Red Orchestra (espionage)

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The Red Orchestra (German: Die Rote Kapelle), or the Red Chapel as it was known in Germany, was the name given by the Gestapo to anti-Nazi resistance workers during World War II. These included friends of Harro Schulze-Boysen and Arvid Harnack in Berlin, as well as groups working independently of these intelligence groups, working in Paris and Brussels, that were built up on behalf of Leopold Trepper on behalf of the Soviet Main Directorate of State Security (GRU).[1] Contrary to legend, the Red Orchestra was neither directed by Soviet communists nor under a single leadership but a network of groups and individuals, often operating independently. To date, about 400 members are known by name.[2] They printed illegal leaflets hoping to incite civil disobedience, helped Jews and opposition escape the regime, documented the crimes of the Nazi regime and forwarded military intelligence to the Allies. To this day, the public perception of the "Red Orchestra" is characterized by the transfigurations of the post-war years and the Cold War.[3]

Arvid Harnack, Harro Schulze-Boysen and John Sieg on a GDR stamp
Sculpture by Achim Kühn created in 2010 and sitting in Schulze-Boysen-Straße 12, in Lichtenberg, Berlin


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.[4] 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 recognised as little, as those resistance groups centred around Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen.[4]

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 Chapel) written by Heinz Höhne who was a Der Spiegel journalist.[4] Höhne based his book on the investigation by the Lüneburg Public Prosecutor's Office against the General Judge of the Luftwaffe 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 in defaming the groups attached to Harnack and Schulze-Boysen with accusations of treason.[4]

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 prosecutors 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.[4] 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:[4]

...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 biographies that exist are from the GDR and they represent their point of view.[4]

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 that included Hans Coppi, Hermann Natterodt and Hans Lautenschlager [de] 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. [5][4] Heinrich Scheel's work enabled 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 Red Chapel.[6]


Diagram of the various groups of the Red Orchestra

The term "Red Orchestra" was a cryptonym that was invented by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), the counter-espionage part of the Schutzstaffel (SS), which referred to resistance radio operators as "pianists", their transmitters as "pianos", and their supervisors as "conductors".[7]

The Red Orchestra was a collective name that was used by the Gestapo, the German secret police for the purpose of identification, and the Funkabwehr, the German radio counterintelligence organisation. The Funkabwehr used the name to identify the Paris and Brussels groups that were opponents of the Nazis, that appeared after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Only after the Abwehr 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 was a member of one of the Red Orchestra groups, [8] wrote:

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 Chapel. A radio operator tapping Morse code marks with his fingers was a pianist in the intelligence language. A group of "pianists" formed a "chapel", and since the Morse code had come from Moscow, the "chapel" 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 construct created by the Gestapo, Red Orchestra has never existed in this form.[9] In his research, the historian Hans Coppi Jr., whose father was also a member, Hans Coppi, emphasised that, in view of the Western European groups
A network led by Leopold Trepper of the 'Red Chapel' in Western Europe did not exist. The different groups in Belgium, Holland and France worked largely independently of each other.[1]

The German political scientist Johannes Tuchel summed up in a research article for the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand.[10]

The Gestapo investigates them under the collective name, Red Chapel and wants to know them above all as an espionage 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.


Harnack group/Schulze-Boysen[edit]

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.[10]


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 Western Europe.

Harro Schulze-Boysen; East Germany (1964)
Memorial stone for Arvid and Mildred Harnack at Friedhof Zehlendorf cemetery in Berlin-Zehlendorf, Onkel-Tom-Straße 30–33

Before 1933, Schulze-Boysen published the non-partisan leftist and later banned magazine German: Gegner, lit. 'opponent'.[11]. 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 journalists John Graudenz 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.[12] 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.[13] However, as the realisation that the war preparations were becoming unstoppable and the future victors were not going to be the Sturmabteilung, Shulze-Boysen whose decisions were in demand called for the group to cease their discussions and start resisting.[12]

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 [de], Maria Terwiel and Fritz Thiel [de] 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.[6]

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 [de]) (MASCH) to form a discussion group which debated the political and economic perspectives at the time. Harnak's group meetings in contrast to Schulze-Boysen were considered rather austere. Members of the group included the German politician and Minister of Culture Adolf Grimme, the locksmith Karl Behrens [de], 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.[6]

