Secret Intelligence Service
Soviet Military Intelligence
No. IV of XL
In order to know, understand and predict someone, a group, or indeed a whole nation and its infinite and multifaceted complexity – allow those who were and still are there to tell you. Step into their world this way, step into their mind
This is a very large collection of era-specific papers, comprising; spoken thoughts, opinions, diary extracts, books and other writings of Soviet / Russian intelligence officers
Attention to the point of view
No. IV : On the night of December 23-24, 1942, a German journalist, Ilze Stebe, was executed in the Pleutzensee Prison Guillotine in Berlin. For communication with Soviet intelligence, the imperial military court sentenced her to death by cutting off her head. Hitler personally approved this sentence.
Ilse Stebe really was the leader of the Soviet military intelligence reconnaissance group, which successfully operated in Berlin on the eve of the Great Patriotic War. In the intelligence service of the Red Army, she was listed under the pseudonym ‘Alta’. The Gestapo managed to extract information about Stebe’s connections with Soviet intelligence and grab it.
‘Alta’ was in a prison cell with a German woman, called Tuchola. Knowing that she was already sentenced to death, she handed Tuchola, with whom she became friends, a note for her mother and said that she was dying quite calmly because she did not betray anyone, but, on the contrary, ‘saved lives of three men and one woman .’
Tuchola survived. I handed Frida Stebe a note and the last words of her daughter. What did these words mean, Frau Stebe did not know. But, realising that these were not simple words, she remembered them, retold to her adopted son Kurt Muller. So they became known to those with whom Ilze Stebe fought against the fascists.
One of the three men about whom Alta was talking about in the last days of her life was her compatriot ABC. The woman whose life was saved by a brave spy (scout – Russian) was the wife of ABC. She also collaborated with the Soviet military intelligence and was listed in the intelligence department under the pseudonym ‘LCL’. Whom did Alta save by her own life?
ABC is a German citizen of Kurt Velkish. In his autobiography, he wrote : ‘He was born on September 29, 1910 in the city of Zorau, in the province of Brandenburg. My father had his own grocery store. Mother was a housewife, was engaged in raising children’, whom she loved more than all the sweets that were in the shop of her husband.
‘After graduating from elementary school, he completed a course in a humanities gymnasium and in 1929 entered the law faculty of the university in Greifeld. Then transferred to the University of Berlin. He completed his studies at the University of Kreslau.’
The political crystallisation of Kurt Velkish took place in difficult conditions – political passions were in full swing in Germany. The country claimed the fascists who were supported by influential bankers, industrialists and landowners. The main slogan of the Nazis, using which they rushed to power, read : The Germans must rule the world. Deception was obvious, but seductive, promised a comfortable life and many Germans stupefied his head.
Kurt Velkish figured out the true content of the fascist slogans. Despite his youth, the son of a grocer created the Union of Red Students at Breslau University in 1931. By the end of 1931, Velkish became a member of the Communist Party of Germany. In the summer of 1934, he received a doctorate degree in law.
After the fascists came to power in 1933, Velkish worked in the Communist Party illegally. In 1934, he also illegally prepared and published several issues of the newspaper of the Breslavsky local branch of the KKE.
In his autobiography, Kurt wrote : ‘Becoming a doctor of law, he worked in Sommerfeld and Guben. In Guben, my trace was attacked by the Gestapo because of my communist activities. Therefore, in October 1934, I was forced to abandon legal practice and hide from prosecution. Until January 1935 was unemployed. In January 1935, thanks to my friend Kegel, I managed to get a journalistic job in the newspaper Breslauer Neues Nachrichten. In May 1935, as a correspondent for this newspaper, he was sent to work in Warsaw.’
Further, in his autobiography, Kurt Velkish wrote : ‘In August 1937, he married Margaret Renish.’ Margarita Renish, pseudonym – ‘LCL’. After marriage – Margarita Velkish. Born June 3, 1913 in Berlin. German. Germanic subject. Father does not remember. She was brought up by her mother, an employee of a textile factory. In search of work, Margarita’s mother from Berlin moved to the city of Zorau. In 1923, Margarita graduated from public school and entered the lyceum, where she completed her studies in 1931. After the lyceum, she studied for two more years in the evening trading courses, and received the profession of stenographer. She worked as a typing secretary for the director of a local textile factory.
