World War II
MI5, MI6, SOE are common household names for most English speakers, especially for fans of John Le Carré, the mastermind of spy stories and a member of the Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence clique himself. The British spy network during WWII has indeed been much-documented in newsreels, books, and spy films.
On the other hand, the German spy network in Britain was limited, despite certain Nazi sympathies in high places. The number of German agents in Britain itself was small, their information unreliable and most of their communications were under strict surveillance.
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the diminutive Head of the Abwehr, the German Intelligence Service, hand picked six European capitals for developing the German spy-ring: Madrid, Lisbon, Berne, Ankara, Oslo, and Budapest. He felt that these were worth building up as a long-term investment, because it seemed unlikely that any of these cities would be occupied by either the Germans or the Allies and that, consequently, the diplomatic bags would continue to fly, officials would continue to come and businessmen continue to go. He added to their number the Vatican, which had its own sovereign status, its own ciphers, and its own representatives all over the world. Other cities were mere short-term options, which he knew would be isolated when Germany declared war.
The article can be downloaded here.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER