Red Orchestra (espionage)
The Red Orchestra (German: Die Rote Kapelle, German: [ˈʁoː.tə kaˈpɛ.lə] (listen)), as it was known in Germany, was the name given by the Abwehr Section III.F to anti-Nazi resistance workers in August 1941. It primarily referred to a loose network of resistance groups, connected through personal contacts, uniting hundreds of opponents of the Nazi regime. These included groups of friends who held discussions that were centred on Harro Schulze-Boysen, Adam Kuckhoff and Arvid Harnack in Berlin, alongside many others. They printed and distributed prohibited leaflets, posters, and stickers, hoping to incite civil disobedience. They aided Jews and resistance to escape the regime, documented the atrocities of the Nazis, and transmitted military intelligence to the Allies. Contrary to legend, the Red Orchestra was neither directed by Soviet communists nor under a single leadership. It was a network of groups and individuals, often operating independently. To date, about 400 members are known by name.
The term was also used by the German Abwehr to refer to unassociated Soviet intelligence networks, working in Belgium, France and the low countries, that were built up by Leopold Trepper on behalf of the Main Directorate of State Security (GRU). Trepper ran a series of clandestine cells for organising agents. Trepper used the latest technology, in the form of small wireless radios, to communicate with Soviet intelligence. Although the monitoring of the radios' transmissions by the Funkabwehr would eventually lead to the organisation's destruction, the sophisticated use of the technology enabled the organisation to behave as a network, with the ability to achieve tactical surprise and deliver high-quality intelligence, including the warning of Operation Barbarossa.
To this day, the German public perception of the "Red Orchestra" is characterized by the vested interest in historical revisionism of the post-war years and propaganda efforts of both sides of the Cold War.
For a long time after World War II, only parts of the German resistance to Nazism had been known to the public within Germany and the world at large. This included the groups that took part in the 20 July plot and the White Rose resistance groups. In the 1970s there was a growing interest in the various forms of resistance and opposition. However, no organisations' history was so subject to systematic misinformation, and as little recognised, as those resistance groups centered on Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen.
In a number of publications, the groups that these two people represented were seen as traitors and spies. An example of these was Kennwort: Direktor; die Geschichte der Roten Kapelle (Password: Director; The history of the Red Orchestra) written by Heinz Höhne who was a Der Spiegel journalist. Höhne based his book on the investigation by the Lüneburg Public Prosecutor's Office against the General Judge of the Luftwaffe and Nazi apologist Manfred Roeder who was involved in the Harnack and Schulze-Boysen cases during World War II and who contributed decisively to the formation of the legend that survived for much of the Cold War period. In his book Höhne reports from former Gestapo and Reich war court individuals who had a conflict of interest and were intent on defaming the groups attached to Harnack and Schulze-Boysen with accusations of treason.
The perpetuation of the defamation from the 1940s through to the 1970s that started with the Gestapo was incorporated by the Lüneburg Public Prosecutor's Office and evaluated as a journalistic process that can be seen by the 1968 trial of far-right Holocaust denier Manfred Roeder by the German lawyer Robert Kempner. The Frankfurt public prosecutor's office, which prosecuted the case against Roeder, based its investigation on procedure case number "1 Js 16/49" which was the trial case number defined by the Lüneburg Public Prosecutor's Office. The whole process propagated the Gestapo ideas of the Red Orchestra and this was promulgated in the report of the public prosecutor's office which stated:
To these two men and their wives, a group of political supporters of different characters and of different backgrounds gathered over the course of time. They were united in the active fight against National Socialism and in their advocacy of communism (emphasis added by author). Until the outbreak of the war with the Soviet Union, the focus of their work was on domestic politics. After that, he shifted more to the territory of treason and espionage in favor of the Soviet Union. At the beginning of 1942, the Schulze-Boysen Group was finally involved in the widespread network of the Soviet intelligence service in Western Europe. [...] The Schulze-Boysen group was first and foremost an espionage organization for the Soviet Union.
From the perspective of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) the Red Orchestra were honoured as anti-fascist resistance fighters and indeed received posthumous orders in 1969. However, the most comprehensive collection of biographies that exist are from the GDR and they represent their point of view, through the lens of ideology.
In the 1980s, the GDR historian Heinrich Scheel, who at the time was vice president of the East German Academy of Sciences and who was part of the anti-Nazi Tegeler group (named after the area they met in, in Berlin) that included Hans Coppi from 1933, conducted research into the Rote Kapelle and produced a paper which took a more nuanced view of the Rote Kapelle and discovered the work that was done to defame them. Scheel's work led to a re-evaluation of the Rote Kapelle, but it was not until 2009 that the German Bundestag overturned the judgments of the National Socialist judiciary for "treason" and rehabilitated the members of the group.
The name Rote Kapelle was a cryptonym that was invented for a secret operation started by Abwehrstelle Belgium (Ast Belgium), a field office of Abwehr III.F in August 1941 and conducted against a Soviet intelligence station that had been detected in Brussels in June 1941. Kapelle was an accepted Abwehr term for counter-espionage operations against secret wireless transmitting stations and in the case of the Brussels stations Rote was used to differentiate from other enterprises conducted by Ast Belgium.
In July 1942, the case of the Red Orchestra was taken over from Ast Belgium by section IV. A.2. of the Sicherheitsdienst. When Soviet agent Anatoly Gurevich was arrested in November 1942, a small independent unit made up of Gestapo personnel known as the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle was formed in Paris in the same month and led by SS-Obersturmbannführer (Colonel) Friedrich Panzinger.
The Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), the counter-espionage part of the Schutzstaffel (SS), referred to resistance radio operators as "pianists", their transmitters as "pianos", and their supervisors as "conductors".
Only after the funkabwehr had decrypted radio messages in August 1942, in which German names appeared, did the Gestapo start to arrest and imprison them, their friends and relatives. In 2002, the German filmmaker Stefan Roloff, whose father Helmut Roloff was a member of one of the Red Orchestra groups,
- Due to their contact with the Soviets, the Brussels and Berlin groups were grouped by the Counterespionage and the Gestapo under the misleading name Red orchestra. A radio operator tapping Morse code marks with his fingers was a pianist in the intelligence language. A group of "pianists" formed an "Orchestra", and since the Morse code had come from Moscow, the "Orchestra" was communist and thus red. This misunderstanding laid the foundation upon which the resistance group was later treated as a serving espionage organization in the historiography of the Soviets until it could be corrected at the beginning of the 1990s. The Organization constructs created by the Gestapo, Red Orchestra has never existed in this form.
- A network led by Leopold Trepper of the 'Red Orchestra' in Western Europe did not exist. The different groups in Belgium, Holland and France worked largely independently of each other.
- The Gestapo investigates them under the collective name, Red Orchestra and wants it to be judged above all as a spy organization of the Soviet Union. This designation, which reduces the groups around Harnack and Schulze-Boysen on contacts to the Soviet intelligence service, also later shapes the motives and aims, later distorting their image in the German public.
The Red Orchestra in the world today are mainly the resistance groups around the Luftwaffe officer Harro Schulze-Boysen, the writer Adam Kuckhoff and the economist Arvid Harnack, to which historians assign more than 100 people.
Harnack and Schulze-Boysen had similar political views, both rejected the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and sought alternatives to the existing social order. Since the Great Depression of 1929, they saw the Soviet planned economy as a positive counter-model to the free-market economy. They wanted to introduce planned economic elements in Germany and work closely with the Soviet Union without breaking German bridges to the rest of Europe.
Before 1933, Schulze-Boysen published the non-partisan leftist and later banned magazine German: Gegner, lit. 'opponent'. In April 1933, the Sturmabteilung detained him for some time, severely battered him, and killed a fellow Jewish inmate. As a trained pilot, he received a position of trust in 1934 in the Reich Ministry of Aviation and had access to war-important information. After his marriage to Libertas Schulze-Boysen née Haas-Heye in 1936, the couple collected young intellectuals from diverse backgrounds, including the artist couple Kurt and Elisabeth Schumacher, the writers Günther Weisenborn and Walter Küchenmeister, the photojournalist John Graudenz (who had been expelled from the USSR for reporting the Soviet famine of 1932–1933) and Gisela von Pöllnitz, the actor Marta Husemann and her husband Walter in 1938, the doctors Elfriede Paul in 1937 and John Rittmeister in Christmas 1941, the dancer Oda Schottmüller, and since Schulze-Boysen held twice-monthly meetings at his Charlottenburg atelier for thirty-five to forty people in what was considered a Bohemian circle of friends. Initially, these meetings followed an informatics program of resistance that was in keeping with its environment and were important places of personal and political understanding but also vanishing points from an often unbearable reality, essentially serving as islands of democracy. As the decade progressed they increasingly served as identity-preserving forms of self-assertion and cohesion as the Nazi state became all-encompassing. Formats of the meetings usually started with book discussions in the first 90 minutes were followed by Marxist discussions and resistance activities that were interspersed with parties, picnics, sailing on the Wannsee and poetry readings until midnight as the mood took. However, as the realisation that the war preparations were becoming unstoppable and the future victors were not going to be the Sturmabteilung, Schulze-Boysen whose decisions were in demand called for the group to cease their discussions and start resisting.
Other friends were found by Schulze-Boysen among former students of a reform school on the island of Scharfenberg in Berlin-Tegel. These often came from communist or social - democratic workers' families, e.g. Hans and Hilde Coppi, Heinrich Scheel, Hermann Natterodt and Hans Lautenschlager. Some of these contacts existed before 1933, for example through the German Society of intellectuals. John Rittmeister's wife Eva was a good friend of Liane Berkowitz, Ursula Goetze, Friedrich Rehmer, Maria Terwiel and Fritz Thiel who met in the 1939 abitur class at the secondary private school, Heil'schen Abendschule at Berlin W 50, Augsburger Straße 60 in Schöneberg. The Romanist Werner Krauss joined this group, and through discussions, an active resistance to the Nazi regime grew. Ursula Goetze who was part of the group, provided contacts with the communist groups in Neukölln.
From 1932 onwards, the economist Arvid Harnack and his American wife Mildred assembled a group of friends and members of the Berlin Marxist Workers School (MASCH) to form a discussion group that debated the political and economic perspectives at the time. Harnak's group meetings, in contrast to those of Schulze-Boysen's group, were considered rather austere. Members of the group included the German politician and Minister of Culture Adolf Grimme, the locksmith Karl Behrens, the German journalist Adam Kuckhoff and his wife Greta and the industrialist and entrepreneur Leo Skrzypczynski. From 1935, Harnack tried to camouflage his activities by becoming a member of the Nazi Party working in the Reich Ministry of Economics with the rank of Oberregierungsrat. Through this work, Harnack planned to train them to build a free and socially just Germany after the end of the National Socialism' regime.
The dancer Oda Schottmüller and Erika Gräfin von Brockdorff were friends with the Kuckhoffs. In 1937 Adam Kuckhoff introduced Harnack to the journalist and former journalist railway worker John Sieg, a former editor of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) newspaper the Die Rote Fahne. As a railway worker at the Deutsche Reichsbahn, Sieg was able to make use of work-related travel, enabling him to found a communist resistance group in the Neukölln borough in Berlin. He knew the former Foreign Affairs Minister Wilhelm Guddorf and Martin Weise. In 1934 Guddorf was arrested and sentenced to hard labour. In 1939 after his release from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Guddorf worked as a bookseller, and worked closely with Schulze-Boysen.
