Secret Intelligence Service
Soviet Military Intelligence
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
V of XL
Following the defeat of the Nazi troops near Moscow in December 1941, Hitler ordered the creation of a special unit, which in the history of the special services is referred to as the ‘Sonderkommando Red Kapella’. The main purpose of this team was to identify and destroy all Soviet intelligence groups that operated in Germany and in the territories of Western countries occupied by German troops. This special team was able to identify and capture the Soviet intelligence officers, their assistants, as well as the staff of some German ministries and institutions. Almost all those arrested were executed. The same fate befell the GRU resident, who had the pseudonym ‘Harry’. Until recently, little was known about him.
Many years have passed since the gunfire salute of the Victory, announcing the defeat of fascist Germany, died down in 1945. The severe wounds inflicted on Russia during the Great Patriotic War healed, but continue to whine. The war ruined millions of human lives, left behind thousands of destroyed cities and villages and many secrets that have not yet been revealed.
One of the mysteries of the great war is connected with the fate of the intelligence officer, who headed the illegal residency of military intelligence in France. In the open press, this person is sometimes referred to as Harry. This is, of course, a pseudonym.
The spy (scout – Russian) had a name and a surname about which historians still argue. He was a French citizen, worked for a long time with Soviet military intelligence, knew Russian, loved Pushkin’s poems, and fought for all people to have equal opportunities for living, studying and working. His life ended abruptly – he was betrayed by a traitor and arrested by the Gestapo. After lengthy interrogation and torture, Harry was executed.
The mysterious fate of this man, it seems, in 1993 became interested in the French magazine Le Figaro. The magazine published a photograph of Harry and an article in which he was referred to as an agent of the Comintern, and later – one of the most active illegal residents of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe.
Rare mentions of Harry in separate books about intelligence officers, which in recent years have appeared in bookstores in Russia, are alike and not sufficiently accurate.
Collecting all the available documents and open material about the fate of Harry, I tried to understand the actions of this man, who was not doomed to death, but was executed without trial.
Even the first acquaintance with the materials about Harry convinces us that the name of the person who was hiding behind this pseudonym has been unfairly forgotten in the history of the 20th century. Residency, which was led by Harry, was in the 30s-40s of the last century one of the most effective foreign organisations of the Red Army Intelligence Agency. Harry has long been successfully engaged in military-technical intelligence, was an exceptionally successful high-class professional.
After examining the available documents about Harry’s intelligence work, I realised that his fate is still full of complicated mysteries. In addition, not all the facts related to his intelligence work, today, more than sixty years after his death, can be revealed. As it turned out, Harry actively collaborated with well-known scientists who gave him the results of their research for the subsequent direction of them to Moscow. Despite his rather old age, some of those comrades of Harry are still alive and well.
Harry’s grey-haired friends living in different countries are quite famous and authoritative people. Calling names without their consent would be a big and unjustified mistake. The non-standard world of special services is subject to harsh laws. These laws only get tougher over time. Democratisation in this area is not expected. So only Harry’s friends, apparently, who had already forgotten about their youth, have the right, in their declining years, to tell about themselves what they consider necessary.
And about Harry himself, who was the victim of betrayal and fascist arbitrariness, can finally tell the truth. The last days of his life are like the flight of an accidentally wounded crane.
In 1997, the command of the Main Intelligence Directorate attempted to convince the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces of the need to restore historical justice and sought to assign Harry the title of Hero of Russia (posthumously).
During the same year, 1997, at the direction of the head of the GRU, Colonel-General F.I. Ladygina prepared a memo addressed to General of the Army V.N. Samsonov. The report stated : ‘During the initial period of the Second World War (until December 1942), illegal GRU Harry’s residency successfully operated in France, Britain and Belgium, making a significant contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.’
It was further stated that the head of the residency Harry was our illegal resident citizen of France Schnee Arnold, who personally recruited eight valuable sources.’
The quotation from the official document convinces that the pseudonym Harry belonged to the French citizen Arnold Schnee.
I will not argue or assume that the proposal of the head of military intelligence to award Harry the title of Hero of Russia did not receive support from the Ministry of Defence. Probably, prior consent was still there. Only this can explain that a corresponding memorandum was prepared in the name of the President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin*(note). It contains a brief, extremely accurate, convincing and binding description : ‘Being arrested by the Gestapo, A. Schnee did not give the enemy either his comrades, no cipher, or other important information about the activities of Soviet military intelligence, courageously and steadfastly held to the last day . Executed by the Gestapo.’
Yet the proposal of Colonel-General F.I. Ladygina in 1997 was not accepted. It can be assumed that somewhere in the high government circles of the ‘new Russia’ this military intelligence document did not receive support. There may be many reasons, and finding them out is not this task. Nor is it a reward for Harry. The problem, no doubt, in another : the name of Arnold Schnee again remained in the shadows. And this means that the younger generations of Russians and French still do not remember the kind word of a man who selflessly fought against fascism.
If Arnold Schnee had not been executed by the Gestapo, he, like other true intelligence officers, would have preferred the coziness and silence of his own apartment after the war and kept secret about his past reconnaissance work. The intelligence does not like and beware of talkers. For a real spy (scoout), hiding behind the operative pseudonym assigned to him/her is much more pleasant than reading half-true stories about him/herself, which are arranged to please the tastes of lovers of the detective genre.
‘Harry’, for some reason I am sure of this, would have remained in that time – on the eve and in the first years of the war, when, as an honest man, he had to make a decision to maintain neutrality, to side with the fascists or oppose them. Harry’s choice was dangerous, difficult, but conscious and final. Today Arnold Schnee would be proud of his action.
What happened to Harry in 1942? Why did the Gestapo agents seize him? We will try to find reliable answers to these and other questions. Within the limits of the possible, affordable.
In prison Pletzensee in Berlin in early 1943 a prisoner appeared, whose name was kept secret. It was known only to investigators in black uniforms : Arnold Schnee, head of the illegal Soviet intelligence residency in France.
This prisoner was brought from Paris, where he was arrested by agents of the Krasnaya Kapella sun umbrella team in December 1942. In the Gestapo prison, this man was placed in solitary cell No. 15. Therefore, investigators and warders simply called him ‘Number 15’.
