Cover image for Hitler's traitor : Martin Bormann and the defeat of the Reich
Hitler's traitor : Martin Bormann and the defeat of the Reich
Kilzer, Louis C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Novato, Calif. : Presidio Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 307 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1210 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library DD247.B65 K55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Argues that evidence from newly opened Soviet archives proves that Werther, the most highly-placed Soviet agent in Nazi Germany, was really Martin Bormann, one of Hitler's most trusted aides.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Scholars have known for decades that a mysterious Soviet agent, code-named "Werther," was a valuable, highly placed source within the Nazi government. Kilzer, a two-time Pulitzer Prize^-winning reporter, asserts that the source was Bormann, Hitler's secretary and deputy fuhrer. Bormann was despised by his fellow Nazis as an opportunist, sycophant, and bully. Kilzer convincingly portrays Bormann as a world-class lowlife, so it is tempting to believe in his "treachery." Although revealing some tantalizing details, Kilzer does not fully prove his case. He tends to regard foggy, even contradictory data as "conclusive" rather than suggestive; evidence that could point in several directions is arbitrarily pointed at Bormann. Still, this is juicy, often fascinating stuff; the deadly embrace of the intelligence services of two monstrous tyrannies makes for a riveting read and revealing glimpse into a murky world. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Red Orchestra" (Rote Kapelle) is the label given to spy networks operated in Germany and Europe by the Red Army during WWII. Many of these operations were very successful, particularly the "Lucy" net, which targeted the highest German command circles. Kilzer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, revisits this arena with an entertaining synthesis of evidence about the activities of these spies, extensive accounts of relevant military history, and informed speculations about causes and effects, motives and behaviors. He offers some startling conclusions, based on declassified U.S. archival material and published disclosures and analyses accumulated over 50 years. While Kilzer shows that most of Hitler's senior compatriots were traitors in some sense, still subservient to Hitler but devoted to their own views of German interests, Kilzer reasons that two of the highest placed officials must have also functioned as Red Army agents: Martin Bormann, secretary and second in command to Hitler and head of the Nazi chancellery, and Heinrich Mller, commandant of the Gestapo. The book's title encapsulates Kilzer's claim that Bormann was the chief informant whose existence has been posited for some time, but whose identity has been a mystery. The text is fluent, comprehensive and annotated, but not without a few disappointments: occasional lapses into hyperbole, and inattention to sorting the hypothetical from the demonstrable when sourcing conclusions. The narrative is multidimensional, however, showing the under-appreciated significance of Rote Kapelle and winningly conveying the author's fascination with a challenging historical puzzle. Illus. not seen by PW. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Spy Stories Paris On a runway outside of liberated Paris on the morning of January 6, 1945, a plane belonging to Joseph Stalin's Red Army stood ready for takeoff. A cold front had blown in. The sky was gray, the temperature freezing. Inside the plane--the press had been told--were the first Soviet troops to be repatriated by Russia's victorious allies. In reality, there were no army troops inside, only spies.     Alexander Foote, Alexander Rado, and Leopold Trepper were veterans of the secret war against Hitler's Third Reich. Each one was a hero to the Soviet cause. But each also bore battle scars that could condemn him in Moscow. As the plane idled, Foote, Rado, and Trepper looked out to the drizzle on the runway and wondered what exactly they had won. Foote As a spy, Foote was the most improbable. American intelligence files described the thirty-nine-year-old Liverpool native as being six feet tall, "broad shouldered, well-built; sandy hair, thinning and receding; clean-shaven, deep-set eyes, high forehead, full lower lip, large ears. Badly dressed, uneducated, speaks English with a North-country accent. Speaks good German, some French and very little Russian. Chain-smoker. Fond of women. Adventurous and restless."'     Foote joined the British RAF in 1935 but deserted the next year to join the 15th (British) International Brigade fighting Franco in Spain. He ended his career there as an ambulance driver. Red Army agents had tagged him as a probable courier, but before he could do any of their business, Franco defeated the Republicans and Foote fled.     Back in England, a Red Army agent offered Foote a chance at "secret and dangerous" work abroad. Foote accepted, not knowing what he would be doing, how he would be paid, or who his employer was. It was crazy in Europe, and even such a crazy plan made certain sense. Foote left Great Britain with only a rendezvous point and a password.     In October 1938, on a park bench in Geneva, Foote met his spymaster, "Sonia." Foote was smitten. He described Sonia as a stunningly beautiful woman, slim, black haired, someone who stood out from the crowd. She held out a green parcel and an orange, the prearranged signs. Foote in turn said, "Excuse me, but where did you buy that belt?"     