Through such contacts, a loose network formed in Berlin in 1940 and 1941, of seven interconnected groups centred on personal friendships as well as groups originally formed for discussion and education. This disparate network was composed of over 150 Berlin Nazi opponents, including artists, scientists, citizens, workers, and students from several different backgrounds. There were Communists, political conservatives, Jews, Catholics, and atheists. Their ages ranged from 16 to 86, and about 40% of the group were women. Group members had different political views, but searched for the open exchange of views, at least in the private sector. For instance, Schulze-Boysen and Harnack shared some ideas with the Communist Party of Germany, while others were devout Catholics such as Maria Terwiel and her husband Helmut Himpel. Uniting all of them was the firm rejection of national socialism.
This network grew up after Adam and Greta Kuckhoff introduced Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen to Arvid and Mildred Harnack, and the couples began engaging socially. Their hitherto separate groups moved together once the Polish campaign began in September 1939. From 1940 onwards, they regularly exchanged their opinions on the war and other Nazi policies and sought action against it.
The historian Heinrich Scheel, a schoolmate of Hans Coppi, judged these groups by stating:
- Only with this stable hinterland, it was possible to get through all the little glitches and major disasters and to make permanent our resistance
As early as 1934, Scheel had passed written material from one contact person to the next within clandestine communist cells and had seen how easily such connections were lost if a meeting did not materialize due to one party being arrested. In a relaxed group of friends and discussion with like-minded people, it was easy to find supporters for an action.
Acts of resistance
From 1933 onwards, the Berlin groups connected to Schulze-Boysen and Harnack resisted the Nazis by:
- Providing assistance to the persecuted
- Disseminating pamphlets and leaflets that contained dissident content.
- Writing letters to prominent individuals including university professors.
- Collecting and sharing information, including on foreign representatives, on German war preparations, crimes of the Wehrmacht and Nazi crimes,
- Contacting other opposition groups and foreign forced labourers.
- Invoking disobedience to Nazi representatives.
- Writing drafts for a possible post-war order.
From mid-1936, the Spanish Civil War preoccupied the Schulze-Boysen group. Through Walter Küchenmeister, the Schulze-Boysen group began to discuss more concrete actions, and during these meetings would listen to foreign radio stations from London, Paris and Moscow. A plan was formed to take advantage of Schulze-Boysen employment, and through this, the group was able to get detailed information on Germany's support of Francisco Franco. Beginning in 1937, in the Wilmersdorf waiting room of Dr. Elfriede Paul, began distributing the first leaflet on the Spanish Civil War.
In the same year, Schulze-Boysen had compiled a document about a sabotage enterprise planned in Barcelona by the Wehrmacht "Special Staff W", an organization established by Helmuth Wilberg to analyse the tactical lessons learned by the Legion Kondor during the war. The information that Schulze-Boysen collected included details about German transports, deployment of units and companies involved in the German defense. Libertas's cousin, Gisela von Pöllnitz placed the letter in the mailbox of the Soviet Embassy on the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.
After the Munich Agreement, Schulze-Boysen created a second leaflet with Walter Küchenmeister, that declared the annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938 as a further step on the way to a new world war. This leaflet was called Der Stoßtrupp or The Raiding Patrol, and condemned the Nazi government and argued against the government's propaganda. A document that was used at the trial of Schulze-Boysen indicated that only 40 to 50 copies of the leaflet were distributed.
Call for popular uprising
From 1942 onwards, the group started to produce leaflets that were signed with AGIS in reference to the Spartan King Agis IV, who fought against corruption for his people. Naming the newspaper Agis, was originally the idea of John Rittmeister. The pamphlets had titles like The becoming of the Nazi movement, Call for opposition, Freedom and violence and Appeal to All Callings and Organisations to resist the government. The writing of the AGIS leaflet series was a mix of Schulze-Boysen and Walter Küchenmeister, a communist political writer, who would often include copy from KPD members and through contacts.
They were often left in phone booths or selected addresses from the phone book. Extensive precautions were taken, including wearing gloves, using many different typewriters and destroying the carbon paper. John Graudenz also produced, running duplicate mimeograph machines in the apartment of Anna Krauss.
On 15 February 1942, the group wrote the large 6-page pamphlet called Die Sorge Um Deutschlands Zukunft geht durch das Volk! (The concern for Germany's future goes through the people!). The master copy was arranged by the potter Cato Bontjes van Beek and the pamphlet was written up by Maria Terwiel on her typewriter, five copies at a time. The paper describes how the care of Germany's future is decided by the people... and called for the opposition to the war the Nazis all Germans, who now all threaten the future of all. A copy survived to the present day.
The text first analysed the current situation: contrary to the Nazi propaganda, most German armies were in retreat, the number of war dead was in the millions. Inflation, scarcity of goods, plant closures, labour agitation and corruption in State authorities were occurring all the time. Then the text examined German war crimes:
- The conscience of all true patriots, however, is taking a stand against the whole current form of German power in Europe. All who retained the sense of real values shudder when they see how the German name is increasingly discredited under the sign of the swastika. In all countries today, hundreds, often thousands of people, are shot or hanged by legal and arbitrary people, people to whom they have nothing to be accused of but to remain loyal to their country ... In the name of the Reich, the most abominable torments and atrocities are committed against civilians and prisoners. Never in history has a man been so hated as Adolf Hitler. The hatred of tortured humanity is weighing on the whole German people.
The Soviet Paradise exhibition
In May 1942, Joseph Goebbels held a Nazi propaganda exhibition called The Soviet Paradise (German original title "Das Sowjet-Paradies") in Lustgarten, with the express purpose of justifying the invasion of the Soviet Union to the German people.
Both the Harnacks and Kuckhoffs spent half a day at the exhibition. For Greta Kuckhoff particularly and her friends, the most distressing aspect of the exhibition was the installation about SS measures against Russian "partisans" (Soviet partisans). The exhibition contained images of firing squads and bodies of young girls, some still children, who had been hung and were dangling from ropes. The group decided to act. It was Fritz Thiel and his wife Hannelore who printed stickers using a child's toy rubber stamp kit. In a campaign initiated by John Graudenz on 17 May 1942, Schulze-Boysen, Marie Terwiel and nineteen others, mostly people from the group around Rittmeister who travelled across five Berlin neighbourhoods to paste the stickers over the original exhibition posters with the message:
- Permanent Exhibition
- The Nazi Paradise
- War, Hunger, Lies, Gestapo
- How much longer?
The Harnacks were dismayed at Schulze-Boysen's actions and decided not to participate in the exploit, believing it to be reckless and unnecessarily dangerous.
On 18 May, Herbert Baum, a Jewish communist who had contact with the Schulze-Boysen group through Walter Husemann, delivered incendiary bombs to the exhibition in the hope of destroying it. Although 11 people were injured, the whole episode was covered up by the government, and the action lead to the arrest of 250 Jews including Baum himself. Following the action, Harnack asked the Kuckoffs to revisit the exhibition to determine whether any damage had been done to it, but they found little damage was visible.
Acts of espionage
The Invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, was seen as the beginning of the feared world war, but also as an opportunity to eliminate Nazi rule and to invoke a thorough transformation of German society. Hitler's victories in France and Norway in 1940 encouraged them to expect the replacement of the Nazi regime, above all from the Soviet Union, not from Western capitalism. They believed that the Soviet Union would keep Germany as a sovereign state after its victory and that they wanted to work towards a corresponding opposition without domination by the Communist Party of Germany.
Around 13 June 1941, Schulze-Boysen prepared a report that gave the final details of the Soviet invasion including details of Hungarian airfields containing German planes. On 17 June, the Soviet People's Commissar for State Security presented the report to Stalin, who harshly dismissed it as disinformation.
In December 1941, John Sieg published The Internal Front (German:Die Innere Front) on a regular basis. It contained texts by Walter Husemann, Fritz Lange, Martin Weise and Herbert Grasse, including information about the economic situation in Europe, references to Moscow radio frequencies, and calls for resistance. It was produced in several languages for foreign forced labourers in Germany. Only one copy from August 1942 has survived. After the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Hilde Coppi had secretly listened to Moscow radio in order to receive signs of life from German prisoners of war and to forward them to their relatives via Heinrich Scheel. This news contradicted the Nazi propaganda that the Red Army would murder all German soldiers who surrendered. In order to educate them about propaganda lies and Nazi crimes, the group copied and sent letters to soldiers on the Eastern Front, addressed to a fictitious police officer.
The Berlin group undoubtedly provided valuable intelligence to the Soviet Union. However, a Soviet memo dated 25 November 1941 and recently discovered by Shareen Blair Brysac, details the organisational problems in evaluating the intelligence. Reports were forwarded to Lavrentiy Beria, who was unable to act on their contents, which resulted in the Red Army being unable to form a cogent response. Ultimately, the groups' efforts had no effect on Soviet military strategy.
The von Scheliha Group
The cavalry officer, diplomat and later resistance fighter Rudolf von Scheliha was recruited by Soviet intelligence while in Warsaw in 1934. Although a member of the Nazi party since 1938, he took an increasingly critical stance against the Nazi regime by 1938 at the latest. He became an informant to journalist Rudolf Herrnstadt Intelligence from von Scheliha would be sent to Herrnstadt, via the cutout Ilse Stöbe, who would then pass it to the Soviet embassy in Warsaw. In September 1939, Scheliha was appointed director of an information department in the Foreign Office, that was created to counter foreign press and radio news by creating propaganda about the German occupation policy in Poland. This necessitated a move back to Berlin, and Stöbe followed, attaining a position arranged by von Scheliha in the press section of the Foreign Office. that enabled her to pass documents from von Scheliha to a representative of TASS.
Von Scheliha's position in the information department exposed him to reports and images of Nazi atrocities, enabling him to verify the veracity of foreign reports of Nazi officials. By 1941, von Scheliha had become increasingly dissatisfied with the Nazi regime and began to resist by collaborating with Henning von Tresckow. Scheliha secretly made a collection of documents on the atrocities of the Gestapo, and in particular, on murders of Jews in Poland, which also contained photographs of newly established extermination camps. He informed his friends first before later attempting to notify the Allies, including a trip to Switzerland with information on Aktion T4 that was shared with Swiss diplomats. His later reports exposed the Final Solution. After Operation Barbarossa severed Soviet lines of communication, Soviet intelligence made attempts to reconnect with Von Scheliha in May 1942, but the effort failed.
Individuals and small groups
Other small groups and individuals, who knew little or nothing about each other, each resisted the National Socialists in their own way until the Gestapo arrested them and treated them as a common espionage organization from 1942 to 1943.
- Kurt Gerstein
- Kurt Gerstein was a German SS officer who had twice been sent to concentration camps in 1938 due to close links with the Confessional Church and had been expelled from the Nazi Party. As a mine manager and industrialist, Gerstein was convinced that he could resist by exerting influence inside the Nazi administration. On 10 March 1941, when he heard about the German euthanasia program Aktion T4, he joined the SS and by chance became Hygiene-Institut der Waffen-SS (Institute for Hygiene of the Waffen-SS) and was ordered by the RSHA to supply prussic acid to the Nazis. Gerstein set about finding methods to dilute the acid, but his main aim was to report the euthanasia programme to his friends. In August 1942, after attending a gassing using a diesel engine exhaust from a car, he informed the Swedish embassy in Berlin of what happened.