Oda Schottmüller and Erika Gräfin von Brockdorff were friends with the Kuckhoffs. In 1937 Adam Kuckhoff introduced Harnack to the journalist and railway freight ground 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 Neukölln in Berlin. He knew the former Foreign Affairs Minister Wilhelm Guddorf and Martin Weise [de].[14] 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.[6]

Through these contacts a loose network of seven Berlin friends, discussion and training groups formed by 1941, that constituted some 150 Berlin Nazi opponents.[15] Included in the group were artists, scientists, citizens, workers and students from several different backgrounds. The combined group included Communists, political conservatives, Jews, devout Catholics, and atheists. Their ages were from 16 to 86, and about 40% of the group were women. They had different political views and searched for the open exchange of views, at least in the private sector. Schulze-Boysen and Harnack were close in some ideas of the Communist Party of Germany, others were devout Catholics such as Maria Terwiel and her husband Helmut Himpel [de]. Uniting all groups was the firm rejection of national socialism.

On the initiative of Adam and Greta Kuckhoff, they introduced Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen to Arvid and Mildred Harnack and began engaging then socially, with their hitherto separate groups moved together once the Polish campaign began on September 1939.[16] From 1940 onwards, they regularly exchanged their opinions on the war and other Nazi policies and sought action against it.[6]

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. [17]

Acts of resistance[edit]

Adam Kuckhoff, DDR

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.[16] A plan was formed to take advantage of Schulze-Boysen employment, and through this the group were 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.[18]

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.[16] A document that was used at the trial of Schulze-Boysen indicated that only 40 to 50 copies of the leaflet were distributed.[16]

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 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.

Call for popular uprising[edit]

AGIS leaflets[edit]

From 1940 onwards, the group started to produce leaflets that were signed with AGIS in reference to the Spartan King Agis IV. The name of the newspaper Agis was originally the idea of John Rittmeister.[19] These had titles like The becoming of the Nazi movement, Call for opposition, Freedom and violence[20] and Appeal to All Callings and Organisations to resist the government.[21] The writing of the AGIS leaflet series was a mix of Schuzle-Boysen and Walter Küchenmeister, a communist political writer, who would often include copy from KPD members and through contacts. Their printing was arranged by the potter Cato Bontjes van Beek. 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 Anne Krauss.[22]

In 15 February 1942, the group wrote the large 6 page pamphlet called Die Sorge Um Deutschlands Zukunft geht durch das Volk! (English:The concern for Germany's future goes through the people!. The paper was written up by Maria Terwiel.[23] 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. [24][25]

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.[24]
The Soviet Paradise[edit]
Adhesive notes of the Red Chapel

In early 1942, Joseph Goebbels held a Nazi propaganda exhibition called The Soviet Paradise (German original title "Das Sowjet-Paradies"), with the express purpose of justifying the invasion of the Soviet Union to the German people.[26]

Both the Harnack's and Kuckhoff's spent half a day at the exhibition. In a campaign initiated by John Graudenz in mid-May 1942, Schulze-Boysen and nineteen others, mostly people from the group around Rittmeister, travelled across five Berlin neighbourhoods to paste handbills over the original exhibition posters with the message:

Permanent Exhibition
The Nazi Paradise
War, Hunger, Lies, Gestapo
How much longer?[26]

Counterintelligence Corps 1947 file concerning Red Orchestra member Maria Terwiel.

The Schulze Boysen Group.[27]

Individuals and small groups[edit]

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.[28]
  • 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.[29] 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.[30] Through Lehmann, Stalin also learned about the power struggles in the Nazi party, rearmament work and even the date of Operation Barbarossa. On October 1942 Lehmann was discovered by the Gestapo and murdered without trial.[29] Lehmann had no connection to the Schulze-Boysen or Harnack group.