Sonia saw Foote's rough edges but also his intelligence and sense of daring. There was room in her network for such a man. She sent her new agent to Munich to learn about the enemy and pick up some German. Foote soon picked up more than that. Looking for a cheap place to have lunch, Foote found the Osteria Bavaria, a small, undistinguished eatery with a working-class clientele. After having settled down for a meal one afternoon, Foote noted that patrons and waiters stiffened and looked furtively about.     Suddenly into the cheap cafe walked Adolf Hitler.     The proprietor of the restaurant, it happened, was an old comrade of Hitler's from the Great War. The old guard was a sentimental weakness that Hitler had never overcome. If he could help the proprietor by his patronage, he would.     Foote learned that Hitler had been doing just that for the last fifteen years, sometimes several times a week. Now, even as leader of the Third Reich, he was accompanied by what seemed to be a tiny band of followers, including his adjutant and photographer. Foote reported all this back to Sonia.     Sonia, in charge of sabotage operations against Germany, saw a rare chance to commit the ultimate sabotage. She sent Foote a collaborator, Leon Beurton, and a new mission: Assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Osteria Bavaria.     Foote was not overjoyed with the news, and neither was his new companion. "We were neither of us very willing actors, as neither of us really fancied a martyr's crown," said Foote. Still, Foote, now code-named "Jim," had already accepted Moscow Center's money. He reasoned that he had to at least see if assassination was possible. On Sonia's orders, Foote and Beurton watched Hitler come and go, amazed at how easy it would be to place a bomb next to the thin partition that separated the Führer's small, private dining room from the rest of the cafe. Thinking that there must surely be SS agents lurking in disguise, Beurton decided to try to smoke them out. As Hitler walked in one day, Beurton made a sudden reach into his breast pocket, as though to draw a gun, then pulled out a cigarette case. If the SS men were present, they would surely act. Beurton hoped that they would not act too decisively. Instead, as Beurton pulled out the case, absolutely nothing happened. Evidently there were no agents around. Assassinating the Führer would be easy.     While Foote waited for the Center to provide the briefcase of explosives that could end Hitler's life, international events overtook matters. The Nazis and the Bolshevists were secretly talking. On August 24, 1939, came word of the Russo-German pact.     Foote would not be bombing Adolf Hitler, nor would anyone else in Sonia's stable. Instead, Stalin ordered an end to all operations against Germany. American intelligence after the war said that the assassination plot by Foote and Beurton was not amateurish. Concluded one such report: "The choice of two rolling stones [Foote and Beurton] from the International Brigade, Englishmen with good campaigning records but without formal Communist Party connections, may have both been deliberate and sound. Moreover, as we know from his own testimony, Foote, had he been caught as a saboteur, could not have named the organization for which he was working. A perfect patsy.     In lieu of assassinating Adolf Hitler, Sonia was instructed by Moscow to teach Foote and others in her cell the art of the wireless operator. Foote learned to code and decode secret messages based on an elaborate Soviet enciphering system. And he learned Morse code, which he would use to contact the Center. Sonia's Soviet wireless cell became the only one in Switzerland and thus the only one to have direct contact with the center at the start of the war. Soon Jim's transmissions would take on special importance in Moscow. From his transmitter came the most important information that Stalin would receive after the Soviet dictator's dalliance with Hitler turned sour. Foote would be tasked with transmitting intelligence from a spy code-named Werther, a traitor in Hitler's High Command.     Now, as he waited in the spy plane on a cold Paris runway, Foote was not as courageous as he had been six years before when he contemplated assassinating Adolf Hitler. He knew the stories. People ordered to Moscow often did not live happily, if they lived at all. There was a certain madness, an aberration on the road to a socialist utopia, in the land. Yet Foote told himself that the Center knew his accomplishments. If anyone, he was a hero of the Soviet Union. He would go. Rado Next to Foote in the Soviet plane sat Alexander Rado. Code-named "Dora," Rado had been the chief administrator of the Red Army's Swiss spy ring. A skilled cartographer and the man who first coined the term Soviet Union , Rado was morally challenged. His handling of Red Army funds in Switzerland was not in order, and his fortitude was in question. Rado had occasionally taken credit for recruiting spies and garnering intelligence when others had contributed some or most of the effort. But the most important problem that Rado faced was explaining exactly why he had fled his Swiss post in late 1943. The Gestapo's Sonderkommando--made up of members of the Gestapo, military intelligence, and other security services and charged with wiping out Soviet networks in the west--had already shut down Red Army operations in Germany, France, and Belgium and was pressuring the Swiss to do the same on Switzerland's supposedly neutral turf.     