- Willy Lehmann
- Willy Lehmann was a communist sympathizer who was recruited by the Soviet NKVD in 1929 and became one of their most valuable agents. In 1932 Lehmann joined the Gestapo and reported to the NKVD the complete work of the Gestapo. In 1935 Lehmann attended a rocket engine ground firing test in Kummersdorf that was attended by Wernher von Braun. From this Lehmann sent six pages of data to Stalin on 17 December 1935. Through Lehmann, Stalin also learned about the power struggles in the Nazi party, rearmament work and even the date of Operation Barbarossa. In October 1942 Lehmann was discovered by the Gestapo and murdered without trial. Lehmann had no connection to the Schulze-Boysen or Harnack group.
The Trepper Group
Belgium was a favourite place for Soviet espionage to establish operations before World War II as it was geographically close to the centre of Europe, provided good commercial opportunities between Belgium and the rest of Europe and most important of all, the Belgian government was indifferent to foreign espionage operations that were conducted as long as they were against foreign powers and not Belgium itself. The first Soviet agents to arrive in Belgium were technicians. The Red Army agent, communust agitator and radio specialist Johann Wenzel arrived in January 1936, to establish a base. However, the Belgian authorities refused him permission to remain, so he moved to the Netherlands in early 1937, where he made contact with Daniël Goulooze, who was director of the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN) and who acted as the main liaison officer between the CPN and the Communist International in Moscow.
Leopold Trepper was an agent of the Red Army Intelligence and had been working with Soviet intelligence since 1930. Trepper along with Soviet military intelligence officer, Richard Sorge were the two main Soviet agents in Europe and were employed as roving agents setting up espionage networks in Europe and Japan. Whereas Richard Sorge was a penetration agent, Trepper ran a series of clandestine cells for organising agents. Trepper used the latest technology, in the form of small wireless radios to communicate with Soviet intelligence. Although the monitoring of the radios transmissions by the Funkabwehr would eventually lead to the organisations destruction, the sophisticated use of the technology-enabled the organisation to behave as a network.
During the 1930s, Trepper had worked to create a large pool of informal intelligence sources, through contacts with the French Communist Party. In 1936, Trepper became the technical director of Soviet Red Army Intelligence in Western Europe. He was responsible for recruiting agents and creating espionage networks. During early 1938, he was sent to Brussels to establish commercial cover for a spy network in France and the Low Countries. In the autumn of 1938, Trepper approached a Jewish businessman and former Comintern agent Léon Grossvogel, whom he had known in Palestine. Grossvogel ran a small business called Le Roi du Caoutchouc or The Raincoat King on behalf of its owners. Trepper had a plan to use money that had been provided to him, to create a business that would be the export division of The Raincoat King. The new business was given an unidiomatic name of Foreign Excellent Raincoat Company. Trepper's plan was to wait until the company gained market share, and then when it was of sufficient size, infiltrate it with communist personal in positions such as shareholders, business managers and department heads. On 6 March 1939, Trepper, now using the alias Adam Mikler, a wealthy Canadian businessman, moved to Brussels with his wife to make it his new base.
In March 1939, Trepper was joined by GRU agent Mikhail Makarov posing as Carlos Alamo, who was to provide expertise in forged documentation e.g. preparation of Kennkartes. However, Grossvogel had recruited Abraham Rajchmann, an criminal forger to the group and thenceforth, Makarov became a radio operator. In July 1939, Trepper was joined in Brussels by GRU agent Anatoly Gurevich posing as the wealthy Uruguayan Vincente Sierra Gurevich has already completed his first operation by meeting Schulze-Boysen in order to reestablish him as an intelligence source and to arrange courier service. Gurevich's original remit was to learn the operation of the raincoat company and establish a new store in Copenhagen.
At the start of the war, Trepper had to revise his plans significantly. After the conquest of Belgium in May 1940, Trepper fled to Paris, leaving Gurevich responsible for the Belgium network. Gurevich, operating from a safehouse located at 101 Rue des Atrébates in Brussels, used Makarov as his wireless radio operator, Sophia Poznańska as his cipher clerk, Rita Arnould as a courier and housekeeper, and Isidor Springer, who worked as a courier between Gurevich and Trepper and as a recruiter. Gurevich's main task was to transmit reports received from Harro Schulze-Boysen and Trepper. In June 1941, Trepper sent Anton Danilov to assist Makarov[a] with radio transmissions. In October 1941, Gurevich visited Germany, to restablish communications with the Shulze-Boysen/Harnack group and then to deliver a cypher key to Ilse Stöbe that was instead delivered to Kurt Schulze. In September or October 1941, Trepper ordered Rajchmann to join Gurevich as the group's documentation expert. The last core member of the group was the courier, Malvina Gruber. Gruber specialised in couriering people, often across borders. Her main role with the group was as a courier between Rajchmann and Trepper and as an assistant to Rajchmann.
The Jeffremov Group
This network was run by Soviet Army Captain Konstantin Jeffremov. He arrived in Brussels in March 1939 to organise various groups into a network. Jeffremov's group was independent of Trepper's group, although there were some members who worked for both groups and it was likely that by 1941, Jeffremov knew about Gurevich's network. At the end of 1938 Wenzel recruited Dutch national and Rote Hilfe member Anton Winterink later trained him as a radio operator. Winterink worked for Jeffremov for most of 1940 in Brussels but made frequent trips to the Netherlands where he established a network. Later in 1940, Jeffremov ordered Winterink to take charge of the network, that became known as group Hilda. By December 1940, both Wenzel in Belgium and Winterink in the Netherlands had established a radio link with Moscow, that was being used to transmit intelligence provided by Jeffremov. In 1939, the married couple, Franz Schneider and Germaine Schneider were recruited by Jeffremov. The couple were members of the Communist Party of Belgium and had been running Comintern safe houses in Brussels, for a number of years Germaine Schneider was the most important of the two, working as a courier from 1939 to 1942 that involved extensive travel across the Low Countries. Before the war, she was Henry Robinson's contact to Soviet agents in Great Britain. While she worked from Jeffremov, she couriered between Brussels and Paris.
In May 1942, as part of reorganisation effort after the raid on the Rue des Atrebates safehouse, Trepper met Jeffremov in Brussels to instruct him to take over the running of the Belgian espionage network in the absence of Anatoly Gurevich who had run the network from July 1940 to December 1941. The most important aspect of Jeffremov's new commission was to ensure the continued transmission of the intelligence they were receiving from Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group. This was forwarded to Soviet intelligence via a French Communist Party radio transmitter. Jeffremov was frequently admonished by Soviet intelligence for his lack of activity and slow production of quality intelligence. In May 1942, following Makarov's arrest, Wenzel agreed to begin transmitting for Jeffremov and operated out of a safehouse at 12 Rue de Namur in Brussels.
On 30 July 1942, the house ar 12 Rue de Namur was raided by the Abwehr and Wenzel was arrested. Germaine Schneider managed to warn Trepper who warned Jeffremov who managed to escape.
In Paris, Trepper's assistants were Grossvogel and Polish Jew Hillel Katz, who was the groups recruiter. Trepper contacted General Ivan Susloparov, Soviet Military attaché in the Vichy government, both in an attempt to reconnect with Soviet intelligence and locate another transmitter. Trepper came under the supervision of Susloparov who charged him with building an espionage network that targeted military intelligence. After passing his intelligence to Susloparov, Trepper started to organise a new cover company by recruiting Belgian businessman Nazarin Drailly. On 19 March 1941, Drailly became the main shareholder in the company Simexco, located in Brussels. Trepper also created a similar company in Paris that was known as Simex and was run by former Belgian diplomat Jules Jaspar along with French commercial director Alfred Corbin. Both companies sold black market goods to the Germans but their best customer was Organisation Todt, the civil and military engineering organization of Nazi Germany. The two firms gave Trepper access to industrialists and businessmen, but he was always careful to remain in the background in any deal but ensured that suitable questions were asked and that he dealt only with people in responsible positions. Trepper directed seven networks in France and each had its own group leader with a focus on gathering a specific type of intelligence. Trepper constructed them in a manner so that they were independent, working in parallel with only the group leader having direct contact with Trepper. Regular meeting places were used for contact points at predetermined times and these could only be set by Trepper. This type of communication meant that Trepper could contact the group leader but not vice versa and stringent security measures were built in at every step. These were as follows:
|Espionage networks in France|
|Andre||Leon Grossvogel||Intelligence on the German economy and industry||As part of his remit, Grossvogel was responsible for finding safe houses, rendezvous points for other networks and letter drop locations.|
|Harry||Henry Robinson||Intelligence from French military and political groups, from within the Deuxième Bureau and within Vichy intelligence, from the Central Committee of the French Communist Party, from Gaullist groups and from UK groups.||His other task was the control of the wireless equipment and communication needs of the espionage network.|
|Professor||Basile Maximovitch||Intelligence from White Russians emigrant groups as well as from groups in the German Wehrmacht.||Maximovitch was a former Russian mining engineer who had offered his allegiance to Trepper. He was particularly important to him as the niece of German general Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Margarete Hoffman-Scholz fell in love with Maximovitch. At the time, von Stülpnagel was Commander of Greater Paris and this gave Maximovitch access to intelligence that came from the German High Command.|
|Artzin||Anna Maximovitch||Intelligence from French clerical and royalists groups. They also had a special arrangement with Bishop Emanuel-Anatole-Raphaël Chaptal de Chanteloup of Paris||Anna Maximovitch was the sister of Basile Maximovitch. Her profession as a neurologist enabled her to open a clinic in Choisy-le-Roi, a moneyed area of Paris which enabled her to pick up gossip and recruit from her patients.|
|Simex||Alfred Corbin||Intelligence from German administrative departments and industrial firms as well as provided the financing for the Trepper organisation. It was the Simex company.||Communication between the Simex company and its main customer, the Todt Organization, provided information on German military fortifications and troop movements. As a bonus, the Todt Organization supplied some of Trepper's agents with passes that allowed them to move freely in German-occupied areas.|
|Romeo||Isidor Springer||Intelligence from US and Belgian diplomats.||It was primarily concerned with recruitment and acting as a courier between different groups in different countries.|
|Sierra||Anatoly Gurevich||Intelligence from groups associated French admiral François Darlan and French general Henri Giraud.||The group also had contacts with French government and administrative departments of France.|
The Robinson Group
Around 1930, Comintern agent Henry Robinson arrived in Paris and became the section leader for Switzerland, France, and Great Britain. He began intelligence operations against France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Great Britain. In 1930, Robinson became director of BB-Aparat (intelligence department) of the French Communist Party and the International Liaison Department (OMS) of the Comintern in Western Europe.