In Zorau, pretty brunette Martha Renish attracted Kurt Velkish. They became friends, participated in the work of the local Communist Party cell, made leaflets exposing the demagogy of the fascists, organised and held workers’ meetings.
In 1936, Margarita returned to Berlin. She lived for some time at her uncle’s house. In her autobiography, she wrote that ‘on the advice of her future husband, she studied in Berlin for photographers. In January 1937 she got married and moved to Warsaw, where my husband Kurt Velkish worked.’
Velkish worked as a correspondent in Warsaw since 1935. Margarita arrived in the Polish capital in 1937. Together they lived in Poland for two years. It was one of the most interesting periods in their lives.
‘During my stay in Warsaw from August 1937 to August 1939, I wrote in my autobiography, Margarita Velkish, I took part in the work of my husband.’ What kind of work are we talking about?
In 1935 another German journalist, Rudolf Gernstadt, worked in Warsaw. In the Polish capital, he represented the German newspaper Berliner Tageblat. The name of Gernstadt was well known in the German colony. Before arriving in Warsaw, he was accredited in Prague and even in Moscow. In November 1933, when cold winds blew between Berlin and Moscow, several Soviet correspondents were forced to leave the German capital. Moscow responded and, in turn, exposed all German journalists from the USSR. Rudolf Gernstadt was among them. Since that time, he worked in Poland, enjoyed the special location of the German ambassador in Warsaw, von Moltke.
Rudolf Gernstadt was a Soviet intelligence officer. He has collaborated with the Red Army Intelligence Agency since 1931, was listed in military intelligence under the pseudonym ‘Arbin’ and carried out its most difficult tasks, he selected and engaged valuable intelligence sources in his work for intelligence. Rudolph enlisted the cooperation of the Soviet military intelligence Ilze Stebe, who in Poland was his common-law wife. Arbin brought to work for military intelligence a German journalist and diplomat Gerhard Kegel, who was known by the pseudonym KVTs. In June 1941, Kegel, being an employee of the German embassy in Moscow, informed the representative of the Soviet military intelligence of the exact date and even the hour of the attack of the fascist Germany on the Soviet Union.
Gernstadt met Velkish soon after his arrival in Warsaw. Arbin learned that his friend Gerhard Kegel helped Velkish to get a job as a correspondent in the Polish capital. Undoubtedly, Gernstadt found an opportunity to learn from Kegel, who at that time also worked in Warsaw, his opinion about the new correspondent. Kegel could have told Arbin that Velkish created the Union of Red Students in Breslau, and secretly assisted the Communist Party. This indicated the political credibility of a young journalist who had gone through a good school of illegal work.
‘Arbin’ decided to bring Velkish to work on the Soviet military intelligence. In the Red Army Intelligence Agency, they supported the Arbin proposal, at the same time they recommended Kurt to join the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany. Membership in this fascist organisation was necessary to gain access to important information. On the instructions of the chief of the Soviet military intelligence, Velkish became a member of the Nazi Party.
And indeed, after this, Kurt began to obtain information necessary for the Red Army. Once he told Arbin that his wife Margarita could also be useful in this secret work. Rudolph agreed. Kurt and Martha began to perform the tasks of the Red Army Intelligence. He – under the pseudonym ‘ABC’. She – under the pseudonym ‘LCL’. What do these strange abbreviations denote, nobody now knows.
Can Kurt Velkish be called an agent? Maybe. However, Velkish called himself an employee of the Soviet military intelligence. He fought against the fascist regime in Germany, like other German anti-fascists who were captured by the Gestapo in 1942. Simultaneously with Ilze Stebe, the Gestapo men seized over 130 more anti-fascists. Most of them, like Alta, worked for Soviet intelligence. 49 of them (31 men and 18 women) were executed in the Berlin prison camp Pleutsensee, in Gale, Brandenburg and at the shooting range in the Tegel district of Berlin. Seven brave anti-fascists, who fell into the hands of the Gestapo, were brutally tortured during the ‘preliminary investigation’. Seven more were sent to concentration camps. More than 25 associates of Schulze-Boyzen-Harnack were sentenced by fascist judges to a total of 130 years of hard labor. Kurt Velkish and his wife Margarita could be among them.