The prisoner was deprived of everything. He was not able to communicate with prisoners from neighbouring cells, his relatives did not visit him, he was not forced to do any work. He did not receive any information about what was happening outside the prison.
Prisoner ‘No.15’ was often interrogated. When he was taken out of the cell, the prison corridor was always empty. Nobody should have seen the prisoner.
During interrogations, he was asked the same questions : last name, first name, where did he come from when he started doing intelligence work? They demanded to name associates, their addresses, passwords. Something he said. But very little and mostly about himself, writing his life in such a way that the investigators could not verify anything. In Europe, it was the third year of the war, all people and all ties were mixed up, as in a multi-million dollar deck of cards. Finding the truth in such a chaos and checking the data that the prisoner reported was not easy. And the situation did not contribute to this : on the Eastern front, the German divisions suffered increasingly large losses, which worried the jailers in the fortress of death in Pletzensee, deprived of peace.
When the prisoner refused to answer specific questions about connections with Soviet intelligence, he was called informants, and he was severely beaten and tortured. The choice of means for torture among the Gestapo was unlimited. But they beat and tortured him with a certain caution so that the secret prisoner would live. Apparently, he was very necessary to someone.
In the cell number 15 of the prisoner was returned, as a rule, bloodied. How many forces remained in his body, no one knew. Sometimes they just dragged him down the hall. The investigators, who were zealous during interrogations, firmly knew that the prisoner ‘No. 15’ was associated with Soviet intelligence. The Gestapo personnel obtained these data during the next stage of the Red Cappella operation. ‘15th’ issued one of those arrested. Even unverified and unconfirmed information received from this person made it possible to deliver a prisoner from cell number 15 to the wall. Under martial law, anyone suspected of collaborating with foreign intelligence could be shot without collecting all evidence. But that would have been an easy death, which, oddly enough, some prisoners in Pletzensee prison dreamed of.
Investigators did not rush to put to the wall of a secret prisoner. They wanted ‘No. 15’ to name other Soviet intelligence agents with whom he was associated, to name the agents. Hitler demanded that all Soviet intelligence agents operating in Germany and the occupied countries be identified and destroyed. For Hitler, this was especially important in 1943. The Gestapo who worked in the prison, of course, did not know that Operation Citadel was scheduled for this summer. But it was assumed that important events were about to take place on the Eastern Front that could turn the tide in favour of Germany.
In the headquarters of the imperial security, the Wehrmacht’s summer offensive plan in the Kursk area was more known. Walter Schellenberg, head of the Nazi foreign intelligence service, was especially fully informed about this. It was he who showed keen interest in the prisoner of cell number 15. On the personal task of Schellenberg, investigators tried to force the ‘15th’ to name its sources in the United Kingdom. What kind of people are these? What are the positions? How to access them?
Schellenberg believed that thanks to the information received from the prisoner from cell number 15, it is possible to force his sources in the U.K. to carry out the tasks of German intelligence. He was also interested in Harry’s connections in France and Belgium. Schellenberg did not rule out that he could force a secret prisoner to join the radio game with the Moscow Military Intelligence Centre and, thus, use another channel for disinformation of the Soviet command on the eve of Operation Citadel. This task for Schellenberg was set by his chief, Heinrich Himmler, head of the main department of imperial security. He said that some Soviet radio operators are already included in the radio game. The new communication channel, which the Moscow Centre is likely to trust more than others, will increase the chances of misinformation to split, weaken the cooperation of the USSR with the USA and Great Britain.
Schellenberg, an experienced reconnaissance aircraft, understood that the Führer himself was keeping a close eye on this large-scale radio game, which attached great importance to it.
But the secret prisoner was silent. And nothing, not a promise to save lives, nor torture could break his will and persuade him to cooperate with German intelligence.
Persuasion and torture ‘No.15’ continued throughout 1943.
That year thousands of prisoners in the Gestapo camps and prisons were destroyed by the Nazis without investigation, trial and protocols. Perhaps only one case is known when, according to the data of the Sonderkommando staff, an accelerated investigation was organised, a closed indicative court was organised, to which the highest army ranks were invited, and the official text of the sentence was prepared, which was approved by Hitler.
Turn to these facts. The trial of the first arrested by agents of the Sonderkommando who were suspected of espionage ended in October 1942. It was at that time that Himmler, who headed Heydrich’s chief administration of imperial security after the death, reported to Hitler about the preliminary results of the operational-investigative work against Soviet spies and conspirators. After hearing the report, Hitler said :
‘If it were not for the Russian spies, we would have defeated their army long ago, and the Reich would triumph in victory!’ These conspirators will pay dearly for stabbing the Wehrmacht in the back!
After thinking, the Fuhrer gave instructions :
– The conspirators must be executed before Christmas. They and their curse should not cross the threshold of 1943.
A closed court martial for those suspected of treason was established in Berlin in December 1942. The surviving documents of this trial show that among the convicts were officer from the Luftwaffe headquarters Lieutenant Harro Schulze-Boyzen and his wife Libertas Schulze-Boyzen, Arvid and Mildred Harnack, Ilse Stebe, Rudolf von Shelia and others.
On December 21, Hitler personally approved the order on the verdict of the military court of December 14, 1942. After studying the ruling in the case of the first twelve convicts, Hitler ordered the men to be executed on the gallows, and the women – on the guillotine. A German journalist Ilse Stebe, who was one of the most valuable sources of the Red Army Intelligence Agency, was executed on the guillotine. She obtained information on the course of the preparation of fascist Germany for the attack on the Soviet Union.
The first executions were carried out on December 22, 1942.
After the executions on December 22, there were new arrests and new executions. They continued until October 1943. During this time, the Gestapo executed thirty-one men and eighteen women. Seven people could not stand the torture during the investigation and committed suicide, seven were sent to concentration camps, twenty-five were sent to penal servitude, eight people were sent to the front, several were shot.
In 1945, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Gestapo archive found the protocol of this court, the sentence approved by Hitler and Keitel, as well as a photograph of the conference room, which captured the high-ranking officers who were present at the trial. By arranging a trial in December 1942, Hitler believed that he had succeeded in destroying the entire Soviet intelligence network in Germany and in the occupied countries of Europe. At the same time, by conducting a demonstrative trial of the anti-fascists, whom he called Russian spies, Hitler showed his entourage that the power and position were unshakable, and he would easily destroy individual Russian spies, and not oppositionists at all. However, cruelty and death penalty could hardly hide the anxiety that engulfed the Fuhrer after the defeat of the German troops at Stalingrad.
In an effort to prevent the spread of unwanted sentiments among the German elite, Hitler ordered all documents related to the activities of the sonderman team and reflecting the results of its work, to assign one of the top confidentiality cards – ‘The Secret Command Business’. This meant that access to these documents was extremely organic. Apparently, Hitler was afraid of publicity of the information that testified that there were enough influential forces in Berlin, dissatisfied with the development of the strategic situation on the Eastern Front.
Such a high neck of secrecy provided investigative and judicial documents in which specific names of opposition members from elite German families were indicated, long-term storage. Thus, the verdict of the military court of December 14, 1942 was a sentence and all the descendants of the convicts. They closed the way to the upper echelons of power in Germany.
All the others, arrested as a result of the activities of the sonderkommand and passed through the Gestapo millstones, were not subject to accurate registration.
To tell about hell
Leopold Trepper (pseudonym ‘Otto’) was one of the leaders of the Soviet intelligence network in France. He was arrested in Paris on December 24, 1942 in the dentist’s office. Got to the Gestapo. After a while he managed to escape.
After all the misadventures that L. Trepper had to move during contacts with the Gestapo, he compared this establishment with hell. Here is how he wrote in the book; ‘The Great Game’:
‘It is impossible to tell about hell. People who have not experienced the horrors of the Gestapo cannot imagine them. But no imagination can rise to the level of a nightmare raised to the system.’
The great Florentine Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), the creator of the ‘Divine Comedy’, which became the greatest cultural monument of the Italian people, told the world about hell, what it was. Dante in his mature years actively served the Florentine Republic, took part in its wars, carried out various diplomatic missions. In 1300, in the days of the political domination of the bourgeois-democratic ‘white’ party, Dante was a member of the governing council of priors.
But good luck is not eternal, and the destinies of both people and states are changeable. By 1302, power in Florence was seized by the nobility-bourgeois leaders (the ‘black’ party), Dante, the writer of the first magnitude, was expelled from the republic and sentenced in absentia, to death.
Creating the ‘Divine Comedy’, Dante settled nine circles of hell with all those who in one way or another interfered with the strengthening of the republic : in the ditches of hell ‘washed away sins’ and weak in spirit people, and criminals, and rapists over themselves and their condition (moths) and traitors and sadomists and gluttons. There were deceivers and cheaters, flatterers and bribe-takers. In a word, according to Dante, all nine circles of hell were intended for those who did evil or contributed to the creation of evil.
Among the ‘permanent residents’ of hell created by the great Florentine, there were no people worthy, honest, fair, kind, modest, hardworking, selflessly defending independence, freedom and equality.
In the Gestapo hell, everything was the opposite. The Gestapo cameras were hammered by righteous people of different nationalities who fought with weapons in their hands or fought in other ways against the ‘black party,’ that is, against Hitler and the national socialists, their delusional ideas against all of humanity.
Trepper managed to escape from the Gestapo. Either it was an accidental success, or a performance deliberately played by the Sonderkommando team leader Karl Giering. The second is more likely.
According to the plan of Girring, or, most likely, according to the plan of G. Himmler, Trepper had to run to convey to Moscow a message that the Gestapo was in radio communication with the Moscow Centre. His escape, most likely, was one of the moves of the ingenious operation conceived by the head office of imperial security. The purpose of Trepper’s escape is to convince Moscow that there are influential forces in Germany that can agree to a separate peace with the USSR. If the Gestapo could get at least an indirect confirmation of the readiness of the Soviet leadership to make such a deal, it would immediately be used by the German leadership to inform the Americans, with whom the Germans had already established secret contacts. The development of further events of the Second World War is not difficult to imagine.
Trepper stayed alive. Lucky and radio operator Johan Wenzel. He, too, could be free. Other spies (scouts) were hanged, shot, or their heads were cut off in the medieval guillotine. A. Gurevich, under pressure from the Gestapo, took part in a radio game, which the Germans at that time started with Soviet military intelligence. No one can tell how much effort, money and time was spent by Soviet intelligence officers on this game.
Arnold Schnee refused any interaction with the Gestapo. He refused to cooperate with Schellenberg.
“It is impossible that fear commands the mind …”, apparently, he thought. And did not allow this.
A. Schnee continued to fight those who deliberately or unwittingly betrayed him, and those who tried to persuade him to betray. He was the hardest of all. The hell in which he found himself was real and not at all like the one that the great Dante described in The Divine Comedy, and very far from the one about which L. Trepper spoke. In the tenth circle of the Gestapo hell, which Dante could not foresee, it was what the mind of a normal person could not invent and accept.
During one of the interrogations, the Gestapo organised for Harry a meeting with his wife Clara Shabel, who was kept in the same prison. What kind of relationship did Arnold Schnee and Clara Shabel have? It is known that in the 1920s, Clara lived in Berlin constantly, and Arnold traveled around on instructions from the Comintern Executive Committee in all European countries. They rarely met. Moreover, Schnee, as an active activist of the Comintern, was on special account with the German and French authorities. He was convicted in absentia for his underground work in the Ruhr region by a French court for 10 years in prison. Due to the fact that he worked in the military organisation of the Communist Party of Germany (the so-called ‘M-Apparatus’ structure), the surname of A. Schnee in 1930 was included in the ‘Search Newsletter’ of the German police. Schnee decided to acquire new documents in the name of Henri Robinson, and settled in Paris.
From the capital of France, he often wrote letters to Clara Chabelle, considering her not only his wife, but also his best friend.
One of the letters Schnee sent to Clara on March 18, 1941 already from occupied Paris; “My dear Clara. I have received both of your messages, and you will understand how happy I was to hear that you were healthy. The fact that you work somewhat calms me down, since I didn’t even know how you are doing with the fascists. Although I must say that our foodstuffs are also rare, just like yours, not to mention food substitutes that spoil not only the mood. The messages that concern Leo do not make me happy. I had other plans for him. But from here it is difficult to do anything. Maybe there is another way that you have probably already been told about.