Towards the end of 1940 and during all of 1941, Trepper searched for a radio operator in France, as a backup communications link should Makarov be arrested. In September 1941, on orders from Soviet intelligence, met with Robinson in Paris. While Trepper was an agent of Red Army intelligence, the Comintern organisation that Robinson belonged to, had lost prestige with Stalin, who suspected it of deviating from Communist norms. Robinson was also suspected of being an agent of the Deuxième Bureau, so subsequently in ideological conflict with Soviet intelligence. It was, therefore, unusual for two senior agents to meet, but an exception was made as it was felt by Soviet intelligence that Robinson's extensive contacts could help Trepper build his French networks.
Prior to September 1941, Robinson sent his intelligence via a cutout who took them to Soviet Embassy in Paris, where they conveyed by diplomatic pounch to Soviet intelligence. After meeting Trepper, Robinson arranged to receive his message via Makarov. When Makarov was arrested in December 1941, it resulted in a complete loss of communication for Trepper and Robinson organisations were blocked. Trepper was unable to make contact with Soviet intelligence until February 1942, when learned of a radio transmitter that was being run by the French Communist Party in Paris from Robinson and was ordered to take charge of Robinson's network.
The Red Three (German: Rote Drei) was a Soviet espionage network that operated in Switzerland during and after World War II. It was perhaps the most important Soviet espionage network in the war, as they could work relatively undisturbed. The name Rote Drei was a German appellation, based on the number of transmitters or operators serving the network, and is perhaps misleading, as at times there were four, sometimes even five.
The head of the Soviet intelligence service was Maria Josefovna Poliakova, a Soviet 4th Department agent, who first arrived in Switzerland in 1937 to direct operations. The other important leader in the Switzerland group was Ursula Kuczynski, codenamed Sonia, a colonel of the GRU, who has been sent to Switzerland in late 1938, to recruit a new espionage network of agents that would infiltrate Germany. Poliakova passed control to the new director of the Soviet intelligence service in Switzerland, sometime between 1939 and 1940. The new director was Alexander Radó, codenamed Dora, who held the secret Red Army rank of Major General.
Radó formed several intelligence groups in France and Germany, before arriving in Switzerland in late 1936 with his family. In 1936 Radó formed Geopress, a news agency specialising in maps and geographic information as a cover for intelligence work, and after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the business began to flourish. In 1940, Radó met Alexander Foote, an English Soviet agent, who joined Ursula Kuczynski's network in 1938, and who would become the most important radio operator for Radó's network. In March 1942, Radó made contact with Rudolf Roessler who would become the most important source of information. Roessler was able to provide prompt access to the secrets of the German High Command. This included the pending details of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union and many more, over a period of two years. A 1949 study by MI5 concluded that Roessler was a true mercenary who demanded payments for his reports that ran into thousands of Swiss francs over the course of the war year. This resulted in Dübendorfer being continually short of money, as Soviet intelligence insisted the link be maintained.
Radó established three networks in Switzerland. The three main sources of information, in decreasing importance:
- The first network was run by Rachel Dübendorfer, codename Sissy and who had the most important contacts of the three subgroups. Dübendorfer received intelligence reports from Rudolf Roessler (Lucy) via the cutout, Christian Schneider. Dübendorfer passed the reports to Radó who passed them to Foote for transmission. Roessler in turn received the information from sources code named Werther, Teddy, Olga, and Anna. It was never discovered who they were. A study by the CIA concluded that the four sources that were forwarding intelligence to Roessler were the Wehrmacht General Hans Oster, Abwehr chief of staff, Hans Bernd Gisevius, the German politician Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and an unknown man named Boelitz.
- The second network was run by the French journalist Georges Blun (Long). His sources could not match the production of Lucy's group in quality or quantity but were nevertheless important.
- The third espionage network was led by Swiss journalist Otto Pünter (Pakbo). Pünter's network was considered the least important.
The three principal agents above were chiefly an organisation for producing intelligence for the Soviet Union. But some of the information that was collected for the Rote Drei was sent to the west through a Czech Colonel, Karel Sedláček. In 1935, Sedláček was trained in Prague for a year in 1935, and sent to Switzerland in 1937 by General František Moravec. By 1938, Sedláček was a friend of Major Hans Hausamann who was Director of the unofficial Buero Ha, a supposed press-cuttings agency, in fact, a covert arm of the Swiss Intelligence. Hausamann has been introduced to the Lucy spy ring by Xaver Schnieper, a junior officer in the Bureau. It was unknown whether Hausamann was passing information to Lucy, who passed it to Sedláček who forwarded it to London Czechs in exile, or via an intermediary.
Radio messages examined
The radio stations that were known to exist were established at:
- A station built by Geneva radio dealer Edmond Hamel codenamed Eduard and hidden behind a board in his apartment at Route de Florissant 192a in Geneva. Hamel's wife, who acted as an assistant, prepared the encrypted messages. Radó paid the couple 1000 Swiss francs per month.
- A station built in Geneva by Radó's lover, the waitress Marguerite Bolli at Rue Henry Mussard 8. She earned 800 Swiss francs per month.
- The third station was built by Alexander Foote that was hidden insider a typewriter. The transmitter was located in Lausanne at Chemin de Longeraie 2. Red Army Caption Foote was paid 1300 francs per month.
Wilhelm F. Flicke, a cryptanalyst at the Cipher Department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, worked on the message traffic created by the Swiss group during World War II. Flicke estimated some 5500 messages or about 5 a day for three years were transmitted. The Trepper Report states that between 1941 and 1943, traffic from the three subgroups between 1941 and 1943 consisted of over 2000 militarily important messages, that were sent to the GRU Central office. In September 1993, the CIA Library also undertook an analysis of traffic throughput and estimated that a reasonable number would be around 5000 for the period it was in operation.
Berliners with foreign representatives
From 1933 to December 1941, the Harnacks had contact with the US Embassy counsellor Donald R. Heath and Martha Dodd, the daughter of the then US Ambassador William Dodd. The Harnacks would often attend receptions at the American embassy as well as parties organised by Martha Dodd, until about 1937. As like-minded people, the group believed that the population would revolt against the Nazis and when it did not, the group became convinced that new avenues were needed to defeat Hitler. From the summer of 1935, Harnack worked on economic espionage for the Soviet Union, and economic espionage for the United States by November 1939. Harnack was convinced that America would play a part in defeating Nazi Germany.
In September 1940, Alexander Mikhailovich Korotkov acting under his codename of Alexander Erdberg, a Soviet intelligence officer who was part of the Soviet Trade Delegation in Berlin, won over Arvid Harnack as a spy for the Soviet Embassy. Harnack had been an informant but in a meeting with Korotkov in the Harnacks' top floor apartment at Woyrschstrasse in Berlin and later in a meeting arranged by Erdberg in the Soviet Embassy to ensure he was not a decoy, he finally convinced Harnack, who was reluctant to agree. Several reasons have been advanced as to why Harnack decided to become a spy, including a need for money, being ideologically driven, and possibly blackmail by Russian intelligence. It was known that Harnack had planned an independent existence for his friends. According to a statement by Erdberg discovered after the war, he thought Harnack was not motived by money nor ideologically driven but that he was specifically building an anti-fascist organisation for Germany as opposed to an espionage network for Russian intelligence. He considered himself a German patriot.
In February 1937, Schulze-Boysen had compiled a short information document about a sabotage enterprise planned in Barcelona by the German Wehrmacht. It was action from "Special Staff W", an organisation established by Luftwaffe general Helmuth Wilberg to study and analyse the tactical lessons learned by the Legion Kondor during the Spanish Civil War. A cousin to Schulze-Boysen, Gisela von Pöllnitz, placed the document in the mailbox of the Soviet Embassy in Bois de Boulogne.
In April 1939, Anatoly Gurevich was ordered to visit Berlin and attempt to revive Schulze-Boysen as a source. He arrived in Berlin on 29 October 1939 and arranged a meeting, first with Kurt Schulze, the radio operator for Ilse Stöbe and then Schulze-Boysen. At the meeting, Schulze-Boysen confirmed there would be no attack on the Soviet Union that year, that Germany did not have enough oil to conduct the war fully. Gurevich persuaded Schulze-Boysen to recruit other people as sources. From 26 September 1940, Harnack passed on knowledge received from Schulze-Boysen about the planned attack on the Soviet Union to Korotkov, but not about the open and branched structure of his group of friends. By 1941, Schulze-Boysen had succeeded in creating his own network. In March 1941, Schulze-Boysen informed Korotkov directly about his knowledge of the German attack plans.
Schulze-Boysen employed the following people in his network: his wife, Libertas, who acted as his deputy; Elisabeth and Kurt Schumacher, who were close contacts; Eva-Maria Buch, who worked in the German Institute of Foreign Affairs; Oda Schottmüller and Erika von Brockdorff, who used their houses for radio operations; Kurt Schulze, radio matters; Herbert Engelsing, an informant; Günther Weisenborn, who produced Nazi commissions for Joseph Goebbels, John Graudenz, whose work as a salesman to the Luftwaffe allowed him to visit most airfields. Horst Heillman, a Funkabwehr officer and Elfriede Paul, who acted as a cutout for Engelsing.
Harnack employed the following people in his network: Herbert Gollnow, an Abwehr officer; Wolfgang Havemann, a scientist in German Naval Intelligence Service; Adam and Greta Kuckhoff; German industrialist Leo Skrzypczynski; politician Adolf Grimme; and railway worker John Sieg. Tool designer Karl Behrens and Rose Schlösinger, a secretary at the Federal Foreign Office, were couriers to Hans Coppi.
During May 1941, Korotkov had taken delivery of two shortwave radio sets that had been delivered in the Soviet Union embassy diplomatic pouch, in an attempt to make the Berlin group independent. They were handed to Greta Kuckhoff without precise instructions on how to use them, nor in how to maintain contact with the Soviet leadership in case of war. The two radio sets were of different design. The first set had been damaged by Korotkov and had been returned to the Soviet Union for repair, returned and kept by Greta Kuckhoff on 22 June 1941. That other set was battery-powered, with a range of 600 miles that was passed to Coppi on the instruction of Schulze-Boyson at Kurt and Elisabeth Schumacher's apartment. On 26 June 1941, Coppi sent a message:A thousand greetings to all friends. Moscow replied "We have received and read your test message. The substitution of letters for numbers and vice versa is to be done using the permanent number 38745 and the codeword Schraube", and directing them to transmit at a predefined frequency and time. After that, the batteries were too weak to reach Moscow.
In June 1941, the Soviet Embassy was withdrawn from Berlin, and from that point, Schulze-Boysen's information was couriered to Brussels where it was transmitted using Gurevich's network.
In November 1941, another radio set was passed to Coppi at the Eichkamp S-Bahn railway station. It was supplied by Kurt Schulze, who gave Coppi technical instructions on its use. This set was more powerful, being AC powered. Coppi would later accidentally destroy the AC-powered transmitter by connecting it to a DC power socket, destroying the transformer and Vacuum tube. Coppi and the Harnack/Shulze-Boysen resistance groups never received sufficient training from Korotkov. Indeed, when Greta Kuckhoff was trained she concluded that her own technical preparations were "extraordinarily inadequate". Only a few members of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Group knew about these radio experiments.
Contact with other groups
Since the beginning of the war in 1939, the Berlin group of friends intensified both exchange and cooperation among themselves. They had a desire to connect with organized and non-organized resistance groups from other regions and sections of the population and to explore common possibilities for action.