Velkish helped the Soviet military intelligence for ideological reasons. In the surviving case of ‘ABC’ in the column ‘Accounting of the amounts issued’ there is not a single record. For six years of cooperation with the Soviet military intelligence, Velkish did not accept a single German mark or any gift from intelligence. ‘ABC’ handed over intelligence services disinterestedly. What made him risk his life and the life of Margarita? There can be only one explanation for this; Velkish was a patriot of Germany. His wife too. As true patriots of their country, they fought against Hitler, fought for the future of Germany, risking their lives daily.
The work of ‘ABC’ in Warsaw was fruitful and quite successful. At the end of 1935, Kurt recruited a German intelligence officer, Captain K, who received a digital pseudonym in Moscow, number 18. In 1936, Velkish recruited another valuable source, which was given the pseudonym ‘Arno’.
In 1936, the first four reports of the German army were received from the ‘ABC’ Centre. In 1937, Velkish sent 8 military-political reports to Moscow. In 1938, 11 reports were received from ABC. All messages were valuable. One day, the head of military intelligence sent a personal letter to ‘ABC’, which said : ‘I am very glad that you are still stubbornly and persistently fulfilling our tasks, skillfully and proactively using every opportunity to improve our work. All your materials were helpful.’
In 1938, the Centre gave the ABC a new task – to settle for work at the German Foreign Ministry. Membership in the NSDAP could contribute to this. Velkish was fluent in Polish and French, which was taken into account when he was appointed in May 1937 as the head of German journalists working in Warsaw. The party burden of the Nazi Party was to monitor the Polish press, review Polish newspapers, and organise contacts between German journalists and the Polish Foreign Ministry. Velkish conscientiously carried out this party task, at the same time successfully solving information tasks from Moscow. In 1939, ABC sent 32 reports to the Centre.
Margarita Velkish also actively worked in the Warsaw residence of the Soviet military intelligence. She was a professional photographer. The documents that Kurt got, Margarita took pictures, and they went to the Intelligence Agency.
Rudolf Gernstadt also instructed ‘LCL’ to photograph secret documents, which he temporarily took from the German ambassador Moltke. ‘LCL’ had to perform other tasks of intelligence.
In the summer of 1939, the Warsaw period of the work of the ABC intelligence officer was completed. On the eve of the German attack on Poland, all German correspondents were ordered to leave Warsaw.
In October 1939, Kurt Velkish took another step towards fulfilling the Centre’s task. He, as a well-established journalist in Warsaw, a member of the NSDAP, is sent to Lithuania by correspondent. Being in Vilnius, Velkish performs the tasks of the German Foreign Ministry and collects information of a political and military-economic nature. According to the results of his business trip to Lithuania, Velkish received a positive response from the Ribbentrop office and an appointment to work in Romania.
The appointment of Velkish to work in Bucharest was in the interests of the Red Army Intelligence Agency. The main goal of ‘ABC’ in Romania is the German embassy, which had important secret information. Romania supported the alliance of fascist Germany with Italy, Antonescu became a friend and ally of Hitler. Through the German embassy in Bucharest, many political and military issues were resolved that affected the interests of the USSR in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean.
In his autobiography, Kurt Velkish describes this period in his life : ‘In February 1940, he and his wife arrived in Bucharest, where he was first a journalist, and then hired by the German embassy in the press section as assistant counselor to the embassy Hamilcar Hoffmann. After Hoffmann left for Paris in August 1941, he officially became the embassy press officer. In this position he stayed until August 1944. During my work at the embassy I traveled to Berlin several times, fulfilling the ambassador’s special tasks.’
Having got a job in the German embassy, ABC was supposed to organise the obtaining of valuable military, military-political and military-economic information. However, it was only part of the task. It was also necessary to organise the delivery of secrets of the German embassy from Romania to Moscow.