About myself. I am healthy enough to withstand all the loads no matter what. With the beginning of the war there were difficulties with the military authorities, but then everything became quiet. My friends became soldiers. Pierre and Dino returned from the front intact. We are right. And it gives us hope that after winter, a magnificent spring will come. Your Harry. “
Letters, apparently, was not much. Some are preserved. But the protocol of the meeting of Clara Schabel with Arnold Schnee in the Gestapo prison so far failed to find. But such a meeting was. How was the meeting in the same prison Ilse Stebe with her mother Frida Stebe and her half-brother Kurt Muller.
Probably, the investigators, both in the first and in the second cases (how many such cases were there), using this satanic method, set themselves the task of breaking the person who was under investigation, and knocking out a confession. The Gestapo failed to achieve anything from Harry. He refused to cooperate with the Gestapo and Schellenberg. And this experiment failed.
Clara Shabel was taken to Maobit prison, where, according to some sources, she was shot.
The Gestapo also organised a meeting Schnee with his son Leo. Before his arrest, Leo rarely wrote to his father in Paris. In short letters, rather similar to notes, Leo told his father about his achievements in studies, sports, or reported other news. On him, like the other guys in Germany at that time, who turned 19 – 20 years old, was subject to the law on conscription. And this meant that Leo could at any moment get to the front, where he would have to defend the interests of Nazi Germany. Both his father Arnold Schnee and his mother Clara Shabel, who was the owner of the conspiratorial apartment of the Red Army Intelligence Agency, fought secretly against Hitler’s Germany.
The children, having matured, however, choose life paths themselves, which, unfortunately, can erase what their parents created. This contradiction was, is and, apparently, will always be.
‘Dear father,’ Leo wrote to his father at the end of March 1941. ‘I am very glad that I can write you a few lines again. I just finished my studies. Probably I will be drafted to the army soon. I currently have a lot of work. Now every student should be able to replace a full-fledged adult at the factory. I attend shorthand courses and work at the factory twice a week. My health is high. I can not complain about the appetite. Mom sends you her heartfelt greetings. Your Leo.’
After reading the letter of his son, which he received long before his arrest, A. Schnee was very alarmed. Leo had no prospects for a reprieve from the service in the Wehrmacht. Without a special education, Leo could only get into the infantry unit, take a training course and be on the front line. Schnee had information that the German military command was forming reinforced military units and sent them to the east at night. This could only mean one thing; that sooner or later, Germany will attack the USSR. And this, according to Schnee’s calculations, will inevitably lead to a big war that will take many lives. Schnee has already repeatedly sent alarming messages to the Centre, warning the military intelligence leadership of impending danger.
The first radiograms from the resident Harry entered the Centre on December 11, 1940, that is, a week before Hitler signed Directive No. 21 in Berlin, codenamed ‘Operation Barbarossa’. Arnold Schneeer did not know anything about the directive, which did not exist yet, but his messages to Moscow were full of alarm; ‘Four fifths of the German motorised forces were deployed to Poland. Last week, 12 trains of engineering troops proceeded from Romilly Station to Germany. Within two days, the entire railway traffic along the French coast of the English Channel was suspended, 6,000 wagons of equipment were delivered … Sources – the directorate of the railway German military administration and the pilots. Harry’.
The fate of the son, who could be drafted into the army at any time in Berlin, worried Arnold Schnee. But most of all he was worried that Leo was calm about such a prospect and was ready to go to the front to conquer someone else’s living space. Apparently, from his youth, he had not thought that war was death. World domination, to which Hitler rushed, is a desired dream for mentally distracted politicians and generals, and for Leo and his ilk – this is the road to nowhere. Leo, at the age of twenty, did not yet understand this. And Harry, not being able to speak frankly with his son, decided to send him a detailed letter.
“… Dear Leo,” wrote Arnold Schnee to his son in April 1941. “I received your note. You can not imagine how she delighted me. But in the letter there are things that make me sad.
I am not a supporter of this war, in which the working people who left factories, institutions, fields and machines, kill each other for the interests of others. Young people should now ponder well why they are participating in the war, because it is the young people who own the construction of a new world in which wars must disappear forever.
That’s what I thought about when I read your letter. I am very sorry that you are not here right now with me to talk about everything. I know that your mother thinks in the same way as I do, and I want to hope that the little life experience that you have already gained makes you look at everything with open eyes. With firm determination, you must do everything possible to put an end to this world, which is destroying all that humanity has the best.
I see that your work strongly binds you, but you nevertheless find time to continue learning French and English. I see that you have already grown. I hope to see you all soon, then, my dear, everything will be fine.”
Investigators continued to seek confessions and testimonies from Harry. In 1943, they arranged a meeting of the prisoner of cell No. 15 with members of his family. It was not difficult. Clara Shabel was also in one of the Pletzensee cameras. Probably, their son Leo, who had already become a Wehrmacht soldier, was also involved in this meeting. The members of the Schnee family gathered against their will and not where they would like to meet.
This was their last meeting.
What were they talking about? What convinced each other? Most likely, each of them retained good feelings for each other. Before death do not argue. Father and mother did everything that Leo understood them. Germany has unleashed and is leading a war that the Germans will lose and pay for for many years.
Did Leo understand what his father was talking about? In one of the newspapers, I read that Leo at the end of 1945 fought on the Eastern Front and allegedly survived. Most likely – this is the author’s fiction.
In official documents I had to meet records of other content. One document says that; ‘Clara Shabel and her son Leo Shabel were executed in Maobit prison on December 23, 1942.’
But this record is also not true. After all, the same document states that Rudolf von Shelia was also ‘executed on December 23, 1942 in Maobit prison.’
It is known that on the night of December 24, 1942, Rudolf von Shelia, (Aryan), who first reported to Ilze Stebe in December 1940 that Hitler had signed a plan of war against the USSR, was sentenced to death by the imperial military field court. Among the other twelve anti-fascists, Shelia was hanged in the Berlin prison Pletzensee. Ilse Stebe, Hilda Koppi, Elsa Imme, Oda Schottmüller and Clara Schabel were also executed there.
Before the execution, K. Shabel handed a letter to her relatives, which confirms: Klara was not in prison Maobit. Here it is :
Berlin – Pletzensee, August 5, 1943.