Both Harro Schulze-Boysen and Arvid Harnack were good friends with lawyer and academic Carl Dietrich von Trotha. Harnack knew Horst von Einsiedel, also a lawyer, since 1934. Schulze-Boysen knew the diplomat and author, Albrecht Haushofer from the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik, where he was holding seminars. In 1940, Trotha and Einsiedel joined the Kreisau Circle, a resistance group that was officially formed with the merging of the intellectual peers of Jurists Helmuth James von Moltke and Peter Yorck von Wartenburg.
Its members included lawyer, Adam von Trott zu Solz, Albrecht Haushofer, industrialist Ernst Borsig, bureaucrat Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg, philosopher, Alfred Delp, politician Julius Leber, scientist Carlo Mierendorff and many others. Harnack and Schulze-Boysen had a frequent discussion with the group until 1942. The prison chaplain Harald Poelchau who accompanied the members of the resistance groups who were to be executed, was part of the Kreisau Circle resistance group.
Other members of the German group sought contact with the then largely destroyed underground network of the KPD. In 1939, the machinist Hans Coppi established contact with the resistance group associated with theatre actor and former KPD member Wilhelm Schürmann-Horster, while they were both taking evening classes.
In 1934, John Sieg and Robert Uhrig met Wilhelm Guddorf and sinologist Philipp Schaeffer while imprisoned in Luckau prison in Brandenburg, later making contact with KPD officials when released from concentration camp. Guddorf, on the other hand, held talks with the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen Group in Hamburg. The lawyer Josef Römer who had contacts with Sieg, Uhrig and Arthur Sodtke had contact with a Munich resistance group through Bavarian politician Viktoria Hösl.
In November 1942, in a meeting organised by Munich artist, Lilo Ramdohr, White Rose resistance group members Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell visited Chemnitz, to meet Falk Harnack, brother to Arvid Harnack. Scholl and Schmorell were looking to contact anti-Nazi resistance groups in Berlin and unite them together as allies with a common aim. Harnack held discussions with his cousins Klaus and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in order to prepare them for a meeting with Hans Scholls. In the spring of 1943, four members of the White Rose met Falk Harnack again in Munich, but received no clear commitment to his cooperation.
In July and August 1942, the Soviet Main Directorate of State Security (GRU) tried to re-establish contacts with internal German opponents of Hitler. To this end, German communists in exile who had been trained by the GRU as espionage agents were parachuted into Germany.
On 16 May 1942, Soviet agents Erna Eifler and Wilhelm Fellendorf were parachuted into East Prussia. They were instructed to contact Ilse Stöbe in Berlin. However, they never managed to locate Stöbe and by June 1942 found themselves in Hamburg, a city they knew well. Fellendorf's mother, Katharina Fellendorf, hid the two. Later they moved and were hidden by Herbert Bittcher In early July, they took shelter with Bernhard Bästlein. Eifler's location was leaked by a communist informer to the Gestapo and she was arrested on 15 October 1942. Fellendorf managed to escape arrest for another two weeks.
On 5 August 1942 Albert Hoessler and Robert Barth parachuted into Gomel, reaching Berlin via Warsaw and Posen, a few days before the arrest of Schulze-Boysen. They had been sent to establish a radio link to the GRU for the Schulze-Boysen Group initially from Erika von Brockdorff's apartment and then Oda Schottmüller apartment. They were caught before they could make preliminary contact with Soviet intelligence.
On the 23 October 1942, Heinrich Koenen parachuted into Osterode in East Prussia and made his way to Berlin, to meet his contact Rudolf Herrnstadt. He carried a radio set and a receipt for $6500 dollars that had been signed by Rudolf von Scheliha in 1938. He planned to use it to blackmail von Scheliha if he had proved recalcitrant in his endeavours. The Gestapo had advanced notice of Kuenen's arrival from a radio intercept message that they had decrypted. On 29 October 1942, Koenen was arrested by a Gestapo official waiting at Stöbe's apartment.
The group around Robert Uhrig and Beppo Römer had more than two hundred members in Berlin and Munich with branches in Leipzig, Hamburg and Mannheim. In February 1942, the group was infiltrated by the Gestapo. By October 1942, the many members of the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen Group in Hamburg had been arrested. Several members of these groups including Anton Saefkow, Bernhard Bästlein and Franz Jacob, fled from Hamburg to Berlin and began building a new resistance network of illegal cells in the factories of Berlin, that became known as the Saefkow-Jacob-Bästlein Organization.
The events that led up to the exposure of the Red Orchestra were facilitated by a number of blunders by Soviet intelligence, over several months. The radio transmission that exposed them, was intercepted at 3:58 am on 26 June 1941 and was the first of many that were to be intercepted by the Funkabwehr. The message received at the intercept station in Zelenogradsk had the format: Klk from Ptx... Klk from Ptx... Klk from Ptx... 2606. 03. 3032 wds No. 14 qbv. This was followed by thirty-two 5-figure message groups with a morse end of message terminator containing AR 50385 KLK from PTX. (PTX) Up until that point, the Nazi counter-intelligence operation didn't believe that there was a Soviet network operating in Germany and the occupied territories. By September 1941, over 250 messages had been intercepted, but it took several months for them to reduce the suspected area of transmission to within the Belgium area using goniometric triangulation. On 30 November 1941, close range direction-finding teams moved into Brussels and almost immediately found three transmitter signals. Abwehr officer Henry Piepe was ordered to take charge of the investigation around October or November 1941.
Rue des Atrébates
Inside the house was courier Rita Arnould, writing specialist Anton Danilov as well as cipher clerk Sophia Poznańska. The radio transmitter that was still warm. The woman were trying to burn enciphered messages, which were recovered. The radio operator was Anton Danilov. The Germans found a hidden room holding the material and equipment needed to produce forged documents, including blank passports and inks. Rita Arnoulds psychological composure collapsed when she was captured, stating; I'm glad it is all over. While Arnould became an informer, Poznanska committed suicide in Saint-Gilles prison after being tortured. The next day Mikhail Makarov turned up at the house and was arrested. Trepper also visited the house, but his documentation in the form of an Organisation Todt pass was so authentic, that he was released. In Berlin, the Gestapo was ordered to assist Harry Piepe and they selected Karl Giering to lead the investigation and the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle.
Arnould identified two passports belonging to the aliases of Trepper and Gurevich, his deputy in Belgium. From the scraps of paper recovered, Wilhelm Vauck, principal cryptographer of the Funkabwehr was able to discover the code being used message encipherment was based on a chequerboard cypher with a book key. Arnould, recalled the agents regularly read the same books and was able to identify the name of one as Le miracle du Professeur Wolmar by Guy de Téramond After scouring most of Europe for the correct edition, a copy was found in Paris on 17 May 1942. The Funkabwehr has discovered that of the three hundred intercepts in their possession, only 97 here enciphered using a phrase from the Téramond book. The Funkabwehr never discovered that some of the remaining messages had been enciphered using La femme de trente ans by Honoré de Balzac.
Rue de Namur
Following the arrests, the other two transmitters had remained off the air for six months, except for routine transmission. Trepper assumed the investigation had died down and ordered the transmissions to restart. On 30 July 1942, the Funkabwehr identified a house at 12 Rue de Namur, Brussels and arrested GRU radio operator, Johann Wenzel. Coded messages discovered in the house contained details of such startling content, the plans for Case Blue, that Abwehr officer Henry Piepe immediately drove to Berlin from Brussels to report to German High Command. His actions resulted in the formation of the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle. Giering ordered Wenzel to be moved to Fort Breendonk where he was tortured and decided to cooperate with the Abwehr, betraying Erna Eifler, Wilhelm Fellendorf, Bernhard Bästlein and the Hübner's.
German counter-intelligence spent months assembling the data but finally, Vauck succeeded in decrypting around 200 of the captured messages. On 15 July 1942, Vauck decrypted a message that was dated 10 October 1941. The message was addressed to Kent, (Anatoly Gurevich) and had the lead format:KL3 3 DE RTX 1010-1725 WDS GBD FROM DIREKTOR PERSONAL. When the message was decrypted, it gave the location of two addresses in Berlin. The message stated:
- Go to see Adam Kuckhoff at 18 Wilhelmstrasse,[c] telephone 83-62-61, the second stairwell on the left, top floor and tell them that you have been sent a friend of "Arvid" and "Harro" whom Arvid knows as Alexander Erdberg. Mention the book of Kuckhoff that he game him before the war and the play "Ulenspiegel". Suggest to Kuckhoff that he arrange a meeting for you, KENT, with "Arvid" and "Harro". If that is impossible, then clarify through Kuckhoff:
A set of instructions were included followed by:
- If Kuckhoff cannot be found, contact the wife of "Harro" Libertas Schulze-Boysen, at her address 19 Altenburger Alle...[d]
The messages provided the two locations of the Kuckhoff's and the Schulze-Boysen's apartments. Another message that had been sent on 28 August 1941 instructed Gurevich to contact Alte, Ilse Stöbe. The two addresses that were passed to the Reich Security Main Office IV 2A who easily identified the people living there, and from 16 July 1942 were put under surveillance.
A meeting was arranged between Walter Schellenberg, Egbert Bentivegni, Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Kopp to discuss the situation and it was decided the Gestapo would be solely responsible for exposing the group in Berlin. The Sicherheitsdienst appointed Horst Kopkow and Johannes Strübing while Giering and Piepe continued the work in the west.
The Abwehr's hand was forced when Horst Heilmann attempted to inform Schulze-Boysen of the situation. The previous day Schule-Boysen had asked Heilmann to check if the Abwehr had got wind of his contacts abroad.
Heilmann, a German mathematician. worked at Referat 12 of the Funkabwehr, the radio decryption department in Matthäikirchplatz in Berlin. On 31 August 1942, he discovered the names of his friends in a folder that had been provided to him. According to one version of events Heilmann immediately phoned Schulze-Boysen, using Wilhelm Vauck's office phone as his phone was in use. As Schulze-Boysen wasn't in, Heilmann left a message with the maid of the household. When Schulze-Boysen returned, he immediately phoned the number, but unfortunately, it was answered by Vauck.
On 31 August 1942, Harro Schulze-Boysen was arrested in his office in the Ministry of Aviation. On 7 September 1942, the Harnacks had been arrested while on holiday. Schulze-Boysen's wife, Libertas Schulze-Boysen had received a puzzling phone call from his office several days before. She was also warned by the woman who delivered her mail that the Gestapo was monitoring it. Libertas's assistant radio author Alexander Spoerl also noticed that Adam Kuckhoff had gone missing while working in Prague.
Libertas suspected that Schulze-Boysen was arrested, contacted the Engelsing's. Herbert Engelsing tried to contact Kuckhoff without a result. Libertas and Spoerl both started to panic and frantically tried to warn others. They destroyed the darkroom at the Kulurefilm center and Libertas destroyed her meticulously collected archive. At home, she packed a suitcase of all Harro Schulze-Boysens papers and then tried to fabricate evidence of loyalty to the Nazi State by writing fake letters. She sent the suitcase to Günther Weisenborn in the vain hope that it could be hidden and he tried to contact Harro Schulze-Boysen in vain. As the panic reached the rest of the group, frantic searches ensued as each person tried to clear their homes of any anti-Nazi paraphernalia. Documents were burnt, one transmitter was dumped in a river, but the arrests had already started. On 8 September, Libertas was arrested. Adam Kuckhoff was arrested on 12 September 1942 while filming and Greta Kuckhoff the same day. The Coppi's were arrested on the same day along with the Schumacher's and the Graudenz's. By 26 September, Günther Weisenborn and his wife had been arrested. By March 1943, between 120 and 139 people had been arrested (sources vary).
