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Die Rote Kapelle (the Red Orchestra) was the name given by the Gestapo to three Soviet espionage rings operating in Nazi-occupied Europe and Switzerland during World War II.

The term "Rote Kapelle" ("Red Orchestra") originated from the RSHA which referred to radio operators as "pianists", their transmitters as "pianos", and their supervisors as "conductors".[1] "Red" stood for communism. Thus, the German counterintelligence called the perceived Soviet covert network die Rote Kapelle, the "Red Orchestra". It was one of the largest and most politically independent resistance efforts against the Nazis. Most of its members were executed or taken to prisons and camps. After the war, wrongly accused of being communists, the few survivors suffered from a second wave of persecution - they were publicly slandered as "traitors". The Gestapo had called three independent groups the "Red Orchestra" or "Rote Kapelle - the Trepper group and the Rote Drei (Red Three), espionage networks in Western Europe and Switzerland and the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group, a politically independent resistance group that operated from within Berlin.

The Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle ("Red Orchestra Special Detachment"), was a task force set up to combat the Red Orchestra's activities. Including representatives of the Gestapo, Abwehr, and the SD, it was formed in early 1942 at Hitler's personal order.[1] Historical information during the Cold War stemmed from Gestapo information. Only the fall of the Berlin wall and subsequent access to KGB archives made it possible to provide documents that the Schulze-Boysen Harnack group had been an independent effort who were critical of Stalin's politics.

Contents

Trepper Group

In early 1939 Leopold Trepper had been 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 firm the "Foreign Excellent Raincoat Company" in Brussels, an export firm with branches in many major European ports. Following the fall of Belgium in May 1940 he moved to Paris and established the cover firms 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 Parisian network of the Trepper Group after being appalled by the conduct of the Nazi occupiers in her country.

Trepper directed seven GRU networks in France, and the network 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 gather important information through his contacts with highly-placed Germans. Posing as a German businessman, he held dinner parties at which he acquired information on the morale and attitudes of German military figures, troop movements, and plans for the Eastern Front.

In addition, contacts between the Simex company and its main customer, the Todt Organization, provided information on German military fortifications and troop movements. As a further bonus, these contacts supplied some of Trepper's agents with passes that allowed them to move freely in German-occupied areas.

In December 1941 Trepper's transmitter in Brussels was shut down by German security forces and Trepper himself was arrested on 5 December 1942 in Paris. After agreeing to work for the Germans he began transmitting deliberate misinformation to Moscow, which may have included hidden warnings. In September 1943 he escaped and went into hiding with the French Resistance until after the Liberation of Paris in 1944.

Operations by the Trepper ring 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 in 1944.

Schulze-Boysen/Harnack Group

Before the German invasion of Russia, Anti-Nazi groups in Germany had supplied the Soviets, Americans and British with intelligence on an informal basis, but there was no established espionage network.

As part of such efforts, the Berlin group tried to transmit intelligence to Moscow using radio transmitters just four days after the invasion of Russia. However, the transmitters, supplied by the Soviets, didn't work. Ultimately, the Schulze-Boysen Harnack group was able to provide more intelligence to Henry Morgenthau and President Roosevelt through the American embassy's monetary attachè, Donald Heath. The German invasion of Russia ended all these efforts and in 1942, the resistance fighters were arrested.

On 30 July 1942 the network had began to unravel when the Gestapo arrested radio operator Johnann Wenzel. Schulze-Boysen was arrested on 30 August and Harnack on 3 September after a warning from Horst Heilmann in the OKH's Cipher Section failed to reach Schulze-Boysen in time.[1]

The Schulze-Boysen group ran the gamut of German society, comprising Communists and political conservatives, Jews, Catholics and atheists all united to fight the Nazis. It also contained 40% women, who worked equally alongside the men. The oldest person arrested was 86, the youngest 16. Among the arrested were Harnack's wife Mildred, Schulze-Boysen's wife Libertas, theatre producer Adam Kuckhoff and his wife Greta Kuckhoff, Horst Heilmann, author Günther Weisenborn, journalist John Graudenz (who had previously been expelled from the Soviet Union for reporting negatively about their famine), the potter Cato Bontjes van Beek, the pianist Helmut Roloff, and others.

According to a report compiled by the SD/SIPO, Schulze-Boysen's network's most valuable intelligence comprised:[1]

  • Luftwaffe strength at the beginning of the invasion of Russia.
  • Monthly production figures for the German aircraft industry during June-July 1941.
  • Germany's fuel position.
  • Plans for Germany's proposed attack on the Caucasus.
  • Location of German headquarters.
  • Production of aircraft in occupied areas.
  • Information regarding Germany's chemical warfare capabilities.
  • The capture of a Soviet codebook near Petsamo.
  • German losses during the attack on Crete.

However, their attempts at informing other nations, mostly the US and Russia, about Hitler's atrocities and war plans, were only a small part of their resistance effort. Mostly, they distributed leaflets, trying to cause paranoia among the rulers and civil disobedience among the population; they did daring sticker pasting campaigns; and they had an Underground Railroad - like network that helped persecuted people to hide and escape the country.

The Red Three

There was one part of the Red Orchestra which was outside the reach of German security forces: Die Roten Drei (Sender), the Red Three (stations) in Switzerland. Headed by Hungarian émigré, communist and famous geographer Sandor Rado (codename DORA), the Roten Drei was founded in 1936 when Rado arrived in Geneva. By April 1942 the organization had been established with Rado as group leader and three subgroup leaders: Rachel Duebendorfer (codename SISSY), Georges Blun (codename LONG), and Otto Puenter (PAKBO).[1] Rado was also in touch with the Lucy spy ring, which has been thought to be part of a British Secret Service operation to get Ultra information to the Soviets in a convincing way untraceable to British codebreaking operations against the Germans. Contacts with British intelligence was later used as one excuse to put Rado, who had followed orders to return to Russia, into a gulag for ten years.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Richelson, Jeffrey (1995). A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press US. pp. 126. ISBN 019511390X. 

References

  • Trepper, Leopold (1977). The Great Game. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 426. ISBN 0-07-065146-9

External links

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