Rado had no taste for arrest. As Swiss police closed in on him, he slipped underground and eventually made his way to Paris. Foote and most of the others in the net were not so lucky. They spent several months in Swiss jails, until their captors felt that an Allied victory was assured and it was better all around to let the Soviet agents out on parole.     As a young man, Rado had been a Red radical in his native Hungary and was appointed in 1918 as commissar to the Soviet government that briefly existed there. It was a bloody time, and the commissar of the Red Terror surely had some of that blood on his hands. Rado knew firsthand the terror that Foote could only imagine.     In the Soviet plane, Rado was anxious and withdrawn. If he made it back to Moscow, he did not think it would be as a hero of the Soviet Union. His network had helped win the war, but Rado knew that that would mean little to Stalin. Stalin cared nothing at all about heroes. Almost every foreign resident spy chief who had been called back to Moscow before the war had been shot. Why wouldn't this be so for Rado? Trepper Close to Rado sat Leopold Trepper, one of the most flamboyant, resourceful, and devious spies the world has ever known. Unlike Foote and Rado, Trepper had operated from Belgium and France, sending the center often vital information about German industry, logistics, and plans. In December 1942, Hitler's Gestapo finally tracked down Trepper in Paris, at his dentist's office. But although many in his network were subjected to fierce torture, then execution, Trepper was treated as a special prisoner.     The Sonderkommando wanted Trepper to play a game that on the surface was a simple one. He was to hide his capture from Moscow Center and continue reporting as if nothing had happened. The Gestapo would be the real supplier of information. In other words, Trepper was to become a double agent.     That was a typical enough event during the Second World War. And all spies knew the rules: You either doubled or you were killed. But this was no ordinary double. Trepper was told that important German generals were prepared to rebel against Hitler and wanted to show their bona fides to Stalin by giving up important secrets. Once these generals were established as true representatives of the German High Command, they would help arrange a separate peace.     At first, Trepper thought that this was a cover story meant only to gain his cooperation. Soon, though, he knew that a most complicated game was under way. An ordinary playback double-cross was conducted at relatively low levels in the command. This one was not. Someone unknown and at the highest level was playing a game that was opaque and bewildering. Trepper did not understand.     If the game, called a funkspiel by the Germans, was simply meant to gain Russian confidence, only to betray the enemy when it was convenient, no Nazi leader would have been involved. And such matters typically lasted only a week or two, or until Moscow caught on. And Moscow always caught on.     This funkspiel was different. It involved not only military but political matters. Trepper came to believe that someone on the German side might actually be planning to replace Hitler or perhaps even help Russia defeat Germany.     This thought occurred to Trepper in 1942. Now, in January 1945, on a plane bound for Moscow, Trepper betrayed no such suspicion. His concern was more immediate. He looked around the cabin and saw the drawn faces of his fellow passengers. Were they returning as heroes, as Foote believed? Or would they soon be facing a bullet in the brain in the basement of the Lubyanka, as Rado feared? Trepper held out hope that the war had ended the terrible purges. He made himself look forward to seeing his wife and children, who were in Moscow. Trepper had survived the Gestapo, after all. Life in Moscow had to be better. Defection At a stopover in Cairo, where he shared a room with Foote, Rado's mood darkened even further. He confided to his subordinate that he was unsure about his future. The Center, he said, might view him as a captain who had lost his ship. Moscow would not be happy that the Swiss operation had died while he was still its leader.     Nonsense, said the often naive Foote. The network had operated from the first days of the German attack on Russia and had done an essential job. Besides, he said, the ship had not sunk. The most important spy in the network, Werther, was still ready to work. In fact, when Foote left Switzerland for Paris in late 1944, he had been able to bring with him some fresh information from Werther. Foote said he had relayed that information to a Soviet diplomatic representative in Paris.     Rado was startled. He had told the Center that the Swiss and the Gestapo had crushed his network. Now Foote was telling him that the most important spy of all had been and was still willing and able to work. This would make Rado's dispatches to the Center seem at least in error. Worse, and perhaps more certainly, Stalin could find that severing ties with Werther was criminal. Rado sat in silence for a moment, tapping his fingers on a table. Then he rose and walked out the door.     The next day as the Soviet plane readied to complete its flight to Teheran, Baku, then Moscow, there was no sign of Rado. He had bolted.     