The Von Scheliha Group[edit]

Foreign Representatives[edit]

From 1933 to December 1941 the Harnack's had contact with the US Embassy counsellor Donald R. Heath and Martha Dodd, the daughter of the then US Ambassador William Dodd. The Harnack's would often attend at receptions at the American embassy as well at parties organised by Martha Dodd, until about 1937.[31] As like-minded people, the group was convinced that the population would revolt against the Nazi's and when it did not, it convinced the group 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.[31]

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 an spy for the Soviet Embassy.[32] 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.[33] Several reasons have been advanced as to why Harnack decided to become a spy, including a need for money, being ideologically driven and possibly blackmailed by Russian intelligence. It was known that Harnack had planned an independent existence for his friends. In statement by Erdberg discovered after the war, he thought Harnack was not motived by money, nor ideologically driven but 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. [33]

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. In March 1941, Schulze-Boysen informed Korotkov directly about his knowledge of the German attack plans.

During May 1941, Korotkov had taken delivery of two shortwave radio sets that had been delivered in the Soviet Union embassy diplomatic pouch and handed them 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.[34] 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 at 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 the 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 to transmit at a predefined frequency and time. After that, the batteries were too weak to reach Moscow. The second set was passed to Coppi at the Eichkamp S-Bahn railway station. The second 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.[35] 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".[36] Only a few members of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Group knew about these radio experiments.


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 were indifferent to foreign espionage operations that were conducted as long as they were against foreign powers and not Belgium itself.[37][38] Before any Soviet agent visited a country. Russian intelligence services sent out a list of people who could be considered useful to the Soviet diplomatic representative in Brussels. These people were committed communists, who had not been elected to a public office of any kind and who had been extensively vetted by Russian intelligence.[37] The availability of a such a contact list enabled proposed agents to be activated in specific positions in the network with surprising efficiency.[37]

The first agents to arrive in Belgium were technicians. The Red Army Intelligence agent and radio specialist Johann Wenzel arrived in January 1936[39] under the guise of a student of mechanics and enrolled at a technical school.[40]


The Trepper Group[edit]

Diagram of the Trepper Group organisation

Leopold Trepper was an agent of the Red Army Intelligence, with the code name of Otto, and had been working with them since 1930.[41] Trepper was an experienced intelligence officer and an extremely resourceful and capable man who was completely at home in the west, a man who could not be drawn in conversation, who lived a concealed life and whose special talent was a keen judge of people that enabled him to penetrate significant groups.[42]

During the 1930s he had worked to create a large pool of intelligence sources, through contact with the French Communist Party.[42] During early 1939, he was sent to Brussels, posing as a Canadian industrialist, to establish a commercial cover for a spy network in France and the Low Countries. Trepper established the cover company the "Foreign Excellent Raincoat Company" in Brussels, an export company with offices in many major European ports, to sell crockery and raincoats. After the conquest of Belgium during May 1940, he relocated to Paris and established the cover companies of Simex in Paris and Simexco in Brussels. Both companies sold black market goods to the Germans and made a profit doing so. Belgian-born socialite Suzanne Spaak joined the Trepper group in Paris after seeing the conduct of the Nazi occupiers in her country.[43]

Trepper directed seven GRU networks in France and each had its own group leader with a focus on gathering a specific type of intelligence.[44] Trepper constructed them in a manner so that there independent, working in parallel with only the group leader having direct contact with Trepper.[44] Regular meeting places were used for contact point at predetermined times and that 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.[44] The seven networks in France were as follows,

