Monday, February 1, 2010
The Red Orchestra by Anne Nelson
To Harro Schulze-Boyson (whose extraordinary facility with many languages led him to a position in the intelligence division of Goring's Air Ministry), Arvid Harnack ( well-placed in the Economics Ministry of Adolf Hitler's regime) and Adam Kuckoff (playwright, novelist, journalist, screenwriter), the fact that the Soviets utterly failed to heed their warning about the impending invasion of Russia in 1941 was incomprehensible. But there was more to the story than they would ever know.
Stalin had received additional warnings from across the globe as an uncertain and hesitating world began to coalesce against the Nazis. Harro Schulze- Boysen's intelligence had been the most detailed, but his information was reinforced by a remarkable array of sources across a broad political spectrum. These included the State Department in Washington, the Tory Government in London, a German-Russian Communist agent in Tokyo and a German Lutheran exile in Lucerne. All of them believed it was in their interest to warn the Soviets of the German invasion.
Washington's alert resulted from the efforts of Erwin Respondek, a German economist also well-connected in Nazis circles but secretly offended by their anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic policies. Respondek shared his secrets with a U.S. embassy official in Berlin named Sam Woods though the U.S. mission in Berlin was openly hostile to the idea of gathering intelligence. As the Nazis advanced their scenario leading to world war, the U.S. chief of mission stated that it was improper for American diplomats to "run around Berlin digging up secrets." Woods managed to forward the information to Washington nonetheless.
Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles was among the few who took Wood's report seriously. On March 1st he passed along Respondek's warning to the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Konstantin Oumansky, an agile Stalinist who had come through the recent purges unscathed. The Soviet's reaction to Welles' assistance was to place a call to the charge' at the German embassy, and tell him that the American's were spreading ugly rumors designed to damage German-Soviet friendship.
On April 3rd, Winston Churchill instructed his ambassador to Moscow to deliver his personal note to Stalin. The message described the massive build-up on the Soviet border, which the British had learned about by intercepting coded German messages.
Soviet agent Richard Sorge, the Russian-German working for the Soviets in Tokyo, sent Moscow an even more precise alert, pinning down the date of the invasion as June 22.
Sorge's June date was confirmed by Rudolf Roessler, who has been called the most effective anti-Nazi agent of the entire war. Roessler, a nondescript journalist from Bavaria, had student ties to a group of young men who became career officers in the German military. Roessler moved to Berlin in the 1920s and was appointed public arts administrator in the field of the theater. His publications quoted Adam Kuckoff, and he worked under the ministry of Adam's friend Adolf Grimme. Roessler's department was purged by the Nazis in April 1933, and he fled to Switzerland the following year. There he established contact with Swiss intelligence and began to pass information from his military friends in Germany to the Swiss, who shared it with the French. As war approached and the Swiss remained neutral, Roessler turned his attention to the Soviet Union.
Roessler's information was delivered to Soviet army intelligence, while Arvid Harnack's and Harro Schulzed-Boysen's reports were routed through the NKVD. But all of them pointed in the same direction, and all were ignored. Over a hundred warnings from various sources reached Moscow before the German invasion took place. The final alarm was sounded on the eve of the attack, when a German soldier deserted and crossed the lines. He informed his Russian interrogators that the invasion would be launched at three o'clock the next morning. Stalin received the report three hours later- and responded by ordering the German deserter to be shot.
Once the invasion was launched, Soviet intelligence was frantic to get more news from Berlin. But now the Soviet embassy route was closed. Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen continued to diligently gather information and divide the necessary tasks among their circle, who encoded the messages and delivered them to the designated radio operators. What none of them realized was that, due to defective radio transmitters and novice operators, their efforts were in vain.
The arrival of the Soviet agent Anatoli Gourevitch at his door on October 29, 1941, came to Harro Schuzle as a complete surprise but he did not focus on the breach of security. He was pleased by the Soviet's appearance. He had been trying to undermine the Nazis for months with his transmissions of intelligence, with no evidence that it was getting through. The German army was closing in on Moscow, and it appeared that the next few months would determine the outcome of the war. The two men sat down in the living room and Harro offered his visitor a long menu of military intelligence, which Kent carefully recorded in his notebook.
Harro handed the Soviet a motherload of invaluable intelligence which, from his station in Brussels, Gourevitch transmitted in marathon sessions, breaking every possible security precaution by staying on the air for long sessions every night, for seven days straight. This gave German counterintelligence an easy means of honing in on the signal. They tracked the transmissions and carefully recorded the coded content.
By the fall of 1942 the Gestapo had decoded the messages and completed their investigation. Over 120 people were detained in connection with the case. Torture was meticulously monitored by an SS doctor to gauge the effect on the prisoners' health. Official records showed that Harro Schulze-Boysen's questioning began with twelve blows of an ax handle. Arvid Harnack, John Graudenz, and Adam Kuckoff were beaten with rubber truncheons. Seventy-nine defendants linked to the Red Orchestra group were tried in a total of nineteen trials in the seven months between December 15, 1942, and July 1943. Forty -five were sentenced to death, twenty-nine were sent to prison, and two were acquitted for lack of evidence, though one of these was sent directly to Ravensbruck concentration camp anyway.
Our forces were few. The goal lay far in the distance.
It was clearly visible, though I probably wouldn't reach it myself.
So went the time I was granted on earth.
You, who will emerge from the flood that submerged us,
Also remember, when you speak of our weaknesses,
The dark times you have been spared.