As an employee of the embassy, Velkish maintained official contacts with journalists from various countries who were accredited in Bucharest. Among them was the Soviet journalist Mikhail Sharov, a TASS correspondent who arrived in the Romanian capital, like Velkish, in early 1940. This was not a coincidence. Sharov sent to Bucharest Soviet military intelligence. He had to reestablish communication with ABC.
Mikhail Sharov for the first time left the Soviet Union. He was born in 1907 in Moscow, worked as a messenger at the Kazan railway station, then graduated from the Plekhanov Moscow Industrial-Economic Technical School. In 1934, he entered the history department of Moscow State University. After graduating from Moscow State University, Sharov was selected for work in military intelligence. In addition to positive service characteristics, he possessed exceptional linguistic abilities, knew French and Spanish, and successfully studied English. After completing the course of special training, Mikhail was appointed to the post of TASS correspondent and left for Bucharest to restore contact with the ABC agent.
The first contact with ‘ABC’ was carried out under the terms of appearance in one of the small Bucharest restaurants. Velkish told Sharov that his wife Margarita would mostly be going out to meet him. She will hand over materials from the German embassy that interest the Centre.
Kurt Velkish’s ability to extract information was significant. Here is how they were characterized in the Center : ‘ABC’ has the opportunity to closely contact the work of the German embassy in Bucharest. He is in the know of all the work done by the Germans in Romania. He has instructions from German intelligence to keep in touch with Ukrainian anti-Soviet organisations in Romania and is aware of their plans and activities against the USSR. He has many acquaintances in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs among responsible officials and enjoys great prestige among them.
‘ABC’ is closely acquainted with the German air attache in Romania Gerstenberg, who performs special government assignments.
Taking into account the possibilities of Velkish, the Centre set the following tasks for him : ‘To highlight the activities of Germany in Romania, as well as the activities of the Anglo-French bloc in Italy, to monitor the activities of Ukrainian nationalists in Romania and to inform about Germany’s efforts to use them in their interests against the USSR’.
Velkish, who had experience in intelligence work, was extremely cautious and careful. Sharov was also careful. When organizing and holding meetings with ‘ABC’ or ‘LTCL’, Sharov took into account that he, the Soviet correspondent, could be simultaneously monitored by the Romanian counterintelligence and by an even more experienced and powerful opponent – the Gestapo. The Gestapo employees felt as free in Bucharest as they did in Berlin.
How many documents did ABC give to Mikhail Sharov? What value did they represent? These questions also have a convincing answer – some of the reports of the ‘ABC’ were reported personally to Stalin, Molotov, Zhukov, Beria, Voroshilov.
The resident of military intelligence in Bucharest was ‘Yeshchenko’, the head of Mikhail Sharov. Sharov gave him ABC materials.
On March 1, 1941, ‘Yoshchenko’ wrote to Moscow : ‘ABC, in its report on a trip to Berlin, reports that … many in Berlin talked about the upcoming German action against the USSR. In the Russian department of the German High Command they are working intensively.’
On May 5, ‘Yoshchenko’ sent a new report to Moscow based on Velkish data. The report said : ‘ABC’ reported that; German military units are transported from the Balkans to the theatre of the Romanian front. One staff officer of the German air corps located in Romania, who arrived from Berlin a few days ago, said that earlier, for the start of German military actions against the USSR, the date was 15 May, but due to Yugoslavia, the date was postponed to mid-June. This officer is firmly convinced of the upcoming conflict.’
On May 28, 1941, ABC announced that; ‘… the military action of Germany against the USSR continues to be systematically prepared and, as before, is highly relevant. Military preparations go like clockwork and make the beginning of the war real in June of this year.’
In the same report, ‘ABC’ reported to Moscow : ‘The German measures for the campaign against the USSR are thoroughly carried out in all areas with great precision.
Military deployment on … The Eastern Front is proceeding smoothly and with the greatest intensity. It will be completed by mid-June. The main forces of the German Balkan armies returned to the German eastern front. The military brunt against the Red Army will be carried out with a large mass.’