Those who were arrested were taken to basement cells (German:Hausgefängnis) in the most dreaded address in all of German-occupied Europe, Gestapo headquarters at 8 Prinze-Albert Strasse (Prince Albert street) and put into protective custody by the Gestapo. The arrests continued and when the cells became overcrowded, several men were sent to Spandau Prison and the women to Alexanderplatz police station. However the leaders remained. Officers of the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle conducted the initial interrogation At first Harnack, Schulze-Boysen and Kuckhoff refused to say anything, so the interrogators applied intensified interrogations where each was tied between four beds, calf clamps and thumbscrews were applied, then they were whipped.
Piepe interrogated Rita Arnould, about the forgers room at Rue des Atrébates. Giering turned to Rita Arnould as the new lead in the investigation and she identified the Abwehr informer and Jewish forger Abraham Rajchmann. It was Rajchmann who forged identity documents in the secret room of 101 Rue des Atrébates. Rajchmann in turn betrayed Soviet agent Konstantin Jeffremov who was arrested on 22 July 1942 in Brussels, while attempting to obtain forged identity documents for himself. Jeffremov was to be tortured but agreed to cooperate and gave up several important members of the espionage network in Belgium and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, he exposed former Rote Hilfe member and espionage agent Anton Winterink, who was arrested on 26 July 1942 by Piepe. Winterink was taken to Brussels, where he confessed after two weeks of interrogation by torture. Jeffremov (sources vary) also exposed the Simexco company name to the Abwehr and at the same time exposed the name and the existence of the Trepper espionage network in France. Eventually Jeffremov began to work for the Sonderkommando in a Funkspiel operation. Through Jeffremov, contact was made with Germaine Schneider, a courier, who worked for the group between Brussels and Paris. However, Schneider contacted Leopold Trepper, the technical director of a Soviet Red Army Intelligence in western Europe. Trepper advised Schneider to sever all contact with Jeffremov and move to a hideout in Lyons. Giering instead focused on Germaine Schneider's husband Franz Schneider. In November 1942, Franz Schneider was interrogated by Giering but as he was not part of the network he wasn't arrested and managed to inform Trepper that Jeffremov has been arrested.
Abraham Rajchmann was arrested by Piepe on 2 September 1942 when his usefulness as an informer to the Abwehr was at the end. Rajchmann also decided to cooperate with the Abwehr resulting in his betrayal of his mistress, the Comintern member Malvina Gruber, who was arrested on 12 October 1942. Gruber immediately decided to cooperate with the Abwehr, in an attempt to avoid intensified interrogation, i.e. torture. She admitted the existence of a Soviet agent Anatoly Gurevich and his probable location, as well as exposing several members of the Trepper espionage network in France.
Following a routine investigation, Harry Piepe discovered that the firm Simexco in Brussels was being used as a cover for Soviet espionage operations by the Trepper network. It was used as a means to generate monies that could be used in day-to-day operations by the espionage group unbeknownst to the employees of the company and at the same time provide travel documentation ([e]) and facilitates for European wide telephone communication between group members. Piepe was concerned about the large number of telegrams the company was sent to Berlin, Prague and Paris and decided to investigate it. Piepe visited the Chief Commissariat Officer for Brussels, who was responsible for the company. In the meeting, Piepe showed the two photographs that had been discovered at the house at 101 Rue des Atrébates, to the officer who identified them as Trepper and Gurevich.
As part of a combined operation with Giering in Paris, Piepe raided the offices of Simexco on 19 November 1942. When the Gestapo entered the Simexco office they found only one person, a clerk, but managed to discover all the names and addresses of Simexco employees and shareholders from company records. Over the month of November, most of the people associated with the company were arrested and taken to St. Gilles Prison in Brussels or Fort Breendonk in Mechelen. The Nazi German tradition of Sippenhaft, meant that many family members of the accused were also arrested, interrogated and executed.
The Abwehr in Brussels and the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle had full control of the Red Orchestra in Belgium and the Netherlands well before the end of 1942. There is no clear indication when Giering, Piepe and the Sonderkommando moved to Paris, although various sources indicate it was October 1942. Perrault reports it was later summer rather than early autumn. When the unit moved, it relocated to 11 Rue des Saussaies. Before leaving, Piepe and Giering agreed that Rajchmann would be the best person to take to Paris and find Trepper. When they arrived in Paris, Giering sent Rajchmann out to visit all the dead letterboxs that he knew about while leaving a message to Trepper to contact him. However Trepper never showed up. Giering then tried to establish a meeting with a contact, using information from the correspondence between Simexco and an employee of the Paris office of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce. That ultimately proved unsuccessful, so Giering turned back to investigating Simexco. Giering visited the Seine District Commercial Court where he discovered that Léon Grossvogel was a shareholder of Simex. He had been informed by Jeffremov that Grossvogel was one of Trepper's assistants. Giering and Piepe decided to approach Organisation Todt to determine whether they could provide a way to identify where Trepper was located. Giering obtained a signed certificate of cooperation's from Otto von Stülpnagel, the military commander of occupied France and visited the Todt offices. Giering, together with organisation commander, created a simple ruse to trap Trepper. However, the ruse failed. Giering decided to start arresting employees of Simex. On 19 November 1942, Suzanne Cointe, a secretary at Simex and Alfred Corbin, the commercial director of the firm were arrested. Corbin was interrogated but failed to disclose the location of Monsieur Gilbert, the alias that Trepper was using in his dealings with the Simex. so Giering sent for a torture expert. However, Corbin's wife told the Abwehr that Corbin had given Trepper the name of a dentist. After being tortured, Corbin informed Giering of the address of Trepper's dentist. Trepper was subsequently arrested on 24 November by Piepe and Giering, while he was sitting in a dentist's chair. It was the result of two years of searching. On the 24 November, Giering contacted Hitler to inform him of the capture of Trepper.
Both Trepper and Gurevich, who had been arrested on the 9 November 1942 in Marseilles were brought to Paris and were treated well by Giering. Trepper informed Giering that his family and relatives in the USSR would be killed if it became known to Soviet intelligence that he was captured. Giering agreed that should Trepper collaborate, his arrest would remain a secret. Over the next few weeks, Trepper betrayed the names of agents to Giering including Léon Grossvogel, Hillel Katz and several other Soviet agents. According to Piepe, when Trepper talked, it was not out of fear of torture or defeat, but out of duty. While he gave up the names and addresses of most of the members of his own network, he was sacrificing his associates to protect the various members of the French Communist Party, whom he had an absolute belief in. Unlike Trepper, Gurevich refused to name any agents he had recruited.
On the 25 September 1942, Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and Gestapo Chief Inspector Heinrich Müller meet to discuss the case. They decided the whole network should be charged with espionage and treason together as a group. In the second half of October, Müller proposed that the trial take place at Volksgerichtshof where most sedition cases were directed. Its new president in August 1942 was Roland Freisler who almost always sided with the prosecuting authority, to the point that being brought before him was tantamount to a capital charge.
Himmler who was a proponent of the proposal reported it to Hitler. However, the Führer, aware of the military nature of many people in the group, ordered Göring to burn out the cancer. Goring brought Schulze-Boysen into the air ministry, so needed to choose the correct prosecutor. On 17 October 1942, Hermann Göring met with Judge Advocate Manfred Roeder aboard his special train in the town of Vinnytsia. Goering trusted Roeder to prosecute the case correctly, as he was unlikely to sympathise with any humanitarian motives that would be offered by the defendants. It was only because Roeder was designated as prosecuting counsel that Hitler approved Goering's plan and agreed to hold the trial in the Reichskriegsgericht (RKG, Reich Imperial Court) in Berlin, the highest German military court, instead of the Volksgerichtshof. whose judgements he considered insufficiently harsh. Roeder was seconded to the Reich War Prosecutor's Office especially for the proceedings and commissioned Roeder to take on the indictment of the resistance group before the Reich Imperial Court. Roeder had not been a member of the Reich Military Court prior to that point, and his involvement was an expression of the trust that Göring placed in him. Roeder was universally disliked. Rudolf Behse, counsel for the defendants stated that cynicism and brutality were at the core of his character, stating that his limitless ambition was matched only by his innate sadism. Even his colleagues found him harsh and inconsiderable. Prosecuting judge Eugen Schmitt stated that there was something lacking in his temperament; he did not possess the normal man's sympathy for the suffering of others.... When Axel von Harnack visited Roeder on behalf of the Harnacks, he stated of Roeder, Never since have I experienced an impression of brutality as I did from this man. He was a creature surrounded by an aura of fear.
At the beginning of November 1942, the Gestapo investigation delivered 30 volumes of reports to the Reich War Prosecutor's Office for processing by Roeder. Roeder studied the files but found them inadequate, so decided to conduct further short interrogations. By the end of November 1942, a 90-page report was written by Horst Kopkow known as the Bolshevist Hoch Landesverrats that summarised the activities of the group and it was passed to senior members of the Nazi state for review With the production of the report, the Gestapo considered the initial phase of the investigation successful. At the same time, Roeder completed an 800-page indictment and proceeded to prosecute the group. Roeder determined that 76 people would stand trial of the original group. The indictments were broken down in groups.
On the 15 December 1942, the trial began in secret, in the 2nd senate of the Reichskriegsgericht. The presiding judge was Senate President Alexander Kraell. The other judges were professional judge Eugen Schmitt, Viceadmiral Theodor Arps, General Walter Musshoff, and Generalmajor Hermann Stutzer that made up the judicial panel that decided the legal case for each defendant.
The trial was a legal travesty. Prisoners were never able to read their indictments and often they would only meet their lawyers minutes before the case started, in trials that often only lasted hours, with the verdict pronounced on the same day. There was no jury, no peers, no German civilians present in the court, only Gestapo spectators. Attempts were made by family members to find suitable lawyers. Falk Harnacks cousin Klaus Bonhoeffer was asked to represent the Harnacks but had refused. In the end, only four lawyers were found to represent the 79 defendants, in over 20 trials. At the centre of the "evidence" prepared by uncontrolled Gestapo interrogations was espionage and subversive activity, which was considered high treason and treason and was punishable by the death penalty. Roeder used the process not only to establish the crimes but also to comprehensively portray the private relationships of the accused in order to show them off as thoroughly depraved immoral people, humiliate them and break them.
In Germany hanging had been outlawed since the 17th Century. In March 1933, the Lex van der Lubbe Act was enacted that permitted hanging in public as a particularly dishonourable form of execution. Up until that point, death sentences were carried out by firing squad in the military courts and by beheading by the guillotine in civil courts. It was seen as nefarious by the Nazis and at the same time, elicited a feeling of shame by the victims. On 12 December 1942, an order was explicitly sent by Otto Georg Thierack to Plötzensee Prison specifying gallows to hang eight people simultaneously. The notice was sent a full three days before the trial. Hitler wanted to further punish the group and indicated the verdict was already fixed.