‘My dear girls, dear in-law, dear nephews and nieces. I send you my farewell greetings today. My life has expired. Do not worry, I almost endured everything. Many, many thanks for all your love. And if ever I hurt you, I’m sorry – this is not out of malice. All my belongings belong to Leo. Take care to get them. Remember me more often. Hope you get money from insurance. Let them send you a certificate of my death. Keep your fur coat, dear Marichen. You did pay the furrier without it.
I am not afraid and die peacefully. Leave me a place in your heart. Hello to all my friends you know and see. All be healthy, and may you be destined to live together many more beautiful hours. Hopefully the war will end soon. Write my savings book on Leo. Probably, in the Hennigsdorf savings bank it is necessary to add an additional amount of 24 marks to it. Order it, please. I hope everything will be fine. You, dear Hans, have arranged it all, and the money you receive is divided from Leo. I know you will do everything as it should.
So live well-good. Mentally, I gently kiss you all.
Your sister, sister-in-law and aunt Clara. ‘
This letter convinces that Clara and her son Leo were not executed in Maobit prison.
What happened to the resident son of Harry? Leo Shabel was drafted into the army. March 11, 1943 he was arrested. After 10 days, a field court sentenced Leo to 5 years in prison. On a strange charge; ‘for preparing for treason.’
For two years in a fascist prison, he suffered unthinkable mockery. In the spring of 1945, when the Third Reich collapsed, Leo was liberated by the Red Army.
In 1969, Leo Shabel received from the hands of the Soviet ambassador to the GDR the Order of the Patriotic War of the II degree, which was posthumously awarded to his mother Klara Chabel, the hostess of the safe house of the Red Army Intelligence Agency.
For the year of his stay in the Gestapo prison, Arnold Schnee put up the most severe tests. Harry’s health was undermined, his wife was executed. Investigators reported that the son of Leo was executed. They did everything so that the resident, finally broken, betrayed his comrades and agreed to cooperate with German intelligence.
What happened to Harry in December 1942? How and why was he in the hands of the Gestapo? Who betrayed the resident of our intelligence? There are several versions. Two of them are associated with the name of Leopold Trepper.
According to the first version, the Gestapo men, after arresting Trepper and promising to save his life, succeeded in getting him to call his assistant Gillel Katz and summon him to a meeting. Arriving at the indicated place, Katz was arrested by the Gestapo men.
Some researchers of the Red Capella Sonderkommando activities believe that Trepper allegedly ordered Katsu to hand over to the Germans everything he knew about the reconnaissance group and its connections. So says David Dallin in his book; ‘Soviet Spying.’ ‘Trepper ordered him (Katsu. – V.L.) to hand over to the Germans everything he knew. Katz obeyed. Within a few weeks, the Germans pumped everything out of him, and then sent him to Germany to be executed. Among the others, Trepper and Katz have given out Robinson.’
Then something happened that should have happened when betrayal is committed or mistakes are made in intelligence work. Dallin claims in his book that Robinson was called into the meeting; ‘On the twenty-first of December 1942, Katz, accompanied by two officers of the Abwehr, was taken by car to the meeting place. He pointed out to them a waiting man, who for two decades had been an outstanding figure in Soviet espionage. Robinson did not resist … Robinson refused to open anything or implicate anyone in this matter. He was sent to Germany and probably executed … ‘.
The author of the book; ‘Spying in the Soviet Way’ – the American councilor David Dallin, well-known in his time – used documents used in the archives of the United States, France, Germany and other countries to prepare the book. Seeking, as he argued, to give an accurate description of events, and not a statement of individual ‘spy stories.’ Nevertheless, Dallin made serious inaccuracies even in the episode of the resident Harry’s arrest. Trepper, who knew everything about the activities of his residency, had no reason to order G. Katz to hand over to the Germans everything he knew. Where is the logic here?
Trepper was the only person to whom the Centre announced the existence of a deeply-acclaimed Harry station in France, named his real name and even his home address.
The Centre’s radiogram, directed by L. Trepper at the end of June 1941, states :
‘Centre – Otto. June 30, 1941.
Connect with our man, Harry. Address : Paris (given the full home address of Harry). Surname – Arnold Schnee. His signs: a brunette with graying hair, wears glasses, because of rheumatism, he limps a little, walks with a stick. Say that you came from Henri, tell him that we listen to his music all the time. Find out his position and arrange a connection. Director.
Could Trepper tell Katz about the existence of Harry’s residency in France? More likely no than yes. But there are still contradictions in Trepper’s personal memories about making contact with Harry.
L. Trepper, recalling the directive of the Centre on June 30, 1941, wrote; ‘… In the same period, the Centre gives me the opportunity to go to Henry (Harry) Robinson. This is a former member of the Union of Spartacus, led by Rosa Luxemburg, an experienced practitioner of underground Comintern work. Long settled in Western Europe, Robinson severed ties with the Centre. The Moscow leadership provides me with the opportunity to decide whether to renew relations with him.’
Next, Trepper tried to convey some details of the meeting with Harry, which were unlikely to have occurred in reality. Trepper writes, thus; ‘… After the purges in Soviet intelligence,’ Harry explains to me, ‘I ended the relationship with them. In 1938 I was in Moscow and saw how the best were eliminated. I cannot agree with this … Now I maintain relations with the representatives of General de Gaulle and I know that the Center prohibits me from these contacts … ‘
The indications of the Centre, which prohibited Arnold Schnee from contacting representatives of General de Gaulle, could not be identified. It is unlikely that they existed at all. The centre has always encouraged the work of Harry, aimed at finding new sources of information. Resident skillfully performed these tasks. General de Gaulle’s officers, who fought against fascist Germany, were precisely the medium in which Harry could find good sources of important military and military-political information.
A. Schnee was an experienced intelligence officer. He led a station on a unique organisational structure and information capabilities. For a long time, on the instructions of the Centre, he performed courier tasks, organised the obtaining and delivery to the Centre of valuable documentary military technical information from Great Britain, France and Belgium, which contributed to improving the quality of Soviet military equipment.
In L. Trepper’s notes concerning his meeting with Harry, in my opinion, it’s important that he claimed that Harry allegedly made the following proposal to Trepper; Let’s agree on regular meetings. Every time I give you the information I’ve got, and I encrypt it myself. You take them to the Centre. ‘Moscow accepted this offer. Robinson’s information came to me regularly. He helped him with money, because he could hardly make ends meet. However, he was not included in the ‘red orchestra’ … ‘
‘Harry’ was not part of the so-called ‘red orchestra’. Trepper did not obey. He worked independently.
Schnee’s cooperation with the intelligence of the Red Army began in 1923, when he was barely twenty-six years old. To understand why Schnee began to cooperate with the Soviet military intelligence, it is necessary to turn to some facts from his biography.
Harry was born on May 8, 1897 in the St. Giles district of Brussels, in the family of a merchant. Father – David Robinson, a native of Vilna. Mother – Anna Cherhannovskaya from Warsaw. He was given the name Henry. Henry Robinson.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the D.Robinson family moved to Germany. Henry entered the University of Heidelberg, where he studied philology.
During World War I, David Robinson and his two sons were interned and sent to forced labour. In the salt mines, Henry fell ill with tuberculosis, was sent to Switzerland, where he underwent a course of treatment and joined the revolutionary movement.
At the age of 20, G. Robinson joined the ‘Spartak Union’. In 1920, Henry joined the Communist Party of France, becoming an active worker of the Comintern. In 1921, he actively fought against the occupation of the Ruhr by French troops. Despite the intense underground work, G. Robinson manages to complete his studies at the University of Zurich, where he studied law.
In 1924, Henry Robinson turns out to be in Berlin. At this time, he was met by Oscar Stigg, an illegal resident of the Red Army Intelligence Agency in Germany. An experienced intelligence officer, he draws G. Robinson to perform certain tasks of intelligence, studies him during short meetings and, by the results of his work, gives the Centre a positive description of a new acquaintance.
‘… A serious and cautious worker, deeply understands the requirements of intelligence …’, wrote O. Stigg to the Centre about G. Robinson in 1924 A new source that year was given the pseudonym Harry.
In November 1935, Stigga gave the following description of Harry; ‘I established an acquaintance with him on instructions from Moscow from comrade Berzin. In the years 1923-1924, he provided us with major intelligence services. Gave a number of valuable materials and valuable recommendations on the organisation of intelligence. He gave us ‘Monte’.
‘Harry himself is a very serious, cautious worker who knows our requirements. He will be able to help create a technical apparatus for K. for work on the islands, as well as in France itself.’
Stigga was a talented recruiter. In the same years, he recruited Rudolf Gernstadt, who would become a resident of the illegal residency of the Intelligence Agency in Warsaw in the pre-war years, to recruit Ilse Stebe, who teaches intelligence work, and attracts other foreigners to work. At that time, apparently, Henry Robinson was already using documents addressed to Arnold Schnee.
In 1935, A.Shnee, on the recommendation of the chief of military intelligence, Jan Berzin, ceased his cooperation with the Comintern and devotes himself to the fulfillment of military intelligence missions, aimed, as he correctly understood, against the common and dangerous enemy – Hitlerite Germany and the ideology of national socialism.
Characteristics and evaluation of the possibilities of Harry, given by Oscar Stigg, were fully confirmed in the following years. Since 1935, Harry worked as an assistant resident. He was invited to Moscow, where he completed a course on intelligence courses. In 1937, A.Shnee was appointed head of the illegal residency of the Red Army Intelligence Agency, in England. Harry’s network of agents consisted of reliable people who were well placed to obtain valuable documentary information on military equipment. Harry’s sources produced a significant amount of valuable and very valuable information on aircraft, radar and other areas in which the Red Army was in dire need. At the conclusion of the 5th Directorate of the People’s Commissariat of Defence Industry, the materials received from Harry met the most acute requirements and helped save millions of foreign currency rubles.
‘Harry’ not only successfully managed the activities of illegal residency, but he himself was actively engaged in recruiting work. From 1937 to 1940, he recruited eight valuable agents in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
In October 1940, the Centre ordered Harry to concentrate his efforts mainly on collecting information about fascist Germany, its armed forces and the military-political plans of the German leadership.
On October 29, 1940, the head of the Red Army Intelligence Directorate, Lieutenant General F. Golikov, wrote to Harry; ‘This is your first priority. In parallel with the collection of information on all your channels, you should begin to develop and recruit new sources. Establishing radio communication with the Centre is your central task, the implementation of which you must begin immediately.’
‘Harry’, who lived on the territory of France occupied by the Germans, understood well the importance and significance of the new tasks that the head of military intelligence set before him. Using his extensive contacts, the resident quickly organised the collection of information about the German units stationed in France and about their transfers.
With each mail, Harry sent materials to the Centre about the use of military facilities by the Germans for the needs of the German army. In Moscow, such materials made it possible to take into account the additional possibilities that the German political leadership and military command began to actively use to build up forces and reserves of weapons and ammunition for the Wehrmacht. Reserves were more than sufficient.
A few months before the Nazi German attack on the USSR, Harry began to report to the Centre valuable information about the transfer of German troops and military equipment from France to Romania. On the basis of this information, which regularly came to Moscow from Harry, it was possible to judge the preparation of the Germans for the attack on the USSR. Harry’s information was supported by data from Ilse Stebe, Richard Sorge, Kurt Velkish, residents of the Red Army Intelligence Directorate, Major General V. Tupikov (Arnold), Colonel A. Yakovlev (Sawa) and many other military intelligence officers.
By June 1941, Harry had completed work on the creation of an autonomous radio link with the Centre. He personally recruited the radio operator and the owner of the radio apartment. The centre gave him a special radio equipment. Harry conducted test radio sessions. However, something happened that no one could have foreseen at the Centre. Harry clearly heard the Centre, and the Centre did not hear Harry. One-way radio communication of the Centre with the source also represents a certain value. But in 1941, the Centre needed information from Harry, and the Centre did not hear its call letters. It turned out that the radio transmitter that got to Harry was damaged during transportation. Harry could not fix it.
The centre, trying to establish contact with A. Schnee, orders L. Trepper to come into contact with ‘our man Harry’ on June 30, 1941, and gives his address in Paris, his first and last name, and all the special signs. This was the fatal mistake of the Centre, which subsequently led to the arrest of Harry.
‘Harry’ really began to convey to L. Trepper the information obtained by his sources about the German military units in France. There were many such reports. However, many of them were delayed or not transmitted at all to the Centre, since Trepper had enough of his own information that interested the Centre.