The information that ABC sent to Moscow in the first half of 1941 is interesting because they revealed the dynamics of the preparation of Hitler’s Germany for war against the USSR, as well as the step-by-step preparation for the war by the Romanian military leadership, who planned to return Bessarabia under its control.
Velkish was convinced that Romania would be on the side of Germany to fight against the USSR. He reported to Moscow : ‘In Romania at the present time, the rumours about an imminent war with the USSR have subsided markedly. However, a number of leading circles still harbor hope for the imminent return of Bessarabia. In the past three days (especially on the night of May 28 and in the afternoon of May 28), intensive traffic was observed through Bucharest from the south to the homeland of German vehicles with infantry and armored vehicles.’
The information that Velkish obtained was used in the Red Army Intelligence Agency for the preparation of special communications. In one of them, called ‘About the military preparations of Romania’, developed on June 7, 1941 based on data from Bucharest, the head of military intelligence, Lieutenant General F. Golikov, reported to Stalin, Molotov, Zhukov, Beria and other Soviet leaders: the Romanian army will be mobilized to reach one million people, and up to 30 divisions can be deployed.’
In 1940, 33 military-political reports were received from Moscow from Velkish. All of them received high marks from the Soviet military command.
In 1941, on the basis of ABC data, the resident of military intelligence in Bucharest, Yoshchenko sent nine reports to Moscow, which accurately reflected the preparations of Germany and Romania for the war against the Soviet Union.
After Germany’s treacherous attack on the USSR, all the staff of the Soviet embassy were interned. Mikhail Sharov was also forced to leave Romania.
Kurt Velkish was left without contact with the Moscow Military Intelligence Center. He continued to work in the system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, had access to valuable military and military-political information, but was not able to transmit this information to Moscow.
The Centre has repeatedly attempted to reestablish communication with ABC. Soviet scouts were thrown into Romania, who were to reach Bucharest and restore contact with Velkish. In the first half of 1942, intelligence ‘M’ was abandoned in Romania. After some time, with the same task, the reconnaissance “I” departed. But these operations have not been successful.
At the end of 1942, a new attempt to reestablish communication with ABC was also unsuccessful. In January 1943, the reconnaissance Munte, a former fighter of the International Brigade in Spain, was abandoned in Romania. He snuck into Bucharest. Got a job. Then he tried to establish contact with ‘ABC’. But his attempt was unsuccessful.
In February 1943, the Intelligence Agency again attempted to re-establish communication with ABC. For this purpose, the Ludmila reconnaissance group was established in the Centre, which included two intelligence officers. The head of the group was appointed Rakhil Il’evna Gamburd, who had lived in the city of Bendery before the war, knew Bucharest well. In 1940, she was involved in intelligence work by the intelligence department of the headquarters of the Odessa Military District.
An assistant for this brave young woman was found in Moscow. It turned out to be Stefan I. Kioriana. He was born in Hungary in the city of Maroshuivar, but since 1923 he lived in Moscow and before the war he worked as a joiner in Soyuztechfilm. Stefan Ivanovich knew Romanian well. Scout group ‘Lyudmila’ had every chance of success. However, this group suffered a failure.
‘ABC’ was also looking for ways to restore communication with the Centre. Velkish twice instructed his wife, Margarita, to transport copies of documents for Alta to Berlin that he managed to obtain at the embassy. He himself, arriving in Berlin on the instructions of Ambassador Killenger, secretly met with Alta. They discussed the situation. Alta was going to go to the Eastern Front as a war correspondent and cross the front line to meet with military intelligence representatives. She wanted to transfer the accumulated film and to establish a connection with the Intelligence Agency. She was not allowed to go to the Eastern Front.
Stebe tried to go on a business trip to Sweden, where there was a Soviet representation, but she did not succeed either. And in August 1942, Ilse Stebe was arrested.
In December 1942, Kurt Velkish learned that Ilze Stebe and diplomat Rudol von Shelia, with whom Velkish met while working in Warsaw, were executed in Berlin.
The news of the execution of Shtebe and Shelia was a terrible news for Velkisha. They realised that they were in real danger. If the Gestapo managed to wrest from Ilze Shtebe a recognition of the work of Velkish on Soviet intelligence, they also faced the death penalty. The Velkishs understood this well and did not discuss this blood-curdling problem. They hoped for a miracle, believed in salvation and waited.