  • Group Andre. It remit was to collect intelligence on the German economy and industry. Its cover name was Andre
This group was run by Leon Grossvogel. Grossvogel was a Luxembourger Jew and communist businessman who effectively created and ran the Simex company for Trepper but gave up the work at the company to exclusively work within the espionage network. His other task was the control of the wireless equipment and communication needs of the network. As part of his remit he was responsible for finding safe house, rendezvous points for other networks and letter drop locations.[45]
This group was run by Henri Robinson. Robinson was a German Jew and communist. Unlike Trepper who worked for the Red Army Intelligence, Robinson was a Communist International (Cominterm) agent who had been running his own vast Cominterm espionage network in the UK, France, Belgium and Germany before Trepper arrived in Europe. There was an intense dislike between the two men due to Robinson being forced to hand over his network to Trepper when he arrived in France, even though Robinson was senior to Trepper. The Cominterm organisation had lost prestige with Stalin who suspected it of deviating from Communist norms and Robinson was suspected of being an agent of the Deuxième Bureau and who was subsequently in ideological conflict with the aims Soviet intelligence. This changeover been facilitated in a meeting organised by General Ivan Susloparov. The group provided Trepper with intelligence on General Henri Giraud, the Dieppe Raid, coverage of Allied bombings in France and planning for Operation Torch. [46]
  • Group Professor. It was established to collect intelligence from White Russians emigrant groups as well as from groups in the German Wehrmacht.[45]
This group was run by Basile Maximovitch. Maximovitch was a former Russian mining engineer who had offered his services to Trepper and 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 German High Command.[47]
  • Group Arztin. It was created to gather intelligence from French clerical and royalists groups. They also had a special arrangement with Bishop Emanuel-Anatole-Raphaël Chaptal de Chanteloup of Paris [45]
This group was run by Anna Maximovitch who was the sister of Basile Maximovitch. Her profession as a nerve doctor 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. One of those patients was Countess de Rohan-Chabot who was came from the noble House of Rohan. The countess rented the Chateau Billeron to Maximovitch at relatively low cost to host her clinic. This gave Maximovitch access to very high ranking French nobility and administrative folk including Rohan-Chabot's husband who was a French officer.[47]
  • Group Simex. This group collected intelligence from German administrative departments and industrial firms as well as provided the financing for the Trepper organisation. It was the Simex company.
This group was run Alfred Corbin who was a French commercial director who took over the running of the firm in Paris from Leon Grossvogel. At first Corbin did not know the Simex company was an espionage organisation and after a certain time became to suspect. Ultimately he accepted the position and used his business journeys to courier.[48] Communication between the Simex company and its main customer, the Todt Organization, provided information on German military fortifications and troop movements. As a bonus, these communications supplied some of Trepper's agents with passes that allowed them to move freely in German-occupied areas.
  • Group Romeo. Their remit was to gather intelligence from US and Belgian diplomats.[49]
This group was run by the communist Isidor Springer who was a Belgian diamond dealer. Mainly concerned with recruitment and acted as a courier between different groups in different countries.[50]
This group was run by the Jewish Soviet intelligence officer, Anatoly Gurevich.

These networks steadily gathered military and industrial intelligence in Occupied Europe, including data on troop deployments, industrial production, raw material availability, aircraft production, and German tank designs. Trepper was also able to get important information through his contacts with important Germans. Posing as a German businessman, he had dinner parties at which he acquired information on the morale and attitudes of German military figures, troop movements, and plans for the Eastern Front.

During December 1941, German security forces stopped Trepper's transmitter in Brussels. Trepper himself was arrested on 5 December 1942 in Paris. [51] The Germans tried to enlist his help as part a sophisticated anti-Soviet operation, to continue transmitting disinformation to Moscow under German control, as part of a playback (German:Funkspiel) operation. According to orders, and relying on training, Trepper agreed to work for the Germans, and began transmitting, which may have included hidden warnings, but saved his life.[52] During September 1943 he escaped and hid with the French Resistance.

Operations by the Trepper team had been entirely eliminated by the spring of 1943. Most agents were executed, including Suzanne Spaak at Fresnes Prison, just thirteen days before the Liberation of Paris during 1944. Trepper himself survived the war.

Sukolov Group[edit]

Organisational diagram of the Sukolov Group in Belgium between July 1940 and December 1941

The Sukolov espionage network operated in Belgium between July 1940 and December 1941. Its leader was the Soviet intelligence officer, Leopold Trepper, and working for him in a number of roles was Victor Sukolov[53][54]

Jeffremov Group[edit]

Organisational diagram of the first Jeffremov Group
Organisational diagram of the second Jeffremov Group


Rote Drei Group[edit]

Georges Blun on the middle back row. The French reporter and Berlin representative of the Paris journal Georges Blun, who published a distorted article on the Sylversternacht in Berlin in a Paris paper, has resigned his chairmanship in the Association of foreign press and made an apology visit in the press department of the government. - Georges Blun, the Berlin representative of the Paris Journal
Organisational diagram of the core members of the Rote Drei in Switzerland

The Swiss group were perhaps the most important in the war, as they could work relatively undisturbed. The head of the Soviet intelligence service was Maria Josefovna Poliakova, a Soviet 4th Department agent[55] who first arrived in Switzerland between in 1937 to direct operations.[56] Poliakova passed control to the new director of the Soviet intelligence service in Switzerland, sometimes between 1939 and 1940. The new director was Alexander Radó, codenamed Dora, who held the secret Red Army rank of Major General.[57][58] The other important leader in the Switzerland group was Ursula Kuczynski codenamed Sonia, who was a colonel of the GRU.

