Hugo Bleicher

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Hugo Ernst Bleicher (9 August 1899 - August 1982) was a senior non-commissioned officer of Nazi Germany's Abwehr who worked against French Resistance in German-occupied France.

Bleicher was born in Tettnang. He served as a private soldier in the First World War in the pioneer gas corps and was captured near the Somme. He was held as a Prisoner of War in 165 POW Camp near Abbéville and succeeded in escaping four times, although he was never able to return to the German lines. He is misreported as having been taken prisoner by the British in Belgium as a spy when wearing a British uniform. After the war he became a businessman but was recruited into the Abwehr during the Second World War because of his knowledge of French and Spanish. However, he never rose above the rank of Feldwebel.

Bleicher was ruthless in his pursuit of anyone in France who opposed German domination. He disabled the Franco-Polish "Interallié" network, and captured both Polish Air Force Captain Roman Czerniawski and some of his headquarters staff, one of whom was Mathilde Carré, who had contacts with the Vichy 2nd Bureau. She reportedly became Bleicher's lover, betrayed everyone she knew in the network, and agreed to act as an Abwehr agent. Subsequently, she changed sides again and betrayed her dealings with the Abwehr to MI5, who used her radio link for deception purposes for a period in conjunction with the Poles and the SIS and then imprisoned her when her usefulness had ceased, until the end of the war.

In March 1943, Bleicher arrested André Marsac, a member of the resistance organisation known as Carte. Masquerading, on his own initiative, as a German intelligence colonel attempting to defect to the Allies, he deceived Marsac and his associate Roger Bardet, and in April 1943 succeeded in capturing SOE agents Peter Churchill and Odette Sansom. Both Churchill and Sansom were subjected to brutal treatment and torture during interrogation before being transferred to a concentration camp, although none of this was carried out by Bleicher himself.

Bleicher persuaded Bardet to work for him. As a result of this, in July 1944 Bleicher captured Henri Frager, another former Carte member who had been commissioned by the SOE as leader of its Donkeyman circuit.

He was also associated with SOE agent Henri Dericourt (Farrier), who was a double agent as well for the Sicherheitsdienst.

Hugo Bleicher, together with two of his French Abwehr agents Jean Rocquefort and Francois Barbier, was arrested in Amsterdam on 15 May 1945 by the Dutch NBS, who interrogated him for two weeks on his activities in the Netherlands before handing him over to the 1st Canadian Army, who interrogated him for a further period, also on his operations in the Netherlands, before handing him over to the British authorities, who transferred him on 16 June 1945 to the UK for longer term interrogation at Camp 020, where he co-operated willingly with his MI5 interrogators. He was handed over to the French government on 12 October 1945, and they subsequently placed him on trial and imprisoned him, as they also did with Mathilde Carré.

In 1954, he published his memoirs, Colonel Henri's story. Bleicher (sometimes misreported as Bliechert) actively employed the aliases Jean Verbeck and Colonel Henri (often misreported as Colonel Heinrich). He held, but never used, identity papers in the name of Jean Castel. He landed in the UK under the Canadian supplied alias of Charles Davidson, and has been misreported as using the names von Stahlen, Henri Bothereau or Gottschalk. He was decorated by the Abwehr with the War Merit Cross 1st Class for his services.

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