The first eleven death sentences for "high and state treason" and two sentences for "passive aiding and abetting in high treason" of six and ten years in prison were issued on 19 December and were presented to Hitler on 21 December. He rejected all requests for pardon and revoked the two penal sentences and referred these cases to the 3rd Senate of the RKG to reopen the case. In the eleven death sentences, the method and schedule of the executions were determined. On December 22, from 7:00 p.m. to 7:20 p.m., the following were hanged every four minutes:
From 20:18 to 20:33 o'clock, every three minutes the following were beheaded:
Roeder was present at the executions as chief prosecutor.
On 16 January 1943, the 3rd Senate also sentenced Mildred Harnack and Erika von Brockdorff to death on the basis of new incriminating evidence from the Gestapo claiming that the women had knowledge of the radio messages. From 14 to 18 January 1943, the 2nd Senate heard the cases of nine other defendants who had been involved in the adhesive sticking operation. They were all sentenced to death for "favouring the enemy" and "war treason". From 1 to 3 February, six other defendants were tried: Adam and Greta Kuckhoff, Adolf and Maria Grimme, Wilhelm Guddorf and Eva-Maria Buch. Only the death sentence for Adolf Grimme requested by Roeder was reduced to three years imprisonment: Grimme was able to make it credible that he had only seen the Agis leaflet briefly once. His wife was released without condition.
On 13 May, thirteen further members of the group were executed at Plötzensee: Karl Behrens, Erika Gräfin von Brockdorff ("Let no one say that I wept and trembled and clung to life. I want to end my life laughing, laughing the way I loved and still love life"), Wilhelm Guddorf, Helmut Himpel, Walter Husemann, Walter Küchenmeister, Friedrich Rehmer, John Rittmeister, Philipp Schaeffer, Heinz Strelow, Fritz Thiel, Erhard Thomfor and Richard Weissensteiner.
Himpel's fiancé Maria Terwiel who had helped copy and distribute the Agis leaflet, and had written handbills and put up posters against the Nazi propaganda "Soviet Paradise" exhibition, was guillotined at Plötzensee on 5 August. Able in Spandau to coordinate his testimony with Himpel and Graudenz, her collaborator, the pianist Helmut Roloff, was released on 26 January 1943.
The term Funkspiel, defined by the German name "Funk" meaning radio and "spiel" meaning play or performance, was a common counterintelligence technique where controlled information was transmitted over a captured agent's radio, where the agent's parent service had no knowledge that the agent had turned. It was undertaken for a number of reasons that that included poisoning the source by conveying deceptive material, discovering important intelligence and identifying networks.
When the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle captured Soviet radio operators, instead of immediately executing them, they were instead forced into running separate Funkspiel operations, under the direction of Giering. To facilitate the operation, Hitler had given permission to pass on messages in coordinatation with the Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, even if it fulfilled the definition of treason. The Gestapo's purpose in running this particular funkspiel was to discover Soviet links to the French Communist Party, the French Resistance and the Red Three.
Two transmission stations were built on the outskirts of Paris that were operated by the German Schutzpolizei for use by the agents captured in France. In Brussels, a house on Rue de l'Aurore was used for Funkspiel operations. From August 1942 to October 1942, the RSHA ran four Funkspiel operations in Brussels, for agents captured in Belgium. The Sonderkommando in France ran the funkspiel from 25 December 1942 to August 1944. Gurevich continued his own funkspiel in various locations until May 1945. Six radio sets that had been captured out of eight were used.
Johann Wenzel ran a radio station called Weide that started in August. Anton Winterink, ran a station known Beam Tanne that began in September. In October, two stations were established, one for Jeffremov that was known as station Buche-Pascal and one for Hermann Isbutzki known as Buche-Bob. Trepper's was known as Eiffel began on 25 December 1942, in Paris and Gurevich's funkspiel known as Mars began on March 1943.
The German funkspiel operation was largely a failure. In Belgium, Soviet intelligence was likely given an early warning when Germaine Schneider informed Trepper of the raid at 12 Rue de Namur in July 1942. In Paris, the German's made a series of fundamental mistakes during procedures. The principle mistake they made was not recognising the difficulties faced by Trepper in establishing and maintaining communications in the first place. They made no attempt to model the types of communication difficulties the group would have faced. They also made series of sloppy mistakes in operational procedures, e.g. sending multi-part message out of order, nor taking cognizance of the supposed location of individuals and repeatedly sending the same message on different days. The Sonderkommando were also unable to overcome the problem of passing false information to Soviet Intelligence. While Trepper's Eiffel operation was running, the Germans passed general statements that had no detailed military information. This was another failure as Trepper had made a career out of delivering high-quality intelligence. Soviet Intelligence became increasingly strident in their demands for precise and accurate details. However on the 5 June 1953, the Commander-in-Chief West Gerd von Rundstedt refused to answer any further questions sent by Soviet Intelligence.
In August 1943, Heinz Pannwitz became director of the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle in Belgium and France, replacing Giering. Panwitz reduced the size of the Sonderkommando and changed the type of messages sent; reducing the military aspect and instead focused on reports from the Catholic church, the German economy, Russian emigration and other civilian areas. The messages that Pannwitz sent in coordination with Heinrich Müller were designed to deepen mistrust between the Soviet Union and the western allies.
When a particular funkspiel operation was completed, the radio operator was usually executed by the Gestapo. Several members managed to escape custody however, including Wenzel on 17 November 1942, who escaped through an unlocked door and Trepper on the 13 September 1943, while visiting a pharmacy. Both Wenzel and Trepper were subject to interrogation and imprisonment qhen they returned to the Soviet Union. Wenzel due his involvement in the funkspieland Trepper, due to his recruited by General Yan Karlovich Berzin, who had fallen out of favour. Gurevich was the last to complete his funkspiel on 3 May 1945, when he was captured with Pannwitz. When Gurevich returned to the Soviet Union he was interrogated and sentenced to 20 years for treason.
Reception after the war
German contemporary witnesses
In the first post-war years, the performance and role model of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group were unreservedly recognized as an important part of the German resistance against the Nazis. In his book Offiziere gegen Hitler (Officers against Hitler) (1946) on the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944 plot, resistance fighter and later writer Fabian von Schlabrendorff paid tribute to the Germans executed as members of the Red Orchestra.
In 1946, the German historian and author, Ricarda Huch publicly called for contributions to her planned collection of biographies of executed resistance fighters Für die Märtyrer der Freiheit (For the Martyrs of Freedom).
Huch explained the task as
- How we need the air to breath, light to see, so we need noble people to live... When we commemorate those who lost their lives in the struggle against National Socialism, we fulfill a duty of gratitude, but at the same time we do ourselves good, because by commemorating them we rise above our Bad luck.
She named the men and women of the Red Orchestra at the forefront. Günther Weisenborn published Der lautlose Aufstand (The Silent Uprising) in 1953, based on material collected from Ricarda Huch, upon her death.
In June 1945, British and American intelligence agencies submitted the first report on the Red Orchestra, the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle and the playback operation run by Heinz Pannwitz. Allied intelligence agencies questioned a large number of people and came to the conclusion that remnants of the Red Orchestra could still exist. The defector Igor Gouzenko warned them that Soviet agents still existed that were sleepers before being activated. At the same time MI5 came to the conclusion that the Trepper organisation was working against the west.
The British also interrogated Nazi informers, e.g. Horst Kopkow who was head of the special commission Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle. In August 1945, Hilde Purwin told the American Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) about a secret Berlin spy ring for the Soviet Union, about which the judge advocate Egon Koepsch and general judge Manfred Roeder could give information about its dismantling. These were then put out for investigation.
On 23 December 1947, Manfred Roeder along with Walter Huppenkothen had become informants for the CIC, placing them out of reach of a prosecution brought by Adolf Grimme and Greta Kuckoff. In 1942, senior Gestapo officer Huppenkothen was charge of department IVa for counter-espionage. In his first report, Roeder testified that the Red Orchestra was still active and controlled by the Soviets. In January 1948, he produced an additional 37-page report that identified all members of the Red Orchestra and their functions. He, Roeder, could not avert the death sentences, because Hitler's "People's Pest Ordinance" left him no choice at the time. The "civil justice system" had carried out the sentences and carried out a "reconstruction" of the execution site. Hanging was more humane than the fall-by-case. Hitler alone was responsible for rejecting the requests for clemency. He had demanded a summary condemnation of all the imprisoned members against which the Reichskriegsgericht had successfully passed on a case-by-case examination. Huppenkothen also pointed to Gestapo's experience with communist espionage and added a list of Gestapo "experts." On 19 January 1948 Roeder released another report with photographs of Red Orchestra members, describing it as a spy network spread across Europe that the Soviet Union had built up since the 1930s to conquer the continent.
By 1948, although the evidence obtained from the CIC was dubious, the Central Intelligence Agency were convinced that Red Three in Switzerland was still active. Roeder's description of the group indicated how little the Nazi state knew about the Swiss group. As a result, the Allied services took on the Gestapo myth from their informants. However, by 13 May 1948, a CIA memo was in circulation that detailed how Roeder had delivered no concrete evidence.
For the British, the most important documents were papers captured by the Gestapo, known as the Robinson papers by Henry Robinson, a German comintern agent in Paris with close links to Leopold Trepper. The papers indicated that Robinson had been liaising with Red Orchestra in Great Britain. Evelyn McBarnet, an agent of MI5 had worked on the papers to try and identify the names, but they were either aliases, post-boxes, or locations that had been bombed. Another officer of MI5, Michael Hanley also worked on the papers in the 1950s. He identified more than 5000 names belonging to the Red Orchestra organisation.
Federal German Justice
On 15 September 1945, Adolf Grimme filed a complaint against Manfred Roeder with the military government of the British Occupation Zone in Hanover. Along with Greta Kuckhoff and Günther Weisenborn, Grimme also reported Roeder to the International Military Tribunal for crimes against humanity. By January 1947, the Nuremberg prosecutors were convinced he should be tried for war crimes, but after examining the complaint, no charges were brought.
On 7 January 1949 Roeder was released and returned to his family in Neetze. In October 1948, the Nuremberg prosecutors turned the case over to the German courts and the Lüneburg public prosecutor was tasked with pursuing the prosecution. Nuremberg prosecutor, Hans Meuschel hoped that due to Control Council Act No. 10 (Kontrollratsgesetz Nr. 10), the German law that recognised crimes against humanity, that justice would prevail against Roeder in the court of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice. Lüneburg prosecutor Hans-Jürgen Finck investigated Roeder, producing a 1732-page report in 1951, half of it recording in detail the supposed crimes of the Red Orchestra. Finck stated in the report that It cannot be refuted that the death sentences were lawful. Roeder was seen by Finck as a victim, not a perpetrator. On 1 November 1951, Finck closed the case. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice kept its final report under wraps for years, as it obviously coincided with Roeder's assessment of the "Red Orchestra".
This interpretation prevailed in the minds of the West German public of the 1950s and was also represented by leading West German historians at the time. Since then, the Red Orchestra in the Federal Republic of Germany has been largely portrayed as a purely secret service organization. Helmut Kohl wrote in a letter to Harro's brother Hartmut Schulze-Boysen in 1987 that the German resistance consisted of the group around Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and the White Rose, that the Red Orchestra did not belong to it.