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, business began to flourish.[59] 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 ran the Lucy spy ring. Roessler was able to provide prompt access to the secrets of the German High Command.[58] This included the pending details of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union and many more, over a period of two years. In 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 two years. This resulted in Dübendorfer being continually short of money, as Soviet intelligence insisted the link be maintained.[60]

Radó's established three networks in Switzerland that became known as the Rote Drei. The 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 was four, sometimes even five.[56]

  • The first network was run by Rachel Dübendorfer codenamed Sissy and who had the most important contacts of the three subgroups. Dübendorfer received intelligence reports from Roessler who led the Lucy spy via Christian Schneider who acted as the cutout. Dübendorfer passed the reports to Radó who passed them to Foote for transmission.[60]. Roessler in turn received them from the sources whose code names were Werther, Teddy, Olga, and Anna. It was never discovered who they were.[56] A study by the CIA concluded that the four sources that were forwarding intelligence to Roessler were a General in the Wehrmacht, Hans Oster, Abwehr chief of staff, Hans Bernd Gisevius, the German politician Carl Friedrich Goerdeler and Chief of Intelligence, Army Group Centre General Fritz Boetzel.[61]
  • The second network was run by the French journalist Georges Blun, whose groups codenamed was Long, and whose sources could not match the production of Lucy's group in quality or quantity.[56]
  • The third espionage network was led by Swiss journalist Otto Pünter [de] whose was code name was Pakbo. Pünter's network was considered the least important.[56]

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 [de] who was Director of the unofficial Bureau 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 London Czechs in exile, or via an intermediary.[56]

Radio messages examined[edit]
The Arvid Harnack Group.[62]

The radio stations that were known were established at:

  • A station built by Geneva radio dealer Edmond Hamel codenamed Eduard behind a board in his apartment at Route de Florissant 192a. Hamel's wife, who acted as an assistant, prepared the encrypted messages. Radó paid the couple 1000 Swiss francs per month.[63]
  • A station built in Geneva by Radó's lover, a waitress Marguerite Bolli at Rue Henry Mussard 8. She earned 800 Swiss francs per month.[63]
  • The third station was built by Alexander Foote that was hidden insider a typewriter. This radio was located in Lausanne at Chemin de Longeraie 2. Foote a Captain the Red Army was paid 1300 francs per month.[63]

Wilhelm F. Flicke, who was an cryptanalyst and unofficial historian at the Cipher Department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, the German High Command signal intelligence agency, worked on the messages transmitted by the Swiss group during World War II and estimates some 5500 messages, about 5 a day for three years, were sent.[56] The Trepper Report stated that between the radio stations that were established by the three subgroups between 1941 and 1943, well over 2000 militarily important messages were sent to the GRU Central office.[64] In September 1993, the CIA Library undertook an analysis of the messages and estimated that a reasonable number would be 5000.[56]


Winterlink Group[edit]

Diagram of the Netherlands 'Winterink' Group known as Group Hilda.

The Winterink Group operated in the Netherlands and was known as Group Hilda. The leader of the group was Anton Winterink who was previous a leading member of the Rote Hilfe organisation but gave it up sometime between 1938 and 1939 to work full-time in intelligence duties for GRU.

Elsewhere in Europe[edit]

Herrnstadt group[edit]

Rudolf Herrnstadt was a German journalist, who worked in the Berliner Tageblatt[65] who became a communist in the 1920s and in late 1930 became a member of the Communist Party of Germany under the name Rudolf Arbin.[66]

In 1932, Ilse Stöbe, who worked as a secretary at the Berliner Tageblatt, and who knew Herrnstadt as a friend. She was posted to Warsaw in 1932 and was recruited by Herrnstadt.[67]

In 1933 Herrnstadt recruited German diplomat Gerhard Kegel [de].