The mission would continue without him. Once airborne, Trepper became obsessed by Rado's decision to defect. He had respected Rado and his keen survival instincts. That he would take off meant only one thing: "He did not care for the prospect of ending his life in one of Stalin's jails; hence he disappeared in Cairo after making sure that his wife and children were safe in Paris." But Trepper did not believe that he himself had that option. His family was in Moscow, not safe in Paris. And he knew that Stalin often punished the families of those who disappointed him. Trepper would continue on. Perhaps, he convinced himself, he was seeing ghosts. Gisela's Family Outside a small airport near Moscow, Maria Poliakova waited for the spy plane from France. It was 4 P.M. on January 14, 1945, and already Moscow's winter sky was dark. Maria was the most important spy of all, for she had established and controlled the networks in France and Switzerland. She was the spymaster who controlled Rado, Foote, and--indirectly--Trepper. Her networks had contributed as much as anything to the now certain defeat of Adolf Hitler.     Maria had never looked like a spy, according to standards of the trade. She did not blend into the crowd. Even now, at thirty-six years of age, dressed in the uniform of a major of the Red Army, she was stunning. American counterintelligence agents after the war described her as a five-foot-six Russian Jewess with a "striking, masculine appearance; black hair, good-looking Mongol face with high cheekbones." Foote simply called her "a beauty." But her physical appearance wouldn't have mattered at all were it not for her "exceptional intelligence and phenomenal memory." She was fluent in French, German, English, and Russian and had traveled extensively with her father, a representative of the Soviet Foreign Trade Commissariat, on missions to Germany, France, and Switzerland. She easily passed for a westerner.     With such rare talent, it is no wonder that she was recruited early in life by the Central Committee of the Young Communists. She had wanted to become a doctor, but her master in the Komsomol, Alexander Kosarev, saw her potential as a spy. "We have enough doctors," Kosarev said. What the new Soviet republic needed were secret agents, especially young, intelligent women. Maria was not convinced, but she accepted an invitation to meet with Jan Karlovich Berzin, head of Red Army intelligence, also known as the Fourth Department. As would so many, she immediately fell under Berzin's spell. He asked Maria, only twenty-four, to become a "fighter for the Red Army" but also a fighter who would be a "thinking comrade."     Maria was already the mother of a child, but the identity of the father has never been released by the KGB or its successor agencies. She worried about leaving the baby behind. Berzin told her not to be concerned; the state would take care of the child.     After Hitler came to power in 1933, Poliakova traveled to Germany on a secret mission. What exactly she did as the Soviet Union's top illegal agent inside Germany is not known. In reminiscences nearly half a century later, Poliakova refused to disclose what the mission was, saying only that she had been instructed "to find Germans sympathizing with our country and to make them our friends." She said that this mission had been "successful."     Poliakova returned as a star in the Red Army, but she still yearned to become a doctor and to raise her child. Berzin shamed her about this supposedly selfish request. "We cannot afford to ignore your experience," he said, promising that a secretary named Natasha in the Fourth Department would make sure that the child was cared for. In the meantime, Maria would go to a new and special school to learn more about the art of intelligence.     A year later, Maria was again posted to Western Europe in a new assignment. Former top-secret American intelligence reports say that in 1936, Poliakova became head of the Fourth Department's Swiss operation, with wide authority over other groupings in Western Europe. American counterintelligence officers said that Poliakova was chief of Red Army intelligence in Nazi Germany itself. The Americans also said that Poliakova helped Soviet penetration in Great Britain and France through the control of one of Trepper's associates, Henri Robinson.     On this second mission, based primarily in Switzerland, Maria Poliakova's code name was "Gisela," and the expansive network that she developed there became known as "Gisela's family."     In late 1937, Poliakova's life and work were suddenly at risk. As with Stalin's other top foreign agents, Poliakova received an urgent notice from Moscow to return. She did not hesitate long. But before she could leave, she had to hand over her operation to others. Part of her "family" went to Rado, who inherited most of the spies whom Poliakova herself had recruited. But there were two other parallel organizations in Switzerland, also parts of Gisela's family, that would play key roles in handling the penetration agent Werther. One organization was headed by Ursula Maria Hamburger, the spy whom Foote knew as Sonia. The other one was run by Rachel Dübendorfer, code-named "Sissy."     Maria herself returned to an emotionally barren country where her father figure, Berzin, had been liquidated. For a time it seemed that her networks in Germany and Switzerland were destined to be ignored by new replacements in the Fourth Department who knew almost nothing about the operations of foreign spies. Though Maria walked into the Kremlin itself to receive an award for her accomplishments, her new bosses gave her the duties of a clerk. Berzin's masterpiece of intelligence in the West rotted until few in Moscow knew anything about it. The new bosses seemed unaware of their potential resources in the West. Maria later wrote: "The essentials--communications, radio transmitters, financial resources, extra equipment and ciphers--all this was almost lost in all directions."     