For the whole of 1942, Trepper transmitted only 16 information reports from the resident Harry to Moscow. With independent work and with direct radio contact with the Centre, Harry, of course, could have transmitted tens of times more information to Moscow. The main thing – he would work safely and more efficiently. Only now we can say that in 1941 –1942. Harry had more valuable sources than Otto.
Harry’s friends included anti-fascists — radio engineers. They could have helped Harry (with the knowledge of the Centre) to repair his radio station. However, this did not happen. Another thing happened.
In September 1941 the first contact of L. Trepper with Harry took place. Three months later, that is, in December of the same year, the first failure occurred in one of the links in the Trepper station.
By the end of November 1942, the Trepper station was completely destroyed. Codes of this residency fell into the hands of the Gestapo, which undoubtedly allowed the Germans to read the Centre’s radiogram of June 30, 1941, which was registered with the radio interception service, which indicated Harry’s real name and surname, his home address and confirmed that he was a military intelligence man.
Using the data obtained as a result of the decryption, the Gestapo on December 21, 1942, arrested Harry and the family of Italians Griotti, who were the owners of his safe house. So all the arguments about who gave Harry – L. Trepper or G. Katz, did not have and do not make sense.
In December 1942, what happened to Harry Ilse Stebe in Berlin a little earlier happened to Harry. The Centre’s radiograms, recorded in 1941 by units of the German radio intercept service, which was led by General Thiele, were decoded in the second half of 1942. After that, the arrests of the Soviet intelligence officers Harry and Alta took place, and they were in complete safety until their addresses were transmitted to L. Trepper and A. Gurevich.
After being arrested, Harry was held in prison in France for about six months. The interrogations conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Panwitz and his subordinates did not bring any results. After that, Harry was transferred to Berlin in the Plötzensee prison. To hell, about which the great Dante wrote :
‘Here it is necessary for the soul to be firm;
Here, fear should not give advice … ‘
A Gestapo cover letter dated January 19, 1943 stated that Soviet agent Harry was sent to Berlin, since he has been on the imperial wanted list since 1930 and is an exceptionally important person.
The Gestapo had a lot of evidence that Harry was engaged in intelligence in the interests of the Soviet Union. In the hands of the investigators were transcribed radiograms, the testimony of the arrested agents who knew something about Harry’s work, and the documents captured at the safe house during the arrest of the intelligence officer, his notes, which were also serious compromising material.
In spite of everything, Harry did not give the Germans either his cipher or any other important information about his work for the Soviet military intelligence, did not betray any of his sources. This was claimed in December 1949 by representatives of the British intelligence, who had captured the archive of the German secret police at the end of the war. Based on the Gestapo data, the British compiled a special report on the Red Chapel Case. This report, with a total of 60 typewritten pages, consisted of six sections. They had the following names : ‘Trepper Group’, ‘Efremov Group’, ‘Harry Robinson Group’, ‘Schulze-Boysen Group’, ‘Arvyd Harnack Group’, ‘Rado Group’.
The British presented their secret report to the members of the Information Committee created at that time. It was nothing more than the combined counterintelligence body of Western European countries that were included in the NATO military bloc.
When members of the Information Committee studied the report of British intelligence, they were amazed at the scale of activities of Soviet military intelligence residencies in Western Europe. They were struck by everything – the number of Soviet residencies that operated on the eve of the war in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland, and the fact that Soviet military intelligence officers were able to penetrate the supreme political bodies of the Third Reich, and that they had uninterrupted connection Moscow Centre, which made it possible to immediately transfer to Moscow the obtained information about the plans of the German political leadership.
Undoubtedly, the members of the NATO Information Committee would like to know as much as possible about Harry’s group, but there was very little information about her. Nevertheless, the British wrote about Harry; ‘Robinson, who was an unusually intelligent and well-educated man, gave little information to the Germans during interrogations. He managed to save a large number of his agents … Many have remained unidentified to date … ‘
The work of the Soviet military intelligence residency in Europe on the eve of the war against fascist Germany was also interesting for representatives of the American special services. Specialists from the CIA already created in those years cleaned up all the archival documents of the Gestapo in the case of the Red Chapel in their own hands and conducted their new, thorough analysis. The Americans were interested in the experience of the Red Army Intelligence Directorate, the exact installation data on all Soviet intelligence agents and agents that became known to the Gestapo, the forms and methods of special work of Soviet military intelligence officers. Even scattered and largely distorted information about the activities of Soviet intelligence, which for the first time appeared in the hands of CIA specialists, was of great value for American specialists.
The CIA also prepared a special study labeled ‘Secret’, which was called the ‘Analysis of the organisation and activities of the Soviet intelligence and espionage networks in Western Europe, 1936-1945.’
The British intelligence report was in Moscow in January 1950. A report of the CIA specialists later. It should be noted that American experts have worked in good faith.
There are about twenty applications for the CIA report. They are residency schemes and Soviet intelligence groups that have become known to the Gestapo. However, among these highly detailed charts there is no organisational structure for Harry’s station. This once again convinces that all the attempts of the Gestapo investigators to break the resident Harry, to force him to hand over his comrades in the fight against fascist Germany, were unsuccessful.
Harry’s last report came to the Central Intelligence Agency at the end of September 1944. Suddenly they got him from Sofia, where Harry has never been.
The situation in Bulgaria in the summer of 1944 was difficult. Formally, this country did not participate in the war against the USSR and maintained diplomatic relations with Moscow. The government headed by Bozhilov did not decide to send parts of his army to the Soviet-German front – Bulgaria always had strong sympathies for Russia, which in the nineteenth century liberated this country from the Turkish yoke. But the Bulgarian leadership, who was under the influence of Nazi Germany, helped Hitler with all that they could.
In the spring and summer of 1944, the Soviet government repeatedly appealed to the Bulgarian government with a proposal to break the alliance with Germany and maintain neutrality. The Bulgarian leadership undertook various distractive maneuvers, but did not break ties with Nazi Germany. There was even a change of Bozhilov’s government to the team of Bagryanov, as pro-fascist as the previous leadership of the country. Under these conditions, the situation around the Soviet diplomatic mission in Sofia was extremely complicated. Both Bulgarian and German counterintelligence agents monitored Soviet diplomats.