Persecution by Nazi authorities[edit]

All of the men in the Red Orchestra were executed in the most gruesome manner, hanging by a meathook, at the Plotzensee prison in Berlin.[68]


Freiheitskämpfer (“Freedom fighter”), bronze sculpture by Fritz Cremer (1906–1993), placed 1983 next to the Ostertorwache, today Wilhelm Wagenfeld House in Bremen, Germany


  • 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.

Overall view[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Coppi junior, Hans; Danyel, Jürgen; Tuchel, Johannes (1992). Die Rote Kapelle im Widerstand gegen Nationalsozialismus [The Red Chapel in opposition to Hitler. Writings of the Memorial of the German Resistance] (in German) (1. Aufl ed.). Berlin: Edition Hentrich. ISBN 978-3-89468-110-4.
  • Rosiejka, Gert (1985). Die Rote Kapelle : "Landesverrat" als antifaschist. Widerstand [The Red Chapel: "treason" as anti-fascist. resistance] (in German) (1. Aufl ed.). Hamburg: Ergebnisse-Verl. ISBN 978-3-925622-16-8.
  • Bourgeois, Guillaume (2015). La véritable histoire de l'Orchestre rouge [The real story of the Red Orchestra] (in French) (Editions Nouveau Monde ed.). Paris: Le grand jeu. ISBN 978-2-36942-067-5.
  • Perrault, Gilles (1994). Auf den Spuren der Roten Kapelle [In the footsteps of the Red Chapel] (in German) (Überarb. und erw. Neuausg ed.). Hamburg, Vienna, Munich: Europaverl. ISBN 978-3-203-51232-7.

Single issues[edit]