Maria's father and brother, were all shot as enemies of the people. Yet somehow--Maria does not mention how in her brief official memoirs--she lived. After the war, the Americans said that she managed to live by using "her ability, her memory and the width of her experience."     How Maria Poliakova managed to outlast Stalin may never be known. But it is clear that after Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Poliakova's special family--Gisela's family in Switzerland--became indispensable to Joseph Stalin. Suddenly Maria's agents were the most crucial in the world. She became chief of Section I of the Fourth Department of the GRU, Russia's spymaster for the European theater of the Second World War. Sonia Ursula Hamburger had spent her youth for the cause. She was thirty-two years old and a twelve-year Red Army intelligence veteran when the Russo-German pact was announced. The news seemed to devastate her. "She had worked for many years on the most orthodox `anti-Fascist' basis and she spoke with bitterness to both Beurton and Foote about Russia's volte-face," said an American intelligence report. Foote wrote: "The German-Russian Pact hit us like a thunder-bolt out of a clear sky ... Its effect on Sonia ... was of course shattering."     This was a lie perpetrated on her own agents. Sonia was the perfect field agent. People knew her only as she wanted to be known. Foote lamented for her emotional devastation, never suspecting that it was an act.     Hamburger was much like Poliakova. She stood out in a crowd, whereas a more perfect spy would have been nondescript. But, also like Poliakova, it didn't seem to matter. Hamburger was born in 1907 and began her professional life as a Berlin journalist. But soon she was recruited into the Soviet cause, an agent of the Red Army's Fourth Department. As had Poliakova, Hamburger won world experience traveling with her father, a lecturer at the London School of Economics. Beginning in 1930, Sonia and her husband, Rudolf Hamburger, ran a Soviet intelligence service in Shanghai. Exposed in 1935 by the Chinese government as foreign agents, Sonia and Rudolf made daring escapes. Sonia managed to slip onto a Soviet ship. In 1936 she ended up in London. Her husband later got out via the United States. The two reconnected in Warsaw, where they established wireless contact with the Center. Rudolf returned to China but was eventually captured by the Americans. He confessed his role as a Soviet spy and was sent back to Russia to an unknown but probably certain fate. He has not been heard from since.     After her husband disappeared, Ursula married one of her first recruits, Leon Beurton, the Englishman who had accompanied Foote on his mission to assassinate Hitler. It seemed to be a marriage of passion, not connivance, though Sonia surely found it handy to be the wife of a British citizen.     She was master of an organization of many spies in Switzerland, but she was going to leave the most important components to Rado. In May 1940, Moscow ordered Rado to meet with Sonia.     "My code-name is Sonia," Hamburger told Rado. "The Director told me to get in touch with you ..." She asked Rado what he most needed to continue his effort. Rado said he needed a secure line to the Center--if possible, one established through wireless transmitters. This Sonia could provide.     Not only were Foote and Beurton available, but they could train others. Those others, husband and wife Edmond and Olga Hamel, were nearly perfect. Edmond had an excellent cover; he was a radio mechanic. Once, Swiss police found a transmitter hidden under Edmond's floor. He told them that it was an ordinary radio that he thought looked so much like a transmitter that he believed it best to conceal it. The police officers shrugged their shoulders and left.     Sonia traveled to Great Britain in the summer of 1940. Beurton stayed behind until 1942. According to American intelligence after the war, Sonia, devastated by Stalin's dalliance with Hitler, retired from the Red Army, her idealistic images dashed. "There is no evidence that [Sonia] did any intelligence work in the British Isles between 1941 and 1949," the CIA first thought.     It was not true. Sonia continued to be one of Stalin's most important spies. In England she was known as Ursula Kuczynski, her maiden name. Whatever malaise she suffered from the Nazi-Soviet agreements in 1939 was quickly resolved. In England, far from becoming the peaceful retired ex-spy that the Americans thought, she became, for a time, the controller of Klaus Fuchs. A brilliant German physicist, Fuchs had escaped to Britain, where he became a major theoretician on nuclear fission. With Sonia's help, Fuchs was able to travel to America, where he became the main Soviet spy who penetrated the Manhattan Project, the American secret program to develop the atomic bomb. Sonia went from plans for blowing up Hitler to plans for blowing up America, or to at least abscond with America's secrets in time for Stalin to deal with them. As Fuchs's controller, she was for a time one of the world's most important spies. Sissy The title of the world's most important spy would have to be shared by another of Gisela's family. Her code name was "Sissy."     Sonia left the Swiss operation when most others in the Red Army network were following Stalin's orders to cut down or eliminate their anti-Hitler activities. Sissy never cared much about Stalin or his orders. She kept her organization working despite a poverty of funds and the myopia of the Kremlin. Rachel Dübendorfer ran her Swiss operation independently of Sonia and Rado and, at times, of almost anyone.     