The Soviet Union kept quiet about the Berlin group of friends for twenty years. On 6 October 1969, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR posthumously awarded the Order of the Red Banner to Harro Schulze-Boysen, Arvid Harnack, Adam Kuckhoff, Ilse Stöbe and Hansheinrich Kummerow. Günther Weisenborn, Karl Behrens and Albert Hoessler received the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class.
Articles in Pravda and Izvestia praised the resistance of those so honoured, but interpreted it only as confirmation of the unifying force of the communist Popular Front policy under the dominance of the KPD, which was the only organized anti-fascist resistance group that had specifically collected information for the Soviet Union. Only publicly available Western sources were used in the articles. The Soviet intelligence files remained under lock and key.
From 1949 onwards, the GDR banned the publication of everything related to Soviet intelligence. Those of the German resistance who had contact with Soviet intelligence and what information they had, remained secret. In December 1966, a plan by Erich Mielke was organised in liaison with the KGB to formerly identify the scouts and honour them. By August 1967, public appreciation of the group began in earnest when proposals for the posthumous honouring the German group as a Scout organisation were made that specified the award for scouts of the Red Orchestra.
In 1970, a DEFA feature film KLK an PTX... was released that portrayed the official histories of the Red Orchestra as a group dependent on the anti-fascism of the KPD and therefore only capable of joint action. Here too, the intelligence activity was overemphasized, but it was seen positively here. Since the 1960s, all biographies of the members of the Red Orchestra in the GDR have been adapted by the Stasi to give the GDR secret service a story with anti-fascist roots. The 1979 book Rote Kapelle gegen Hitler. by Soviet military historian Alexander Blank and Stasi officer Julius Mader is used today as an example of a manipulated historiography. The GDR's image of history solidified the false image of the Red Orchestra in the Federal Republic as a communist spy group.
The first attempts to secure sources on the history of the German resistance against Nazism were made by the branches of the Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime in all German occupation zones. In 1948, Klaus Lehmann documented his information about the German resistance group around Shulze-Boysen and Harnack for the Union in East Berlin.
After positive appreciations of the immediate post-war period, West German historians such as Hans Rothfels and Gerhard Ritter judged the Red Orchestra. Rothfel, writing for an American audience in The German Opposition to Hitler, An Appraisal (1949), wrote for the sake of historical justice, placed the resistance fighters of the 20 July plot, as well as the Harnack group at the centre of his study. Rothfel conceded that the German resistance to Hitler was much more extensive than could have been expected under the conditions of terror and lauded the convictions of the resistance fighters and their vision of a European mission. Ritter's Carl Goerdeler und die Deutsche Widerstandsbewegung (1954), focused more on the resisters values and ideas. Ritter stated that not every resister who was unsatisfied or criticized the Nazis could be included in the German resistance movement. He was vehement in stating that socialist opposition against the Nazi state did not deserve the honorary title of Resistance. In his evaluation he stated, The group had apparently nothing to do with German Resistance, one should have no doubts about this....Any person who can persuade a German soldier to defect or betray important secrets...is a traitor.
The situation remained decisive in the 1960s when new publications by writers Gilles Perrault and Der Spiegel journalist Heinz Höhne were published. Perrault focused more on Western European resistance cells. Höhne used a collection of 500 radio messages belonging to veteran radio cipher officer Wilhelm F. Flicke, as his research base. However, Flicke had worked for another department between 1942 and 1943 and did not learn of the Red Orchestra until 1944. In 1949 and 1953, Höhne published two books, that are now considered sensational and a form of Colportage novel without a valid source base. In the book 'Codeword: Direktor', Höhne repeated Nazi accusations in great detail including Roeder's accusations, fabrications and slander. Not a single message was sent using the faulty radios. Höhne also repeated the spurious charge that was presented by the Nazis that the group mercenary in its nature, which was entirely false. Perrault researched extensively in newspapers and interviewed witnesses but staged his own research. Perrault also interviewed contemporary Gestapo witnesses knowing they were responsible for torture. Witnesses like Harry Piepe were paid to tell their story.
In 1983, historian Peter Steinbach and designer, Hans Peter Hoch were commissioned by Richard von Weizsäcker, then mayor of Berlin, to fully document the German resistance to Nazism, in all its diversity. In 1989, the Memorial to the German Resistance established a permanent exhibition on the subject.
The effort by people like Weizsäcker led to an intensification of research, but it was only with the ending of the Eastern Bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union on 8 December 1991, that the evaluation of Soviet archive documentation on the Red Orchestra could begin, without the lens of ideology intruding. In 2002, for the first time, Hans Coppi and Soviet political historian Boris Lwowitsch Chawkin and historian Yuri N. Zorya brought to light many original documents from the Russian archives, which refuted the myth that the Harnack and Schulze-Boysen groups were a spy organisation.
- The members viewed themselves as rebels who were enlightened.
- That after the war, the Stasi manipulated history to fit their own agenda, specifically to reinforce the prescribed German-Soviet friendship and to legitimize its own spying activity as anti-fascist.
Johannes Tuchel, Director of the Memorial to the German Resistance commented on the astonishing agreement between the east and the west, in the reception that the group received. Tuchel noted how the historical context, as defined by the Gestapo, was transported into the Cold War and as result, falsified the legacy of the group, e.g. the impressive AGIS pamphlets.
In 2017, French author Guillaume Bourgeois, published the La véritable histoire de l'Orchestre rouge, offering a thorough analysis of the Trepper group. It tries to address the lack of sources in prior years that is accomplished by a rigorous examination of German and Soviet archives, in an attempt to provide an accurate historical revision. Bourgeois's conclusion on how little strategic information came from the apparatus of the Orchestra, i.e. from Brussels or Paris, was new.
Karl Barth tribute
The theologian Karl Barth made a rare exception to the West German assessment of the 1950s when he declared the group to be a model of the church resistance because of its openness to people from different social classes, its efforts to protect Jews and the timely clarification of the War Plans of the Nazi's. In his speech to the Hessian state government during the Volkstrauertag of 1954 in Wiesbaden, he stated:
- And whether we like it or not, it must be said that there was nevertheless also a "Red Orchestra": communists who were in fact also in this fight and died as victims of Nazism. Whatever spirit guided them and whatever we might think of their specific intentions and talk today, they didn't want to be part of what the Nazis were planning but rather to draw a line between themselves and the corrupt and pernicious Nazi domination and put an end to it.
- [...] If they had succeeded, it could have meant that, to a very great extent, further human and also material sacrifice would no longer have been necessary. They didn't succeed. And that was due not only to them but also to the fact that so few in Germany, before it became reasonably safe, stood ready to help them and absolutely no one on the outside sympathized with them or provided meaningful support.
These and other speech's provoked outrage and rejection in the audience at the time.
From 1936 to 1941, the artist Carl Baumann was a student at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. Baumann was also a resistance fighter, who was in contact with Schulze-Boysen. In 1941, his famous painting located in the Stadtmuseum in Münster in which he portrays Harro Schulze-Boysen, Walter Küchenmeister and Kurt Schumacher building a bridge away from Nazism.
- Red Orchestra Berlin(1941) Tempera on Nesse, 79×99 cm in Westphalian State Museum of Art and Cultural History in Münster.
The writer Günther Weisenborn was arrested as a member of the resistance group in 1942 and was sentenced to death, but was later reduced to ten years in prison. Weisenborn dedicated his play in three acts The Illegals (German:Die Illegalen), to the resistance group, which premiered on 21 March 1946. In it, he portrayed two organized resistance fighters as tragic individuals whose love for each other fails due to the forced isolation and secrecy of their resistance work.
The writer and artist, Peter Weiss dedicated his magnum opus, three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance to the resistance from 1971 to 1981 celebrating their courage. For him, the resistance was the organization in which it was possible to overcome the division of the labour movement into social democrats and communists in the common struggle against fascism.
In 1970, DEFA made the film KLK an PTX – Die Rote Kapelle under the direction of Horst E. Brandt based on a screenplay by Wera and Claus Küchenmeister. The Harnack's were played by Horst Drinda and Irma Münch, Horst Schulze and Barbara Adolph played the Kuckhoff's, Klaus Piontek and Jutta Wachowiak played the Schulze-Boysen's.
In 2003, Stefan Roloff's second documentary, The Rote Kapelle, a portrait of his late father, Helmut Roloff, a resistance fighter and companion book Rote Kapelle corrected the Cold War-shaped image for the first time and told the true story of the resistance group through interviews with survivors and contemporary witnesses. It was premiered at the Memorial to the German Resistance, followed by cinema screenings, including in Berlin and New York, where he was nominated for Best Foreign Film 2005 by the US Women Critics.
In 2016, the documentary The good enemies. My Father, the Red Orchestra and I by Christian Weisenborn, which consists of private film material, excerpts of letters and diaries as well as interviews with relatives and authors as a cinematic biography. Weisenborn devotes a great deal of attention to the representation of the perspective of women in the resistance group and recalls that the story of resistance is still told primarily as one of men in the resistance.
People of the Red Orchestra
- Schulze-Boysen, Harro (1983). Gegner von heute - Kampfgenossen von morgen [Opponent today - comrades of tomorrow] (in German) (3. Aufl ed.). Coblenz: Fölbach. ISBN 978-3-923532-00-1.
- Griebel, Regina; Coburger, Marlies; Scheel, Heinrich (1992). Erfasst? : das Gestapo-Album zur Roten Kapelle : eine Foto-Dokumentation [recorded? The Gestapo album the Red Orchestra. A photo documentation] (in German). Halle: Audioscop. ISBN 978-3-88384-044-4.
- Kuckhoff, Greta (1968). Vom Rosenkranz zur Roten Kapelle e. Lebensbericht (in German) (7th ed.). Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben. OCLC 74777195.
- Nelson, Anne (December 2010). Die Rote Kapelle : die Geschichte der legendären Widerstandsgruppe (in German) (1. Aufl ed.). Munich: Bertelsmann. ISBN 978-3-570-10021-9.
- Perrault, Gilles (1994). Auf den Spuren der Roten Kapelle [In the footsteps of the Red Orchestra] (in German) (Überarb. und erw. Neuausg ed.). Hamburg, Vienna, Munich: Europaverl. ISBN 978-3-203-51232-7.
- Roloff, Stefan (2002). Die Rote Kapelle : die Widerstandsgruppe im Dritten Reich und die Geschichte Helmut Roloffs [Red Orchestra. The resistance group in the Third Reich and the history of Helmut Roloff] (in German). Munich: Ullstein. ISBN 978-3-550-07543-8.
- Schafranek, Hans; Tuchel, Johannes, eds. (2004). Krieg im Äther : Widerstand und Spionage im Zweiten Weltkrieg [War in the ether: Resistance and espionage in World War II] (in German). Vienna: Picus. ISBN 978-3-85452-470-0.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rote Kapelle.|
- The German Resistance Memorial Center
- Oral history interviews of "The Red Orchestra" collection at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Plötzensee Memorial Centre Archived 2019-08-31 at the Wayback Machine
- Munich Station report on the interview of Heinz Pannwitz. Now archived by the CIA Library
- Oral history interview with Helmut Roloff
- L'orchestre rouge at IMDb