Kurt and Margarita Velkish were two steps away from the guillotine, but thanks to the courage of Ilze Stebe they did not get into the house of death in the prison of Pensesensee. Alta did not betray anyone.
In 1944, the Velkish family was in Moscow. Kurt Velkish agreed to continue cooperation with the Soviet military intelligence, as the war was still going on in Europe. It ended with the defeat of fascist Germany, whose territory was divided into zones of occupation in accordance with the decisions of the Potsdam Conference. Kurt did not agree with this decision. He stated that the division of Germany occurred at the request of the USSR, and refused to cooperate with military intelligence. Even his old comrade in the fight against the fascist dictatorship, Rudolf Gernstadt, who was also in Moscow at that time, could not correct his mistake.
The Velkish family was interned in one of the temporary camps. From places of detention Velkishi were released after the death of Stalin. Their first son Michael died in prison. The second son, Thomas, who appeared in Velkisch prisoner, currently lives in Germany.
Spouses Velkish were selfless anti-fascists. They fought against Hitler, against national socialism, against racial and social inequality. They fought for a free Germany and helped the Soviet intelligence officers only because Russia at that time was the only country that could destroy Hitler’s plans.
The maze of Kurt and Margarita Velkish proved to be difficult and difficult. Walking through this labyrinth, they never lost courage, did not give up, until the bitter end they fought against circumstances that prevented them from being happy and free.
In April 2003, I was able to publish an essay about Kurt and Margarita Velkish, who was called ‘The Fate of the Agent ABC ‘. A little later, the book ‘Forgotten Agents of the Kremlin’ was published in Minsk. This book was written in one hundred and fifteen pages by the director of the National Archives of the Republic of Belarus V. Selemenev and journalist V. Shimolin. The basis of the book was the materials about Kurt and Margarita Velkish, declassified in Minsk.
The publication of an article in a Moscow newspaper and a book printed in Minsk apparently attracted the attention of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus.
Head of the Department for the Supervision of the Implementation of State Security Laws of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus I.I. Sukhoverh reviewed the archival criminal case on charges of Velkish Kurt and Velkish Margarita and found that Kurt Velkish began cooperating with Soviet intelligence from May 1935 at the suggestion of Rudolf Gernstadt, a newspaper correspondent in Warsaw, collecting military and political information that he transmitted to Soviet intelligence .
In 1938, at her suggestion, he joined the Nazi Party, made contacts with people from the office of Ribbentrop, military intelligence, the Foreign Ministry to obtain information.
For the transfer of valuable information received thanks from Moscow. He repeatedly traveled to East Prussia, receiving military information for Soviet intelligence through a German officer’s friend.
In 1937, he got married; he also attracted a wife to intelligence work, who mastered the specialty of a photographer and took photographs of various documents obtained by members of a reconnaissance group.
Having considered the archive case of the spouses Velkish, the head of the department for the supervision of the implementation of laws on state security of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus, I.I. Sukhoverver decided :
‘The Resolution of the Special Meeting at the USSR Ministry of State Security dated January 16, 1952 in respect of Velkish Kurt Richard and Velkish Margarita, accused under Art. 8 – 38 of the Criminal Code of the BSSR, cancel and stop the case due to the absence of corpus delicti in their actions. Velkish K.R. and Velkish M. recognise rehabilitated. Send a copy of the Resolution to the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus.’
On October 27, 2003, the Deputy Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus, State Class 3 Counselor of Justice S.V. Kosuha approved a decision to repeal the decision of the Special Meeting at the USSR Ministry of State Security in the case of Kurt Velkish and Margarita Velkish.
The national film studio Belarusfilm and the Federal Fund for Social and Economic Support for Cinematography finalised a film regarding the fate of the spouses Kurt and Margarita Velkish. The film, which creates a well-known director Anatoly Alai, was released on the cinema screens of Russia and Belarus, on the eve of Victory Day.
No. IV of XL
Secret Intelligence Service
Red Star. Soviet Military Intelligence
Adversitate. Custodi. Per Verum