Whereas her master, Poliakova, was sophisticated, young, and beautiful, Rachel Dübendorfer was a decade older, somewhat disheveled, and clearly neurotic. American intelligence described her as "untidy in appearance and habits." Some men in the Russian intelligence services did not like Rachel, were jealous of her superb contacts, and constantly, but without success, tried to bring her to heel.     Sissy was born in Warsaw in 1901 and married German attorney Kurt Caspary around 1921. Out of that union came a daughter named Tamara. After Rachel divorced Caspary, she arranged a marriage of convenience to Henri Dübendorfer in 1932 in order to gain citizenship in neutral Switzerland. She left Dübendorfer almost immediately and began living with a plump, German-born journalist named Paul Boettcher. Her cover was employment in the International Labor Organization of the League of Nations.     Whatever Dübendorfer's faults, they were mere shadows compared to her successes. As one of Poliakova's spies, Dübendorfer would develop a network of sources, including the fabled Werther, that would help determine the outcome of the Second World War. Werther sent his messages to Dübendorfer's sub-agent Lucy, who sent the messages to Dübendorfer via another cutout named "Taylor." The operation became known in the annals of espionage as the "Lucy spy ring."     But it was Dübendorfer--the harried malcontent--who made it work. Stalin wanted to remove Dübendorfer from the ring and replace her with someone more malleable who would at least tell him the true identity of Werther. But Dübendorfer crossed swords with Stalin. She would not tell him anything about Werther except that he worked in the OKW and had access to all of Hitler's secrets. Perhaps Sissy herself did not know the true source of the Werther material. But Dübendorfer was resolved on one thing: As long as she lived, she would not allow any of Stalin's minions to get a single independent word to Werther, or to Lucy. Rachel Dübendorfer stood up to Stalin, as no man or woman had ever done before, and lived.     Her instincts were probably right. Had one of Stalin's hacks gotten his hands on this delicate operation, it could have easily been blundered. As it was, Stalin continued to receive the priceless information and made good use of it at important times. Dübendorfer and Lucy continued to live and prosper, and Werther continued to bring defeat upon Hitler. The machine worked.     In fact, even as Rado was complaining about Rachel to the Center, the Center was deciding that her information was sometimes even too hot for the resident agent to see. In 1942, in a grievous blow to Rado's stature, Poliakova sent him a message to relay to Rachel. She told Rachel, "You must learn a code and receive additional instruction." This meant that Rachel could use her own code, unknown to Rado, to pass her messages to Moscow. Worse, from Rado's perspective, Rachel could send back messages through Rado's own radio operators that neither the operators nor Rado could decipher. She could say anything, including making comments about Rado himself. This was a privilege allowed no other spy in Rado's net. It was certainly not standard tradecraft for the station chief to be circumvented by a field agent. Judging from Rado's subsequent missives to Moscow, this indignity hurt his feelings greatly.     In the end, many of the most important messages on specific topics went to Rachel directly. Rado was kept in the dark as Stalin dealt more directly with Werther.     Rado's only meaning for Rachel was that he had key radio transmitters, notably Foote, and without them her information would mean nothing. So she was forced to tolerate her boss, although she never socialized with him or had a kind word to throw in his direction. Night and Fog Stalin had another machine with a more barbaric purpose.     As the spy plane carrying Trepper and Foote finally landed at the small airport, Maria Poliakova, bundled in a full-length fur coat, waited in the distance. When Trepper stepped off, he did not notice her. Instead, he tried to get a glimpse of his family. It was dusk, and he could not see clearly, but he was able to discern enough to know that his family was not there. There were only officers. He was directed to get into a car, where he recognized one of the passengers. "Where are my wife and children?" he asked. "Don't worry," came the reply. "They're doing very well. Your wife's taking a cure in a rest home. We didn't have time to inform her ..."     From there, Trepper descended deep into a Soviet night and fog. For ten years he would languish in Stalin's punishment cells. First, at the Lubyanka, he was considered a prisoner of some rank and distinction. Later his condition deteriorated as his interrogators lost track of who he was or why he was imprisoned. The Center had cut him loose, and all his interrogators knew for sure was that he was in prison, was Jewish, and was, therefore, guilty. They set about trying to find out exactly what crime he had committed.     At the Lefortovo prison, one of the most notorious in the world, Trepper's interrogator asked: "Will you tell me how you, a Polish citizen, were able to enter the Soviet Union?" When given the answer, the interrogator laughed and did not bother to write it down. Except for a few days after his return to Moscow, Trepper was never asked about his work for the Soviet Union during the war, only about unnamed crimes that he had supposedly committed against the state.     