  • Bahar, Alexander (1992). Sozialrevolutionärer Nationalismus zwischen konservativer Revolution und Sozialismus : Harro Schulze-Boysen und der "Gegner"-Kreis [Social Revolutionary Nationalism between Conservative Revolution and Socialism. Harro Schulze-Boysen and the "opponent" circle] (in German). Coblenz, Frankfurt: D. Fölbach. ISBN 978-3-923532-18-6.
  • Fischer-Defoy, Christine (1988). Kunst, Macht, Politik : die Nazifizierung der Kunst- und Musikhochschulen in Berlin [art, power, politics. The Nazification of the art and music colleges in Berlin] (in German). Berlin: Elefanten Press. ISBN 978-3-88520-271-4.
  • Hamidi, Beatrix (1994). "Women against the dictatorship. Resistance and persecution in the Nazi Germany". In Christl Wickert (ed.). Frauen gegen die Diktatur : Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland [the unity in diversity. The women of the rote Kapelle] (in German) (1. Aufl ed.). Berlin: Edition Hentrich. pp. 98–105. ISBN 978-3-89468-122-7.
  • Mommsen, Hans (2012). Die "rote Kapelle" und der deutsche Widerstand gegen Hitler [the "Red Orchestra" and the German resistance to Hitler.] (in German). 33. Bochum: Klartext-Verlag (SBR-Schriften). ISBN 978-3-8375-0616-7.
  • Mielke, Siegfried; Heinz, Stefan (2017). Eisenbahngewerkschafter im NS-Staat : Verfolgung - Widerstand - Emigration (1933-1945) [Railway Unionists in the Nazi State: Persecution-Resistance-Emigration (1933-1945)]. Berlin: Metropol. pp. 291–306. ISBN 978-3-86331-353-1.
  • Roth, Karl Heinz; Ebbinghaus, Angelika (2004). Rote Kapellen, Kreisauer Kreise, schwarze Kapellen : neue Sichtweisen auf den Widerstand gegen die NS-Diktatur 1938-1945 [Red Chapels, Kreisauer Circles, Black Chapels: New Views of German Resistance to the Nazi Dictatorship]. Hamburg: VSA-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89965-087-7.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Coppi Jr. 1996.
  2. ^ Benz & Pehle 2001, p. 281.
  3. ^ Fast vergessen: Die "Rote Kapelle" 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Tuchel 1988.
  5. ^ Scheel 1985, p. 325.
  6. ^ a b c d e Tuchel 2007.
  7. ^ Richelson 1995, p. 126.
  8. ^ "The Red Chapell" (Book review). Perlentaucher (in German). Berlin: Perlentaucher Medien GmbH. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  9. ^ Roloff & Vigl 2002, p. 126.
  10. ^ a b Tuchel 1993.
  11. ^ Brysac 2002, p. 112.
  12. ^ a b Asendorf & Bockel 2016, p. 568.
  13. ^ Brysac 2000.
  14. ^ Sieg & Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand.
  15. ^ Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand.
  16. ^ a b c d Petrescu 2010, p. 189.
  17. ^ Scheel 1992, p. 45.
  18. ^ Brysac 2002.
  19. ^ Brysac 2002, p. 254.
  20. ^ Petrescu 2010, p. 199.
  21. ^ Boehm 2015, p. 10.
  22. ^ Nelson 2009, p. 170.
  23. ^ Terwiel & Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand.
  24. ^ a b Schulze-Boysen 1942.
  25. ^ Petrescu 2010, p. 219.
  26. ^ a b Brysac 2000, p. 300.
  27. ^ Kesaris 1979.
  28. ^ Hoffmann 1996, p. 23.
  29. ^ a b Klussmann 2009.
  30. ^ Siddiqi 2010, p. 171.
  31. ^ a b Petrescu 2010, p. 196.
  32. ^ Brysac 2002, p. 224.
  33. ^ a b Brysac 2002, p. 228.
  34. ^ Nelson 2009, p. 198.
  35. ^ Brysac 2002, p. 251.
  36. ^ Brysac 2002, p. 2.
  37. ^ a b c Kesaris 1979, p. 13.
  38. ^ Perrault, Gilles (1969). The Red Orchestra. New York: Schocken Books. pp. 29. ISBN 0805209522.
  39. ^ Wenzel 2008.
  40. ^ Kesaris 1979, p. 383.
  41. ^ Coppi Jr. 1996, p. 431.
  42. ^ a b Kesaris 1979, p. 15.
  43. ^ Levin 2017.
  44. ^ a b c Kesaris 1979, p. 88.
  45. ^ a b c d Kesaris 1979, p. 89.
  46. ^ Kesaris 1979, pp. 342-344.
  47. ^ a b Kesaris 1979, p. 315.
  48. ^ Kesaris 1979, p. 269.
  49. ^ a b Kesaris 1979, p. 90.
  50. ^ Kesaris 1979, p. 359.
  51. ^ Brysac 2000, p. 313.
  52. ^ Trepper & Jewish Virtual Library.
  53. ^ Victor SOKOLOV, aliases SUKOLOFF, Fritz KENT, Arthur BARCZA, Simon URWITH, Victor GUREVICH, Fritz FRITSCHE, Vincente SIERRA, 'Petit Chef'... (The National Archives' catalogue/ KV - Records of the Security Service/ KV 2 - The Security Service: Personal (PF Series) Files/ Subseries within KV 2 - SOVIET INTELLIGENCE AGENTS AND SUSPECTED AGENTS), accessed 13 March 2019
  54. ^ Perrault 1968.
  55. ^ "The case of the Rote Kapelle". The National Archive. KV 3/349. 17 October 1949. Retrieved 20 December 2019.CS1 maint: location (link)
  56. ^ a b c d e f g h Tittenhofer 2011.
  57. ^ Peter Day (24 June 2014). Klop: Britain's Most Ingenious Secret Agent. Biteback Publishing. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-84954-764-2. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  58. ^ a b Thomas, Louis (8 May 2007). "Alexander Rado". CIA Library. CIA. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  59. ^ Thomas, Louis. "Alexander Rado". CIA Library. CIA Center for Study of Intelligence. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  60. ^ a b Breitman et al. 2005, p. 295.
  61. ^ Richelson 1997, p. 271.
  62. ^ Kesaris 1979, p. 137.
  63. ^ a b c Rudolf 1967.
  64. ^ Coppi Jr. 1996, p. 431–548.
  65. ^ Stephen Kotkin (26 October 2017). Stalin, Vol. II: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941. Penguin Books Limited. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-7181-9299-0. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  66. ^ Childs & Popplewell, p. 23.
  67. ^ Jefferson Adams (1 September 2009). Historical Dictionary of German Intelligence. Scarecrow Press. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-8108-6320-0. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  68. ^ Roloff, S. (Director). (2014). The Red Orchestra [Video file]. DEFA Film Library. Retrieved December 8, 2018, from Kanopy


External links[edit]