Once in the city, a stranger approached one of the diplomats of the Soviet embassy, who, fortunately, was an employee of the NKVD foreign intelligence service. He refused to give his name. Passing a note to a Soviet friend, he quickly withdrew.
Apparently, this foreigner was thoroughly preparing for a meeting with an employee of the Soviet embassy. Fearing to fall into the traps of German counterintelligence, which in September 1944 acted in Sofia, as in Berlin, the unknown transmitted, as it turned out, not one, but even two notes.
In one of them, he briefly reported on his unusual mission. The note was typed on a typewriter with a Bulgarian font. It reported; ‘French comrade Henri Robinson, who calls himself Harry, was arrested by the Gestapo in December 1942 at his home. He was issued by a person who received his address from Moscow. His wife and son were also arrested, imprisoned, and then executed. Harry himself was imprisoned alone and subsequently taken to Berlin, Hauptzichherhaitsamt, Prince Albrecht-Straße, where he is kept in great secret in cell number 15, awaiting the death sentence. He who wrote these lines saw him on September 20, 1943, when he was leaving the neighbouring chamber No. 16 and promised to convey his message.’
Image : Harry’s letter for the Soviet intelligence from the Gestapo.
Judging by the content of this unique note transmitted to a Soviet diplomat in Sofia, its author was Bulgarian (the note was written in Bulgarian).
So it turned out. After the war, the ‘competent authorities’ of Bulgaria found that the note was prepared by Bulgarian Petro Bozhkov. In 1941, he was a student at the University of Berlin. For participation in the propaganda of anti-fascist slogans and contacts with the first Soviet prisoners of war, Petro Bozhkov was arrested and imprisoned in Pletzensee prison. He was kept in cell number 16 and by chance (apparently, it happened in 1943 while walking for those arrested) Harry, an experienced conspirator and a man with exceptional communication skills, was able to get acquainted with a prisoner of cell number 16.
Probably, prisoners of the 15th and 16th chambers of the Pletzensee prison had more than one opportunity to exchange a few words, despite tight control from the wardens. What language did they speak? Harry knew German, French, English, Italian and Russian. It is possible that Petro Bozhkov also owned one of these languages.
‘Harry’, believing a new Bulgarian acquaintance, informed him that he was arrested in France in December 1942, that his family, his wife and son, were also captured by the Gestapo.
Apparently, when the Gestapo could not get the necessary information from Harry and it was already decided to execute (shoot or hang) this Frenchman, the observation of him for some time was still weakened. This and took advantage of Harry.
In the Bulgarian note there is one line that attracts particular attention. Harry conveyed to a new acquaintance, whom he began to trust, that a Gestapo man had issued him, who received his address from Moscow. A Bulgarian informed about this in the following way; ‘Something that didn’t get the address from Moscow’ (which got its address from Moscow).
Harry’s note, addressed to his Soviet comrades, was written in German. Apparently, it was difficult to keep her in a form suitable for reading; on the way to freedom from the Gestapo prison, she was in a very pitiful state. Its size is slightly larger than a matchbox sticker. This forced the Bulgarian friend, who was after more successful conditions after Pletzensee, to reprint the text of Harry’s message. The Bulgarian said about this in his letter; Harry’s note ‘prescribe not a manuscript’ – which can be translated as, ‘Harry’s message is a copy of his message.’
What did Harry report to the Centre in his latest report? Here is the full text of the report of the resident Harry, translated from German into Russian :
‘1. Pascal has been working for the Gestapo since July 42. He betrayed; his group, the Chemnitz group, the Simex group and Otto and his people.
2. Paula’s husband in December 42 betrayed Annie, Sisi, my wife and my son.
3. Otto was arrested in November 42. His assistant was also arrested in December 42. Paula and the radio operator were arrested in January 43. Radio operators were arrested in Brussels and Paris. N. from Br. (doctor?) arrested in Marseilles.
4. Address of the apartment in Prague issued.
5. Paratrooper Osliburn (Osliburn) was arrested in September 42 in Malines (Malines).
6. Betrayed by the person who was the only one who had the connection and address received from you. I was arrested with a friend in December 42. Material was found at this address. A friend sentenced to death, his wife – to 10 years. My Swiss friend in P. was arrested in April. Blanchet was arrested in May. Four acquaintances of the employee are also arrested. From the device all communications, incl. in fr. the minist and gene. headquarters were known only to the GA.
7. Here Annie is with me, warn Sisi.
Sentenced radio operator, Doctor, my friend, my wife, my son. My trial has not yet taken place. Warn Sisi. Leading circles are convinced of the defeat of Germany. I will be beheaded or shot – the victory will be ours. Your G.’
Harry’s latest report, transmitted to the Centre through a Bulgarian friend, is amazing. It is conspiratorial, permeated with Harry’s confidence in the future victory over Nazi Germany. The resident, telling the facts known to him about the arrests of the sources, shows exceptional concern for those who remained at large and were not affected by the failure. Harry repeats twice – ‘Warn Sisi’ and twice emphasises his appeal to the Centre, trying to draw special attention to him.
About himself, Harry reports sparingly; the trial has not yet taken place. However, Harry has no doubt – this process will end tragically for him. In his latest report to the Centre, Henry Robinson (Arnold Schnee) does not regret being beheaded on the guillotine or shot. On a tiny piece of paper, he writes in prison what he dreamed about and was absolutely sure of; ‘Victory will be ours’.
‘Harry’ rightfully ranked himself among those who fought against fascism, bravely went into battle in the name of common Victory.
His words ‘Victory will be ours’, escaping freedom from the convict prison prison in Berlin Plötzensee, are like the last cry of his bright soul, the cry of a crane that unfortunately fell behind its proud pack and got into trouble, from which there was no way out .
Henry Robinson did not live to see the bright Victory Day. No documents confirming where and how he was executed were found. Apparently, they were not. The Fascists of the Third Reich sought to destroy non-Aryans with entire nations. But about Harry remained a memory. Today we can say in general terms that some of its sources, information about which the resident took to the grave, after the end of the Second World War, continued to disinterestedly cooperate with Soviet military intelligence.
Resident Harry continued to work after the execution.
Secret Intelligence Service
Red Star. Soviet Military Intelligence
No. V of XL
Adversitate. Custodi. Per Verum