From the loud torture rooms of Lefortovo, Trepper was sent to a Soviet isolator cell outside of Moscow, where the only talk, and that was rare, came in whispers. No sounds, no clanging cell doors, no guards pacing outside, no screams. The walls were thickly padded. There was no way to tell day from night, season from season. Human contact was almost nonexistent. It was Stalin's rendition of Dante's cold center of hell, and it almost always broke men who had somehow survived the Lubyanka and Lefortovo. The Director Alexander Foote stepped from the same Soviet spy plane that Trepper had departed. Certainly, he could have gone to the same cold hell, though he did not know it at the time. As he reached the tarmac, Foote noticed that the gray Soviet buildings were unadorned and "shabby." And he felt the bitter cold of Moscow. From a distance, he saw a man and a woman approach--Poliakova and an aide.     Foote did not know Poliakova or her role in his own spy ring. But he sensed that she was the power here.     Poliakova and the aide, who was never to appear again, took Foote to a two-room flat in central Moscow in a complex housing wives and families of Russian generals away at the front. They were met by Olga, Foote's new housekeeper, and Ivan, his "interpreter." Olga had prepared a banquet for Foote and Poliakova, and during it Foote and Poliakova began some casual talk. No business was discussed. That, she said, would begin in the morning.     Sure enough, Maria returned the next day with a list of questions "as long as your arm." She sat down and began talking. It was now all business. She asked questions about Rado's disappearance, then began to reveal herself. Foote was astonished. Not only did he discover that Poliakova had been Rado's predecessor in Switzerland, but she had controlled the entire operation during the war. In fact, Maria Poliakova knew far more about the spy ring than did Foote.     After she left, a stunned Foote looked at the question list composed by the Center. He was not pleased.     It was obvious to him that he was under suspicion as an agent provocateur of the British. The Center noted that his reports about the status of the Swiss ring differed markedly from Rado's. Besides, he had been arrested by Swiss authorities in November 1943 and released ten months later. More than anyone, the Soviets knew how an arrest could change a person. They suspected that information Foote had sent after his release was directed by British secret agents trying to thwart the Red Army. Moreover, Foote was British. Stalin distrusted the British more than any other nationality.     But unlike Trepper, who had quickly become indignant at his interrogation--and suffered the consequences--Foote remained calm. His sole purpose now was to save his life. He understood the system and was later to write: "It was entirely ruthless, with no sense of honor, obligation, or decency towards its servants. They were used as long as they were of any value and then cast aside with no compunction and no compensation." Foote also knew that the British conspiracy notion "could only have been bred in brains to whom treachery, double-crossing, and betrayal were second nature." He knew that if he made one mistake in the days that followed, one tiny contradiction, he would not be housed in what in 1945 Moscow stood as luxury, but most likely in the Center's special prison at the Lubyanka. And his questioner would not be the gentle Poliakova but one of the brutal specialists of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD). Foote decided that the only thing that could save him, and even that had the slimmest of chances, was to tell the truth, blemishes and all. He would not try to burnish anything.     He soon knew that he had made the right decision. The questions were constant and interwoven. Foote saw them as forming a grand tapestry. Questions asked one day appeared on another in a slightly different form, then were asked again days later, changed a bit further. Everything was being examined until the whole Swiss operation, as Foote knew it, was laid bare.     No direct physical or emotional pressure was applied. Poliakova told Foote that he was free to walk anywhere in Moscow, provided that Ivan, his interpreter, was beside him. He was free to, and did, attend various theater performances. He was even taken for a stroll past the British embassy, across the languid Moscow River from the Kremlin.     But Foote still felt the pressure, and part of it he could not control. Hanging over everything was Rado, whose apparent defection in Egypt fueled Russian suspicions. The Russians seemed to think that Rado was in British hands or had been killed by British agents to prevent him from contradicting Foote.     Relief finally came weeks later when the Egyptians told the Russians that they had arrested Rado. A Soviet agent was sent to Cairo to speak with him. Whatever Rado told the agent eased Foote's situation. Rado had, in fact, tried to defect to the British, but the British wouldn't have him, forcing him into Stalin's arms, where he promptly disappeared.     Finally, six weeks after Foote arrived in Moscow, his most critical time arrived. Maria told him that the director himself--Foote assumed him to be head of Red Army intelligence--wanted to meet him. Olga would prepare a feast, and Poliakova would attend. They had a few more questions they wanted to ask Foote in person. The director wouldn't be sure that he was dealing with an honest man, Foote decided, unless he could look into his eyes.     