happened to him after the war.

Klaus Schmeh has now published a small article entitled "Who was Harry Welsch?" on his Blog Klausis Krypto Kolumne. In some of the comment to this blog article there have been comments that question if the first name Harry is correct. Harry is not a common German first name, however it is not so rare. Harry is a first name that you normally will find in Northern German and it was more common in earlier times than it is today, however there are Germans who still carry the name Harry, a few examples are Harry Rowohlt and Harry Wüstenhagen to mention some more recent known personalities. To prove that Funker Welsch was indeed named Harry Welsch I have uploaded a partial copy (one page) of the personal listings for OKH In7/VI for the month of April 1941, showing that Funker Harry Welsch joined on 03 April 1941: OKH_In7_VI_HarryWelsch_03April1941.pdf

Sources: Personal research notes and documents from the TICOM files T2755T2767 in the TICOM collection at the German Foreign Office, Bestand Rückgabe TICOM, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts, Berlin.


Christos T. said...

Fascinating article. Lots of interesting people served at Inspectorate 7/VI.

bcf1 said...

Hi - very interesting. Do you have a link to the 1944 document by Hr Welsch on enigma security?

thank you