Jules C. Silber

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Jules Crawford Silber (1880-?) was a German spy working as a censor in the United Kingdom during the First World War. He was born in Breslau, Silesia[1] and was known for never having been arrested.


Little is known of Silber's early life, the names of his parents, his birth date, or his place of birth. When he was conscripted into the British Army in 1915 in the United Kingdom, he declared that he "exceeded about thirty years of age”. This would place his birth date at sometime around 1880. As a teenager, he left Germany for South Africa, where he learned to speak English, Afrikaans and Zulu.

During the Second Anglo-Boer War, the British used his services as an interpreter and an agent of the censor. 1,500 prisoners of war were sent to Ceylon. In India, Silber accompanied them as an agent for the censor for 18 months. He was stationed in the city-garrison of Abbottabad, not far from the Afghan border. Repatriation of prisoners began after the Treaty of Vereeniging and Silber returned to South Africa, where he resided for 2 years.

He later emigrated to the United States. Silber lived there for a few years. War between the United Kingdom and Germany was declared in 1914. This awoke Silber's patriotism. He travelled to the United Kingdom, where he offered his services to the post office as a censor. In this position, he could obtain information useful to the German war effort. While in New York, he gave his letter-box's address to the German ambassador.

Not holding a passport to go to London, he travelled through Canada; security there was more lax because Canadians were considered to be British citizens. Carrying official British documents that showed his service in South Africa and India, none of which mentioned his nationality, he spent some time in Montreal while trying to pass as French Canadian to fool the British.

He set sail for England on September 19, 1914, arriving 10 days later without a passport, and was interrogated in Manchester. Eventually he was permitted to enter the United Kingdom and travelled to London later that evening. Although he had yet to commit any acts of espionage, he had already carried out an impressive exploit, because he was a German who had managed to get into the United Kingdom during the war.

Foiling investigation by MI5, he obtained a position at the censor's office after an interview by an old colonel who had already served in the Punjab region. They discovered several common interests, and Silber began his work as a censor on October 12, 1914.

Using mailed window envelopes that had already been stamped and cleared, he was able to forward microfilm to Germany that contained increasingly important information, due to the fact that he was regularly promoted. He ended up in the position of chief censor, which enabled him to analyze all the suspect documents. Once the war ended Silber had to wait until 1925 for restrictions on voyages to the continent to be reduced, enabling him to return to his home country.

Autobiography and biography[edit]

He finished his days in Germany after having written an autobiographical account of his life, entitled The Invisible Weapons, in 1932.[2] Based on this autobiography, the author Ronald Seth wrote The Spy Who Wasn't Caught, a book recounting the exploits of this master of espionage who was probably forgotten because he was the most intelligent and sneaky of all the spies. The French version of this book, published in 1968, was titled Le Plus Anglais des espions allemands (The Most English of German Spies).


  1. ^ Campbell, Christy Band of Brigands p39
  2. ^ Adams, Jefferson. "Appendix." Historical dictionary of German intelligence. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2009. 420. Print.
  • Jules C. Silber, The Invisible Weapons, Hutchinson, 1932, Londres, D639S8S5.
  • Jules C. Silber, Die Anderen Waffen : Mit Zwei Faksimilies, Korn, Breslau, Germany, 1932. D639S8S48
  • Jules C. Silber, Les Armes invisibles. souvenirs d'un espion allemand au war office de 1914 a 1919, Payot, Paris, 1933. A collection of memories, studies, and documents to better serve the history of the first world war.
  • Colonel Walther Nicolai, Der Deutsches Nachrichtendienst
  • Lieutenant Général Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, Die Weltkriegespionage