The director and Poliakova arrived in a large limousine, followed by cars carrying guards. "The Director was a charming individual," Foote later recalled. "In his early forties, he was intelligent and intellectual, and looked it. He spoke fluent, almost faultless English ... He had a heavy responsibility to bear, as he was, I believe, directly responsible to Stalin himself, and, according to [Poliakova], was one of the few people in the Soviet Union who could see Stalin without an appointment."     The meal began at 6 P.M., and the group continued talking until two the next morning. Although the gathering seemed convivial, it was clear to Foote that there was an issue of great concern to the director as well as to his masters. First, the director wanted to know Foote's theory about how Werther sent his information so quickly to Lucy and thus to Dübendorfer. Foote said he didn't know, but he offered a guess: Someone in the Third Reich commanded not only top-secret information but also a wireless transmitter. It was one of the most improbable things he could imagine, yet that was the logical explanation. In the end, even the director had no better theory.     Next, the director turned to the heart of the matter. Out of thousands of radio transmissions that Foote had sent to Moscow, a single one became the focus of the interview: In May 1942, Foote had sent a message to Moscow Center concerning the positioning of German troops just before a Russian offensive to recapture Kharkov.     "Usually `Lucy's' information had been correct," the director said, "but once it had proved disastrous." He pulled out the cryptogram from Foote's dossier and handed it to him. "Do you remember sending that?" he asked. Foote, who knew nothing about the consequences of this thin piece of yellowing paper, said that he could not distinguish the message from the many others he had sent. It was, he allowed, in his code, so it certainly came from his transmitter. And it was information from Werther. Other than that, the message seemed routine to Foote.     It was not routine, countered the director. "That message cost us 100,000 men at Kharkov and resulted in the Germans reaching Stalingrad. It was sent over your transmitter." Suddenly Foote knew the meaning of the game that the Center had been playing with him for the past few weeks. One of the messages from Werther had backfired, and the Center wanted scapegoats. Foote was the nearest one at hand.     The director continued: "After we received this and saw the damage that it wrought we could only assume that `Lucy' was a double agent and all his information was false and supplied by the Abwehr ."     For weeks after the Kharkov debacle, the Center tried to ignore the Lucy material, the director told Foote. But after checking all the information from Lucy, the Center decided that "as all the other information from that source was correct and could be proved correct, the source was after all reliable." Then came the director's potentially deadly conclusion: "The information must have been falsified after it left Germany. Perhaps, my dear `Jim,' you can throw some light on this?"     Foote was being accused, indirectly, of three crimes: He was an Abwehr agent, he caused the deaths of 100,000 Russians, and he allowed the German advance on Stalingrad. Foote immediately understood the gravity of the charges. He knew that he could not dissemble in any way. The alleged crimes were immeasurable.     If he was to survive, he must depend only on the truth. He told the director that the message had come to him not from Rachel Dübendorfer but through Alexander Rado. Foote had merely been the "pianist" who played the message on the wireless back to the Center. The information had always come to him in a sealed envelope, and he never left such messages lying around, so there was no chance that someone could have substituted a phony message for a real one after it had reached him.     If there was any changing, Foote implied, it had to have been Rado, not Foote, who did it.     The director, Poliakova, and two others asked Foote to step into his bedroom so that they could evaluate his answers. It was about 2 A.M. After eight hours of questioning, Foote was spent. He was alone in his room and naturally beset with anxiety that bordered on panic. It lasted for half an hour. He felt as though he was a prisoner and the Russians were his jury. Then came a knock on his door. Foote was asked to return.     The inquisition was over. The director, Foote later reported, "appeared to be in an extremely good humor and slapped me jovially on the back." The whole Lucy matter could not be solved until after the war, the director told Foote, but as far as the May 1942 incident was concerned, he was "entirely exonerated." In arriving at this judgment, the director said that Foote's simple acceptance of the "Bear's embrace" was evidence of his innocence. If he had been a double-cross agent in 1942, he would have had no incentive to board the Russian spy plane in Paris in 1945.     Meanwhile, the Soviets would question Rado, the man who had bolted from that same spy plane during its stopover in Cairo. The director said: "Very soon there will be no place in the world where it will be possible to hide from the Center." Copyright © 2000 Louis Kilzer. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Key People and Organizationsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1. Spy Storiesp. 17
2. Intuition Warfarep. 39
3. Miraclep. 59
4. Stalin Movesp. 75
5. Barbarossap. 99
6. Preservedp. 123
7. Stalematep. 153
8. Indecisionp. 183
9. Clairvoyantp. 211
10. Gestapo Mullerp. 237
11. Endgamep. 259
Epiloguep. 285
Bibliographyp. 292
Indexp. 299

Google Preview